Richard Bushman: Mormon historian sees perfect storm in recent Mormon-related events

Historians in the News

[Richard] Bushman is the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University and holds the Huntington Library fellowship in Pasadena, Calif. He is a former Harvard graduate and professor who also taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University and the University of Delaware. This fall, he will be chairman Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

Bushman said in the last 10 years, there has been huge exposure of Mormonism to the world. The "perfect storm" of Mormonism, Bushman called it, began with the Olympics in Salt Lake City, moved past Joseph Smith's 200th birthday and onto Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

It's exciting, Bushman said, but it has been sobering for many Mormons to see so much negative discussion about their religion in the wake of the storm. When Romney lost, in a certain way, Bushman said, Mormonism lost. There was the realization that "we are not quite first-class citizens," Bushman said. "There are huge segments of the population that don't believe a Mormon is qualified to be president."

Bushman said recently The New York Times magazine published an article that said the peculiar thing about Mormons is the extreme normalcy of the people and the extreme oddity of their beliefs.

"It's the angels, the gold plates, the inspired translations," he said.

Bushman's answer is that all the revealed religions are based on miracles.

"Christianity has the resurrection," Bushman said, "Judaism has the parting of the Red Sea and the visit of God on Mount Sinai. Islam has Mohammed being carried off in the night by Gabriel to Jerusalem for a vision."...
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