Mormons have been in the news lately. As a general rule, when you hear that, it's not good news.
(Personal note: Forgive me God for any sins in what follows.)
News item: Star Mormon basketball player suspended from BYU team for having sex with girlfriend and violating school's honor code.
BYU (Brigham Young University) is a private, Mormon college in Provo, Utah that has had an exceptional basketball team this year, ranked third in the nation. BYU features a 19-year-old sophomore, 6'9" Brandon Davies. Davies admitted to school officials that he was having sex with his girlfriend, who is pregnant. Davies was suspended from the team on Tuesday. In their first game without him Wednesday, BYU was mushed by unranked New Mexico University, 82-64.
Davies is African-American. Mormonism has had an uneasy relationship with African Americans since one of its core tenets, handed down by founder Joseph Smith, was that the race was marked by God due to its prior evil deeds. Traditionally, they could not become Mormon priests. Thankfully, following the civil rights movement, church President Spencer Kimball revealed (on September 28, 1978) that God had told him that he had changed his policy and Blacks were all right - Praise the Lord!
From a statistical standpoint, Davies' downfall was potentially predictable. African Americans have a far higher rate of unwed births than the national average: for the latest year for which data are available (2008), 72 percent of births to black women were out of wedlock (compared with a national average of 41%). This is partly due to a far higher rate of births to teen African-American mothers, who are nearly always unmarried. So, an African-American basketball player who brought BYU's team to great heights had a significantly greater pobability that he might violate this Mormon "morals" clause.
I apologize for saying these things, since I know they may be distressing to people. I pray to God that he will make me see things in more holy ways, and to stop referring to the damned data.
P.S. I fear I would not have lasted as long at BYU as Brandon Davies made it (although he has not yet been suspended for violating the school's honor code).
News Item: Creators of Comedy Central's sacrilegious "South Park" author new Broadway musical comedy, The Book of Mormon.
I attended a preview Monday of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's new play (it opens March 24) - humorously described as "God's favorite musical" - with my widowed sister-in-law Alice, who grew up in Salt lake City descended from the Mormon supreme command. Alice (née Richards) is descended from both Mormon-founder Joseph Smith's personal secretary, Willard Richards, and one of the heads of the Church of the Latter Day Saints' 12 apostles, thusly: "Willard Richards is my great grandfather according to Mormon theology; however, after he died, his brother, Franklin Richards married his wives and actually sired my grandfather, George F. Richards, who was head of the 12 apostles when he died."
I'm not going to comment on Alice's religious adherence, although we go to Trader Joe's together to purchase wine and coffee - both of which are verboten to Mormons. (Included in the honor code that Brandon Davies violated are proscriptions against drinking alcohol or coffee or tea.) The Book of Mormon is their bible. It tells an unusual story, which is explicated throughout the musical, in which two mismatched Mormon missionaries (latter-say saints) go to Uganda to proselytize the natives. According to the play, the Book describes how two Biblical Israeli tribes fought in North America, and the good tribe left the good book for Joseph Smith to find hidden at his upstate New York farm. (Or something like that. There's an angel named Moroni in there somewhere - Mormons, please, help me out!)
The play makes fun of this improbable story which, since it was revealed in the 1830s, is meant to be interpreted literally, despite there being no archeological evidence of these tribes (although some Mormons liken them to Native-Americans). Throughout the play, the characters talk dirty about obscene sexual acts and discuss various idiosyncrasies of the religion - like how Smith decided (no I mean had revealed to him) that God didn't want His people to drink coffee or tea because he (Smith) personally disapproved of hot beverages.
But the play is actually tender-hearted and optimistic, if potty-mouthed, and ends on an upbeat, humanistic note.
Nonetheless, I fear Mitt Romney would not entirely approve of the show.
I too found its imagery somewhat shocking. But Alice loved it (Smith was right - once Mormons start drinking coffee, there's no holding them back!) along with the rest of that wild New York audience. Too bad we didn't have time to get coffee or a drink in NYC before we hurried home.
P.S. I know - I've got to stop burning the candle at both ends - it was almost Midnight when we returned to Jersey!