Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika
How we cite our quotes:
Joe: You have to reconcile yourself to the world's unperfectibility by being thoroughly in the world but not of it. [...] That's what being a Mormon is. (3.4.21)
Joe claims that being a Mormon is about accepting that the world is flawed. (We're not sure what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would have to say about this summation of their religion, however.) What do you think? Is this the way through life: accepting that this world is never going to be perfect and putting our energies into preparing ourselves for the next one?
Hannah: One hundred and seventy years ago, which is recent, an angel of God appeared to Joseph Smith in upstate New York, not far from here. People have visions.
Prior: But that's preposterous, that's...
Hannah: It's not polite to call other people's beliefs preposterous. He had a great need of understanding. Our Prophet. His desire made prayer. His prayer made an angel. The angel was real. I believe that. (4.6.17-19)
It's interesting that Prior has a tough time believing that Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism, was visited by an angel, since Prior himself was visited by one. It's also interesting that later in the play, when both Hannah and Prior see the angel, Hannah is almost positive it's not real, even though she implies here that she believes in angels. Overall, this bit of dialogue seems to connect Prior's experience with Joseph Smith's, linking them both to a long line of prophets who claimed to have been visited by divine forces.
Hannah: OH! Grab her, say "I will not let thee go except thou bless me!" Then wrestle with her till she gives in. (5.1.16).
Hannah urges Prior to wrestle the angel, which turns out to be a pretty good suggestion: he beats her and gains access to Heaven. Hannah gets this idea from the biblical story of Jacob wrestling an angel. Prior's turn as angel-wrestler is foreshadowed way back in Millennium Approaches, when Joe tells Harper that his mother (Hannah) used to read him the story about Jacob wrestling the angel.