>If one decides that Joseph Smith was no prophet, let alone king of the Kingdom of God, then one's dominant emotion towards him must be wonder...

>If one decides that Joseph Smith was no prophet, let alone king of the Kingdom of God, then one's dominant emotion towards him must be wonder. There is no other figure remotely like him in our entire national history, and it is unlikely that anyone like him ever can come again. Most Americans have never heard of him, and most of those who have remember him as a fascinating scamp or charlatan who invented the story of the Angel Moroni and the gold plates, and then forged the Book of Mormon as a follow-up. Since the Book of Mormon, more even than the King James Bible, exists in more unread copies than any other work, that is poor fame indeed for a charismatic unmatched in our history. I myself can think of not another American, except for Emerson and Whitman, who so moves and alters my own imagination. For someone who is not a Mormon, what matters most about Joseph Smith is how American both the man and his religion have proved to be. So self-created was he that he transcends Emerson and Whitman in my imaginative response, and takes his place with the great figures of our fiction, since at moments he appears far larger than life, in the mode of a Shakespearean character. So rich and varied a personality, so vital a spark of divinity, is almost beyond the limits of the human, as normally we construe those limits. To one who does not believe in him, but who has studied him intensely, Smith becomes almost a mythology in himself. In the midst of writing this, I paused to reread Morton Smith's remarkable Jesus the Magician (1978), and found myself rewriting the book as I went along, substituting Joseph Smith for Jesus, and Joseph Smith's circumstances and associates for those of Jesus. No Mormon (presumably) would sanction such impiety, but it is strikingly instructive. Joseph Smith the Magician is no more or less arbitrary a figure than Morton Smith's persuasive mythmaker.

-- Harold Bloom

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  1. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    moronic. There were plenty of other cult leaders before Smith, during his lifetime, and after. He is not unique. His American-ness I won't dispute, because we've had a lot of them.

    As for his imagination, he plagiarized most of his work from the 'View of the Hebrews' along with a few other sources.

    https://read.cesletter.org/bom/#view-of-the-hebrews

    • 4 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      Bloom isn’t even talking about the BOM homie. No one cares about your petty resentments from your Mormon upbringing

    • 4 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      After I read Nietzsche and understood his justified dislike of ressentiment-minded types, I really see the "ex-Mormon" community as today's most exemplary example of how NOT to live an ex-religious life. Every online ex-Mormon with few exceptions behaves just like the 2000s New Atheists, it's so toxically obsessed with what they are not and how bad it must be that they make their no-saying their entire identity. That's just not healthy. You can just go along live your atheist or other post-Mormon lives without this sort of rent-free-headspace mentality. Harold Bloom, as quoted by OP, is the opposite: someone who understands the value in Joseph Smith from an objective lens, better than most non-Mormons, certainly better than any ex-Mormon anti-Mormon types, even better than most Mormons too. But I've genuinely come to find ex-Mormons to be a worse bunch than the Mormons they hate just from how much they exemplify a no-saying negative (rather than affirmative and yes-saying) lifestyle. Really helps to read Nietzsche, and you know the guy himself was an atheist and critical of the Christians but he also praised and loved his enemies when he could. Until you can get up in the morning with good, praiseworthy things to say about the things you hate, and not in some disdainful spiteful way, you haven't even come close to living a good life.

      • 4 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        There are a certain number of incoherencies and pathologies in the Mormon church and culture, and a full view of the Joseph Smith's career by no means compels rational assent to his extravagant claims. But the dark spirit of the apostates does make them seem like they have turned their backs on the truth

        • 4 weeks ago
          Anonymous

          Even if Joseph Smith was a false prophet he should be evaluated aesthetically in an objective way, and in a way that's what Bloom is doing, and it's very disingenuous and revealing of having an axe to grind that many anti-Mormons have such a weird behavior. Apostates of religions tend to be this way, they're like exes with bpd, it's not a healthy mindset to obsessively vilify your ex-religion.

          Former Mormon here. I don't think I could bring myself to care about Joseph Smith one way or another now that I'm out.

          You are much better than people like

          [...]
          Not an ex mormon. Just citing the easiest source.

          Smith was a self-deluded conman, just like all cult leaders. Harold Bloom is a fricking moron for giving him credit as some kind of genius. I wonder what praise he'd give David Koresh or Jim Jones or Marshal Applewhite.

      • 4 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        Bloom isn’t even talking about the BOM homie. No one cares about your petty resentments from your Mormon upbringing

        Not an ex mormon. Just citing the easiest source.

        Smith was a self-deluded conman, just like all cult leaders. Harold Bloom is a fricking moron for giving him credit as some kind of genius. I wonder what praise he'd give David Koresh or Jim Jones or Marshal Applewhite.

        • 4 weeks ago
          Anonymous

          None of those people achieved anywhere near the kind of success. Joseph Smith actually created a religion that today has millions of believers and billions of dollars in cash. As a wacky cult leader he's been nearly as successful as Jesus himself.

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            >Joseph Smith actually created a religion that today has millions of believers and billions of dollars in cash.
            Hell, they own an entire fricking state. Their closest competition, Scientology, has just a random town in Florida.

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            They almost own an entire country (Tonga) as well. Owning an entire US state is actually surprisingly high-profile, no new religious movement owns even a random country's province, let alone an American one. The fact they almost had an independent state so close to their founding date is especially surprising.

          • 3 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            >They almost own an entire country (Tonga) as well.
            How so? Do tell, I've admittedly never heard of this. Wasn't Methodism the preferred choice for Tongans?

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            >As a wacky cult leader he's been nearly as successful as Jesus himself.

            They were really on pace to becoming a major world religion, but then the 21st century saw the biggest apostasy since Kirtland. I don’t know if this is because they weren’t managed properly (as Sterling McMurrin said leadership too often treated their members like they were children), or inevitable due to the social effects of the internet, political correctness, etc. Very curious how things go from here, or if some kind of comeback is possible.

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            If they can win greater social acceptability as a "world religion" with some systematic theology produced and more political victories across the world, including maybe another Mormon candidate who actually gets elected to president this time, then they've got it in the bag. It also tends to take 300 years before a small religion is seen as acceptable. Protestantism and Sikhism are about 400-500 years old. It took three centuries before Rome, Ethiopia, and Armenia converted to Christianity in the early 4th century. Mormonism is a few years short of 200.

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            Mormonism never produced any truly high level intellectual or artistic talents, though of late they have had several gifted scholar such as Terryl Givens and Richard Bushman. But there is a great deal of work that could perhaps be done, since the theology, understood properly (and most Mormons don't seem to understand it properly), is highly artistic . Any lit anon interested in changing the world should consider conversion

            https://i.imgur.com/sMXYbLa.jpeg

            I'm fascinated by Mormonism. I recently read American Zion: A New History of Mormonism by Bejamin E. Park and it was great. I have No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie in my TBR pile, a book for which the LDS Church excommunicated her despite her exhaustive research and studiously neutral tone. Can't wait to dig into that one!

            >I have No Man Knows My History

            I love the quote where she gets the title from (he would die 2 months later):

            >You don't know me--you never will. You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot do it. I shall never undertake it. I don't blame you for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.

            http://www.ldslearning.org/lds-king-follett-discourse-a-newly-amalgamated-text-byu.pdf

          • 4 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            Interestingly Mormonism used to have quite a liberal streak. In 1936 70 percent of Utahns voted Democratic over the LDS leadership's desperate objections (he got 61 percent nationally). A BYU student survey the year before found that "around a quarter of the student body did not believe that modern prophets received revelation, 62 percent did not believe in a literal devil, and 64 percent believed that humanity's creation involved biological evolution... nearly half did not consider drinking alcohol morally wrong, 89 percent were fine with birth control, and only a half to two-thirds of students attended church every week, paid tithing, kept the Word of Wisdom, or engaged in daily prayers."

            I wonder what those numbers would look like today!

  2. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    American Mysticism in Christianity is actually pretty popular at that time in history. Most Christian nominations have adjusted their beliefs overtime to fit into our knowledge of science and history.

    I do think he is the most successful in what he did.

  3. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Former Mormon here. I don't think I could bring myself to care about Joseph Smith one way or another now that I'm out.

    • 4 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      Why did you leave?

      • 3 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        In no particular order:
        1) Mormonism is very anti-intellectual as a system and as a culture due to the lingering effects of Smith et al's disdain of what they see as Greek philosophy corrupting Christianity in the 5th century. There are no systematic theologians or philosophers in Mormonism and believers are meant to take warm fuzzy feelings resulting from a combination of confirmation bias and cultural pressure as divine confirmation of metaphysical truths. For someone with a great interest in the philosophical and intellectual traditions of Christianity, this was unbearable.
        2) Mormon understandings of sin and salvation/exaltation create a rather extreme form of scrupulosity in believers. All people are believed to be destined for a place much better than Earth in Mormon eschatology, but in a peculiar manner where those who are more righteous and obedient to the church will enter higher levels of heaven than those who do not, potentially separating families who are, in Mormon belief, meant to be eternally together. It is extremely common for believers to think that the most minor sins will prevent them or their loved ones from being together in the world to come. Additionally, it is taught that sexual sins are second to murder in severity, creating great pressure on those prone to such things. This manifests in several dysfunctional ways as the believer ages.
        3) The secrecy regarding certain rites, chiefly the details of what is called the endowment and what is known as the second anointing, run counter to the Christianity of the first and second centuries which one may read of. Closed communion is nowhere near the level of confidentiality practiced regarding these rites, which are also very unlike anything one encounters during regular church services while growing up. My parents were endowed before the early 90s changes to the ceremony; when they went through, they verbalized vows to commit ritual suicide should they reveal what was shown in the temple. This is a far cry indeed from "just another Christian denomination" as the Mormons often style themselves.
        4) Many, many problems with Mormon scripture, like Deutero-Isaiah, the Book of Abraham "translation," the Greek Psalter incident and Kinderhook Plates incident, the whiplash narrative change from "the magic stone in the hat is an anti Mormon lie" to "we pulled the stone Smith used out of the Mormon vault, here it is," the anachronisms, the lack of archaeological evidence, how fricking boring the Book of Mormon is and its lack of real theological substance, etc.
        (1/2)

        • 3 weeks ago
          Anonymous

          (2/2)
          5) The whole Ensign Peak Advisors thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up thinking people like Monson and Hinckley were God's prophets and a step below Jesus, but it turns out they lied to their own laity and the US government for decades and fired financial advisors who spoke up.
          6) After decades of attending Mormon church services, which are the liturgical equivalent of Wonderbread and ice cube sandwiches, I went to Divine Liturgy twice and was awestruck by the majesty and reverence of the services, despite one of them being held in a tiny chapel in rural Kansas with a dozen people in attendance. I remember thinking something like "now this is how man should be before God." The fact that historical accounts attest to a liturgy very similar to the Mass and Divine Liturgy practiced today was another nail in the coffin of Mormonism's so-called restoration of the early church.
          7) The treatment of Mormon missionaries is abhorrent and close to abusive. Not only do they live a highly regimented lifestyle with little contact with the outside world, they pay for the privilege, and unlike monasticism there is very little spiritual substance to what a missionary does. I hate to bring up >plebbit (since basically everyone who leaves Mormonism becomes a caricature of an atheist bugman liberal hedonist) but there are tons of accounts of what I mean on r/exmormon. I personally saw two of my siblings become extremely miserable due to their missions.
          8) I believe in the Trinity.
          9) As enticing as the idea of marrying a 19 year old BYU girl and pumping out 5 kids is (and believe me, the temptation to pretend to believe again for that alone is real), the prospect of living a lie for decades outweighs it. It would be fricked up to deceive someone like that. Plus, the aforementioned scrupulosity and weird sexual pressure makes for odd strains on marriages, which make a fair amount of Mormon couples secretly miserable at times.
          10) I've come to revere and honor the Virgin Mary and the saints in ways that are fairly alien to Mormons. Mormons believe in a female deity they say God is married to, but they are patriarchal in ways that make me uncomfortable. Not in like a feminist way or whatever, I just don't think women are metaphysically subservient to men and destined to be plural wives/sex slaves in the hereafter. People like St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Edith Stein don't fit in to the Mormon system whatsoever, but they were very holy women who I greatly respect, and I can't honestly say they would have been better off as wives.

          • 3 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            Is Divine Liturgy the name used for service in Orthodoxy or Catholicism? Which one are you now? Happy that you found something that fits your beliefs much better and congrats on the conversion.

          • 3 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            Generally Liturgy refers to Orthodox service, which is what I attended.
            I haven't converted to anything yet as I'm still on the fence about a couple things but funnily enough I lean more towards Catholicism these days.

        • 3 weeks ago
          Anonymous

          (2/2)
          5) The whole Ensign Peak Advisors thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up thinking people like Monson and Hinckley were God's prophets and a step below Jesus, but it turns out they lied to their own laity and the US government for decades and fired financial advisors who spoke up.
          6) After decades of attending Mormon church services, which are the liturgical equivalent of Wonderbread and ice cube sandwiches, I went to Divine Liturgy twice and was awestruck by the majesty and reverence of the services, despite one of them being held in a tiny chapel in rural Kansas with a dozen people in attendance. I remember thinking something like "now this is how man should be before God." The fact that historical accounts attest to a liturgy very similar to the Mass and Divine Liturgy practiced today was another nail in the coffin of Mormonism's so-called restoration of the early church.
          7) The treatment of Mormon missionaries is abhorrent and close to abusive. Not only do they live a highly regimented lifestyle with little contact with the outside world, they pay for the privilege, and unlike monasticism there is very little spiritual substance to what a missionary does. I hate to bring up >plebbit (since basically everyone who leaves Mormonism becomes a caricature of an atheist bugman liberal hedonist) but there are tons of accounts of what I mean on r/exmormon. I personally saw two of my siblings become extremely miserable due to their missions.
          8) I believe in the Trinity.
          9) As enticing as the idea of marrying a 19 year old BYU girl and pumping out 5 kids is (and believe me, the temptation to pretend to believe again for that alone is real), the prospect of living a lie for decades outweighs it. It would be fricked up to deceive someone like that. Plus, the aforementioned scrupulosity and weird sexual pressure makes for odd strains on marriages, which make a fair amount of Mormon couples secretly miserable at times.
          10) I've come to revere and honor the Virgin Mary and the saints in ways that are fairly alien to Mormons. Mormons believe in a female deity they say God is married to, but they are patriarchal in ways that make me uncomfortable. Not in like a feminist way or whatever, I just don't think women are metaphysically subservient to men and destined to be plural wives/sex slaves in the hereafter. People like St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Edith Stein don't fit in to the Mormon system whatsoever, but they were very holy women who I greatly respect, and I can't honestly say they would have been better off as wives.

          I was attracted to traditional metaphysics and for a couple years believed in the Trinity. It was acquaintance with Nietzsche's critique of metaphysics and philosophy of Being, as well as a renewed concern for the fundamental problem of theodicy (which is a non-issue in the Mormon conception of existence but doesn’t seem solvable from a traditional view, as there is no rational way to reconcile an omnipresent and omnipotent God with the extreme evil of the world, besides denying your own rationality) that brought me back to a Mormon understanding. It’s also fairly clear to me that the Trinity is a later development from the New Testament, and Mormonism’s aversion to Greek philosophy, though anti-intellectual, does have a certain intellectual strength.

          This may be more or less temperamental as I conceive Mormonism as being contemporaneous with the expansion of consciousness as seen Romantic aesthetics (Beethoven). The intuition and inspiration of Romantic art I take as more or less equivalent to the process of spiritual revelation, which requires a radical trust in the truest essence of the human personality and heart. Your description the Mormon revelation as “warm fuzzy feelings” seems terribly cynical to me, though I admit that the highly contingent sentimental lives of members is too often mistaken for real spiritual knowledge.

          Mormonism’s originary focus of the validity of personal revelation—you get the sense from the history Joseph Smith that he wanted everyone to be a Prophet like he was (or as Bloom said wanted everyone to participate in his preternatural capacity for ecstasy)—would seem to enable the individual in a powerful way that I find deeply appealing; however this is almost in complete contradiction with the authoritarian structure of the Church.

          I actually agree with most of what you said, they just are no longer very meaningful to me, or are examples of the Church straying from Joseph Smith’s vision (which likely only he would have been able to execute)—and of course it would be too easy to perform an exercise in whataboutism and point out the comparable dysfunctions in traditional Christianity (which the grandeur of thousands of years does much to obscure). But I don't mean to downplay your concerns, there are deep problems going on.

        • 3 weeks ago
          Anonymous

          (2/2)
          5) The whole Ensign Peak Advisors thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. I grew up thinking people like Monson and Hinckley were God's prophets and a step below Jesus, but it turns out they lied to their own laity and the US government for decades and fired financial advisors who spoke up.
          6) After decades of attending Mormon church services, which are the liturgical equivalent of Wonderbread and ice cube sandwiches, I went to Divine Liturgy twice and was awestruck by the majesty and reverence of the services, despite one of them being held in a tiny chapel in rural Kansas with a dozen people in attendance. I remember thinking something like "now this is how man should be before God." The fact that historical accounts attest to a liturgy very similar to the Mass and Divine Liturgy practiced today was another nail in the coffin of Mormonism's so-called restoration of the early church.
          7) The treatment of Mormon missionaries is abhorrent and close to abusive. Not only do they live a highly regimented lifestyle with little contact with the outside world, they pay for the privilege, and unlike monasticism there is very little spiritual substance to what a missionary does. I hate to bring up >plebbit (since basically everyone who leaves Mormonism becomes a caricature of an atheist bugman liberal hedonist) but there are tons of accounts of what I mean on r/exmormon. I personally saw two of my siblings become extremely miserable due to their missions.
          8) I believe in the Trinity.
          9) As enticing as the idea of marrying a 19 year old BYU girl and pumping out 5 kids is (and believe me, the temptation to pretend to believe again for that alone is real), the prospect of living a lie for decades outweighs it. It would be fricked up to deceive someone like that. Plus, the aforementioned scrupulosity and weird sexual pressure makes for odd strains on marriages, which make a fair amount of Mormon couples secretly miserable at times.
          10) I've come to revere and honor the Virgin Mary and the saints in ways that are fairly alien to Mormons. Mormons believe in a female deity they say God is married to, but they are patriarchal in ways that make me uncomfortable. Not in like a feminist way or whatever, I just don't think women are metaphysically subservient to men and destined to be plural wives/sex slaves in the hereafter. People like St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Edith Stein don't fit in to the Mormon system whatsoever, but they were very holy women who I greatly respect, and I can't honestly say they would have been better off as wives.

          To address some individual points, if only for the sake of sport:

          >2) Mormon understandings

          This Mormon understanding is largely a misunderstanding by Mormons. As Sterling McMurrin pointed out, the popular BOM scripture that "the natural man is an enemy to God" is actually the least Mormon scripture, since Original Sin is repudiated and sexuality is given a sacramental role (quite contrary to St. Paul's teaching that it is better not to marry).

          >Additionally, it is taught that sexual sins are second to murder in severity, creating great pressure on those prone to such things.

          I think it’s very misguided to police masturbation in youth or crack down on homosexual behavior at BYU, but the idea that sexual sin is second to murder is natural law theology more or less, is it not? And not really at odds with traditional Christian teachings? I just don't really understand your objections coming from a traditional perspective. I could find similarly teaching against sexual sin in the Bible

          >3)

          >My parents were endowed before the early 90s changes to the ceremony; when they went through, they verbalized vows to commit ritual suicide should they reveal what was shown in the temple.

          This is an exact replication from masonry, so it would to some extent be a distortion to take it out. But I have no strong opinions on the endowment and no real rebuttal to your point. Mormon insecurity about being real Christians is pathological.

          >4) Many, many problems with Mormon scripture

          There are many, many more things to say in their favor. If you come to them from an empty perspective, while knowing the full history of how they came to be, there existence is absolutely remarkable. The Church of course mislead its members (as one would lie to children) about the real circumstances of their creation, and with other things, in a way that has destroyed people’s trust.

          >lack of real theological substance

          Not sure if this is true, or what you mean by “theological substance”

          >7)

          >The treatment of Mormon missionaries is abhorrent and close to abusive.

          I mostly agree. Especially the one-size-fits-all-approach is directly at odds with the belief in personal revelation. It's also (at this point) not very effective and a huge waste of energy

          >10)

          >I just don't think women are metaphysically subservient to men and destined to be plural wives/sex slaves in the hereafter.

          This would seem to be a very unfair and inaccurate reading of Mormon belief, particularly with the term “sex slaves” (it makes me question if your criticism is in good faith, to be honest). And that women are metaphysically secondary to men would seem to be a fundamental traditional belief. Jesus was born of women, but is not a woman, after all. I’m not sure its coherent to embrace tradition and yet find Mormonism patriarchal (in practice this isn’t really the case, as much of my experience with Mormonism has been women telling me what to do)

  4. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    moronic American self-mythologisation. Half of Bloom's writings is just an expression of his desire to LARP.

  5. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Joseph Smith is definitely up there with Socrates and Mohammed as the most fascinating figures of all time.

  6. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    I'm fascinated by Mormonism. I recently read American Zion: A New History of Mormonism by Bejamin E. Park and it was great. I have No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie in my TBR pile, a book for which the LDS Church excommunicated her despite her exhaustive research and studiously neutral tone. Can't wait to dig into that one!

  7. 4 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    don't most government agencies employ a disproportionate number of mormons?

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      This is how its been for several decades, but my sense is this might to be changing. Johnny Harris, who I’m pretty sure is a deep state asset, leaving the Church may be representative

      ?feature=shared

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      It's pretty common, since a lot of mormons speak another langauge and have clean backgrounds.

  8. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    One of the many Bloom opinions which may be safely discarded. Mormonism is a cult—nothing more.

  9. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    What did he say about Elijah Muhammad? Any comment on the mother plane?

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      https://archive.org/details/americanreligio000bloo/mode/2up

  10. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Muhammad if he was American

  11. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    I genuinely don't understand how you could be a Mormon. It's such obvious bullshit.

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