How is it that the author of this New York Times article could write a six-page piece and yet not really tell anyone what Mormons actually believe that puts off evangelicals? It’s as if Feldman, the author, knows only what everyone else does about Mormonism from a distance and has no intimate knowledge of the religion himself.
It’s not just the heterodoxical books, the history or the secret ceremonies, although they all play a role. The bias is against Mormon theology itself. Among other things, Mormons believe they can become gods, and that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. This is fantastically terrifying to an evangelical, totally offsetting the net worth of their common social interests, of which they have many. The church has a weird and sordid past that dallied with violence, polygamy and racism, but today there’s nothing on the surface to explain why Romney is constantly dancing on his toes around his beliefs when addressing the evangelical front. Except, that is, the wacky theological points that Feldman avoids entirely.
This ignorance — or avoidance — in an NYT spread is particularly bothersome because it only highlights the absurdity of the dilemma. So, Jesus isn’t the spirit brother of Satan? And you can support your fallen angel philosophy with scripture? You can’t, can you? Satan is an intertestamental development. The serpent, Job’s accusor, and the fallen Lucifer were not cohesively woven together in the idea of Satan as we know and love him for three centuries.
So, of course, it’s ludicrous for evangelicals to snub Mormons in favor of their own, equally odd and baseless ideas. Despite Feldman’s academic posturing, he’s playing claws in with everyone and not bringing this to light. He only hints at it in the vaguest terms.
But we don’t want to talk about that in the NYT. We just want to wonder from afar “What is it about Mormonism?” without getting elbow deep in reality. That would mean we’d have to actually know something and we don’t want that.