Tag Archives: Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon and Disney are suspiciously similar.

We took our five-year-old granddaughter to Disneyworld. We enjoyed it. Our Princess Tiana room had headboards that sparkled when we pushed a button. When our plane got snowed out, the resort took us back at the Priceline rate, no extra charge. I missed the major snow storm while I was laying by a pool. I learned things. Good, good. I hope my granddaughter did not learn too much except that we really love her. But I learned a lot.

Hospitality and branding

Let’s be positive first. Disney knows hospitality. That is something to learn. If our church were as ready for visitors as they are, we would have more visitors at our meetings. The “cast members” are so well trained! — a little robotic as a result, but I am being positive. They gave my granddaughter an “It’s my birthday” pin to wear and fifty people must have noticed it! — get a corn dog and get special recognition from your waitperson! During the Mummerlike Festival of Fantasy parade, a dancer actually interrupted her routine to lean down and wish her happy birthday – it choked me up.

Disney connects people to their brand. That’s also something to learn. We met a family on the plane who were going to Disney for their daughter’s spring break (that is what she wanted to do). It was their thirtieth trip! In Downtown Disney (a shopping and eating village) there is a giant store devoted to Disney everything. People buy it and wear it. Witness the pink crocs with a Mickey Mouse logo lighting up when you see my blonde descendant. We should connect people to Jesus so effectively.

Ubiquitous, Mormon-like philosophy

elsa-frozen-wallpaper-hd
We visited princesses. Only one of us dressed as one.

Then there is that other stuff, like the entire insidious philosophy behind the place. There’s a LOT to learn there! For instance, the welcome show is a good example of getting a dose of philosophy right off the bat. We got to the entrance early because we desperately needed to go visit Elsa and get our autograph book signed. (For the uninitiated: yes, you heard right). We did not know there was a welcome show planned for the several thousand people waiting for the gates to open. The essence of the welcome show is: “Today is going to make a memory you never forget!” The hidden message for your grandchild is: “Life is like an autograph book filled with the memories of getting something you really want and like.  Those moments are what we work for, even what we live for. — You can make them today! It is up to you.”

We visited Tinker Bell, too. She is the most obvious example of the “dreams come true” mantra one hears all day at Disneyworld. I think Disney thinks they are a dream come true, so look no further. But the idea is: “If we just believe, our expectations will be met.” I think more people might believe this “positive” piece of theology from Tink than believe Jesus is their Savior. I would not be surprised if many people who believe Jesus saves them thinks he does it because they believe it. My daughter-in-law sent me a clip from the Book of Mormon when I was marveling at Orlando [listen to the theme song]. She reminded me of how prophetic that musical is. Mormonism has the same foundation as Disneyworld – stories of sorcery and fantasy turned into a theme park in Salt Lake City. They believe.

The loving parent needs to do some brain-unpacking if their child shows signs of thinking the Disney myth has a basis in reality, don’t they? There is a witch behind every bush at the park. Boys are pirates and girls are princesses. Pretending it is normal to exist inside a giant machine that makes everything magical is considered OK there. Saying “have a magical day” is something people do. Stealing the essence of cultures by stereotyping their character and then making a movie and a theme park ride out of them is considered nice.

The empire mentality, just for fun

Islam also scrubbed of its essence and commodified
Islam also scrubbed of its essence and commodified

Let’s spend a little more time on that last one. Disney is the crown jewel of an empire mentality. You don’t need to visit the far reaches of the empire to experience “otherness.” It is collected, like thoughts in a thought zoo, in the theme park. The theme is, “We have stolen your identity and reduced it to Aladdin or the Princess and the Frog, then we sell it back to you.” (Isn’t that magical!) They even melodify our epidemic of isolation and solve the problem by advising we live “free” in an ice palace we created with the special power we use to hide. Our faithpushers have caught on to this technique and have constructed their own megachurch theme parks. Disney pushes this tourist view of the world with an Animal Kingdom and Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) in which they reproduce the exotica of far away lands that are safely caged in Disneyesque surroundings.

Disneyworld is hugely philosophical. The most redundant teaching has to be: in a “world” full of stories, the end is always boy gets girl (or now, vice versa), never child meets God. The place is scrupulously scrubbed of Jesus. What does a child make of that?

What is a Christian who lives in a Disney world to do? I am a pilgrim moving through. I can taste the sweetness of a well-intentioned “cast member” without becoming one. But I will have to have some healthy dialogue about every piece of propaganda that gets into my house. Most of all, I will need to build an alternative that makes more sense than Disney as it incarnates the living God.

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So, Mr. Perry, Are the Mormons Christians? — and does anyone care?

There is a puzzling theological and political debate going on in the Rick Perry presidential campaign. His advisors call Mitt Romney’s Mormonism a non-Christian cult, but Perry distances himself from the designation in public. It is not clear why they cast suspicion on President Obama’s rather orthodox Christian faith, which is even comes complete with a conversion experience and everything. Some evangelical power brokers close to Perry say that Romney’s views are more “biblical” than the president’s. Sigh.

A “new-improved” Jesus

Mormons have always claimed to be Christians. They say they are “new improved” Christians with a latter-day revelation that occurred in upstate New York. They have never made a secret about what they believe. (Well, they scrub out the weirder parts when the missionaries come to your door, or at least they used to). One of my friends was at Hill Cumorah, in New York, where Joseph Smith said he found the tablets which he magically translated into King James English. The faithful put on a pageant there to tell the whole story. The Book of Mormon, on Broadway, has a song that sums things up nicely.

The Mormons claim to be Christians, but they have their own Jesus — a new-and-improved one discovered in 1823 by direction of an angel who lead Smith to golden plates engraved by Central American prophets in 400 A.D. using “reformed Egyptian” which Smith translated with the aid of a seer hat — or something like that. The story tells of lost tribes of Israel coming to America and Jesus appearing to them, and a lot more.

It is not unusual for Jesus to be “improved.” Islam includes Jesus, but a Jesus who was a prophet, not the incarnation of God, who did not die on the cross but was taken by God to heaven before he did. Hindus can easily and often do accept Jesus as an enlightened guru whose message of love is like Buddha’s; some say he grew up in India. Christian Scientists teach that Jesus is divine, but not God.

Do Christians even care who Jesus is, at this point?

The issue for Perry seems to be that Christians are very mixed up as to what they know about Jesus.

What’s more, isn’t it true people in general gave up on knowing anything for sure a long time ago? Postmoderns have a tough time with “this or that” – so much so that the Occupy movement is somewhat proud of refusing to have a positive statement of what they are about and is relatively content with being a deconstruction machine.

Many Christians are just as postmodern; so why not bring in the Mormons? They are nice and they call themselves Christians. Why not bring in all the “tantric” influences around? What’s really wrong with a guru Jesus as long as he believes in love?

Today, I think I will just bring up the issue rather than answering too much. What do you think? (Mr. Perry, you are welcome to chime in).