Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chloroform in print

There is a certain set of Mormons who like to get all annoyed at Mark Twain for slamming Mormonism. I think we should be honored, myself—it’s not every religion that got to be satirized by one of the greatest snarks of the nineteenth century.

No, wait, he did satirize pretty much every religion.

In any event, i really think we ought to see what he wrote for what it really is—brilliance. If we can do that, we can move one step closer to being able to laugh at ourselves, always a great hurdle for a people known for taking themselves a bit too seriously.

Anyway, here’s the opening paragraph of the sixteenth chapter of his classic travel narrative Roughing It:

All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.

(This is followed by a bunch of stuff showing that Twain actually did manage to keep awake while reading the Book of Mormon, actually. Not that he was impressed, but still.)

I have to admit to adoring the “chloroform in print” line. I mean, he manages to go from a book that contains a section called ether to that phrase—it’s obvious in hindsight, but the brilliance is in managing to be the first to see the connection.

I guess this provides simply more proof that i’m evil. Not that that’s a surprise to anyone, of course.

1 comment:

Heather the Mama Duk said...

That is totally hilarious.

(And, um, sometimes it is... I mean that's why I read my scriptures in the MORNING.)