Big Love's Reality Show

Paul Harvey

Here's something you don't see everyday: an FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) protest rally in Salt Lake City, reported on here, with photographs, by our friends at Juvenile Instructor, with background details on the controversy reported on in the local paper here, and further background and commentary here. As for the level of police state tension at today's protest gathering, suffice to say Chicago '68 it was not!

And since we're just a few days past Pioneer Day, here's the Pew Forum's report "A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.," full of interesting data.


John G. Turner said…
Paul, thanks so much for the Pew link. I hadn't seen that fascinating report. Two things that surprised me:

1) American Mormons are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than mainline Protestant churches.

2) A large majority of Mormons questions evolution as the best explanation for human life.

The last one puzzles me a bit, as I thought Latter-day Saints were not so troubled by evolution. Perhaps many responded negatively to the question thinking that to agree meant to exclude a divine role in human life.
Christopher said…
Thanks for linking to the JI post, Paul. It was quite the experience.

John, re: the Pew Report ... I was also surprised by #1, though perhaps your view of Mormonism has been colored by your place of residence the last few months. Congregations outside of the Mormon culture region tend to be more ethnically/racially diverse than what you'll see on any given Sunday in Provo.

Re: #2 ... While a growing number of LDS are not troubled by evolution (especially among the younger generation and/or intellectual crowd that you associate with), many of the older generation still cling to stridently anti-evolutionist views. The current president of the quorum of the twelve apostles, Boyd K. Packer, has expressed his own view on numerous occasions that no philosophy is as destructive "to the erosion of the family" as evolution. There is at least one Latter-day Saint who has devoted a blog to reproving his fellow Mormons that accept evolution. (

But in general, I would guess you hit the nail on the head with you comment that "many responded negatively to the question thinking that to agree meant to exclude a divine role in human life." The question from the Pew survey asked "which best explains human life?" Most rank-and-file Mormons I know feel that the best explanation is some combination of evolution as taught in schools and intelligent design---that God is the author behind evolution, for instance.
Paul Harvey said…
John and Christopher: I had an MA student of mine, a Mormon student, last semester just do a really excellent paper on the history of Mormon ideas of evolution. There's a long history, according to his paper, of a respect for science as God's truth, and a tendency (ironically) to make Stephen Jay Gould like arguments about co-existing magisteria of science and religion. There's also a long undercurrent of anti-evolution thought in Mormonism, and one guy (one of the McConkie's, if I recall correctly) who sort of carried on an anti-evolution crusade, despite being admonished by church leaders that he was outside the bounds. Overall, this student argued that Mormons haven't had the same sturm und drang about evolution as has a lot of evangelical groups, and I think he would agree on a widespread position basically along the lines of theistic evolution. At the same time ,thre's been an upsurge of anti-evolutionist thought in more recent years, which he also noted. Anyway, Chris, do you know of an extended scholarly treatment of this topic somewhere. I was hoping this student might seek to have his paper published, but I don't know how well the subject has been covered before.
John G. Turner said…
It certainly occurs to me that Mormonism, with its theological emphases (ok, I'm getting this from Brigham Young sermons, so not necessarily representative) on embracing all truth wherever found and its ideas of eternal progression ought to be able (have been able) to circumvent much of the fundamentalist / evangelical angst over evolution.
Stan Thayne said…
do you know of an extended scholarly treatment of this topic somewhere

I'm not Chris, but I can offer a few thoughts on this, for what they're worth:

There have been some good historical studies done on Church leaders' attitudes toward evolution, and on specific controversies surrounding the issue, several of which are published in The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism, published in 1993 by Signature Books. Erich Robert Paul also treats the issue briefly in Science, Religion, and Mormon Cosmology (UI Press, 1992). There is also a more recent Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding, which isn't really a historical treatment so much as a book written by Mormons for Mormons to help them be comfortable with evolution, seeking to reconcile it with scriptural belief.

Some of the essays mentioned above are written by BYU biology professors with the unspoken but easily divined intent of showing Latter-day Saints that the official Church position is ambiguous and does not deny evolution (subtext: it could be true and therefore I can teach it!). While these are quite useful, especially for LDS students who want openness there--and they are pretty good history too, for the most part--it still leaves plenty of room for studies from different angles. A study of popular attitudes among the laity or among local leaders is much needed.

But other than these partial treatments, I do not know of an extended, scholarly treatment on the topic. It needs to be done, and whoever does it is in for some fun!

So I'd say go ahead and publish it.

p.s. fellow JIer Jordan Watkins also has a nice article on "non-authoritative authoritative" (or perhaps vice versa) Mormon responses to Darwin in the works.
Christopher said…
Stan knows better than I do when it comes to these topics, so I'll simply add an "amen" to what he said.