Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Sweetness of Mormonism

My book Saints and Scoundrels is not just detached facts about good guys and bad guys. In every chapter I endeavor to draw out lessons that can be applied in our daily walk with Christ.

Here is a point I make at the end of my chapter about the villain Joseph Smith. These reflections arose from my fascination with the way Smith's followers, the Mormons, are able to so successfully perpetuate the faith to the next generation. While the Latter Day Saints represent only 1.7% of America’s adult population, they have the largest retention rate of any religious tradition in America.
Joseph Smith's Vision
The way the Latter Day Saints have achieved self-perpetuation has not primarily been through conversion but through organic growth from within. Being encouraged to have large families plays a key part in this process. But even more significant is the fact that Mormon children are raised not simply to accept their parents’ religion, but to love it. In Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Lecture he noted, “In vain does one repeat what the heart does not find sweet.” Mormons repeat what they are taught because they have been trained to find it sweet. One major reason for this is the sense of community shared by those within the movement – a strange antidote to the individualism in which the movement was birthed. The Latter Day Saints look after each other, put a high premium on loyalty to the extended family, practice hospitality in one another’s homes, and intentionally structure their parishes in a way to facilitate a sense of community among their members. Children growing up in this environment simply do not want to leave it.

The rest of us stand to learn a valuable lesson here. As Christian parents our task is not merely to pass on the truth to our children; rather, we must endeavor to show them that the truth is also lovely. Many Christian young people have willingly walked away from a faith they knew to be true because they were enticed by the illusory attractiveness of idols. But few will abandon a faith they believe to be both true and beautiful. The deceptiveness of Mormonism is that it is packaged in such a way so that the youth find it beautiful.
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