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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mormons in the Media, but can the paper really tell us the "facts"?

It's being called "The Mormon Moment." 

Thanks to Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, the media is covering Mormonism with a whole new gusto.  You can take the Mormon history quiz at the Huffington Post (which I aced because I'm that slick) or you can read the Newsweek article "Mormons Rock" or if you're in New York, you might even check out The Book of Mormon musical.

Mormon Times' writer Lane Williams isn't all that impressed with the attention.  His column at Mormon Times laments the recent coverage stating that "there seemed little new beyond recycled news frames of the last few decades."

But the larger question is, how much can the media really tell us?  Religion of any sort gets terse treatment in the news.  We can only get the overview in a two minute segment or even a ten page article.  There simply isn't space to get into the nitty-gritty.

And let's face it, with Mormonism, there's a lot of nitty-gritty.

There are a lot of "facts" that get disputed over and over.  As a church investigator, I looked into the history of the Book of Mormon people.  I wanted to know about the possible existence of the Nephites, but what I found was an endless debate over every detail.

Eventually everyone sounded like the adults in Charlie Brown.  "Wah Wah Wah Wah."

It seems that few (if any) non-Mormon scholars believe that the Nephites ever existed.  Why?  For one, the Book of Mormon mentions lots of things that were not known to be in America during pre-Columbian times. 

Perhaps the most famous example has to do with horses. The book mentions horses, but most scientists say there were no horses in the Americas at that time.

But don't say that too loud or apologists like Michael Ash will remind you of 100 reasons why a horse could be a tapir or a deer or another animal that you may have never considered to be what Joseph Smith translated as "a horse."

I doubt the media will ever cover debates like this. Why?  Because these stories don't sell papers.  It's a tempest in a teapot, and no one cares.

In fact, a single article on Mormonism could never do the topic justice. It's a richly layered subject that involves personal faith, archeology, DNA, and personal histories of men who didn't want everything they did blasted to the public (google Nauvoo Expositor). 

Expecting a newspaper to cover all that seems naive to me, especially when so many elements of Mormon history come with baggage.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Virgin Mary...Surfing?

I don't love graffiti, but I do love the Surfing Madonna mosaic that has recently popped up in California.
(Actually, it's been there since Good Friday, but I just found out about it.)

At first the mosaic seemed to spring up out of nowhere, and it was quite a mystery.  But it was the kind that California residents loved.  Apparently, the artist was so clever that he disguised himself as a construction worker doing maintenance.  Check out the news story this video:

The artist has more recently come forward.  His name is Mark Patterson, and he's not even Catholic.  Instead, he says he felt inspired to bring attention to the cause of saving the ocean. You can see it clearly says "Save the Ocean" on the side of the mosaic.

See an interview with the artist at this link: 

Despite the wonderful art this man crafted, the problem is that the city is calling it graffiti because he didn't get permission to do it first.  To me, that really was pretty stupid...or was it?

Had the piece gone in a museum, would anyone have talked about it? 

This man clearly wants to bring attention to his cause, but it's being overshadowed by the religious symbolism in the photo.  I've already read some comments from Catholics who say it's inappropriate, but I happen to like it.

The image of the virgin is clearly based off "The Virgin of Quadalupe."

 As the story goes, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican man named Juan Diego in 1531 and told him to build a church.   The local bishop didn't believe the story, so Diego asked Mary for proof that he saw her.  She told him to place some roses in his cloak.  When the roses were removed, the above image on his cloak.

Now I actually prefer this image, which shows Juan Diego as well.

Now that I know about Morminism, I can't help but see the resemblance to Joseph Smith and the First Vision, which seems to be the most popular image among Latter-Day Saints.

Anyway, I hope the surfing Madonna stays, and I'll be interested to see what happens next.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm in the Salt Lake City Weekly

Well, not really me, but my book is!

The Salt Lake City Weekly justgave a positive review of "Who's at the Door?" stating:

Harrington is at his best when discussing how learning from the missionaries is similar to Catholic catechism classes with a nun named Sister Ruth he attended as a child...Who’s at the Door... demonstrate(s) the journey can be just as interesting to read about as the destination

Go Sister Ruth!   She's one of my favorite characters in my memoir but rarely ever gets a mention.  In fact, I wish I had written more about her.

I actually added Sister Ruth and the catechism scenes halfway into writing the book. I wanted an extra layer to change pace from all the missionary scenes.  I'm glad good ole Sister Ruth gets a mention.

This reviewer compares my book with another one about LDS Church Prophet Wilford Woodruff.