Friday, September 2, 2011

Who was Brigham Young?

Brigham Young
We open our football season tomorrow against Brigham Young University or BYU. Some people have been already chanting "Jacksonville State, Jacksonville State, Jacksonville State" as either a reminder or warding off a curse. Only time will tell.

Brigham Young isn't the name of a city such as Jacksonville or even a combination of two city names. It's the name of a man.  He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons) from 1847 until his death in 1877. History tells us that he founded Salt Lake City in Utah which is the Rome of Mormonism.

Mormons come up in the media from time to time. They've become fairly hot in the past few years. During this pre-election period, Mitt Romney the former governor from Massachusetts and now Republican hopeful for president, has been scrutinized for many things, among them his Mormon faith. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Book of Mormon" won the Tony for Best Musical this past year. And "Big Love"and "Sister Wives" are television shows that highlight the Mormon concept of extended family.

Parker and Stone's "The Book of Mormon"
What is it about Mormons that create such controversy? Oh where to begin? For a Catholic sensibility, Mormons believe that Jesus appeared to Native Americans and failed in his effort to evangelize. They believe in polygamy (even to this day). They are prohibitionists against alcohol and believe Jesus did not drink wine (which means the bars on the Square will have to depend on Ole Miss alumni this weekend). They also are historically racist. And that's just the warmup. For a detailed essay, see this article.

Brigham Old
Consider this quote from Young himself:
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother.  Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings.  This was not to be, and the Lord put a  mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

The LDS have rebranded and backed off some of their earlier positions. Religions do change.We Catholics have had to move off some positions that were wrong-headed or bigoted. However, we weren't founded with those principles.

Although Mormonism differs vastly from Catholicism or even mainline Protestantism, some of the original racism, sexism and xenophobia has been cleaned up if not altogether eradicated.

And now take a look at the 2011 Cougar football team.
The team is at least partly integrated, and even if we want them to LOSE this weekend, based on the history of Brigham Young, this is WIN.