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Thursday, September 02, 2021

Mormon Mentions: Jon Billman

If you haven't got a clue what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain: When I see a reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nickname: Mormons) in a book which was not written by a member of the Church, I post it here. With commentary from Yours Truly.  I'm no theologian, but I try to explain doctrinal issues as well as debunk myths and clear up misconceptions.  Speaking of, I should probably make this crystal clear: My dad only has one wife. As does my husband.  And, yes, people really have asked me those questions.  (I've also been asked if I have horns.  Of course I do!  I just keep them hidden under my hair.  Duh.)  Just FYI: mainstream Mormons haven't practiced polygamy for more than 120 years.

Everybody got that? Great. Let's move on...

In The Cold Vanish, Jon Billman talks about the search for a man named Troy James Knapp, a survivalist who lived off the spoils he acquired from breaking into cabins in Southern Utah for seven years before he was caught and jailed in 2013.  

  • Of Southern Utah's arid landscape, Billman says:  "It was drier than a Mormon wedding." (205)
Ha ha.  This reference made me laugh out loud!  If you know anything about my church it's that its members abide by a health code known as The Word of Wisdom.  It stipulates that we abstain from drinking alcohol, hot beverages (coffee and tea), using tobacco, and ingesting other substances that are harmful to the body.  Thus, alcoholic beverages are not consumed by Latter-day Saints and not served at Mormon wedding receptions.  In fact, I was shocked when, at a recent reception, I was handed an empty glass for a later toast to the bride and groom.  Toasts are not traditionally part of Mormon receptions.  This one—of course—was done with Martinelli's sparkling apple cider!

  • About Knapp:  "At times he appeared angry at Latter[sic]D[sic]ay Saints—he shot holes in a portrait of Joseph Smith and ripped up the Book of Mormon." (200)
I don't know anything about Knapp's religious background.  Perhaps he is a disgruntled former member of the Church.  Or he just likes to be destructive.  Morality is obviously not the man's strong suit.  Desecrating religious paintings and sacred books, especially while in the act of ransacking a stranger's cabin, are simply not the actions of a good man (although the owners probably forgave him since both Joseph Smith's [the Church's first prophet and president] teachings and the Book of Mormon preach forgiveness for all). 


  1. Interesting. I don't know that much about the LDS church but I know that desecrating any religion's writings and art is not a "good" thing to do and should be punished. Even if I don't believe or don't believe the same, that shouldn't give me the right to do a thing like that.

    1. Exactly. What's sacred to one person should be respected by another, even if the two don't believe the same way. It breaks my heart when people deface synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Why would someone do such a thing?

    2. So true. When I visit mosques, I always wear a headscarf, take off my shoes, even if my religion doesn't demand that.
      Of course, it doesn't mean that I don't protest about the way, people are mistreated in certain religions. But I always say, that's the individuals in there, not the religion. We've had plenty of scandals in the Catholic church but I wouldn't want to be judged by them.

    3. Amen! Some horrific things have been done in the name of religion. It's absolutely our right, even our duty, to protest when religious beliefs get in the way of human rights. On the flip side, my ancestors came to America seeking religious freedom. They were able to find it in Utah, ONLY because earlier members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were driven out of the Eastern U.S. by violent mobs. They fled for their lives and many, MANY needless deaths occurred while those pioneers were crossing the country to get to Utah. Even today, every time my church opens a new temple or holds some kind of large public gathering (like the Easter Pageant in my city), people come out to protest the Church. I've never seen these protests turn violent, but they are disruptive. While I believe in the right to protest, I don't always understand it. What's the point of disrupting a peaceful gathering that people are attending of their own free will and where no one is being harmed just because you disagree with the church that is sponsoring it? I don't get that.

      Also, yes, I think a lot of the problems that create scandals come from an individual who takes their religious beliefs to extremes. We've had our fair share as well!

    4. Unfortunately, you are so right. I have read books about people who used the church for their own purpose and who made life for others a living hell. That's not what any church preaches.

      I'm afraid, we will never stop people from thinking what they think but hopefully people will get more respectful one day.

  2. Interesting. I always enjoy your take on this kind of thing as an insider who understands the nuances that are not really understood by those who don't practice the religion. I've done some reading that featured Mormons, even one written by a former Mormon, that were sensationalistic more than anything else. They always want to focus on the fringe elements, and that has unfortunately become the way that some think about the faith.

    I've had a soft spot in my heart for the church ever since they saved the life of one of my wife's cousins when she found herself homeless somewhere around Mesa, Arizona. She ended up converting and becoming a devout Mormon. Her children, now adults, have continued that.

    1. I agree! I always take those kinds of accounts with a grain of salt. An insider's view from someone I trust is always the better choice.

      One thing my church is excellent at is helping people. Not only is the Church involved in all kinds of humanitarian aid projects all over the world, but it also excels at serving "the one" as Jesus did. For example, something a lot of people might not know is that each active member of the Church is assigned to either a person (or several persons) or a family (or several families) to watch over. Another lady in my congregation and I are assigned to three women—we check in on them regularly and make sure they're doing okay. I also have two women who check in on me. The men are assigned to families. I love this as it ensures no one is forgotten :)

    2. That is simply a wonderful approach to any community. I love that.

  3. Like Sam, I always enjoy your take on these things. I'm that strange animal, an athiest interested in religion, who loves visiting churches, and who enjoys reading about faith. I thought I was very odd until I read somewhere that it's not actually all that uncommon. So thank you for your interesting posts about being a Mormon, they are extremely illuminating. And I really can't believe you asked questions like that, how rude.

    1. I find religion fascinating as well! Like I said to Sam, I especially like learning about it from insiders, not bitter ex-members.

      And, yes, I really have been asked all those questions. Most of them were when I was younger (pre-Internet) and information wasn't as well disseminated as it is now.

  4. I have had several friends who are LDS, and have lived in near and around LDS populations. And as you've stated, I have not know anyone who has more than one wife in the family.

    1. When people talk about Mormon polygamy, they're referring either to practices that took place within the mainstream church in the 1800's or practices that take place now within fringe groups not associated with the mainstream Church.

      I do have ancestors who practiced polygamy as instructed by the church in the 1800s, but that was a LOOOONNGGG time ago!


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