I've lived among mormons for more years than I care to think about, and yes, the magic underwear was one of those mysteries that us kids speculated on when the adults weren't around. As if they were flies upon the walls of my childhood, the Thinking Atheist has made this video that discusses the the Mormon church's most famous "secret."
I never realised how much Mormonism had in common with Freemasonry. (But then I've never really paid a lot of attention to the details of the LDS.)
I'm not a big fan of the Masons, so they hae that in common too. Secret societies seem like a dodgy idea to me. There were a lot of allegations of local government corruption here in the past centred around Masons. Not directly due to the organisation itself; rather that people who are members of the same secret society are placed in a position to get up to mischief. Much like membership of an exclusive golf club, only a bit more extreme.
I don't understand why you have to bleep any fucking thing out.
Simon G at #1:
I'm not a big fan of the Masons, so they hae that in common too. Secret societies seem like a dodgy idea to me.
To give secret societies their due, they only seem like a dodgy idea from the viewpoint of an open society - but they originated in Europe in the age of Absolutism. In those days of blasphemy and lese majeste laws, many forward-looking ideas could only be discussed in secret or strict privacy and a good deal of the seminal thinking of the Enlightenment originated from secret societies (naturally, not all of the secret societies were progressive think-tanks, though - there were also enough that were conservative, mystical, irrelevant or outright scams). So let's not call them a bad idea, let's just call them a good idea whose day has passed.
What differentiates the Mormons from the Masons, though, and makes them more problematic in my view, is their strictly hierarchical organization. Masonic lodges are mostly independent, so their specific nature varies wildly from lodge to lodge - some (probably most) are harmless social gatherings, some are power networks, and a few have been outright criminal (like the Italian lodge P2). The Mormon Church, by contrast, is completely hierarchical and authoritarian in structure, even if it's not particularly large - so when the wrong people are in charge, they can do a lot of damage.
Yes, keeping yourself secret is a lot more reasonable when the powers that be really are out to get you. It's hard to argue with that and I could see secrecy being important even today in some nations.
Heirarchical structures - like the Mormons, as you say, and many other churches - are always dangerous. I think that some of the Mormons' problems come because they're not very large. A larger organisation would be liable to dissent and schism: the Mormon leadership can exercise tight control.
Imagine how bad the RCC would be if the Pope and his pals had the same degree of control.
"the Mormon leadership can exercise tight control."
How exactly, besides the consent of the governed? Its not like the LDS Church has any policing or political power over individuals to leave and form their own Church if they are so inclined. For that matter, to leave the church altogether. Lots of people do. The biggest problem would be family and peer pressure, but what groups don't have that? Maybe you could say there was some power over membership during the formative years, but currently that is nonsense.
And if you think the secret LDS Temples are in any way places to make secret plans and alliances, then its obvious you have no idea what takes place in them. And I mean facts about them that aren't secret that could explain how stupid such an idea can be. Every minute of the Temple is occupied by religious devotions and rituals. Once those end there is a short space of time for reflection, but that usually lasts at most ten minutes before moving on for the next group. If the Mormons are a "secret society," then its a very poor one because the membership is pretty open about who they are. As for recognizing each other by some things done in the Temple? If a Mormon was to mimic anything outside the Temple related to it, then they would be called out for blaspheme of the sacred. As for the sacred garment, again its not hidden. Ask a Mormon if they are wearing a garment and they will be honest about it and tell you yes or no. In fact, its not that hard to tell if they are if you know someone is Mormon.
Jettboy: You seem rather defensive. I didn't say that the Mormons are especially secretive, just that they have some ritual elements in common with the Masons, who are.
As for the element of control, peer pressure can be extremely powerful. There is also the element of education, (ask a Jesuit). And whilst such forces can (and do) apply to other religions and churches the Mormons seem to be particularly intollerent of dissenting opinions.
As I tried to point out, the RCC is probably just as intollerent of unapproved ideas but being so much larger it is unable to exercise the same degree of control.
I think that the issue of recruitment is also important. The RCC, like many churches actively recruits new members. These members will come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and will have grown up with similarly varied educations and opinions. The impression I get is that the Mormons recruit a lot less and a larger proportions of their membership are descended from a long line of Mormons. These people will have grown up in the church and so be much more susceptile to the church's sway.
Frankly, if the Mormon leadership wasn't able to exercise tight control I think the religion would largely die out in a couple of generationa as no sane woman would want anything to do with them, given a truly free choice.