Monday, October 16, 2006

exit story 2: under the banner of heaven

Some of the stuff I read, though, scared me to death. One of the first things I read was Under the Banner of Heaven. This I now consider outside the realm of Mormon scholarship, it’s even maybe a little anti-Mormon. (As a friend pointed out, if this book had been written about a couple of Jewish murderers and how Judaism influenced their ability to murder two innocent people, wouldn’t it be considered anti-Semitic? But it’s still okay to pick on Mormons and not have anyone call you on it.)

The book was recommended by a friend, who had no idea that this was the first book I was ever to read that presented Joseph Smith in a light other than that sanctioned by the church. I was annoyed when the author told about Smith using a hat to dictate the Book of Mormon. I stopped reading and told my husband, “This author’s got his facts messed up. Where did he get this information? Using a stone and a hat?” If I had been a swearing person at the time, I would have most definitely said, WTF?!?!?

My husband turned to me with a sympathetic look and said, “No, actually that stuff is true. There are lots of contemporary sources to back that up.”

I was shocked, astounded, appalled, confused, and scared. Welcome to my first real cognitive dissonance. Of course, at the time, I didn’t characterize it as that. Instead, I characterized it as “the Spirit left the room.” This was a bad book.

I kept reading, but the book just had worse and worse things to say about Joseph. With my heart pounding, my ears flushed, my thoughts racing around, I closed the book. I couldn’t continue.

But I had to. Knowing was better than remaining in ignorant bliss. I couldn’t just pretend it wasn’t there. I pushed through to the end of the book, and I had a whole slew of questions.

I tried to approach my friends about it, but they didn’t want to talk about what I wanted to talk about. To them, it was all old news. When they realized it was brand new to me, they fell into what I think was a silent guilt. Later, I realized their silence said, “Oh no, we introduced from the ashes to the biggest challenge of her life. And who knows how she’ll handle it.”

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