Memphis station posts four Mormon stories

1) Local Memphis TV news report mocks Mitt Romney’s Mormon beliefs (and ace reporter* Ben Ferguson reminds viewers why some folks prefer to avoid the Bible Belt). The cringe begins at 03:21:

2) Local musical director (and LDS church member) Steve Danielson offers his opinion of the Tony-winning Broadway musical.

3) 89-year old Church of Christ apostle, William Sheldon, explains the origins of the Mormon religion.

4) Meet a pair of Memphis area Mormon missionaries.

*CORRECTION: From comments at Politico:

Benjamin “Ben” Ferguson (born 1981) is an American radio host, conservative political commentator, and author. Ferguson was homeschooled by his mother through the tenth grade.

He was a local talk-radio host throughout his teens. Ferguson was selected by the Bush White House to join President Bush and Ben Stein for a town hall meeting in an effort to educate the public on the issue of social security reform. Ferguson also spends several weeks a year on the road speaking at youth leadership conferences, high schools and college camp uses nationwide. Ferguson addressed the 2004 Republican National Convention. [emphasis mine]

While Ferguson’s anti-Mormon antics may be annoying, that last sentence is downright frightening.

FRIENDLY HEADS UP: In future, anyone looking to poke some fun at Mormons might consider popping round here first and asking MSP for tips on the latest fair target. For example, this qualifies (Sister Kristen M. Oaks touting “The Testimony Glove” for Deseret Book):

Use the glove, feel the Spirit

Blech! You’d think that the wife of Apostle Dallin H. Oaks would be anxiously engaged in something other than helping DB promote their goofy faith promoting inventions (h/t r/exmormon).

Or, if you’re specifically looking to find a reason to get nervous about electing Mormons to public office, this quote from leading Mormon apologist Dan Peterson’s latest op piece in the Deseret News ought to do the trick:

“You may not like what comes from the authority of the church,” said President Harold B. Lee, serving at the time as a counselor to President Joseph Fielding Smith. “It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. Let’s keep our eye on the president of the church.”

HIT LIST:
Mediaite: Great Moments In Journalism: Local News Segment Mocks Romneys Mormon Faith
The Commercial Appeal: Fox 13, Ben Ferguson take heat for segment on Romney, Mormons
Commentary: Unbelievable: TV Reporter Mocks Romneys Mormonism
The American Prospect: The Mormonism Question, Going Nowhere
Deseret News: Fox affiliate ‘making fun of Mormons’
Mediaverse: On The Book of Mormon (Ben Ferguson)
Mother Jones: Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem
ABC4: Memphis reporter mocks Mormon beliefs
Politico: Making fun of Mormons in Memphis

BONUS REDDIT HEADLINE CONTEST:
r/politics: Memphis reporter sets out to prove how weird Mitt and Mormons are … Pot. Kettle. Black.
r/reddit: Wake-up, Mormons: Broadway & teh gays are much nicer to you than so-called Christians.
r/religion: Local Memphis TV news “report” plumbs depths of Bible Belt anti-Mormon bigotry
r/exmormon: Local Memphis TV news report mocks Mitt Romneys Mormon beliefs. *Cringe*
r/lds: Mitt Romney ought to step up and put these hillbillies in their place.
r/offbeat: What’s weirder: Memphis or Mormons? It’s a toss-up, apparently.
r/Christianity: Do Christians think it’s OK to mock Mormon beliefs?

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Chino Blanco

--- We are men of action, lies do not become us. ---

25 thoughts on “Memphis station posts four Mormon stories

  1. I found the would you vote for someone that will get their own planet so offensive. What a dirtbag. I found it horribly stupid to explain Mormonism by interviewing a creepy guy from the Church of Christ Temple Lot. I’ve been to that visitor center. That guy is really over the top and creepy and the article/news report makes it sound like he represents our faith and is Mormon. I recommend writing the guy that did the article and tell him why would you interview a Lutheran to understand the Catholic church better.

  2. Tom — It’s true it’s kind of surprising that they’d interview someone from the Temple Lot group, considering that they’re such a small branch of the Restoration tradition.

    Still, I think sometimes the CoJCoL-dS contributes to the confusion by acting like the other Restoration churches don’t exist. That is, when the news reports on the FLDS, and calls them “Mormon”, the publicity arm of the CoJCoL-dS tries to correct them by saying “Those guys aren’t Mormon period” — which isn’t true. As Alan mentioned in the previous post, the CoJCoL-dS tried to trademark the word “Mormon” and couldn’t. It would be easier for outsiders to keep the distinction clear if the CoJCoL-dS were willing to say “OK, they come from the same tradition, but it’s a completely separate church, like the Catholics and the Lutherans.” But I guess when you’re in first place, the standard strategy is to pretend the competition doesn’t exist.

  3. How is it offensive? Mormon beliefs were accurately represented (minus the Garden of Eden under the arch, which was clearly a joke) and the religious views of political leaders have always been a point of scrutiny. Yes, he played it for laughs, but it hardly felt like he unfairly manipulated the source material or his interview subjects to get those laughs. Face it, to most people the idea of Eden being in Jackson County, Missouri is pretty laughable and rightly so. I see no harm in pointing it out.

  4. Man, that “get your own planet” thing is so annoying. I’ve never heard an actual believing Mormon use that expression, yet we’re constantly told that that’s what Mormons believe. So tiresome.

    As for the Garden of Eden, as others have pointed out, when people believe in talking snakes and magic fruit, “and it happened in Missouri” is not where it gets laughable.

  5. kuri…Perhaps most Mormons don’t believe that now. I don’t know, as I’m kind of out of the loop. However, I did hear that preached over the pulpit more than once (albeit not necessarily in those exact words) when I was active in the church, and I did hear it stated in pretty much those words by some believing Mormons. Granted, most of them were newly returned missionaries who had too much testosterone for their own good, but still, it was something the did appear to believe.

    So, you know, YMMV, but I have known Mormons who believed, apparently sincerely, that they would get their own planet if they managed to follow all of the rules closely enough.

  6. I’ve heard many variations of “become like God” and “create your own worlds,” etc., but never, ever, “get your own planet.” That’s not to say that that wasn’t taught decades ago, but in my 25 adult years as a Mormon, I never heard one person express a belief in “getting their own planet.” And besides, Mormons who are into that kind of doctrine tend to believe that Jesus is the savior of many planets, not just one.

  7. Kuri #4: “Man, that get your own planet thing is so annoying. Ive never heard an actual believing Mormon use that expression, yet were constantly told that thats what Mormons believe.”
    Kuri#6: “And besides, Mormons who are into that kind of doctrine tend to believe that Jesus is the savior of many planets, not just one.”
    These two statements appear contradictory to me. You’ve never heard a Mormon talk about getting one’s own planet, but Mormons who believe that tend to believe that Jesus is the Savior of many planets. Sounds like you’ve not only heard them talk about getting their own planet but have heard them talk about the soteriological consequences of that belief.

  8. My objection is not that Mormons don’t believe that they’ll become gods/creators/saviors/just like God/etc. — they do — it’s that “get their own planet” is an overly-specific caricature of that belief. I’ve never heard a Mormon talk about getting one planet. I’ve heard them talk — usually quite vaguely — about getting “worlds” (plural) or (less often) a “universe.” The article you linked to is the same.

  9. The problem isn’t that the belief being mocked is not accurate. Mormons have and still do believe in eternal progression, the notion that God was once a man and that individuals can become like God. Joseph Smith taught this. It’s in the D&C (sections 76 and 130 for starters). It’s all over the Book of Abraham. Read the writings of Orson Pratt, the church’s foremost 19th-century theologian. While it’s been toned down in recent decades (not sure why the church finds it embarrassing), it’s not inaccurate to say Mormons believe they will become like God and have spirit babies who will then populate planets like Earth. It’s a pretty fundamental doctrine (and one, incidentally, that is used to support the church’s virulently anti-gay policies).

    The problem with this video is that it’s horrible reporting. Is this what passes for news? Sending a reporter out to ask ignorant people if they would vote for candidate “X” based on some of the whackier-sounding tenets of the religion he belongs to? That’s offensive. Now, if there are religious beliefs that might interfere with said candidate’s ability to live up to the oath of office, that’s another matter. And, if they are going to do this to Romney, why not all the other candidates, each of whom belongs to a religion that teaches absurdities every bit as whacky as getting your own planet. The resurrection, for example. Miracles. Transsubstantiation. Heaven and Hell. The atonement. These are all ridiculous ideas without any evidentiary support or logical foundation. If a person is disqualified from being President because he believes in fairy tales like getting his own planet, maybe only atheists and agnostics are qualified for the office.

  10. The “get their own planet” thing is just a peeve. I like to see things described accurately, and I think that’s too much of a caricature.

    But I agree entirely with your second paragraph. All religions teach silly things (and probably all people believe some silly things). Singling out Romney that way is just stupid.

  11. The funny things is it’s something of a peeve of mine, too. I never liked the “Godmakers” approach to critiquing Mormonism. I think the “get your own planet” and “Jackson County is the home of the garden of Eden” and “Mormons believe their garments save them from fires” stuff is all pretty trivial and foolish. I’ve got a long list of issues with Mormonism, that’s no secret. “They think they get their own planet” doesn’t even make it onto the first ream of paper.

  12. “Get your own planet” is like going around asking people what they think about how Muslims “get 72 virgins.”

    Or, since all the other candidates are Christian, going around asking people what they think about how so-and-so believes that after they die, they’ll be issued wings and a harp.

    I think here at MSP we question Mormon doctrine all the time for the purposes of public policy, but this guy is basically saying, “You realize this guy doesn’t think like you, and therefore that’s bad, right?”

  13. Ive never heard a Mormon talk about getting one planet. Ive heard them talk usually quite vaguely about getting worlds (plural) or (less often) a universe.

    I’m not sure that, from the lay outsider’s point of view, that’s much of an improvement. Just sayin’.

  14. @17 Again, I feel like this is a point where it’s unfair to expect the outsiders to be more accurate since it’s not that clear to/for/by the members themselves. As I recall, you’re right that we learned in seminary that our Heavenly Father and Jesus are the gods of many worlds full of people, but it’s not totally clear whether you create a whole universe or what. Mormons believe that you get to create at least one inhabited world (and possibly others). To insist that people note that Mormon gods get lots of worlds (not just one) — to me it feels like you’re splitting hairs over the details of a belief that wasn’t all that precise to begin with.

  15. The thing is that outsiders are in effect trying to be more accurate than Mormons are themselves. Mormon beliefs about this are vague, I agree. There are a dozen or more different ways that Mormons interpret those beliefs. But outsiders have somehow settled on a specific interpretation that few if any Mormons actually use or believe. So it’s simply untrue that “Mormons believe” that they will “get their own planet.” Not many actually believe anything that specific.

  16. This is what I emailed to that TV station:

    I am writing to criticize your recent stories involving Mormonism. Not
    only do they mis-characterize Mormon beliefs, Ben Ferguson seems to relish
    the opportunity to mock Mormonism and get some cheap laughs at Mormons’
    expense.

    As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I
    have never heard anyone teach in church that I will get my own planet
    after I die. Ferguson has grossly mischaracterized a beautiful aspect of
    Mormon doctrine that teaches that through Jesus’s sacrifice for us, we can
    become like God, which includes the chance to be co-participants in His
    work. The Orthodox Churches (such as Greek Orthodox) have been teaching
    similar doctrines about humans’ capacity to become like God for nearly two
    thousand years. While Mormon doctrine and theology on this subject differ
    in certain fundamental aspects from Greek Orthodox teachings, Mormonism’s
    take on it is not as weird or radical as Ferguson misleadingly implies.
    This is not a new doctrine in Christianity. In fact, it is biblical: the
    Bible itself promises that the faithful will become joint heirs with
    Christ (Romans 8:17). Mormons take the Bible at its word and believe that
    the faithful will inherit God’s glory together with Jesus. Ferguson’s
    mockery of beliefs held sacred to Mormons is not only offensive and
    misleading, but also mean-spirited.

    Additionally, it is puzzling that Ferguson focused his time on questioning
    the Mormon belief that the location of the Garden of Eden is in Missouri.
    This is a minor and inconsequential belief in Mormonism. It would be like
    ridiculing evangelical Christians who believe in biblical inerrancy by
    questioning whether Christians really believe in talking donkeys just
    because talking donkeys are portrayed at one point in the Bible (see
    Numbers 22). Just like I’m sure that not every evangelical Christian
    believes in something so ludicrous as talking donkeys, not every Mormon
    believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri.

    I find it particularly interesting that Ferguson chose to focus his
    attention on these two aspects of Mormonism, because these types of
    mischaracterizations of Mormonism generally only come up in the
    inflammatory rhetoric of anti-Mormon bigots whose religious agenda is to
    discredit Mormon belief and ostracize Mormons from mainstream American
    society. I have to conclude that Ferguson’s misrepresentations indicate
    either bad faith and ill intent, or that he failed to do any real research
    about his topic and that his only source of information on Mormon doctrine
    are the false caricatures propounded by anti-Mormon bigots. Either way, it
    is very clear that he is not qualified to speak on any program claiming to
    offer real journalism.

    Ferguson’s juvenile and misinformed attitude are the antithesis of serious
    adult journalism. His “skills” would be more at home doing man on the
    street interviews for Jay Leno instead.

  17. Richard Bushman (who is turning out to be a Church spokesman for CNN as of late) said:

    “Take the issue of getting your own planet, for example. Elder Price talks about a planet for himself and one for Jesus. Those are not really core Mormon beliefs. Mormon scriptures and Church leaders dont say anything about people getting their own planets. The idea is more like lore than doctrine.”

    Church leaders don’t say anything about getting your own planets? It’s lore? Interesting.

    “The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood…We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.48)

    “Remember you are not going to leave this earth. You will never leave it until you become qualified, and capable, and capacitated to become a father of an earth yourselves.” (Heber C. Kimball, JD 1:356)

    “We shall not be idle. We shall go on from one step to another, reaching forth into the eternities until we become like the Gods, and shall be able to frame for ourselves, by the bequest and command of the Almighty. All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods, even the sons of God, will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others.” (Brigham Young, JD 17:143)

    Even in 2001, Elder Eyring quoted Spencer W. Kimball when he said:

    Elder Eyring told the young adults that the real life they are preparing for is eternal life. “Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance,” he said. “Our conviction is that God our Heavenly Father wants us to live the life that He does. We learn both the spiritual things and the secular things so that we may one day create worlds, people and govern them.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 386)

    Get your own” planet may not be terminology that our leaders use, but it’s pretty much the same as “have jurisdiction over,” “govern,” or “father” an earth yourself. Richard, you are being disingenuous, and you know it. When watering down the Gospel to make it more palatable for the Gentiles, don’t be dishonest.

  18. I agree with Bushman. Few if any Mormons today believe they’re going to “get a planet.” They believe nonsense that’s similar and arguably even sillier (as Anderson pointed out), but “get a planet” is not an accurate description of what they believe today.

    Even in the quotes you posted, only one (from a guy who died over 150 years ago) unambiguously says that Mormons each get one planet. The others are unspecific, just like what Mormons believe today (as opposed to what they apparently believed in the 1860s).

  19. My problem with the “get a planet” caricature is that it grossly trivializes the actual doctrine here.

    The real Mormon doctrine here is that we become like God, and that he promises us “all” that he has. Then you have some rhetorical flourished like those listed from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Joseph Fielding Smith. But none of those quotes limited it to some trivial “planet-per-person” equation. Makes it sound like some sort of drive-thru or assembly line.

    It also misrepresents in another important aspect – it plays off the caricature that the God of the Bible is ONLY the God of planet earth. This is flatly contradicted by Mormon scripture that states God is “God” of “worlds without end.” So if you are really talking about LDS scripture, you’re talking about God being God over endless worlds – forever and ever. And you have him offering “all he has” to us. That’s the doctrine.

    The caricature tries to severely limit the true scope of the actual doctrine. Limiting and trivializing is a common aspect of unfair mockery. Like for example – saying that the only positive aspect of temple garments is that they “stop bullets” or something. Comedians like to boil down their subjects to caricatures because they are more funny than long-winded explanations. But reporters aren’t comedians. They only summarize things to accurately capture the essence of their subject quickly in a format where time and space is limited. But this skit does not do this. Ferguson is pretending to be a reporter here, when he’s really just being a comedian (and sorry – he’s no Colbert).

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