As the child of a weird sect, the Amish, I would be the last person to argue against the virtues of religious tolerance and diversity. Nevertheless there are certain varieties of religiosity that make me uncomfortable, particularly those varieties that believe that God talks specifically to them and directs their every day actions.
So, I will admit it upfront, I have a problem with Mormonism. It is one thing to believe that thousands of years ago, God inspired men to write scriptures which still have the power to inspire and direct, in a general way, how people live. It is something else to believe, as Mormons do, that as recently as 1830, God, through the angel, Moroni, spoke through a man, Joseph Smith, by means of some buried golden tablets, which Smith translated from Egyptian into Elizabethean English sounding suspiciously like the King James version of the Christian Bible. The golden tablets then miraculously disappeared again, leaving no objective proof of their existence. Amazingly, these scriptures, which only Joseph Smith could read, designated Joseph Smith as God's prophet and the church that Smith founded, the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Mormons) as the only church through which mankind could be saved.
Whatever plausibility this scenario might have for 21st century belief is undercut by the fact that Joseph Smith would not be considered a saint by any normal standards of morality. Prior to the prophet gig, Smith raised money in upstate New York by claiming to be able to find buried treasure through means of a "seer stone," and although guillible farmers paid him money, he never did find any treasure, a fact that got him prosecuted for fraud. After he founded his church, God supposedly commanded Smith to marry many women, 40 or more by some accounts, with a peculiar emphasis on young girls, 13 and 14 years old, and further, he commanded Smith to lie about his "marriages" denying that he or his followers were engaged in polygamy when, in fact, they were.
Modern-day Mormorns, of course, take umbrage at the criticism of Smith's teachings about polygamy, as well as other teachings about which God has supposedly changed his mind, such as not only the inferiority of blacks but the barring of them from the holiest of Mormon shrines, because more recent prophets have been told directly by God that those doctrines are no longer valid. It is apparently not only the Supreme Court that follows the election returns. God changed his commandment about polygamy only after Congress outlawed it and serious efforts at enforcing the laws in the western United States began causing problems for Mormons, and about blacks only after the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s changed the climate of racial intolerance in the United States.
Although I have tried to read the Book of Mormon, I have to admit that I didn't get very far before getting bogged down in its essential presposterousness. I have visited Salt Lake City, took the tour with an All-American Mormon guide, but felt like I was being given a con job. The attempt was to make Mormonism seem like just another variety of main-line Christianity, different only in minor details from Protestant denominations like Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist.
The book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer, does an excellent job of showing just how different Mormonism is from main-stream Christianity. Although Krakauer spends a lot of time describing fundamentalist Mormon sects, no longer formally affiliated with the main Mormon church, these extremists show what can happen when Mormon teaching and doctrine is taken to its logical conclusions. Main line Mormons still believe that God speaks directly to their prophets and that the prophets' commandments must be obeyed. Krakauer spends a lot of time on the Lafferty Brothers, several brothers in Colorado City, Utah, who killed their sister-in-law and her baby because of God's command,and I imagine that most Mormons would agree that these brothers were psychotics, not prophets. Nevertheless, they still are unwilling to believe that Joseph Smith was a con man, not a prophet, despite the many provable factual errors in the Book of Mormon.
I find it hard to believe that Mitt Romney, the Mormon ex-governor of Massachusetts, is considered a serious candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. While Mormons are not the only religious group to take their marching orders from a leader with sometimes provable mendacity, I have more faith in the ability of Roman Catholics, for example, to disregard the teachings of the Pope than for Mormons to go against their prophet's instructions. I am not at all comforted by the malleability of Romney's views on abortion and gay marriage, depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time he is expressing the views. Krakauer wrote his book before Romney was prominent in national politics, and he states that Smith and his successor, Brigham Young, seriously entertained thoughts of becoming president of the United States. Romney has shown the capacity of raising lots of money, and I believe, without being able to prove it, that much of his backing is coming from fellow Mormons who dream of establishing a Mormon theocracy in the United States.
Krakauer is an excellent writer and although Mormons have criticized the book for emphasizing the negative, I have not seen any exposes of serious inaccuracies. I gave the book four stars.