Whatever view taken, Smith's revelations are embarrassing: visions, gold plates, magic seer stones and the origins of the Book of Mormon.
Nevertheless, Mormons are Christians despite some snide comments about Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney "not being Christian." Above all, Mormons act like Christians. Racist Southern fundamentalists do not act like Christians. Nor do so many mainstream church folks in America.
Mormons are fine, upstanding, decent people. Ethical and moral. They represent the essence of Christianity; good deeds rather than just faith.
In a crisis they help all people, not just Mormons. They stock food for everyone in emergencies. They tithe, giving 10 percent of their income to the church. Until recently, all young men served a mandatory two years as a missionary, often abroad. Now young men and women may serve voluntarily on mission work. Mormons make regular home visits to other Mormons just to chat.
It would be a far better world if more people lived and acted the way Mormons do.
As for theology, Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ. And they do call the Book of Mormon a "second testimony of Jesus Christ."
Unlikely wine labeler
Lewis Carroll was a marvelous creator of wine labels although he didn't know it. He writes in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland": The liquid in the "DRINK ME" bottle had a mixed taste "of cherry tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast."
Far-fetched? No. Here is how the wine section of the San Francisco Chronicle recently described a zinfandel: "This offering has waxy oak, coconut and a hint of eucalyptus over the bright dark berry aromas and flavors."
Of another zin the Chron said: "ripe blackberry and red fruit with hints of Szechuan peppercorn." On another: "Candied lavender, tart blueberry, lush cherry, toasted nut and saddle soap offer an intriguing nose." And about still another: "Bright black raspberry and dried cranberry are backed with leather, tobacco woodsy notes and gently grippy tannins."
All very creative. And all very phony.
Speaking of Lewis Carroll, I have long been annoyed at a present-day speech mannerism in which every sentence speakers utter is larded with the superfluous "you know." But in re-reading the marvelous fantasies, "Alice" and "Through the Looking Glass," published in 1865, I note that both "Alice" books are riddled with "you know."
Examples: "A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know," the Red Queen says ... "If you think we're waxworks you ought to pay, you know," Tweedledum says. And at another point Alice says: "Queens have to be dignified, you know." The Caterpillar replies: "I don't know."
The Caterpillar reply is one I am often tempted to give to people today who say "you know."
A recent three-column photograph in the New York Times showed six heavily armed GIs searching a house in Iraq in a hunt for so-called insurgents. I stared at the picture and thought: If I were an Iraqi I would be outraged at the American occupiers. Resisting Iraqis are not insurgents. They are rebels rightfully trying to reclaim their country.
Meanwhile, Andrew Roth, a California sociology professor at Sonoma State and associate director of Project Censored, has noted how the media distort the reality of war by covering up in pictures and video the loss of life and misery of civilians and those involved in the fighting.
"The corporate media are not giving their readers and viewers a full understanding of the real cost of the war through these powerful visual media," Roth rightly says.
Diogenes, Socrates and TV boobs
Has there ever been anyone with more confidence about his own worth than Diogenes? When the great conqueror Alexander asked the humble philosopher how he could serve him, Diogenes replied: "Stand out of my light" ... A quote by Socrates to remember: "I was really too honest a man to be a politician" ... TV viewers in America have chosen Reagan over Lincoln as the greatest American who ever lived. Not surprising. But it's not just American voters who are boobs. Portugal's TV viewers voted for dictator Salazar as "the greatest Portuguese who ever lived."
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.