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Time Releases Article “How Mormonism Went Mainstream”

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TIME Magazine released an essay this week entitled “How Mormonism Went Mainstream.” 

The article, written by Benjamin E. Park, a history professor at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of American Zion: A New History of Mormonism, focuses on how the author believes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was able to “function in a rational society” when it is based on “what appears to be a fundamentally irrational myth.” 

Keith Johnson, Deseret News archives

Park begins with the early life of Joseph Smith, describing how the miraculous origins of the Book of Mormon would have been scandalous for believers of the early 19th century. However, faithful Latter-day Saints embraced the uniqueness of their story and found God’s hand in the ongoing Restoration. 

Unique doctrines and beliefs kept them distinct from Christendom and horrific persecution pushed them to isolate in the Intermountain West. This would change at the start of the 20th century. 

“When the church was forced to renounce their distinctive practices at the end of the 19th century and encouraged to adopt more mainstream culture in the 20th, Latter-day Saints were forced to consider how their faith would fit in a society they had previously scorned,” Park writes. 

He then explains the “improved collaboration” of the Church through these years in matters of politics and culture. References to Mitt Romney and the 2012 “Mormon Moment” are made. Park’s timeline helps illustrate that the more supernatural elements of the Church appear less exotic as the gap widens been those who hold to religious practices and those who don’t. 

“Indeed, the Latter-day Saint church has continued to be repackaged to appear less intrusive to mainstream Christians,” he says. “This is not to say the church is forfeiting core doctrines. Far from it. Latter-day Saint belief in the Book of Mormon’s historicity, Joseph Smith’s divine calling, and prophetic revelation are as firm as ever before. But after two centuries of heated battles with Christian contemporaries, Smith’s successors have learned how to frame these fundamentals in less threatening ways. The Book of Mormon is no longer posited as a correction to an apostate world, but a supplement to the Christian canon; his followers are not separated from Babylon, but fellow travelers in a world of pilgrims.”

You can read the full article here. 

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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