A history of Mormonism and how it has evolved:
Yet how much do specifically Mormon beliefs matter to contemporary Mormons? Brooks’s story, give or take a Nephite or two, could unfold in any fundamentalist community that provides comfort and meaning if you’re prepared to park your critical intelligence in the lot outside the church door. She writes, often quite movingly, of the persistent ambivalence of her feelings about her natal faith, but any strayed member of a tight community of believers feels this way about it. Nephi, the Lamanites, the approaching apocalypse in Missouri—these things hardly come up. What resonates for her is the Mormon elder who said that heavy-metal music had secret satanic codes—the same preacher you find in any fundamentalist camp. These stories of attachment and repulsion are being played out in or around Hasidic communities in Brooklyn every day, and surely, for that matter, among Sikhs and Jains in Queens, too. This is the story of faith, not of Joseph Smith’s faith. The allegiance is to the community that nurtured you, and it is bolstered by the community’s history of persecution, which makes you understandably inclined to defend its good name against all comers. It isn’t the truth of the Book, or the legends of Nephi, that undergird Mormon solidarity even among lapsed or wavering believers; it’s the memories of what other people were prepared to do in order to prevent your parents from believing. A critique of the creed, even a rational one, feels like an assault on the community.
“I, Nephi.” — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
See more from Gopnik