Thursday, October 13, 2011

A "Mormon" Term

Every church has its own special jargon, understood by the faithful but often opaque to outsiders. The Christian churches are not exempt from the practice, which regrettably often adds to confusion and misunderstanding. Some of the misunderstanding seems to be almost deliberate, as we feign amazement, throw our hands in the air and wonder, having received a murky explanation of someone else's doctrines, who could ever believe all this stuff?
With the Mormons, it's there from the start. The church's only official name is the admittedly cumbersome The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The term Mormon has reference to one of the Church's four books of scripture, The Book of Mormon. Mormon himself, according to the record, was its chief compiler. The Church is not fond of being called The Mormon Church, but does not resent members being called Mormons. As the saying goes, we've been called much worse. The church even uses Mormon for one of its websites.
Confused yet? If not, here's a term that, as far as I know, is a Latter-Day Saint exclusive. Ready? It's priestcraft. It sounds benign enough, but it actually has a more sinister meaning - the deliberate misleading of religious followers for personal gain. It is found in the Book of Mormon, describing the technique of setting oneself up as connected to God, but functioning strictly for power and gain.
But this term, too, deserves a little clarification. If your all day, every day effort is in religious teaching, then it's no sin to be paid. We all have bills, right? Even Jesus, traveling with the twelve disciples received donations from sympathetic folks, and Judas, it is said, had the job of handling the group's funds. Most ministers, priests, nuns or church employees of some kind, it follows, are not the people the term refers to.
But given today's range of religious entrepreneurs, priestcraft isn't hard to spot. Jim Jones? Yup. David Koresh? No doubt. Benny Hinn? Jim Baaker? Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? Ralph Reed? The host of gay-bashing clergy, many of whom turn out to be gay? Yes, yes and yes.
Now, to finally make a point. Last week was the annual Washington convention of Values Voters, a regular orgy of priestcraft which attracts candidates for office like a new banking rule attracts lawyers. Texas Governor Perry was there, and was introduced by Rev. Robert Jeffrees, a Southern Baptist bigshot who made it clear that he believes that "Mormonism" to be "a cult". The regular news media, reluctant to appear to be bullying a man of the cloth, did little to push back, and Perry's spokesperson was notably tepid in saying that "he (Perry) does not believe it (Mormonism) is a cult." A pretty neat trick, giving something to both sides while not risking anything, except perhaps Mitt Romney's good will, which he probably cares nothing about, or else why would he be running at all?
Democrats are not invulnerable to priestcraft, but it's the GOP that's shot through with the stuff. There's no religious requirement of any kind for any office described in the Constitution, but these guys loudly insist on political leaders who look, think and say pretty much the same as they do. Priestcraft may be a Mormon term originating before Christ, but it's as current as today's headlines.


Post a Comment

<< Home