As we recently discussed, Deseret News was lamenting confusion in media news coverage about Mormons and polygamy — while simultaneously helping it along by providing additional confusing misinformation on the subject. I give them irony bonus points for this statement:
And despite confusion in some media coverage, there is no relation between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or Mormons, and the polygamist FLDS or Jeffs.
OK, so the two organizations are not affiliated (or even friendly with one another), but is that quite the same thing as no relation? No wonder the media are confused! Also, the sentence directly implies that only the members CoJCoL-dS — not the FLDS — use the nickname “Mormon” (false). And I had to read it twice to get that they’re not actually claiming that FLDS members are commonly called “Jeffs” — creative!
Then — in a surprising new strategy — Joanna Brooks and the Washington Post decided to try printing accurate information! Or pretty good, anyway. Go read her article, and assess it for yourself, and see if you agree with my grades:
1. Mormons practice polygamy. my grade: A
Brooks’s explanation is probably the clearest and most accurate explanation of polygamy and the modern LDS church that I’ve ever read from a faithful member of the CoJCoL-dS. Deseret News, take note!
2. Mormons arent Christians. my grade: C
Brooks correctly implies that this is a battle that centers around the Religious Right. However, I think she’s missing the boat by not discussing the various possible definitions of “Christianity”. Her explanation seems to chalk the whole dispute up to personal/historical animosity. Special [negative] bonus points for earnestly using the term “anti-Mormon” — without a single mention of how loaded that term is in Mormon circles.
3. Most Mormons are white, English-speaking conservatives. my grade: D
From its American beginnings, Mormonism has grown into a global religion, with 14.1 million members worldwide. Fewer than half live in the United States. More LDS Church members live in South America (about 2.1 million) than Utah (1.9 million).
14.1 million members worldwide? Really? How many of those self-identify as Mormon?
Brooks knows how problematic those numbers are, yet recites them in myth-busting article without a single hint about how far the CoJCoL-dS official numbers differ from reality. Other relevant points that neglected to mention include (1) how the leadership of this extremely hierarchical organization is overwhelmingly dominated by white, English-speaking, conservative men, and (2) active Mormons are the most politically right-wing religious group in the US.
4. Mormon women are second-class citizens. my grade: B
This section is actually pretty good. My biggest beef is with the title. Brooks seems to be implying that women are not second-class citizens in the LDS church. I think she’s using a rather strange definition of “second-class citizen”:
It is true that mainstream Mormonism does not accord women equal status with men. The worldwide LDS Church chain of command including all positions of clerical, institutional and fiscal authority is entirely male. Women cannot hold the lay priesthood shared in by men age 12 and older. The churchs Proclamation on the Family declares that men preside over the household. Unequal gender language is also a part of Mormon temple worship and marriage ceremonies.
5. A Mormon president would blur the line between church and state. my grade: D
Maybe one would, maybe one wouldn’t, but (as in #3) she misses some key points. When making the comparison with Kennedy, she might have also mentioned some differences between Kennedy’s affirmation of the separation of church and state and Romney’s speech about how he’s just as religious as every other good American. Also — even if you think the temple loyalty oath isn’t important — it is a real, legitimate concern, and it’s disingenuous not to even mention it in this context. Then (this is nit-picky, but):
It should be remembered that Mormons have held local, state and federal offices in America for more than a century. Fifteen Mormons now serve in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and few seemed to worry that the LDS Church was influencing his debt-ceiling proposals.
This historical information isn’t very helpful without some discussion of how well the Mormons holding “local, state and federal offices in America for more than a century” did at maintaining the line of separation between church and state.
What do you think?