I’ve seen several links but no discussion of the Slate piece on the hypothetical future role of Mormons, “The Catholic Church helped preserve Roman civilization. Can Mormonism do the same for America?” It’s part of an eight-part series on the theme How is America going to end? by a Slate senior editor.
The nicest feature of the article is probably its references to Orson Scott Card’s collection of stories on post-nuclear Mormons in America, Folk of the Fringe. I read the book four years ago and posted comments about it at DMI. It didn’t make a big impression on me at the time but the stories and images have stuck with me. A straggling group of targeted Mormons trekking across the post-nuke Southwest trying to make it to refuge in Utah; a traveling troupe of roadshow actors presenting patriotic pageants to a string of post-nuke Mormon villages; prayers of the faithful etched on flotsam and jetsam lodged inside the flooded shell of the Salt Lake Temple. You’ll get more out of reading OSC’s book than from reading the Slate essay, I think. Here is the main paragraph from my earlier post on the book.
One can’t help but take some pride in the implicit prediction behind the alternate timeline seen in these stories: America could conceivably fall to pieces in the chaos of a post-nuke society, but the Mormons would still hang together. Yes, that’s a virtue that Mormons have perfected, hanging together through tough times, and I really do think that the Mormon sense of community runs deeper than anyone outside the Church is likely to realize. I have attended LDS services in ten countries and a dozen states, from wards liberally dotted with academics to branches full of peasants, and I always felt welcome. More than that — I always felt like I was at home, and I think I was. I know of no other denomination that has successfully fostered this degree of worldwide community. Bottom line: OSC is not overstating plausibility in the general setting of these stories.
I was going to add a paragraph noting the worst feature of the article, but thought better of it. This is probably the nicest thing about Mormonism that Slate has ever published … why spoil the moment? I liked the comment, paraphrasing Jan Shipps, that “the allure of yesteryear means Mormonism is always 25 to 30 years behind the rest of America.” That might have been true when she wrote her book in 1985; I think it’s more like 40 to 50 years now. It’s this ability to live in both the past and the present that gives Mormonism the stubborn sense of group identity that, according to Slate, makes us the ideal carrier of American core values in the hypothetical apocalyptic future sketched out in the essay. Of course, Mormonism’s view of American core values and Slate’s view of American core values are probably two different things, but the essay didn’t go there.
So, you gun-toting food-storing red-blooded American amazingly cohesive potentially post-nuclear Mormon readers, what did you like (or not) about the essay?