Mr. Lawrence O’Donnell apparently said on MSNBC any number of things about Mormonism, which if the religious party were Jews, Christians, Muslims, or any other group–ethnic, sexual, intellectual, or class–would’ve led to his immediate dismissal.
Not only are his claims demonstrably wrong, as a matter of history; and evil in spirit. But he shows how ignorant he is of his own proclaimed “socialism,” and so I pretend to give him a little lesson to lessen his ignorance, and perhaps to cool his bile, and maybe teach him tolerance.
He is wrong about Joseph Smith, simply wrong when he calls him a drunk, a criminal, a perpetrator of bank fraud, and an adulterer. Read a little basic history, Mr O’Donnell, and apply the same rules to your investigation of Mormonism that you would to any other group. Accusations are not the same thing as realities, as I think you’ll admit; and most of Smith’s accusers were then, and today remain, members of the most intolerant versions of Christianity, believers in six days of Creation as well as in Joseph Smith’s wickedness. Would Mr. O’Donnell strike at geographers with the vitriol badly learned from Creationists, that he so casually aims in public at Joseph Smith?
Here’s a primer for you: Socialism so called has origins in Christianity, first with the religious orders of the Catholic Church, and later during the Reformation with the Protestants (read After Polygamy Became a Sin, to start with). Many of these socialists realized that the rule to have all things in common included humans, and thus they could not justify individually “owning” a spouse, but rather agreed that no ownership (or contracts) was valid. Thus, your blessed socialists were, in fact, more often than not polygamists, just as many biblical figures, and Scots-Irish (presumably your own ancestors) were said to be.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the vast majority of socialists were Christians, and Mormons were among the most ardent socialists in that period, sharing with Gandhi, Milton, Luther, and many other intelligent and tolerant figures in Socialism the notion that polygamy is a far better system for both men and women than is monogamy, which was said to be introduced by Rome, for the purposes of establishing property rights that eventually gave us capitalism. Mormon women, among the most educated in the nation at the time, were early advocates of women’s rights, and indeed received the Vote in Mormon Utah first among the nation’s women.
During the 19th century the Mormons, only a decade together, not only established on the banks of the Mississippi a city, which in the span of five years rose from a swamp to a rival of Chicago in terms of both power and population, but also colonized much of the American West precisely on principles of Socialism, often quoting the dictum, “From each according to his capacity, to each according to his need.” Despite murderous persecution, they continued to practice tolerance, adopting as their only creed, “Mind Your Own Business.” Mormon missionaries quoted socialist thinkers during missions in Europe, and laid the foundations for cities in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. They irrigated the deserts, discovered gold in in California, started the first newspapers wherever they landed, opened the first universities west of the Mississippi, carved roads from granite mountains, and were noted for their thrift, industry, kindness, devotion, and adherence to principles that may be called Socialism. Mormons challenged by a long fight of non-violent resistance the intervention of the federal government into their own people’s lives and bedrooms, insisting on their right to live as they pleased, so long as it didn’t interfer with the rights of others to pursue their own courses toward happiness. They lost that fight in 1890, and so we Mormons turned to the remaining power, and became the progenitors of Mitt Romney and Co. But just as stridently capitalist as Mormons are now, they were equally socialist then, declaring that only those practicing a form of communism would enter Heaven, where indeed the economy is socialist, and yes, Gods are polygamists. The United Order it was called, and it was regarded as the most exalted living man could achieve, but he couldn’t achieve any of it without woman. Polygamy, polyandry, and so on was all part of this communal life, as most socialists in their day likewise realized.
Mitt Romney’s version of Mormonism is only a faint echo of this, but I can see why his faith in the faith of his fathers. If Mr. O’Donnell would simply read with the sort of intelligence and empathy a few books on Mormon history, written not by evangelical Mormon haters, but by scholars and journalists, I believe he would find a great deal to admire, and to learn from, even in Romney’s faith. But be careful, Mr. O’Donnell, as you may find that Joseph Smith’s teachings are not only more good-natured and felicitous than you’ll find espoused by your average politico, but also lean a good deal more leftward than your own limp socialism. You should by no means read the Book of Mormon, either; its explanation why civilizations fall? That power and wealth become the privilege of the few, but a utopia by contrast as established by Jesus, whose visitation you mock, is where they all have things in common, and there is no poor among them.