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June 13, 2012
Author’s Note: When I say the name “Bill Maher” it feels like a combination of broken glass and vomit coming across my tongue, so from now on he shall be known to ReaganGirl and her readers as “Proboscis Monkey.”
Earlier this week Proboscis Monkey, in another unfunny routine where his vapid audience tittered and applauded uncomfortably, lashed out at American exceptionalism, and yes, Mormonism. Proboscis Monkey takes exception to American exceptionalism. According to the primate with the pendulous nose, there is nothing special or exceptional about America’s history, purpose, or its revolutionary gift of liberty to the Western world. I will spare myself the additional passage of sulphuric acid and nails through my esophagus by abridging my account of the Monkey’s stupid remarks. I will only go on to tell you that he then ranted about how “America is a stupid country and Mormonism is a stupid religion, so they deserve each other.” Rarely do I agree with a homely primate on any point, but in the assertion that America and Mormonism go together, Proboscis Monkey gets it right.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Mormons–do have a particularly powerful connection to the founding and early history of the United States of America. Mormons hold in high regard the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. In fact, they believe that the Founders and their documents were inspired of God and are a gift to the entire world; all governments and peoples who will embrace their timeless principles.
Members of the Mormon Church have an understanding that the survival of a fledgling religion, founded by a farmer from New York State, depended upon the existence of a nation with a Constitution that proclaimed that all men are free to live and worship according to the dictates of their own consciences. Only in America could The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized in 1830 by Joseph Smith and a handful of followers, have survived to grow and expand for a hundred and eighty years to become a world wide church with some fifteen million members in one hundred and fifty six countries.
Americanism and a love of the principles of freedom set Mormons apart from the very beginning. Founded in the mid-19th Century during the rough and tumble years when slavery was a subject of constant debate and conflict, Mormons believed that all men, regardless of race, were endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights to life and property. The practice of slavery was in opposition to every teaching an principle of the LDS faith, so as Mormons migrated from the Northeast into the Midwest, they were repeatedly driven out of their settlements because of their new religion, and their abolitionist stance.
In 1846, after years of persecution of the Mormons, the United States government reached out to the church and asked for several hundred volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War. Beginning in the Midwest, the Mormon Battalion, composed of around 5oo men, and a few women and children, marched for months until they reached California in 1847. The reaction by the Mormon men who were asked to fight was negative at first. But in a poignant act of loyalty and patriotism the men agreed to fight in behalf of the government and country that had, for nearly 20 years, relentlessly harassed and prosecuted them for their faith. The war was largely over by the time the Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego and the U.S. Army, for a time, gave the Mormons light duties until they were discharged and allowed to return to their families. Some men stayed in California to take part in the Gold Rush, but most, under the direction of Brigham Young, returned to the Mormon settlements in Utah.
The notion of equality of rights extended deeply into the hearts of Mormon women during the early years after the church was founded. Mormon women were instrumental in early legislation that would give women the vote and outlaw plural marriage in the Western states. Not all of their efforts were fruitful but in 1879 leaders of the “Relief Society,” the Mormon woman’s organization, attended the Woman’s Suffrage Convention in Washington D.C. The alliance between suffragists from the East and the LDS women in the West was a force in the advancement of women’s rights, and in 1896 Utah became the third state in the Union to give women the right to vote.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is patriotic in its loyalty to national identity and the rule of law. This spirit is enumerated in the 12th Article of Faith. Countless Mormons, exemplified by Mitt Romney, have served in political office, rising to the highest levels. In 1945 Ezra Taft Benson served as President of the European Mission of the Mormon Church. He was among the first civilians to arrange for relief supplies to be distributed to the people of post-war Europe; Mormons and non-Mormons alike. He came to serve as Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower, and in the mid 1980s that he became the 13th President of the church.
Mormons famous for their exceptional valor during wartime include, USAF Lieutenant Colonel Larry Chesley, USAF Lieutenant Colonel, Bruce Carlson, as well as thousands of others who have served in the military during all American Wars. Service in the military for a Mormon is lauded with the same honor as serving a mission for the church, and many of the General Authorities of The LDS Church have a history of military service.
This is a partial accounting of the ways that Mormons and America “deserve each other.” Freedom of religion, which had its first inception as written law was upon the American Continent, is the fuel of the Mormon fire. And members of the Mormon Church, as a rule, are forceful and committed patriots. Mormons in America love their country and are committed to ensuring that it remains the Shining City On a Hill for generations to come.
Perhaps the most prescient point made by Proboscis Monkey during his tirade was this: “In a hundred years America will be Mormon.” Actually, he was not far off since couples in the Mormon faith reproduce at a much higher rate than the rest of the country in general. Proboscis Monkey would be doing us all a favor if he defied this trend and got the vasectomy today. On these two points; that America and Mormonism deserve one another, and that there will be a lot of Mormons in America in one hundred years, Proboscis Monkey gets it right. Otherwise, he should think about moving to the sanctuary for ugly animals.
By Marjorie Haun 6/13/12