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Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Twilight" Author Dismisses Public's Interest in Her Mormon Faith

by Mike Duran

Mormonism has gotten a lot of press lately. What with Mitt Romney running for President last year, the LDS church's active support for California's Prop 8, and Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular teen vampire saga, you'd think Mormonism would be making some inroads into mainstream American religion. However, it appears the Latter Day Saints are still facing an uphill climb.

In The Fantasticks, author E.E. Evans writes, "It’s still very much a mixed bag when it comes to media coverage of the Mormons," citing a Pew survey revealing America's suspicion of Mormonism. According to the survey, one-in-four respondents said that they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president. Furthermore, "Barely half of the public (49%) says they know 'a great deal' or 'some' about the Mormon religion, and just 25% believe that the Mormon religion and their own religion have a lot in common." But apparently this ignorance and/or apprehension has not prevented Meyer, an openly devout Mormon, from selling oodles of books.

The topic came up in a USA Today article:

[Meyer's] Mormon faith, she says, is of intense interest to the news media, but to her, it's just who she is.

"It seems funny that it's still a story," Meyer says, "because you didn't hear people saying, 'Jon Stewart, Jewish writer,' when his book came out. I guess being a Mormon is just odd enough that people think it's still a real story. Obviously, to me, it seems super normal. It's just my religion."
Being a Mormon may be "super normal" for Stephenie Meyer, but like it or not, her beliefs are still way out of the mainstream. Despite its burgeoning secularism, America remains a nation framed within a Judeo-Christian worldview. Meyer's attempt to downplay her beliefs by referencing Jon Stewart's Judaism is a typical Mormon apologetic. Latter Day Saints have long sought inclusion into the American mainstream, especially under the "Christian" tent. But no amount of spin or feigned shock can change the fact that Mormons believe:
  • There are many gods

  • God, the God of Earth, was once a man

  • We can become gods of our own worlds

  • Jesus is Lucifer's brother

  • Jesus was not born of a virgin; God had sex with Mary
While some suggest Twilight actually preaches Mormonism, seeing it as covert LDS propaganda, others downplay any religious underpinnings altogether. Interestingly enough, the Mormon-owned Deseret Bookstore recently pulled the series from its shelves. But why? A spokesperson for Deseret simply said, "When we find products that are met with mixed review, we typically move them to special order status." Huh? Is this "mixed review" from book critics or conservative Mormon membership? Is the subject matter (vampires, werewolves, and teenage angst) incompatible with church doctrine? Or is Twilight not "Mormon" enough?

Despite what the ACLU says, Americans are an incredibly tolerant people. You can believe what you want without fear of persecution. And obviously Meyer's beliefs have not kept her from selling books. What I continue to find interesting, however, is how surprised Mormons appear to be about the public's perception of their faith. During the Republican primaries, it prompted Mitt Romney to deliver an extensive speech on religion -- one in which he conveniently avoided all the controversial Mormon doctrines. Likewise, Stephenie Meyer's dismisses our curiosity: "It's just my religion."

In the end, I think this type of publicity is good for the LDS cause. Mormon women are often viewed as repressed, ultra-conservative, pioneer-like, husband-doting, baby machines. So a Mormon housewife writing a teen vampire novel can't help but demolish some stereotypes. What it doesn't do is change those oddball beliefs. And it's those beliefs that we Americans continue to see as, um, weird.

25 comments:

Karen Hoover said...

Being Mormon, I must correct your points number one and five. We believe in one God, who is our Heavenly Father, and we absolutely do not believe that God had sex with Mary.

Other than that, interesting article, whether you think we are weird or not.

We ARE told in 1 Pet. 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR PEOPLE; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I don't know about you, but I kind of like being one of the peculiar people. :P

Mike Duran said...

Thanks for your comments, Karen. Being "a peculiar people" in the biblical sense has to do with being called out, spiritually separate, perhaps culturally and morally different than the secular, unsaved culture. Doctrinal peculiarity, however, is often viewed as heterodoxy or "heresy."

As for your points of dispute: That Mormons are polytheists is pretty common knowledge. Joseph Smith (Mormon prophet and founder) taught that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are "three distinct personages and three Gods" (Teachings, p. 370). Bruce McConkie (LDS theologian and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) declared, "Three separate personages – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – comprise the Godhead. As each of these persons is a God, it is evident from this standpoint alone, that a plurality of Gods exists. To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these three are the only Gods we worship. But in addition there is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 576- 577). (emphasis mine)

Orson Pratt, church leader and member of the original Council of the Twelve declared, "If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds (Journal of
Discourses, 2:345). (emphasis mine)

Furthermore, if you do believe men can become gods (# 3, which you concede), then you do believe in many gods.This is polytheism, and it is condemned in Scripture.

Second: Regarding God having sex with Mary, Redefining the Virgin Birth is a fair, well-researched essay to begin with. This is one of the "uncomfortable" LDS doctrines, and one that's often denied. However, it only stands to reason that if God is flesh and blood (Mormon doctrine), that Mary's impregnation must involve physical sex (they did not have artificial insemination back then!).

Karen, even if I am wrong about points 1 and 5, the fact that Mormons believe 2 thru 4 is biblically problematic. Thanks for your comments!

Jettboy said...

Mike Duran,

In the words of Ronald Reagan - there you go again. You may argue about the particulars of Mormon teachings reaching particular conclusions, but you CANNOT say what Mormons (especially individuals) believe. When a Mormon says they believe this or that, then you can't easily dismiss that they believe such!

I am tired of others telling me what I AS A MOROMON believe. I don't care what things you trot out from past sayings of Joseph Smith or others. How individual Mormons interpret those sayings is far different than how the critics interpret them.

I don't even know why I am bothering saying any of this stuff. You obviously have made up your small mind.

Mike Duran said...

Jettboy, claiming to be a Mormon means something. That "something" has to do with a series of beliefs that is articulated and upheld by the LDS church. If you were to publicly claim that Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mouse, and Lucille Ball were the three members of the Trinity, you may gain a large internet following, but you wouldn't be a Mormon in the traditional sense it's defined. So, sure -- Mormons can believe anything they want. But at some point, those beliefs will place them in, or outside, the fold.

Nicole said...

Jettboy, your comments illustrate part of the problem. Mormonism has its origin with mankind, not the God of all Creation. Therefore it can be changed, revamped, retooled, and made nice to suit what you and/or any other individual decide to believe.

I know that Christians have done the same with true Christianity making denominations, but the Source of our faith does not change, need new revelation, interpretation, or application, contrary to some of the post-moderns. It's the same always.

You can definitely choose what you add or subtract to any "religion", but that doesn't make it true or right. Christians have one Source for their information which dates back to the beginning. It isn't a "newer" faith, and it hasn't been modified since time as we know it began.

Jettboy said...

I just realized I was making a comment at a Christianist website. Sorry for intruding. For a moment I thought I was talking with intelligent people who actually thought about things before passing judgment. Carry on with your self-righteousness.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Mormonism certainly won't deter anyone from buying art, but it will deter the Christian voting block from voting for a Mormon. I thought Romney was the best candidate, but I knew he didn't have a chance and I couldn't bring myself to vote for him.

Jettboy, I think you make a good point. Growing up Catholic (former altarboy), I understand everyone assuming I agree with "the church" on every issue. I didn't.

After some self-examination, I realized I was not a Catholic. I'm more of a Baptist. So I stopped calling myself a Catholic. I'm a Christian first. The denominations are subject to the whims of man.

Btw, every Mormon I know says the same thing: "But that's not what I believe." My response: then maybe you're not a Mormon.

Nicole said...

Nobody here was insulting you, Jettboy. You're the one pointing the finger and being flippant. How is anyone supposed to identify a faith other than by what is professed by its doctrines?
What makes you more intelligently able to interpret your doctrines in order to put down Christians who are standing on theirs?
You obviously are unfamiliar with Mike Duran's writings. He goes the extra mile in research and diplomacy. The history of the Mormon church is not pretty. Its founders have soiled reps. If you don't concur with their belief systems, yours had to start somewhere. Maybe it's like Dale said, you're no longer a Mormon. Either that or each Mormon has his own version of the religion which would explain why the rest of us are relying on the LDS doctrine to determine what Mormon's believe.

AlanL said...

I read the article you referenced 'Redefining the Virgin Birth.' It had a lot of quotes from some Mormons (including some prominent ones). I didn't find one that said God had sex with Mary. Additionally, the article and your claim ignores the plain language of the Book of Mormon which states (1 Nephi 11:18-21) "I beheld she (the virgin mother of the Son of God) was carried away in the spirit" and then appeared again "bearing a child in her arms . . . the Lamb of God,"
As for your first point, we do not accept the Nicene Creed as either scriptural or authoritative and do believe Jesus is the Son of God. Certainly you recognize that many (if not most) prominent Christians in the first 2 centuries did not believe God the Father and Jesus were one personage.

Mike Duran said...

AlanL, are you denying that the virgin birth is an issue amongst Mormons? If so, you'd be ignoring quite a bit of historical inquiry by LDS scholars. I think the article makes clear that Mary's impregnation has created problems for Mormons (primarily because they believe that the god of this world has a body of flesh and blood). Do you deny that this is a real controversy / conundrum among Mormons? Furthermore, even if I conceded that Mormons do not believe God the Father had sex with Mary, there are plenty of other doctrines that place Mormonism outside the fold of historic Christianity.

Yes, Mormons believe Jesus is the Son of God. However, the church also believes Lucifer is a son of God. So it's important that the use of the term be clarified. And while the early church may have struggled / grappled with its understanding of the nature of God, the Nicene Creed is recognized as a definitive summation of the convergence of Old and New Testament revelation. It is precisely the LDS church's rejection of said Creed that makes it a cult. Thanks for your comments!

Jenna said...

Fascinating discussion.

My dearest friend is a Mormon, and we've spent our entire lives debating these points. Though she becomes uncomfortable about these issues, she has always been honest that Mormons DO believe God slept with Mary, that there ARE many gods, and that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers--just as we are their brothers and sisters. It is not a holy status; they just happen to be born first. Son of God takes on a completely different meaning in the Mormon world.

My friend herself did not understand much of her own religion until she was forced to look for answers. I encourage all Mormons to dig deep and really see what they're standing on. Just as Christians should understand their own foundation. If you're standing on truth, a challenge can only bring you closer to it.

Thanks for all these stimulating thoughts, everyone!

Anonymous said...

The idea that the LDS Church teaches that God had sex with Mary is a grotesque distortion. This is not true.

That there wass some "creation" of the body of Christ inside Mary's womb is obvious and Mormons believe that Jesus is the actual son of God. Nowhere is it taught that there was physical sex involved.

As for the Lucifer as brother issue. This is a no brainer. Churchill and Hitler are both children of god, as are Ghengis Khan and Mother Theresa. Where did Satan come from? Only 2 possible options logically:

1. Satan was a created child of God (our brother), a fallen angel who, despite his father being good, exercised his freedom to be evil. This LDS belief places the blame on Satan.

2. Satan was created "from nothing" by God with the sole purpose of causing harm, like some pre-programmed evil robot who is responsible for causing evil in the world. This traditional idea makes God guilty of all evils in the world by design.

Which makes more sense to you?

Anonymous said...

There is one more issue that always frustrates me with regard to Mormonism and Evangelicals. It is often stated that the LDS Church is "strange" and "outside of Christianity." After studying this issue in depth for many years I have to adamantly disagree.

There are many striking similarities between The LDS structure and the EARLY Christian Church (not the "modern" Church you know that has evolved and been shaped over 1600 years of intrigue and man-made meddling). A close study of Israelite and early Christian realities reveals many things that have been restored with the LDS Church. They are only "strange" to people 1600 years removed from them.

There is not one LDS belief that is not exemplified in the Bible, even temple worship, priesthood and polygamy were common, you'll have to come to terms with Abraham and Moses' family life some day. So much has been lost today.

As for the biblical standard that you enforce. I would remind you that the Israelite people never really had a Bible like yours. Even the Christians did not have a "closed" Bible until 400 AD.

In the "living" Church of the Bible (Before 400 AD when the Church essentially died and God lost his voice)there was a constant stream of revelation and "new books." A "closed Bible" is a Protestant idea, not a Judeo-Christian one. How can you not notice the pattern in the Bible. God's direct voice is EVERYWHERE. The word given to Abraham was not sufficient for Jacob and the word given to Jacob was not sufficent for Jeremiah. They needed direction always, that was the hallmark of Jewish/Christian life.

Even after Chirst books rolled out. The last "book" of the New Testament was not written until well after Jesus had gone.

To say that God cannot speak today when we need him the most is not only arrogant but it goes against the established pattern that God has used to direct his people for thousands of years, namely prophets who produce NEW scripture for our new situations that are always changing. What does the Bible say about Heroin or internet pornography? Liberal Hollywood propaganda? We have evil that did not exist in Israel. LDS leaders are keeping up with these new threats, God is still speaking when it counts for US, folks.

The word of God has always been living, not a closed museum of ancient history. I dare you to have told Paul that there is "no need" for "news" out of Corinth because "we have enough books." We never would have had half of the New Testament if Paul believed that new revelation was unnecessary.

I challenge you to imagine yourself in Israel shortly after Christ "finished" his teaching. Would you have condemned the "new" books about to come out?

Anonymous said...

As for the "Many Gods" straw man argument, this illustrates the shallowness of your LDS understanding. Latter-Day Saints have a more sophisticated world-view as it relates to the Universe, its history and future.

The only important point is that Mormons believe that there is only ONE God as far as we are concerned. One God of this world.

God the Father's Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) are members on his team. We do not pray to Jesus, we worship ONE GOD The Father in the NAME of his Son Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, LDS believe that Humanity is divine, that locked within each of us is the potential to be like our Father. Would you look into the eyes of your 3 year old and hope for anything less for him? Christ speaks of us inheriting all that the father has in the Bible. This is another example of an ancient doctrine that has been filtered out over the years. It existed in Israelite times.

Check out:
fairlds. org for more clarification on LDS Faith. You will find that there are MANY misconceptions circulating in Evangelical circles that are out of context or simply not true at all. If I learned at my LDS sunday school what you guys learn from your pastors I would not be Mormon. Get the facts.

AlanL said...

Mike, in my 39 years as a member of the LDS faith, I don't recall any fellow member claiming that God had sex with Mary. Since God is omnipotent, the fact that God has a body of flesh and bone (not flesh and blood, btw) makes no substantive difference regarding how Mary begat Jesus. It is only a controversy for those that either
(a) fail to understand the omnipotence of God or
(b) want to make it an issue or speculate on how God does things.

As for your second issue, I was under the impression all Christians believed God was the creator of all things including Satan.

Finally, if you have redefined the term cult to include any religion that doesn't accept the Nicene Creed, you would need to include Judaism and Islam in your definition of cults. Additionally, you would have to determine if the Nicene Creed with the Filioque clause is the proper creed, and if so I would assume you would then include the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches in your definition of a cult.

On another related topic, are you aware that the writings of Athanasius, the 4th century church father and bishop of Alexandria and a crucial figure in the adoption of the Nicene Creed, also taught that man's ultimate destiny was deification?

In some respects, LDS teachings are more in harmony with the teachings of early century Christians than teachings of other modern Christian denominations.

The idea that Mormonism is a cult or that its doctrines are outside the mainstream is less a doctrinally sound position and more a public relations question.

Mike Duran said...

Anonymous, you should remain so, for there are far too many holes in your arguments.

Mike Duran said...

AlanL, I appreciate your response. Once again, you can play down the "Mary controversy" all you want, but it has a long history in your church. See MormonWiki: Conception of Jesus. And, as I said in my previous comments, even if I conceded the Mary issue, there are many more doctrines that distance Mormons from orthodox Christianity.

Secondly, if you peruse a typical Christian bookstore, you will find info on Mormonism usually in the section under Cults or False Religions. Is this just "a public relations question," or are there genuine doctrinal distinctives that separate the two groups? I'm sure you would agree that Evangelicals and Mormons diverge doctrinally at important points. Foremost among them is the Nature of God. While Christians believe God is an eternal, uncreated Spirit, Mormons believe that god was once a man who lived on the planet Kolob and who, through perfect obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, became, well, God. This should be a sufficient starting place to agree that Christianity and Mormonism is, indeed, different.

Anonymous said...

That is a convenient response. Let me know when you are interested in moving beyond the shallow, pop-religion sampling of Mormon Theology that is the hallmark of Evangelical criticism. With all due respect.

Anonymous said...

Mike, There is no "Mary Issue" in LDS history as you assert. This is a red herring argument.

The wiki qoutes you are referring to say nothing about the method of Christ's conception, only about his lineage. Alan is right, if God can part the Red Sea he can make Mary conceive without being near her. Come on.

No where does the Church say "God had sex with Mary." What it's saying is that Jesus is the literal Son of God. Nothing more. This is hardly a newsflash.

This is a good lesson to learn about the anti-Mormon attack strategy. You have to be really careful because literally eveything is getting bent out of context.

See:
www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Brochures/Did_God_have_Sex_with_Mary.pdf

Mike Duran said...

Anonymous, your five comments pretty much illustrate the real doctrinal differences between Evangelicals and Mormons. This post was intended to explore how Stephanie Meyer's Mormon faith influences and affects her vampire story, and the public's perception of Mormonism in general. Interestingly enough, this discussion has veered completely away from Meyer and the Twilight saga, and become embroiled in theology, which, I think, serves to illustrate my point.

Gina Holmes said...

Mike, I think you did a great job with the article. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments on both sides and learned a few things. I too have Mormon friends I love dearly even though we have conflicting beliefs. I think you did a great job, Mike. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mike, fair enough. The conversation only veered because allegations were being made against the LDS Church that were misleading. I don't mind a hard look of the LDS Faith as long as it is accurate.

Obviously there are some differences. We are comfortable with our differences and find rich tradition in the Bible for each of them. Hopefully some of the venom toward the LDS Church can be softened as we realize that we actually share much more common ground than assumed.

As someone who studied English Literature at BYU with Stephenie Meyer in the late 90's, both my wife and I found the Twilight Saga to be a real page turner. Thanks for allowing me to comment.

Braeley said...

O MY GOSH! JUST STOP!

I am just sick of everyone hating and trying to out opinion people with LDS gospel!
I have read the article and also all of the comments made of it. I must say i am pretty disapointed in, well i dont know, 30-40 year olds!

Members of our church believe in only ONE God like Anonymous said and that is what, and also the reason why we are living here in this earth for! we came down from the pre-mortal world so we could live on this earth, which Jesus Christ had especially made for us so we could live our lives the best we can so we can return to Him again. We will be judged based on how we live our lives here on this earth and so that determines if we would live with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

About the Mary situation is not nessasary to contemplate on. We Mormons do not know the full situation with Mary and so we do not make it our main focus, not saying we dont want to know about it or anything its just we dont know about it fully so we do not talk about it as much and thats not what our hole church is about, our focus is to learn messages and signs which are in the Book of Mormon,The Old and New Testament so we can build a knowledge of what the Lord has provided for each and one of us and actually believe in what Jesus has given to us and have faith in the Lord, as they say "he will provide the ingredients but its up to us to make the cake", In other words we have to make what we've got so we can build a strong foundation of the gospel in our lives but we cant add any ingredients because the cake will not turn out right and thats why we are not to talk about things we do not understand and say its right, that is false doctorine. And that has determined what the world is like today. Thats why the Lord gave us Leaders and prophets so they can guide us throughout this time of struggle. None of us are perfect, noone can or will be perfect in this life but we can if we try our HARDEST to be like Him, we WILL be perfect and we would have everlasting life which us members believe is the greatest gift of all gifts that God can give to us. The time will come when you can ask these questions to Jesus and He would answer them but now is not a good time to argue about things like this. People have different opinions and thats totally fine but we should not fight about it, we're just inviting the spirit of hate to be with us and thats not God wants.

Stephanie Myers is a good author. I have read her books and there pretty good. Mormon authors can write about anything they want, the book dosent have to part of the religon. If a LDS author chose to write about something about murder or steeling, thats there choice, Jesus is not going to come to earth and say "you cant write this book because its a sin" he wont do that. Its there choice and thats why Jesus gave us agency, to choose between right and wrong. Its between them and God, not you, them and God. You cant tell someone to stop what they love doing because that is wrong! Jesus gave them that ability so they use that ability to do greater things.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, i am a young 16 year old trying to be a peacemaker. I know that Jesus IS the Christ and i know He will come again on this earth so we can live with Him again.

My name is Braeley Gisa and im just an average girl from New Zealand trying to live life the best i can but to achieve this i have to be like Him and we too can do this and that is to love one another as he has loved you and i promise that you will blessed for it.

God bless.

writetools said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post and for the link. Amie

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, did god ever find his voice, i mean did he manage to hop on a bus back to kolob to buy some strepsils, maybe that is how joseph smith jr. heard him so well-i'm trying to bring a bit of light heartedness into the situation, as a christian i dont want to be associated with mormonism as much as they dont want to be asscoiated with narrow minded christians