The Hammer of Judgment – What Would You Say?

My last post: Gay Trees and Gadianton Robbers gotseveral comments on my own blog. One, which I took from an email that was sent by a former classmate in high school, was pretty forceful. You can see the original post, and my response in the comments section here.

I am less interested in my personal response, but more about howyou would respond if someone left a comment like this on your blog. When there is a comment like this, does it matter whether you are a current or ex-member, or would your response be the same whatever your status with the church? If the person leaving it was a current or former member, would the difference change how you would address it?

So, how do you deal with people who are obvioiusly not in agreement with something you wrote?

I like you, but I REALLY hate it when you talk about politics. It was bad enough in high school when you read communist stuff and Godless philosophers. There is NO REASON for anyone to read things that go against the scriptures.
You always said the reason you read all the weird stuff was because you needed to understand it to be a good debater. You aren’t debating now, and still you make fun of people who are working for GOD. Romney was a BISHOP! Obama has never held a calling or made a lemonade stand. Romney was a STAKE PRESIDENT! Obama hasn’t ever been a good enough person for God to give him any responsibility.
Julia, it is time for you to stop being STUPID. You are too smart to let Satan tell you what to say and do. You should be telling everyone the Truth. God gave you your talents and the gospel and church gave you the Truth.
You need to do the RIGHT thing, instead of just trying to be popular to a bunch of apostates, liberals, and other people who offend God! I am calling you to repentance and I hope that you can still hear the Holy Ghost enough to go what YOU know is RIGHT!
I am emailing this to you because I KNOW you WON’T let anyone who agrees with you have a comment on your posts. You just want everyone to tell you that you are wonderful. You might think your post is funny, but really it is just a MOCKERY OF GOD!

So, what would you say, if this comment showed up on your blog? Would you delete, or let it stay?

Would you vote for a Mormon for president?

An article in Slate argues that anti-Mormonism is part of the next frontier of prejudice in this country. While the Republican presidential candidates have been quick to condemn anti-black prejudice (such as the word “Niggerhead” painted onto a rock at Perry’s family’s leased hunting camp) — because it’s easy to attack the bigotry of one’s grandparents — they’ve sat on their hands when Romney’s faith was called a “cult” and not Christian. Not to mention they also sat on their hands when a gay soldier was booed.

 

The article points to national polls that demonstrate Americans are open to electing someone who is black, a woman, a Catholic, a Jew, Latino (all of these scored lower in the “less likely to support” column). The Pew Research Center suggests “gender, race and ethnicity are not major factors” in influencing people’s voting decisions. Still, people are less likely to vote for a Mormon, a homosexual, a Muslim, an atheist, someone who had an extramarital affair, or someone who smoked marijuana in the past. Of all of these, atheism drew the highest disdain.

I feel this numerical analysis is lacking. It doesn’t get to the depth needed to address this new “frontier of prejudice.” If we remember, Dallin Oaks gave a speech in 2009 comparing past anti-black prejudice to present-day anti-Mormon prejudice in society after the Prop 8 fight. The speech drew condemnation because the Church is prejudiced toward gays (anyone who actively “acts on their same-sex attraction” won’t be baptized because same-sex intimacy is said to be an “abomination”) and historically toward blacks (Oaks failed to mention the difference in degree of the prejudice, plus the Church’s own history of prejudice toward blacks), etc.

Below the Slate article, a commenter writes:

Race is not a choice; religion is.

The Mormon faith includes steadfast condemnation of those who “practice” homosexuality, and until recently didn’t allow blacks full membership. They also believe that the Constitution will “hang by a thread,” and only a Mormon can save it. They also pledge in their temples to give everything and anything to uphold their church, even their own lives if necessary. Women are allowed only in secondary positions of leadership; the entire “top tier” of leaders are men.

Romney has a choice to believe or not believe these things. He has been through the Mormon temple, so he has made those commitments to the Mormon church.

Being apprehensive about someone who has chosen these, and many other similarly discomfiting, beliefs is not bigotry. It’s being concerned about someone’s choices and allegiances, and that we should feel very free to question a future President about.

This led a Mormon to offer the following logical analysis:

Not the same thing, apples and oranges. Race is not a choice; religion is.

Sorry, but in this case, that difference doesn’t matter. If you say you won’t for a Mormon, what you’re saying is:

(1) Person X is a Mormon
(2) All Mormons have the same views on certain critical issues.
(3) I don’t agree with those views.
(4) Therefore, I could never vote for a Mormon

But premise (2) is just false. It’s false that all blacks think alike, or that all women think alike. Just because someone is a member of a certain group doesn’t mean that all people in that group think alike.

The same is true of Mormons — not all Mormons think alike. If you disagree with that, you’re pre-judging someone because of the group they are a part of. Or, in other words, you are prejudiced.

I would say that if one educates oneself about what Mormons do believe (as opposed to holding stereotypes, like thinking they’re all polygamous — although I’d say some Mormons are polygamous), then it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a Mormon to believe something until the candidate makes clear that he or she doesn’t agree with the Church on a specific issue. As much as it’d be nice to think that religious beliefs and policy decisions don’t overlap, they do.

* * *

Certain aspects of anti-Mormonism today can be compared to race-based prejudice, but perhaps not in the way Dallin Oaks would like. For example, if we look at anti-polygamy discourse in the 19th century, Mormons were compared with polygamous Africans and Asians to make a case for how “un-American” they were. Today, the fact that anti-polygamy discourse still haunts Mormonism shows that the stereotype stays alive not only because of misinformation, but because people are intentionally engaged in a kind of nation-defining discourse.

On the progressive side of things, we want a nation where (and therefore a leader who) believes that gays should be given rights of marriage, women can be in the same spaces of leadership men can be, and so on. But even these beliefs overlap with certain prejudices — for example, some have argued that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell points to a new historical moment where Western nations use their money and military might to punish homophobic non-Western nations. Muslims and Africans continue to be stereotyped as “backward.”

* * *

Anyhow, the point of this post is that numerical analysis won’t be enough to address these “new” prejudices, since they overlap with the old and with each other.

“Do Mormons eat hot dogs?”

Did you know asking a Mormon this question is “religiously antagonistic” and can lead Mormons to take a “defensive posture”? So declares John Enslen, a Mormon lawyer in Alabama in a recent article in the Deseret News.

The context for the question is that Mr. Enslen is talking about ways to counter “anti-Mormonism.” I’ll return to his claimed remedy for anti-Mormonism below, but I want to spend a little time on what appears to be his interpretation of what it means to be “anti-Mormon.” Given that he frames the question, “Do Mormons eat hot dogs?” as an anti-Mormon statement (though he seems to suggest this is a mild-form of such sentiment), the implication is that Mr. Enslen equates ignorance of Mormonism, generally, with anti-Mormonism, as only someone who knows little about the religion would ask, “Do Mormons eat hot dogs?” Thus, if you don’t know much about Mormons, that, apparently, makes you an anti-Mormon, especially if you ask a Mormon to tell you about what they do.

I’m sure he would also agree that most of the regulars here at MSP are EXTREME anti-Mormons because we know a fair amount about the religion, but we are critical of it.

Let me summarize, then, the position of Mr. Enslen when it comes to anti-Mormonism: You’re an anti-Mormon if you don’t know anything about Mormonism and you’re an anti-Mormon if you do but aren’t a believer.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems like his definition of anti-Mormon pretty much includes everyone who is not Mormon. Thus, all that is required, per his definition, for someone to be anti-Mormon is for them to not be Mormon. Excellent. There are about 7 billion anti-Mormons on the planet today, including the millions who have never even heard of the religion, because ignorance is not, apparently, indifference.

The great irony in Mr. Enslen’s position is that, using his own criteria, this makes Mormons anti-every-other-religion. Mormons aren’t known for their Biblical scholarship, knowledge of the differences between various Christian denominations, knowledge of non-Christian religions, or, well, knowledge of pretty much anything except Mormonism (and even that is questionable). And, based on the little they know, they reject all the other religions as the Church of Satan (per the Book of Mormon). So, if Mormons don’t know anything about a religion, their ignorance makes them “anti-whatever-religion.” And if they do know something about another religion but they reject it, that makes them “anti-whatever-religion.” Ergo, Mormons are, by Mr. Enslen’s definition, anti-every-other-religion.

And, just for the sake of search engines, let’s just make a list. Mormons are: anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, anti-Semitic/anti-Jew, anti-Muslim, anti-Bahai, anti-Shinto, anti-Sikh, anti-Jain, etc.

I wonder if this holds for non-religion as well. Are Mormons anti-atheist or anti-agnostic or anti-none or anti-secular humanist despite these not being religions? Given Mr. Enslen’s position, I’m going to say yes. Mormons are anti-anti-Mormons, which includes everyone who is not a Mormon.

Granted, I’m taking Mr. Enslen’s position to extremes here. If he were to stop by this site, he’d probably claim that I have mischaracterized his rather poorly written article. And that’s probably true. But I did take the article at face value, and this was the implication.

But let’s continue with the article. His point was actually to claim that the way to counter anti-Mormonism (which really means convert everyone since that is the only way they can cease to be anti-Mormons) is to live the gospel and be Christ-like. He gives an example from an encounter he had with a prominent banker in his town. The banker asked Mr. Enslen about a pamphlet he had received that talked about how Mormons were notadheringto traditional Christian beliefs but seemed like good people. The banker asked Mr. Enslen for his take on this. Mr. Enslen’s erudite response was, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Why do religious people even bother to use this phrase anymore? Do they not see how it sets them up to be ridiculed?

If the measure of truth of a religion is in the “fruits” or “behaviors” of the members, then I choose Mark Hoffman as the representative of Mormonism upon which I’ll base my views of the religion. Or maybe the Lafferty brothers. Or, well, you get the point. There are plenty of Mormons who have done really terrible things.

I’m sure Mr. Enslen would respond by saying something like, “Those people weren’t really Mormons”. Which is the equivalent of saying:

  • True Mormons are good people.
  • Any people who claim to be Mormons but who are not good people are not true Mormons.
  • Ergo, all Mormons are good people.

This is, of course, known as the “No True Scotsman Fallacy.” Every Mormon MUST be a good person, or they are not “true” Mormons. Thus, in this illogical world, Mr. Enslen’s brilliant response works: His banker friend will no doubt be very impressed by any Mormon he meets because they are all good people.

Mr. Enslen, a word…

Rather than consider all non-Mormons anti-Mormons;

And rather than believe that you can determine the truthfulness of something by observing the behavior of those who believe it;

Why not just let other people believe what they want, not treat them like people who are out to get you, and just try to live a good life?

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?

Sunday in Outer Blogness: in or out edition!

This past week the blogworld spent a lot of time exploring that mysterious region we inhabit — not completely in the orbit of the CoJCoL-dS, but not totally outside the Mormon community either. Back before the Internet, it was so easy for members to divide the world into three neat-and-tidy categories: faithful Mormons, anti-Mormons, and people who haven’t learned about Mormonism (yet). Now what counts as “anti-Mormon” is a matter of heated debate! Now who’s in the club? While some are thinking of resigning or drawing lines in the sand, others are wondering if it might be worth it to stay LDS.

The biggest point of confusion seems to be whether people are happier in the CoJCoL-dS or out of it. Then there’s the whole question of who even qualifies as Mormon. Can you call yourself Mormon if you’re religiously liberal (and perhaps don’t agree with the lessons in the manual or prefer the old-fashioned naked version of the temple Initiatories)? What if you use marijuana?

But, even the CoJCoL-dS were to change, would we go back? This question isn’t so hypothetical this week! In the wake of the Prop. 8 court ruling (among other good news), an LDS General Authority (Marlin Jensen) apologized for Proposition 8!!! It turns out that Mormons in California had spent a lot of effort discussing the effects of Prop. 8 and meeting with people “who may have been particularly wounded or troubled by Prop. 8.”

But don’t worry folks — hell hasn’t frozen over and the pigs aren’t flying yet! The CoJCoL-dS is not officially apologizing to everyone in general for their institution’s political shenanigans. It’s been clarified that it was just a “personal” apology by one guy (who just happens to be a G.A., but was “speaking as a man” for this), and who only apologized to a select group of people (eg. not to you, dear reader). Even as non-Mormons have a hopeful message for gay teens, the LDS conclusions about homosexuality haven’t changed.

Despite Elder Jensen’s [personal] apology, other LDS leaders haven’t given up on Prop. 8. Elder Oaks made some Constitutional arguments against the ruling. And FAIR LDS claims it’s a “myth” that “large numbers of people are resigning from the church because of Prop 8,” (then, in hopes of proving themselves right, they exclude anyone who they consider to have already “left in spirit” before the Prop.8 fiasco). Read the comments on fMh for some excellent discussion of how something like Prop. 8 can be a critical factor pointing a once-loyal Mormon towards the exit door, without it being the only factor. And once that testimony’s really gone, it’s well-nigh impossible to get it back.

Ah, traditional marriage! You know, the institution where ladies can’t decide whether they need to be performing their “marital duties” (with or without getting stuff from their husbands in exchange). Luckily the men (and sasquatch) have their traditional morale sheep. And if you want to learn more about really traditional Mormon marriage, just watch TLC’s new reality show! On a related note, check out Personal Failure’s discussion of a study which

identified three factors of child sexual abuse as having their roots in the use or misuse of Judeo/Christian tradition: (1) patriarchalism places the man as head of the family and the owner of his wife and children; (2) boundaries between various sexual activities become confused because all sex is considered sinful; (3) sexual activity within families is hidden behind a curtain of secrecy.

*Shudder* After that, I’d like to look at some pretty pictures.

That’s it for this time — I hope you (and your not-necessarily-traditional families) have a great week!! 😀

RE: The Sinister Entity Behind the Christian Facade of Mormonism?

So, this article in OpEdNews popped up in my Google News alerts today: The Sinister Entity Behind the Christian Facade of Mormonism. It’s by a guy named Douglas A. Wallace, who appears to be an embittered ex-Mormon who actually had a rather prominent position at some point in the past – mission architect (per his own bio, mind you). The article appears to be an ad for his book, Under The Mormon Tree.

My first question: Does anyone know anything about this guy? Has anyone heard of him before?

My second question/comment: It seems like it would be a good contribution by MSP to actually dissect the claims he makes in his OpEdNews post. Obviously I don’t want to legitimize a cooky conspiracy theorist if that’s clearly what he is. But I’m not sure if that has been established. So, anyone interested in dissecting his claims?

Here are the claims that seem falsifiable (i.e., we could determine whether or not they are accurate): Continue reading “RE: The Sinister Entity Behind the Christian Facade of Mormonism?”

It’s Time to Play: Anti-Mormon… Or Not?


Here’s my crazy theory about the problem with Mormon Literature:

It’s not that most Mormons want to read something “clean” and uplifting. It’s that the folks who want only clean and uplifting reading are so worried about the possibility of reading or supporting something potentially “anti-Mormon” that they’ll avoid LDS-interest publishers or retailers that sell anything with the slightest whiff of crossing that line. Those readers who are a little more daring — who might be interested in works that are positive, critical, neutral, or ambiguous towards Mormonism — are perfectly happy to buy from Deseret Book, but the ultraconservative part will buy their LDS-interest materials exclusively from (church-approved) Deseret Book. So Deseret Book sops up all of what market exists for Mormon-interest materials, and no one else can get a foothold.

It’s hard for a vibrant artistic tradition to thrive under a production monopoly. Ironically, the lesson-manual standard may hinder a great Mormon work — even a great inspiring, faith-promoting work — from being produced and/or finding an audience.

The serious Mormon Lit folks are aware of the challenge and are ready to try every trick in the book to build up a viable market and distribution network. Ergo, this interesting brainstorming post. Naturally, when discussing a grand Mormon-interest book portal, there’s disagreement over what to do about the “anti-Mormon” stuff. MoJo and Katya propose including everything and then using a rating/filtering system to avoid offending the conservative end. Kent Larsen disagrees, suggesting that at least “anything that is clearly meant to lead members away from the Church” should be excluded.

Naturally, I agree with MoJo and Katya about throwing everything into one pot and then rating it. This is not just out of base self-interest. Rather, as somebody who reads a lot of borderland works, I’ll tell you from experience that it’s really, really, really, really hard to pin down precisely where to draw the line between “anti-Mormon” and “questionable-but-not-anti.” Especially since a work can be kind of “anti” in a lot of different ways. Even with Kent’s definition — which seems so simple! — I contend that it’s not simple at all. It may well be easier to draw a dividing line between Sunday-School-approved and questionable than to draw a line between questionable and “anti”.

However, I’m willing to grant that I may be wrong on this. For fun, I’ve compiled a little list of recent maybe-anti-maybe-not works, and I’d like to know which ones you think truly deserve the title “Anti-Mormon.” I hope I can get responses from some faithful Mormons in addition to getting responses from non-believers. I am absolutely not out to trick or mock believers with this — I’m genuinely curious as to which ones of these you’d say are beyond the pale and which ones you’d grant are Mormon works (but perhaps with a warning flag). And please, everyone, write your own answers before comparing with others. We’ll start with the easy ones and it will get harder: Continue reading “It’s Time to Play: Anti-Mormon… Or Not?”