Thanks to Mitt Romney and cultural appropriations like The Book of Mormon, everybody has something to say about the Mormons these days. A few weeks ago, for example, the illustrious Harold Bloom took time out from his petrification to grace the world with a fretful New York Times opinion piece on Romney’s run for the presidency. More recently, Michael Ruse expressed similar concerns in a Chronicle of Higher Education blog post. Like other non-Mormon commentators on Mormonism, he was quick to bring up planets, golden plates, and “creepy” Mormon underwear.
I suppose we can forgive Ruse for the way he fetishized seemingly bizarre aspects of Mormonism in his piece. It’s nothing new: people have been doing it since the first Palmyrenes caught wind of Joseph Smith’s “Golden Bible” in the late 1820s. And Ruse is hardly the creepiest of fetishizers. That distinction goes to Max Florence and Gisbert Bossard, two men who tried to extort the Church in 1911 with photos of the interiors of the Salt Lake Temple and Beehive House, including a photo of Joseph F. Smith’s bed. Next to these chaps, Ruse and the rest of the “magical underwear”-loving crew seem kind of dull.
Still, it’s funny how the fetishizers get such a kick out of boiling Mormonism down to Kolob and the Golden Plates, as if such things were cornerstones of Mormon theology. If Romney is elected president in 2012, I hope they aren’t let down when he turns out to be a rather dull Jack. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll be pouring money into the Smithsonian to fund archeological expeditions to Mexico to uncover ancient Nephite artifacts. Nor do I think he’ll spend a whole lot of time searching for Kolob with his all-access pass to the Hubble Telescope. Heck, he probably won’t even Bush his religion around all that much. Not as much as the fetishizers would like him to, at least.
Since this is a Mormon literature blog, I should probably point out that this brand of fetishizing is one of the hallmarks of faux-Mo lit. Recently on A Motley Vision, in fact, Theric tackled this very issue in his review of James Rollins’ novel The Devil Colony, which apparently sags with references to Golden Plates and a Mormon Kodesh Hakodashim! I mean, is it not telling that Ruse cites Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet as his first primer on Mormonism? It makes one wonder about the influence of, say, polygamy sexploitation novels.
Of course, it is my observation that real Mormon literature is much less likely to hold “bizarre” Mormonism up as a fetish than its faux-Mo counterpart. There are exceptions to this rule, no doubt, like the recent Monsters & Mormons, which brilliantly fetishizes the fetishization of Mormonism. But that’s an exception. Mormon literature, for better or for worse, is fairly down-to-earth stuff. Like most Mormons, it doesn’t spend a whole lot of time hie-ing to Kolob or digging up Golden Plates.
 I’m not sure what’s creepier: the fact that Mormons wear garments or that Ruse is looking at picture of them online. I mean, what’s up with the link?
 Dull in the sense that he’s not going to reference the Golden Plates in his inaugural address or walk out onto the White House lawn in his “creepy” underwear.