Armchair discusses Mormon history, controversy

Madina Seytmuradova

Staff Writer

The Philosophy Society’s weekly discussion group, The Armchair, hosted a presentation about Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, on Tuesday.

Matt Fulton, a senior music industry major from Tampa Bay, Florida, and a sixth-generation Mormon, prefaced his speech with a disclaimer saying that the point of the event was to present what Mormons believe, not to convert anyone to Mormonism.

Fulton covered the Mormon history from Joseph Smith in the early 19th century to present day, touching on controversial subjects such as polygamy, the Mountain Meadow massacre and “Singles Ward,” a contemporary comedy film about dating as a Mormon.

“I believe it was definitely very explicit about the things that they believe in, and I don’t think he (Fulton) left anything un-talked about,” said Savannah Kichler, a senior biomedical sciences major from Gulf Shores.

Fulton told the students that Missouri is sacred land for Mormons, as they believe Jesus Christ will return to gather his people in the new millennium there.

Mormons also believe that the garden of Eden was located in Missouri.

The idea to have Fulton host this presentation arose during a study abroad trip to India, according to Charles Taylor, a sophomore history major from Brundidge and a member of the philosophy society.

“He (Fulton) talked a lot about his religion and his beliefs, and he obviously knows a lot about it,” said Taylor. “He’s a good orator, so when we got back we did intend to set him up to talk about it because this is exactly the type of thing we do, being a philosophy club.”

Taylor said he was surprised to learn how Americentric the religion is, and he is interested in Mormon terminology.

“There’s a lot of Catholic and Jewish terminology; you don’t see that a lot in Protestant churches,” he said. “Especially the term ‘saint.’

“Most Protestant churches, especially Anglicans, Episcopalians, just completely downplay the saints all the way; some of them don’t even believe in the miracles.”

In addition, the attendees of the presentation could speak to a group of Latter-Day Saints missionaries assigned to the area.

According to Haylee Debruin, a Mormon missionary in Troy, missionaries have the opportunity to move to a new area every six weeks, and it is common for members of the Latter-Day Saints to become missionaries.

Fulton said that one of the reasons the Latter-Day Saints are misunderstood is partly due to the exposure without knowledge.

“Most people have met Mormons one time in their life,” said Fulton. “And if it’s something that we’re exposed to, but we don’t understand, then we disregard it, and we dislike it, and I think that’s what Mormonism is.”

According to Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 1.7 percent of U.S. adults were of Mormon tradition in 2007, 96 percent of whom identified as members of Latter-Day Saints Church.

Thirty-five percent of that population resided in Utah in 2007 because of its historic proximity to what the Latter-Day Saints believe to be the New Jerusalem.

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