Friday, November 27, 2015

Being a Mormon in a Muslim Society

This past week I read Michel Houellebecq's book Submission. It's about a secular atheist Frenchman (is there another kind of Frenchman?) in 2022 when a Muslim political party wins control of the government and how his life changes. I thought the first half was fantastic, the third quarter was a little lame, and the ending is leaving me thinking a lot. Which is a good way for a book to end. As Tyler Cowen wrote of the book, "The correct reading is always a level deeper than the one you are currently at."

Anyway, one of the things I've been thinking is how much my life can comply with a Muslim lifestyle before I'm going against my conscience. I think of when I would attend Mass with my Catholic friends, and the congregation is supposed to respond "Lord, I do believe" to four statements. I figured I'd participate as much as I honestly could. The first two statements (as I remember it) were about God and Jesus, and I could agree to them wholeheartedly. So when (notice what I did there?) Muslims order my society, can I do things like eat halal food and pray five times a day? Sure, as long as the prayers aren't prescribed. Can I agree that Muhammad was a prophet? Mmmmm, maybe. Can I agree that he's God's only prophet, or at least the last one? No, I can't.

Anyway, in thinking about this, I was reminded of two events related in the Book of Mormon. The first was Alma's encounter with the Rameumptom. When Alma first sees it in use (Alma 31), Alma is "astonished beyond all measure." Getting atop a tower to offer prayers seems like a completely novel thing to Alma and his compadres.

Forty-one years later, Alma's great-grandson Nephi is using a tower in his garden to offer prayers.

The Rampeumptom might have been new to Alma, but it wasn't in itself offensive to God; it was the Zoramites' prayer that was most grievous. A prophet can use a Rameumptom with no problems.

Can a Mormon woman wear a niqab? Sure, why not? Can I follow the schedule of the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours for my personal prayers? Sure, why not? Can I follow Jewish ritualistic washings before eating? Sure, why not? There's a lot of room for accommodation.

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