Saturday, October 20, 2012
Speaking of Mormons, there is a new book out on Brigham Young, seeing him as a "Pioneer Prophet," as opposed to an earlier book which hailed him as an "American Moses." I suppose Romney would like to think of himself as a similar "Moses" leading Americans out of the Obama wilderness, but he hasn't generated the kind of passion that carried Ronald Reagan to the WH in 1980, with "Moses" himself lending support. I'm always wary of would-be profits and pandering politicians. I don't thinkYoung ever imagined his small community growing into the financial and political juggernaut it is today.
The whole idea of the Book of Mormon is an intriguing one, especially in regard to the Lost Tribe of Israel settling in America, and the quest to find these mystical ruins. Hampton Sides wrote an article, This is Not the Place, about such quests, which was included in his book Americana, noting that BYU set up an archaeological department specifically for this purpose in the 1950s. Sides was very respectful in his article, noting that even if the purpose was dubious, the Mormon archaeological team, led by Thomas Stuart Ferguson, took a scientific approach, and were very careful in their work. So much so in fact that Ferguson not only lost faith in the quest, but Mormonism itself.
Bernard De Voto had Mormon roots and has written about Smith, Young, and the growth of Mormonism in his books. As I recall, he saw Joseph Smith as little more than a tent revival minister, and gave the credit to Young in holding this "wayward tribe" together on its long journey West to escape persecution. They came to see themselves as the "Lost Tribe of Israel."