Monday, 3 January 2011

Monday Mormon; “Preach my Gospel”

It strikes me as quite remarkable the speed and ease with which converts to Mormonism take on and parrot Mormon jargon. It’s an interesting word “jargon.” It describes “the terminology or idiom of a particular activity.”

Based on the French for “the twittering of birds” jargon is said to confer two benefits: “the affirmation of the group identity and exclusion of those outside the initiated” (Jonathon Green, Penguin English Dictionary)

I recall an encounter with a young new convert to Mormonism. We discussed the nature of God and when I described the God of the Bible she had no difficulty agreeing with me. She was genuinely puzzled when I went on to describe the exalted-man-god-in-a-pantheon of Joseph Smith.

Perhaps having been to a Christian Sunday School as a child, she readily identified with my description of God and objected to my description of the Mormon god. I was an “anti-Mormon” and “enemy of the church” she twittered.

This all happened in the city centre where she had joined some Mormon missionaries in street witnessing. A few of us had turned up to give the alternative story and were simply handing out a leaflet about Mormonism to anyone who walked away with Mormon literature. We simply handed out the leaflet and said, “This goes with the book” and people readily took it, along with details of where to find out more.

I suggested that we might call over a Mormon missionary and ask him and she agreed, confident that I was about to be “put right about what Mormons really believe.” So I dared the missionary to contradict my description of the Mormon god. When he confirmed my account however she remained unmoved, explaining that this was an elder of the church. “The church is true” she twittered and “he must know what he is talking about.”

In moments we had gone from agreeing there was only one God, eternal and unchangeable through confidently insisting a missionary would say as much, to accepting there was a pantheon of gods who once were men and the missionary must speak with authority because “the church is true”; and no sense that this needed some thinking about or further discussion. How does this happen?

I have been leafing through the Mormon Missionary Guide in an attempt to understand where the ideas so readily taken up by converts come from and how they are instilled. It’s an interesting word “instilled”.

A thesaurus gives the synonyms, “infuse, imbue, insinuate, implant, engraft, inculcate, impress, infix, introduce and teach” The dictionary gives instilled the definition, “to cause something to enter drop by drop”. If I were to choose one synonym to best describe how Mormonism instils its doctrine it would be “insinuate.”

“Teach” is out of the question because, as my encounter shows, they hadn’t taught this young lady Mormonism, a Christian had to come along to do that. “Inculcate”, meaning to teach by repetition, is disqualified for the same reason, as is “infix”, meaning to fasten a lesson firmly. “Infuse” isn’t right, it means to steep, or pour in and she certainly wasn’t steeped in Mormonism. For the same reason “imbue” is wrong because this means to saturate.

To “implant” is to fix or set securely or deeply and there was nothing deep or secure about her knowledge of Mormonism and by the same token “engraft”, meaning to insert or implant something, doesn’t work. “Impress”, in this context, means to make a deep impression like a seal in wax, so that doesn’t work.

To insinuate, however, is” to introduce or suggest an idea in a subtle or oblique manner; to gain acceptance by crafty or stealthy means.” Maybe we should spend a few Monday Mormons looking through the Mormon missionary guide Preach my Gospel together to discover how someone with so little knowledge of Mormonism can cheerfully twitter Mormonism all the live long day.

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