Thursday, January 1, 2015

...out of a hat

The saying, or phrase, "...out of a hat" with the verb "pulled" or "came" should be familiar enough. Usually it suggests randomness, or magic...some sort of surprise, in ancient theatre, "Deus ex machina". In the trade, we vulgarised the expression, by substituting 'ass' for hat, when by hyperbole a solution or completion of work is demanded, expected, or completed under tight circumstances or time. Generally, a slip of paper/card with some name, or a rabbit comes out of the hat; but in America, a religion came out of a hat.

In the early history of the Republic, there was the sense of the new. The United States was a new country, with a new form of government, in a new land. In religion there was the confluence of the Second Great Awakening on the frontier, the forward and expanding new world. A form of the phenomena was the camp meeting, or revival. One area, western New York, had so many of these that it was referred to as 'Burned Over'. English speaking America was a Protestant country. Protestantism was several different (often continuing) reformations/restructurings of western Christianity (Catholicism). Many of these American phenomenon were 'Restorationists'; they described their movements as restoring true original Christianity. Most confined themselves to promoting private interpretations of the Bible, and church governance. A few incorporated other influences, and diverged outside of Christianity. Foremost was Mormonism.

Joseph Smith produced a translation of a true gospel of Jesus, the book of Mormon [published 1830] from the 'reformed Egyptian'. How did he do this? By putting his face into a hat, containing a seer stone and reading the spontaneous line, after line while scribes took dictation. One of the three witnesses listed in the publication of the book is David Whitmer. Whitmer told the story often, and he wrote:
"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man."
Now, Mormonism does not currently focus on this. Throughout their history, they tend to drop embarrassing items. They can do this because their scripture is not closed, but is inclusive of continuing addition and revelation. Now, this not a surprise. Smith was a fraud, and a convicted con man, from a family that engaged in divination for pay. Smith grew in his ambitions, becoming amongst other things, a presidential candidate.  America has a history of flim-flam. And such people are very thin skinned with examination, and sharp with detractors. The boy that sees AND SAYS the emperor is naked is a grave threat. Mormons consider any questioning as anti-Mormon.

The use of seer (or peep) stones was common then in the occult. Smith was a syncretist; besides Christianity, he borrowed much from Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a necessary precursor to Mormonism. The temple ceremonies are masonic ritual. The 'garment', or magic underwear, is masonic. It was cut, and now stitched, with emblems of freemasonry. Mormonism covets respectability, and when something becomes too embarrassing, a revelation happens and doctrine changes. Many members are ignorant of past practice, and belief; because they are not emphasised or mentioned any longer.

I noticed the last Republican presidential candidate was a Mormon, and one very much part of the group. He got the nomination, because he was the establishment's candidate, and not amongst the many outhouse rat crazy candidates of the Republicans. He had no problem sweeping the Evangelical Protestant vote and 'bible belt'. There was very little discussion of his religion. In 1960 the Democracy ran a Catholic, and it was very much a contentious point. Catholic Republicans would snap at Catholics that wanted to discuss Mormonism in 2012, and would defend Mormonism. Perhaps America changed, or there is a difference in standards between the two political parties and America's opinion on different religions. Barack Obama is a mainstream Protestant, but had been accused (and considered) first as an extreme politically Black Protestant, and then a Moslem.

There is a 'Mormon Corridor' centering on Utah that shares the same culture, but overall there is very little of Mormonism that has entered the broad stream of American culture. There are a few items that they share, or reinforce in folklore*. There are successful Mormons, but they are self contained culturally.
*Cain, son of Adam, did not die. He walks the earth. He is tall, naked, and hairy. Compare Sasquatch and Bigfoot.

1 comment:

  1. I had watched a documentary titled "from Jesus to Christ" on pbs recently. It left me with the impression that...history takes a long time.
    Mormonism was founded recently enough for more of its foibles to be recorded. Granted, it sounds like it started out with many more foibles to be recorded. Like any other religion that survives, it reforms itself continually.
    Occasionally I experience mild ire at any denomination that is prevalent in the post-industrial sprawl ridden sunbelt: this is not really fair of me.