The continuing saga of my trip to Utah...
We hadn't been in Utah for a half hour when Mormonism smacked me in the face. We stopped for dinner at the Chuck-A-Rama buffet (in spite of the name, the food was fabulous), and I swear, I've never seen so many kids in my life. The family in front of us in line: 5 little girls and a pregnant mother. After I paid, I heard the guy behind me say, "One adult and five kids." Kids everywhere.
As we drove through Saint George, my wife pointed out the Mormon Temple, one of the oldest, and told me that the city doesn't allow any taller buildings near it.
I know that Utah is a Mormon state, but seeing it in real life is something of a shock to my rationalist brain.
I have a certain degree of respect for most religions, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) baffles me. Unlike Judaism, Christianity, Islam, even Baha'i, the sordid history of the LDS church's founders is modern, extensively documented, and available for anyone to read. There are hundreds of books exposing the fraud, the abusive beliefs, the racism, sexism, the power struggles, and anything else you'd care to name. There are web sites by the thousands from disillusioned former members.
With the history of the LDS church such an open book, why are there any Mormons at all?
I'm reminded of an experiment that I read about years ago, I believe it was in one of James Randi's essays. A college class saw a demonstration by a man who claimed to have paranormal powers - ESP, spoon bending, and so forth. He demonstrated about a dozen tricks, and convinced many of the students that it was for real. Then someone else came in, and loudly proclaimed, "This man is a fraud!" He proceeded to demonstrate how half of the "paranormal" feats were nothing more than ordinary magician's sleight-of-hand.
Now to my way of thinking, if a man had even one genuine paranormal power, that would be truly amazing, and he'd have no reason to resort to fraud. What did these college students think? Many of them decided that even though half the tricks were fraudulent, they still believed that the man had paranormal powers!
To me, that's like discovering that your accountant embezzled from one of your accounts, yet you still trust him with the rest of your money. After all, he didn't steal from those other accounts, right? So he's only dishonest when it comes to that one account, and the rest of our money is safe.
Does that make sense to you? No, nor to me. And that's why Mormonism is so baffling to me.