May 02, 2007

Mormonism built on Indian mounds

God Is Not GreatIn March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being "a disorderly person and an impostor." That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith, who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad gold-digging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or "necromantic" powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the "Book of Mormon." He had two huge local advantages which most mountebanks and charlatans do not possess. First, he was operating in the same hectically pious district that gave us the Shakers and several other self-proclaimed American prophets. So notorious did this local tendency become that the region became known as the "Burned-Over District," in honor of the way in which it had surrendered to one religious craze after another. Second, he was operating in an area which, unlike large tracts of the newly opening North America, did possess the signs of an ancient history.

A vanished and vanquished Indian civilization had bequeathed a considerable number of burial mounds, which when randomly and amateurishly desecrated were found to contain not merely bones but also quite advanced artifacts of stone, copper, and beaten silver. There were eight of these sites within twelve miles of the underperforming farm which the Smith family called home. There were two equally stupid schools or factions who took a fascinated interest in such matters: the first were the gold-diggers and treasure-diviners who brought their magic sticks and crystals and stuffed toads to bear in the search for lucre, and the second those who hoped to find the resting place of a lost tribe of Israel. Smith's cleverness was to be a member of both groups, and to unite cupidity with half-baked anthropology.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Or a half-baked forerunner of Scientology, or the recent modern cults that committed mass suicide at Jonestown or did the same in Southern California so they could be taken aboard a passing starship. Isn't it interesting that most all of such philosophical perversions all originated among EuroMen?
All Best
Russ Bates

Anonymous said...

well, you cant just trust a cartoon you watch on tv...

have you ever read that Book that Smith found?? probably not...

Dont knock it, til you rock it! so dont bash stuff til you done your homework, Jr!

Rob said...

I haven't read the Book of Mormon. Nor have I bashed Mormonism.

All I've done is quote a Slate article. It doesn't require any "homework" to quote an article accurately.

If you don't like the article, take it up with author Christopher Hitchens. He's responsible for its content, not me.