Historian Fawn Brodie might make a good case against Joseph Smith by exposing his shady past in No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith and the Ostlings may as well describe the Church’s empire for what it truly is, while also peeking into various open sores in its history, doctrine, and governance in Mormon America – The Power and the Promise (arguably one of the best and most balanced pieces of literature on the LDS Church by non-Mormons), but neither book can summarize so precisely and in so few pages the kind of mindset required to send any Mormon running from the Temple as The Berenstain Bears and the Double Dare.
If you’re not familiar with the Berenstain Bears books and you have children, you’re a bad parent. Ok, maybe not, but you could improve your approval rating (a la Calvin and Hobbes) by picking one up at your local library on your next visit. The Berenstains (the authors) have an amazing ability to communicate to children some of life’s most universal experiences and problems in a very entertaining way.
In this book, The Double Dare, Brother Bear is pressured by Too-Tall and his gang to steal a watermelon from Farmer Ben’s patch. Brother Bear is reluctant to follow their lead, but the gang is quick to apply the ultimate force and start calling him “chicken” and clucking at him. In a very McFlyish manner, Brother Bear succumbs to the gang’s pressure and proceeds to try to steal the watermelon but is then caught red-handed by Farmer Ben.
After this incident, the Berenstains beautifully write what could arguably be one of the biggest lessons in a child’s life, all in about 3 pages, which I will quote here:
“‘Well’, said Ben as they walked through his chicken yard, ‘chickens aren’t very bright. But they’re too smart to do something stupid just because somebody calls them chicken.’
‘I guess so,’ admitted Brother.
Just ahead was the meadow where Ben’s sheep were grazing. One of them – a large ram – took it into his head to start running. And run he did – straight for the highway!
‘Your sheep are headed for the highway, Ben!’ cried Brother.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Ben. ‘Shep, my old sheepdog, will take care of ’em.’ Shep raced ahead and cut the sheep off before they got there.
‘Sheep are like that,’ said Ben. ‘Follow a leader anywhere – off a cliff, if that’s what the leader decides. And some folks are like that too. Follow a leader wherever he goes – across a highway, over a cliff… to the edge of my watermelon patch.’ He looked at Brother, and Brother knew exactly what he was talking about.”
(They go on to share the watermelon and Brother ends up facing the gang again, but you’ll have to read the book for the exciting ending).
The Mormons love the word SHEEP!!! In fact, the scriptures are filled with references to the word and Jesus himself is referred to as “the good Shepperd” and his followers as “the flock” or sheep.
The concept of following someone blindly is Christianity’s big ticket item. Understandably so, since it would be hard to control and use people who can think for themselves and who can decide what is right or wrong outside of dogma.
However, no sane parent would teach their children to follow anyone blindly outside of religion, in all aspects of their lives, be it at school, work, or any organization. The ability to think on our feet and make logical, rational decisions is one of the most important tools available to help us successfully navigate through life.
The Berenstains have written many books dealing with many common moral dilemmas in a simple, direct, and fun way. Their only book (to date) that directly deals with religion, The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question (which is argued to be faith-promoting, but I think it’s just going over most Christians’ heads), summarizes nicely this post in a short dialogue between Sister Bear and Papa Bear.
When walking home, Sister asks Papa “Did God make questions?” to which Papa answers “Yes, Sister, mostly questions.”