Meyer, Mormons, and Vampires

John Granger takes a hermeneutical stab at interpreting Meyer’s big hit series in our American pop culture over at “Touchstone”.

I was a little taken back by this quote:

Carlisle Cullen was born in the mid-1660s, the same period when historic Mormonism was born in Europe.

Someone needs to flesh this out a little more for me.  Which 1600’s era leader birthed “historic Mormonism”?

HT: Calvin & O’Conner

15 comments

  1. This quote is, indeed, unclear, to say the least. However, in the following paragraph, Granger refers to a book, “Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1640–1844” by John L. Brooke. I found a preview of this book on Google, found at the link below:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=eyvftt-1F_kC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=Refiner%E2%80%99s+Fire:+The+Making+of+Mormon+Cosmology,+1640%E2%80%931844,+by+John+L.+Brooke&source=bl&ots=GHaN2lfQ3E&sig=c4QmuGa9Hf2oVGIwdHp6JayvLvo&hl=en&ei=SXIoS-zVDI2YtgfdroHeCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    (If the link doesn’t work, just Google the book).

    In this book, Brooke documents antecedents to much of Mormonism, going back to the emergence of hermeticism, metaphysical alchemy, Freemasonry, and other similar manifestations which occured in reaction to both Protestant and Catholic Reformations in 17th Century Western Europe. It looks like that this is what Granger is referring to.

  2. Yes, the reference is to Brooke’s take on Mormonism, although calling that a view of “historic Mormonism” seems misleading. It would be better to say that historic Mormonism was born in upstate New York in the 1820s, but (following Brooke’s thinking) that it reflected Christian themes that one can trace back to Europe in earlier times.

  3. One thing about Granger, he does make a lot of eye-popping, attention-gathering statements.

    Another different thought – I just read a counter review to Granger.

    Daniel tries to stop the gushings of Granger over here:

    http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/mormon-vampires-in-the-garden-of-eden/

    But with dogmatic comments like this pouncing from his keyboard . . .

    What nonsense. Mormonism has nothing whatsoever to do with Pelagianism.

    . . . I don’t think Daniel sincerely seeks to represent with a cool, undetached hand all of academic or popular Mormonism in 2009.

  4. Thanks for the mention Todd, but I have to disagree with the notion that equating Mormonism with Pelagianism merits treatment on a personal blog as anything other than complete nonsense. I’m happy to go into a little more detail for you here, though. The idea is based on reductive and uncritical readings of Augustine’s De dono perseverantiae and the completely false notion that Mormonism teaches human agency can achieve salvation without divine aid. The texts from our scriptures I shared in my original review clearly show what we believe makes salvation possible.

    As I stated in my response, Granger’s argument seems based almost exclusively on a desire to equate Mormonism with whatever heresies he can find. There’s no indication anywhere, however, that Joseph Smith was in any way exposed to, had access to, or was influenced by Pelagian doctrines. A couple superficial and peripheral similarities (based exclusively on polemical misrepresentations which were vehemently denied by Pelagius himself) do not mean influence. Other traditions much more likely to have influenced Smith also shared the same superficial similarities (namely, a rejection of original sin and the idea that something is required of humanity for the reception of grace).

    Original sin was rejected by a number of restoration movement ideologies in the early 19th century, none of which were based on Pelagianism (rather on anti-creedalism). Next, all Christian dogmas recognize the need for works in the reception of grace, whether it is the recognition of Jesus as savior, the desire to be saved, the acceptance of his grace, the belief in God, the rejection of false doctrine, or any other action. If any thought, action, or belief catalyzes or forfeits God’s grace then the reception of that grace is merit-based. A rejection of any qualifying action at all makes salvation utterly arbitrary, and I know of no Christian religion that believes salvation comes down to a great roll of the dice in the sky. The only other possible connection with Pelagianism was explained in my first paragraph.

    For these reasons, and the fact that Granger’s article is wildly speculative and deeply uninformed, I reject a relationship between Mormonism and Pelagianism as nonsense. I’ll be happy to link my review to these comments so no one else is left wondering either. Thanks for the room to kvetch.

  5. Daniel, thanks for jumping in for some interaction.

    Blake Ostler would define the theories of original sin thus:

    “Calvinism. We can do absolutely nothing; God does everything for some as a matter of grace to save them from their culpability for original and actual sins and either leaves others to damnation (single predestination) or specifically decrees the damnation of others (double predestination).

    Arminianism. On our own, we can make no move whatsoever toward God. God must turn us and draw us; however, God gives us prevenient grace that regenerates the fallen will so that we can say “yes” or “no.” We cannot reach for the gift of salvation or grasp it on our own after regeneration; but we can either accept it or reject it.”

    Semi-Pelagianism. We can take only the first step in God’s direction, but we must be aided by God in this step and then God carries us to salvation.

    Pelagianism. We have all of the resources necessary to have faith and earn salvation. We can perfect ourselves and no special grace is needed to do so.”

    And then Blake postulates, “As I have already explained, the LDS view does not really map onto this continuum of views about original sin.”

    Would you agree with that?

  6. Todd-

    Thanks for the response. I would agree that the Mormon view of grace and original sin does not fit comfortably into any of those categories. I also think we have no real systematic theology and so I try not to outline exactly what the Mormon view of grace is. Different Latter-day Saints have different views on how original sin, grace, faith, and works contribute to salvation, but there are certain things we can rightly say are not consonant with our beliefs, and Pelagianism is one of them.

  7. Todd, I put up a post responding to Granger’s analysis over at Touchstone Magazine’s “Mere Comments” blog. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but I’m too lazy to rewrite it. Here:

    Reading Granger’s analysis, I have to say I think he’s in as much of an alternate universe as Edward is.

    Let’s start with John L. Brooke’s “Refiner’s Fire.”

    The book makes assertions about Mormonism that almost no Mormon – modern or otherwise would even know about, much less advocate. I have never met a Mormon in my life of 35 years in the LDS Church who knows about or is even remotely interested in how Mormon beliefs supposedly evolved from roots in the 1600s. The fact that Granger dates the “founding” of Mormonism to the 1600s shows the sort of alternate universe kind of conspiracy theory-driven thinking that one can only shake one’s head at.

    Mormonism started in the 1830s. And Joseph Smith was far too uneducated to be tapped into anything remotely resembling philosophical trends from the 1600s – except insofar as the formed a part of the general milieu of frontier America he grew up in.

    This is nothing more than wild speculation posing as literary analysis. Maybe Granger has read “Refiner’s Fire.” But I would posit that he’s one of the few human beings on the planet that has. Mormons are blissfully unaware of this stuff, and even those of us with a good knowledge of apologetics have not the slightest clue who Mr. Brooke even is.

    So much for the Carlisle connection.

    Linking the Volturi to the Catholic Church is just silly.

    The idea of a powerful organization against whom the hero must struggle is hardly a uniquely Mormon idea. Everyone in America has this archetype stored away somewhere in their psyche. Meyer could have gotten it from any number of places without having Catholics in mind.

    Also, in calling the vampires “blood-atonement driven” I wonder if Mr. Granger even has a working knowledge of what the doctrine of blood atonement even is, or if he just picked it up watching “September Dawn” one Friday night.

    Granger’s attempt to link the perfectly circular meadow with the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” is just so pathetically desperate as to be almost comical. You can almost envision a sleepless Granger sitting at his desk thinking about how to work in a Mormons-are-bloody angle into a review on a Mormon vampire novel.

    “Let’s see… blood, blood… what’s bloody about Mormons? Oh, I know! Blood Atonement! OK, that’s one link… what else… Oo, oo, I know – Mountain Meadows Massacre! That’s a really good one! Now, how can I possibly link that bloody episode with Twilight? Oh yeah! Twilight has a “meadow” in it. I am on a roll here!”

    News flash – clearings have always had symbolic literary meaning. You travel in the dark woods of life, and then you suddenly come into a clearing and taste the sun. It can represent enlightenment, opening your world view, any number of things.

    I mean, come on guys. How credulous can you get?

    Do you seriously think that we Mormons are all having Mountain Meadows flashbacks every time we hit a meadow?

    Or maybe you do think that. Because you guys have gotten so used to defining our entire faith off of a few conveniently negative episodes that people like Granger simply assume that every believing Mormon must be thinking about the same stuff he thinks about every time “Mormonism” is on the brain.

    Well, I hate to break it to you – but even with the recent books about Mountain Meadows, most Mormons aren’t thinking about the topic at all. Almost none of us have purchased any of the books on the subject, much less read them. This isn’t a topic that most Mormons care about.

    I only know about it because I spend a lot of time debating with Protestants, and some of them are fond of opportunistically using the incident as a general slur on the Mormon population. And even I don’t feel any particular guilt about the incident.

    I also found amusing Granger’s airy dismissal of Mormon apologetics on the massacre as “pathetic.” They’re only pathetic because they are inconvenient for him. I note that Granger never deigns to enlighten us why exactly they are pathetic.

    As for myself, an atmosphere of panic about you Protestants sending an army to wipe us out seems like a pretty damn-good explanation to me. How about you?

    The genetics thing is cute. And I’m glad that Granger found a way to shoehorn in another criticism of Mormonism in the guise of doing a literary review. But this one sinks as well.

    The South American native showing up has nothing to do with Book of Mormon origins. Stephanie Meyer herself explained this detail in an interview. She did her research for this book. On vampirism, not Mormonism.

    There is a South American legend of vampires that impregnate women.

    That’s it.

    That’s where the genetic hook came from. Not half-baked DNA criticisms of Mormonism – which again most Mormons neither know nor care about.

    Incidentally, the DNA argument is an absolute embarrassment to anti-Mormonism. It betrays either a profound ignorance of how population genetics work, or an ignorance of what the Book of Mormon actually claims, or both. It was rather amusing to watch all the frenzied excitement in the anti-Mormon camp when they thought they’d finally uncovered a silver bullet to discredit Mormonism – and then the outraged anger and confusion that resulted when Mormons not only refuted the entire argument, but didn’t even break a sweat doing it.

    Happy to elaborate on this if you are interested.

    Finally, Granger’s attempt to shoehorn another tired counter-cult ministry standby into the review – Adam-God theory.

    Let me just tell you right now that the only Mormons who even know about Adam-God are those who have it shoved in their faces by some anti-Mormon. The rest don’t know about it at all.

    Adam-God theory comes from some very confused and vague statements made by prophet Brigham Young waay back in the 1800s. It was never fully accepted even when Young was prophet, and has fallen into complete and utter obscurity since then. Mention Adam-God theory in a modern Mormon Sunday School class and you will be met with a room full of blank looks. I find it implausible in the extreme that Meyer was ever even aware of this theory.

    Granger would know this if he really knew that many Mormons. Apparently he doesn’t.

    There is a very real temptation to assume that the members of a group are thinking about the same things we are thinking about when we are thinking about them.

    If you were to play a word-association game with Mr. Granger with “Mormons” as the starting point, you’d probably get something like the following: “polygamy”, “Mountain Meadows”, “DNA,” “Adam-God”, “Jesus and Satan are brothers,” etc.

    But if he thinks that modern Mormons really know, care, or think about those subjects, he would be completely wrong.

    Let me give you an example on the other end.

    Does the average Lutheran spend his time in the pews during the sermon agonizing over the utterly illogical and self-defeating mess of Augustine’s formula for the Trinity?

    No?

    Well that’s what I think about when I think about Lutheranism, among others. So that must mean that each and every American Protestant is torn with internal conflict over how to resolve the Trinity, right?

    Well, of course that’s wrong. That’s just silly.

    And Granger is being equally silly here. He is assuming that his own views of Mormonism – as an outsider – must be representative of what Mormon insiders are thinking. It’s an incredibly sloppy piece of thinking. I would have expected better from Touchstone.

    [Note: I think the Trinity probably wasn’t the best example for me to use – since it is an issue that occupies the attention of some Christians. The Salem Witch Trials would have been a better example]

  8. Over at Moore’s blog, I commented on the 16th in relation to your response. It is in moderation (probably because it is a more relational between you and me).

    Seth, you do get around. I am a week behind you trying to get caught up after vacation.

    And I am Baptist; and I think about the Trinity all the time, (even when I am on vacation to Disneyland). 🙂

    Salem Witch Trials would be better.

  9. Todd, glad to know that you think about the Trinity all the time, even when in Disneyland (maybe perhaps ESPECIALLY when at Disneyland?). Anyway, have you read “Being as Communion” yet?

  10. Nope, I haven’t Greg.

    Seth, I think some in the corridor think that I am the bad penny.

    But between the both of us, we could make two cents. I am praying that sometime we turn up together in joyful agreement.

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