Monday, December 17, 2007


I have heard it said by many that Mormonism is a quintessential American religion. Like a fool I repeated this to someone who rightly asked “how?” I stumbled through some vague comparisons, but I realized that although I agreed with the idea, I didn’t understand it. Having had some time to consider it I pose this explanation to you.

  • America, at least New England, was founded largely on the desire for religious freedom. The Puritans saw themselves as the new Israelites escaping the English “Egypt” to worship god as they saw fit. Mormons identify with this, even, celebrate how they too escaped to the west for religious freedom.

  • The idea that individuals can decide for themselves, with divine inspiration, which church they should join is far more like American democracy than the theology that we must defer to the authority of the Bible.

  • Agency is pivotal in Mormon doctrine. We are defined by the choices we make. There is no place in Mormon theology for concepts like Original Sin and the inherit sinfulness of mankind. The American social system counts on the idea that people are basically good and guarantees the right to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise.

  • Mormon scripture describes America as a land of promise. Nephite colonization of the new world parallels European colonization of America and American colonization of the west. In this way Book of Mormon events become types for American life today.

  • Mormon families produce law abiding, highly patriotic youths that serve in the military, civic societies and politics, in disproportionate numbers.

  • Mormons venerate the U.S. Constitution. They consider it a document inspired by God. And that saving it from destruction is the Mormon destiny. In fact some Mormons view the U.S. was created so that God could have a place where his church could be restored.

  • America is the land of opportunity. We are limited only by what we reach for. The Mormon concept of exultation takes this idea into the afterlife.

Why do you think people have called Mormonism a quintessential American religion?

No comments: