I know this may underline my own ignorance on religions. Other than knowing the basics of Mormons - that it's based on Christianity & practicers seem to try to get around the polygamy law in Utah (I know there's much more than just that, but what can I say), I became aware of how much I didn't know when Romney came out with his separation of church & state speech today.
So, I looked it up, and let me summarize how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to be (I apologize if you already know this story) : In 1827, a guy in New York name Joe Smith claims he was awoken by an angel named Moroni (who was the son of a guy named, you guessed it, Mormon) and brought to a plot of land near his yard. Buried in that spot were two golden plates (I guess stone tablets had already been used), from which he read, transcribed and founded the church. Oh, those tablets were in a language described by Smith as "reformed Egyptian" from a people that lived in ancient America (so they beat the vikings here! -- the original Native Americans -- they could've made a mint in casinos). After transcribing the stones, Joe was nice enough to return the plates to Moroni. (Of course he did.)
Fast forward a bit, Joe said that a "city of Zion" was in Missouri (where else?) - he went there with followers and got kicked out, went to Illinois, was killed with his brother, then Brigham Young won a head of church scrum to become the spiritual leader & off to Utah, followed later by a successful football career by Steve Young.
Hey, I know parting the Red Sea is a stretch, but at least that and all bible stories are ancient history that you can see developing through allegory, legend, myths, and metaphorical transpositions. Some take it literally and that works too. It's the founding of some major religions from storied history.
From wikipedia regarding Joe Smith's life prior to his backyard find:
"As a youth, Joseph Smith, Jr. lived on his parents' farm near Palmyra, New York a place and time noted for its participation in the Second Great Awakening and a "craze for treasure hunting". Beginning in the early 1820s, he was paid to act as a "seer", to use seer stones in (mostly unsuccessful) attempts to locate lost items and buried treasure. Some contemporaries state that he would put the stone in a white stovepipe hat, put his face over the hat to block the light, and then "see" the information in the reflections of the stone. Some say that his favored stone, chocolate-colored and about the size of an egg, was found in a deep well he helped dig for one of his neighbors."
Remember how I said I was ignorant about this stuff? I guess ignorance is bliss.
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