Thursday, June 13, 2013

Romney's religion: Sumerian submarines and other absurdities

“[The Book of Mormon is] either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that's exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the [golden] plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall.” Gordon B. Hinkley, Mormon Prophet, PBS Interview, The Mormons (2007).
In an earlier post, I inquired into the core beliefs that Mitt Romney probably has as a “true believing Mormon.”  There is considerable evidence that Mitt Romney is a true believer, and I will not rehash them here.

Religious beliefs should be important to voters, as should any other superstitious or otherwise irrational beliefs.  For example, if Romney denied the holocaust, people would wonder how a Harvard graduate in this day of age could harbor such a nonsensical idea.  A quick visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., should provide all of the evidence that a reasonable person needs to accept that Hitler killed over 6 million Jews.  People would rightfully question whether Romney could make good policy decisions in the Middle East with such an extreme view.

I think the evidence against the Book of Mormon is just as clear. Anyone who thoughtfully considers the laughable claims of the Book of Mormon should come away with the attitude of B.H. Roberts, a Mormon leader and historian who later wrote in his critical analysis of the Book of Mormon: “The narrative proceeds in characteristic disregard of conditions necessary to its reasonableness, as if it were a tale told by a child, with utter disregard for consistency."

As the story goes, Jared and his brother, Mahonri Moriancumer, lived around 200 years after the Flood.  Yes. I’m talking about Noah’s flood.  Already, I have probably convinced a majority of readers that the Book of Mormon is so obviously false that discussing it is a waste of time. Please continue, gentle reader, because it gets worse -- laughably worse. 

Jared lived near the Tower of Babel (yes, the Tower of Bable from the Book of Genesis), which probably places the initial events of the Book of Mormon in Sumer circa 2200 B.C.

If you went to Sunday school as a child, you will recall that the people decided to build a tower that reached “Heaven” and thereby reverse the effects of Adam's fall.  It is not surprising that this group of people would attempt such a foolhardy enterprise when you consider that Noah's family probably lacked sufficient genetic diversity and they were the product two centuries of inbreeding.

God was obviously displeased that people were trying to evade the death sentence pronounced on Adam's posterity, so he devised a fiendishly clever plan:  he would confound the language of the people making it impossible for them to communicate.  According to the Bible, this is why people speak different languages.  

Jared asked Mahonri to beg the Lord not to confound his family's language so that they could all stay together. (see Ether chapter 1 verses 33-37.)  The Brother of Jared heard the voice of Jesus telling him that they needed to leave the area and take animals "both male and female, of all kinds" (sounds like another Noah’s ark story) and journey to a new land that God had prepared and set apart for them, which happened to be in America. (see Ether Chapter 1 verses 38-43.)   

They gathered up "flocks and herds," as well as insects (honey bees are specifically mentioned, which is odd, since the first bees in America were brought by Dutch immigrants in the late 1700s).

Jesus revealed an unusual ship design that the Jaredites were to use. It was in the shape of a football, had no windows, and it had a hole in both the top and the bottom that could be plugged with a wooden cork. According to Jesus, this was done because storms might arise and turn the ships upside down. (see Ether Chapter 2 verses 16-21.) The ships were designed to be “tight like unto a dish.”  Jesus told them that "You shall be as a whale, going to the depths of the sea." (see Ether Chapter 2 verses 22-25.)  In other words, the ships were the first submarines.

Evidently, the lack of windows bothered Mahonri, so he prayed to Jesus about how to light the submersibles.  Rather than answer him directly, Jesus asked Mahonri what he should do.  Jesus helpfully noted that there could not be “windows” because they would be “dashed to pieces.”  This anachronism is problematic because dashable (glass) windows would not be invented for thousands of years.  I can hear Mahonri asking, “What is a window, Lord?” Jesus, ever the master of the obvious, also noted that fire would not be prudent in a wooden submarine.  

According to Book of Mormon, Mahonri laid out sixteen rocks (2 for each football . . . err, submersible) and prayed to Jesus and asked him to touch the rocks so that they might glow with divine light and thereby provide the necessary illumination for the journey. Because of his faith, Christ appears to him in spiritual form (he won't be born in Bethlehem for 2,200 years after all) and touches the stones, magically filling them with light. (see Ether Chapter 3 verses 1-6.) 

The boats had no means of propulsion. The Book of Mormon states that "they were driven before the winds for 344 days." According to the Book of Mormon, they spent a significant amount of time underwater, where they were attacked by whales and other "monsters of the sea," but no harm could befall them. (see Ether Chapter 6 verses 5-11.) 

Aside from the obvious problems of ventilation, sanitation, and food/water storage, all you have to do is visualize one of these airtight crafts turning upside down in a storm with its cargo of “flocks and herds,” and the hilarity that would ensue -- cows on their backs, animal feces dropping from the "ceiling."  Perhaps Jesus magically prevented cow flatulence (over 200 liters per day), which would be a significant problem in an airtight enclosure.

Any reasonable person at this point must ask how any intelligent, believing Mormon can accept the Book of Mormon as a historical record.  Unlike liberal Christians, Mormons do not have the "out" that these stories are allegorical, mistranslated, or otherwise not historically accurate.  The Book of Mormon was allegedly written by eyewitnesses (people like Jared and Mahonri) on metal plates.

The plates were "translated" by Joseph Smith circa 1827-1828.  According to accounts of his scribes, Joseph would put a magic stone in a hat (he had previously used the same stone in his treasure hunting business, for which he was convicted of fraud in 1826). When Joseph placed his head in the hat, shielding his eyes from light, words would appear on the stone. Joseph dictated the words to a scribe. When published, the words became the Book of Mormon, which he proclaimed to be the "most correct book on Earth and the keystone of our religion." Interestingly, Joseph did not need to be in proximity to the plates while translating, which makes many people wonder why they were necessary in the first place.

This YouTube video further explains and and debunks the story of the Jaredites.  Watch it and ask yourself whether a belief that these events actually occurred is fundamentally different from believing in astrology or denying the Holocaust.



  1. Catholics actually believe they are eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood when they eat a wafer and drink wine in church.
    Is that more or less delusional than Romney believing Joseph's Myth?
    Do you agree with Richard Dawkins recent statement he made at the Reason Rally, that we should start openly mocking believers with contempt? What good does that do?
    Let's face reality. Romney's Mormon beliefs obviously take a back seat to his core beliefs, making money to enrich his family so they get to live lives of extreme privilege few in this country will EVER enjoy. He's in the top 1% of the top 1% and he's only going to go higher if he gets elected to POTUS, which is a good possibility.
    Could he possibly do any more harm than the past two presidents, who were not Mormon?
    We're still fighting America's longest war, over 11 years we've been in Afghanistan. Almost twice as long as WWII, which only took 6 years and we doubled domestic production in those 6 years.
    What have we done in the 11 years of America's two longest wars? Doubled the price of gas?
    Great. That should do wonders for the economy, right?
    All of these anachronistic beliefs are irrelevant and even the believers know that, which is why Romney is wise to STFU about his beliefs. Who cares?
    I don't care what their beliefs are, they're all going to end up costing me more at the gas pump and in taxes. I'm against all beliefs that end up doing that, but there probably isn't a whole lot I can do to stop them from making gas more expensive and raising my taxes, so I'll just work on figuring out how to use less gas and pay less of my income in taxes.

    1. Stan, you make some good points. From an external perspective, all religions that believe in a "God" are equally bizarre.

      I would say with transubstantiation, however, that many of my Catholic friends don't believe a word of it. And they are believing Catholics. There isn't quite that flexibility in Mormonism.

      I do generally agree with Richard Dawkins (I was there at the Rally). Sam Harris calls it "conversational intolerance."

      I am actually a fiscal conservative and would prefer Romney in some ways. I suppose I am a 1 percenter, and I don't want my taxes to be raised. However, I really dislike the Mormon church and don't want them to have the satisfaction of Romney being elected.

  2. Thanks for this good summary of the insanity of the origins of Mitt Romney's Mormonism. I happen to think his beliefs are HIGHLY relevant to his suitability for office.

    In addition to the absurdity of the religion's origins (that you well capture) is the notion of the church's opaque finances, its downright cult-like temple rituals, and its recent not-so-nice racial bigotry (which Romney not once is recorded as having objected to).

    And there is the matter of Romney's frequent trips to see his church's senior leaders when he ran for governor. That is downright creepy.

    No thanks, I'll vote for the devil I know instead of the cult-member who flips and flops on every issue.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Given the power that the POTUS has in selecting Supreme Court justices, I do not want Romney to appoint justices that are diametrically opposed to my social views.

      For that reason, I will vote Obama.

  3. The main problem with Romney's religious beliefs, as i see it,has to do with the notion of "continuing revelation". This is a fundamental axiom of Mormonism. It is the idea that God actively speaks to mankind today as much as the Bible claims He spoke to the old prophets. In other words, some of our thoughts, at least, come from God. On the surface this sounds like a very comforting, reassuring concept, that there is a God who cares about us and will communicate to us. But taken to the logical conclusion, it means that Mr. Romney will approach his decisions as POTUS as coming directly from God himself and by implication unchallengeable. That is what scares me about a Romney presidency- that there will be no questioning of any of his policy decisions or allowance that his opinions just might be at least a little bit incorrect. In Romney's world view that is fundamentally impossible, since as a Mormon and a dedicated Priesthood holder, he is an authorized mouthpiece for God himself to the rest of us less-worthy Americans.

    1. You hit the nail right on the head. Continuing revelation is an extremely arrogant notion.

  4. I agree completely with ski. That level of dilution is dangerous. I for one will not vote for someone who hears voices in his head and believes they are from God, and this is exactly what devout mormon men believe. This kind of thought process has already caused enough heartache and pain in the lives of those effected by decisions made by Mormon men in authority positions.