Romney and Religion
Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy has brought Mormonismâ€”and the role of religion in politicsâ€”into the spotlight in some interesting ways. His candidacy is revealing of some of the fault lines both in Mormon culture and in the American political environment.
The Mormon church has long had a confused approach to its identity as the only true church. Obviously, the belief that God told Joseph Smith that all other religious sects were abominations in his sight is something that’s not going to sit well with people of other faiths. You can’t really get around this particular problem, since the story of Joseph’s first interaction with God the Father and Jesus Christ, referred to by Mormons as the “First Vision,” is sacrosynct, essentially the core of the religion. What you can do is attempt to smooth it over with ecumenical nicety and soothing words about shared goals.
Early in its history, stinging from persecution and having fled to the “wilderness,” Mormons relished and celebrated their differences from the rest of the world, religious and otherwise. When the continuing westward migration caused the saints to again be surrounded by gentiles, the fledgling theocracy was forced to deal once again with the realities of sociopolitics, including the literal threat of invasion, and pragmatism prevailed, then and ever since. In private, you can badmouth the rest of the world. In public, you can try to convert them, but you have to play nice and at least go through the motions of getting along. That private/public schizophrenia has stayed with Mormons ever since, and has been brought to the forefront once again with Romney’s candidacy. Aren’t you the people who insist on being totally different from other Christiansâ€”a peculiar people, with peculiar views and a peculiar set of scriptures? Oh no, we’re just like you, Brother. Praise Jesus!
Politically, Romney’s Mormonism has renewed the debate about whether a candidate’s religion is a suitable topic for public discourse. Romney’s “religion” speech was widely compared to JFK’s speech about the role Catholicism would play in his presidency, but there was one very significant difference: Kennedy’s answer was simple: none. There will be no overlap between my religious views and my political career, Kennedy insisted. Romney’s answer was considerably more convoluted, because he claimed that religion absolutely will be an important part of his political view, just as it is an essential part of his personal view, but just not in any of the bad ways you evangelical Christians fear. I’m just like you, Brother. Praise Jesus!
Privately, many Mormons are, if anything, slightly annoyed that Romney feels the need to put any distance between his religious convictions and his political views (they assume, probably wrongly, that he, like they, needs no such distance, at least internally), but they’re willing to cut him some slack, recognizing that most Americans have long been skittish about religions they don’t understand, which is nearly anything that’s not mainstream Protestantism. Mormons are willing to put up with a little intrusive, and even insulting, public inspection if it serves the greater good: the (inevitable, in their view) ascendance of Mormonism, a rising tide that will be lifting their boats as well.
Unlike some observers, Mormon and non-Mormon, who think that far too much has been made of Romney’s Mormonism, I think that his faith is not only fair game as a topic of political conversation, but very significant. Surely if a politician’s foibles are worth examining (and they clearly are, historically speaking), then core convictions are all the more so, as they inform and guide a candidate’s choices more than anything else. Of course, some things matter more than others, when it comes to public discourse. The doctrinal particulars of one’s beliefs are relevant only where they touch on matters of public policy. Mormonism really has very little to say about fiscal policy, for example, but a great deal to say about matters of social equality, particularly for women and anyone who favors anything other than monogamous heterosexuality. Mormonism also has a tainted past and some difficult-to-explain scriptural content on racial matters as well. To the extent that Romney is unwilling to put some distance between himself and his church on these matters, they’re good reasons to be concerned about his social policy.
Another concern I have about Romney, however, and his association with the Mormon church, its history, doctrine, and culture, is the strong authoritarian bent Mormons have always cultivated. Mormonism has evolved from a charismatic sect, centered on personality, to something much more bureaucratic in nature, centered on absolute and unquestionable authority. “Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest,” wrote one of the church’s pre-eminent theological forces, Bruce R. McConkie. This tendency in Mormon culture bothers me not because I think that Romney will be beholden to the leaders of the LDS church, in the way that people feared that electing a Catholic might make us a country subject to the whims of the Pope, but because it’s a mindset that lends itself to abuse. A government led by someone who is accustomed to following and being followed, depending on one’s place in the hierarchy, is one far less likely to be operated on the principles of openness and accountability. After all, Mormons don’t question their leaders, much less ask to look under the hood of the organization, unless they wish to risk being expelled from the society that makes up so much of their everyday lives.
Unfortunately, my fears about Romney, and the kind of government he would preside over aren’t just based on idle speculation, either. In a survey given to all the candidates about the scope of presidential power, the Romney campaign laid claim powers that go well beyond even those pursued by the Bush administration, which has pushed hard against all possible boundaries of presidential power, aided and abetted by the climate of fear created after the 9/11 attacks. In essence, a Romney administration would be one, according to his own answers, almost completely unfettered by law, treaties, or congressional oversight, as long as he felt he was pursuing the aims of the office in protecting the interests of the people. Mormonism is not a religious tradition that’s particularly kind to rational discourse. Sure, you can say your piece, but once the prophet has spoken, the conversation is over. Would the same apply to the president if the office were controlled by Romney? It’s a question that’s worth asking.
If there’s any ray of sunshine in all this it’s that a) Romney is unlikely to get the Republican nod, and even if he were, is unlikely to get elected, given the current political climate, now that the Bush administration’s approval ratings have dipped so low; and b) in the unlikely case that Romney could both win the Republican nomination and the general election, he’s a person of such low integrity that it could be difficult to predict what he might do, since what he says and what he does not infrequently bear only a passing resemblance to one another; when a candidate promises to be an intolerant and tyrannical president and then wins, the best you can hope for is that he’s prevaricating, or at the very least exaggerating.
Well, that pretty much sums up what’s been bugging me for the past year about being Mormon and what to do about it. Meh…
Nice post. I particularly liked the discussion of the authoritarian nature of Mormonism and how that might play into Mitt’s administrative approach – don’t ask question, don’t look for answers, just do as your told. Scary!
Yeah Mormonism is really authoritarian. It’s probably easier to herd cats than to get a group of Mormons to do something that they don’t want to. Mormons have mastered ‘passive resistance’ as far as I’m concerned.
Besides, I think that studies have been done to show that following authority is a trait shared by many humans regardless of their religious affiliation.
Exmoron, (and I ask out of curiosity more than anything and because you are a sociologist and more likely to know about such things) are you aware of any studies that show that people who belong to highly-structured religious organizations tend to follow orders more than those who do not belong to such groups?
That’s a good point, dpc. The authoritarian elements of Mormon theology have certainly been constrained by the United States government. However, the fact remains that Mormonism does validate authoritarianism, so much so, that many believers divorce a dissenting spouse at the drop of a hat.
We also have a number of reports where dissenters have lost businesses because the Mormon community has been boycotting them. Unfortunately, some of us have also experienced violence at the hands of believers against our property, our bodies, and most often against our children. The latter is actually quite common.
Finally, our leaders continue to reenact Galileo Galilei in the twenty-first century. Not even the Catholic Church does that anymore.
These acts of violence invoke an irrational epistemology of feelings, which in turn buttresses a problematic notion of authority.
Thank heavens, the LDS Church is not sovereign. If it were not for the United States government, I don’t want to know how far some Mormons might be going.
After all, Mormons donâ€™t question their leaders, much less ask to look under the hood of the organization, unless they wish to risk being expelled from the society that makes up so much of their everyday lives.
Mitt Romney built an extremely successful career in the business, financial, and political worlds on the basis of “look[ing] under the hood” of organizations and fixing them so that they became successful, efficient, and profitable. Thus, this criticism of Mitt Romney based on the fact that he has not looked under the hood of the Church to dismantle it and restructure it is misplaced and draws from a category mistake that seems common among those, such as the anonymous author of this post, criticizing Mitt Romney because of his religion. In short, Mitt Romney’s membership in the Church has nothing to do with whether he will be a good leader of a thriving democracy. His membership in the Church says nothing about whether he will be an inventive leader (all of his career experience suggests otherwise) who looks under the hood of an organization and institutes the necessary changes to turn the organization around.
None of this means that you or anyone else should vote for Mitt Romney but rather that this criticism of him based on his membership in the Church is invalid.
Mitt Romney knows how to separate his religious devotion from his job — as suggested by his successful career in business and politics far outside areas with any Mormon influence. As core principles informing his worldview, his religion will affect his decisions and actions on an ethical level the same way that anyone else’s religion or secular worldview would.
“We also have a number of reports where dissenters have lost businesses because the Mormon community has been boycotting them.”
It sounds like the anonymous author of this post is boycotting someone because of their religion. It looks like not much changes in the way someone behaves when they leave the Church, does it Hellmut?
Hellmut, you continually posit that the Church is engaged in “acts of violence” by ignoring or disciplining those among the members who are criticizing the Church. (Note that “disciplining” here does not mean any kind of corporeal punishment but rather curtailment of membership status.)
It is not ideal for the Church to discipline its members based on their criticism of Church policies or of the leaders. The Church should be confident and strong enough in its faith and doctrines to embrace those members who criticize, insult, ridicule, or even hate the Church. But if it is the case that the Church is engaged in “acts of violence” when it curtails membership status of members based on criticism, then what are you engaged in when you ridicule, insult, and harass the Church and the beliefs of its members? It could be argued that your activities are just as much “acts of violence” against the Church and its members as actions of the Church in curtailing membership status of members critical of the Church.
follow up to Hellmut:
Sometimes, as in my case, the divorce that “TMBs” initiate is filled with Hatred, Greed, & Deceit… what does the LDS church do with those?
They Ratify them, of course!
It was never my intention to be anonymous. Somehow that tag carries a certain amount of weight with you, with the clearly implied subtext “coward.” So just to set the record straight, my name is Robert Raleigh. I actually thought that when we started this that our “handles” would be linked to some kind of profile or something.
But anyway, the fact that Romney has succeeded in business (something I don’t concede anyway, as I have no idea how much of his wealth he inherited to begin with) certainly does nothing to ease my mind about his authoritarian tendencies (and ditto anyone else who came from the business world). The business world is no model of egalitarianism. As for his track record as a governor, I can’t really say much, because I don’t know all that much about his record. But, as I pointed out, I’m not just speculating–he’s on the record as having very authoritarian views vis a vis the presidency.
Also, you failed to address any of my complaints about the sexism, racism, and homophobia perpetuated by the Mormon church, and how his ties to that ideology might affect his policy choices. I might be heartened by the fact that he demonstrated some policies favorable to people of any sexual orientation while governor of Massachusetts if he weren’t going to such great lengths to disavow them in his current campaign.
“Also, you failed to address any of my complaints about the sexism, racism, and homophobia perpetuated by the Mormon church, and how his ties to that ideology might affect his policy choices.”
Since when did the President rather than Congress get to make the domestic policy choices? Congress decides who gets the money, so they get to set the agenda. Nothing the President wants domestically will come to fruition without Congressional backing. Look at how hard Bush tried to reform immigration and how successful he was at that.
The area over which the President has the most sway is over foreign affairs. If Romney’s religion is going to influence that particular aspect of the Presidency, we need to know about that.
I must disagree in part. The president sets a wide variety of agency priorities and agendas. While congress may make laws, it is the president who controls the massive government bureaucracy that carries them out, and this is no small matter when it comes to how laws are executed, which ones are given more emphasis, and how priorities are set. Historically, the presidency has been growing in power ever since this country’s founding.
And as long as we’re on the subject of foreign policy, I believe that the millenarian, apocalyptic views of most Mormons make for some scary possibilities in foreign policy. If you think the world is going to end in a mighty conflagration, doesn’t that make it that much more likely that you’d be willing to take foreign policy risks that move the world in that direction? In this area, I’m totally speculating, because I have no idea about Romney’s foreign policy views, but I do think that George Bush’s religious viewpoint has contributed to his disastrous foreign policy decisions, and that Romney’s views could be dangerous to our country as well.
Let’s just hope that Romney isn’t fixated on maintaining the purity of our precious bodily fluids.
Haha. I need to watch that movie again sometime. It’s been far too long.
A candidate for the presidency is not required to submit a catalogue of errors for his religion.
Romney’s religion is just his religion — he knows how to function among people who do not share his religious beliefs. It is a blaring non sequitur to argue that because Romney’s Church is, in your opinion, authoritarian, Romney will be an authoritarian President. If disagreements exist about Romney’s philosophy of executive power in the context of American politics, then those can be addressed without reference to Romney’s religion.
dpc, the “godfather” of research on authoritarianism is Bob Altemeyer, a Canadian who has literally published “the book” on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_Authoritarianism
John, a couple of responses…
You said, “It sounds like the anonymous author of this post is boycotting someone because of their religion.”
I like that you brought this up because I had a thought yesterday and I think it is relevant. People keep saying that religion should not be relevant to someone’s potential as a politician. But I disagree. How many of us would vote for Osama bin Laden for President or even for schoolboard? What you are really saying is, “as long as they aren’t some “radical religious nutjob” than you should consider voting for them based on other criteria.” I can mostly get behind that, but it depends on what you mean by radical religious nutjob. Joseph Smith was clearly a radical religious nutjob by my standards, and if Mitt Romney truly believed what Smith did, there is no way I’d vote for him. Romney claims he does, but he doesn’t. So, I think he should admit he’s a mostly secular, flip-flopping politician and try to garner votes that way.
You said, “Thus, this criticism of Mitt Romney based on the fact that he has not looked under the hood of the Church to dismantle it and restructure it is misplaced and draws from a category mistake that seems common among those, such as the anonymous author of this post, criticizing Mitt Romney because of his religion.”
This is riddled with logical fallacies. First, you use an ad hominem to attack the author – claiming anonymity is cowardice. That’s is completely irrelevant to the argument. You also create a strawman. qzed never said Romney was authoritarian because he hadn’t seriously considered Mormonism and left it. qzed said that Romney belonged to a pro-authoritarian religion which implies he is pro-authoritarian. Logical fallacy number two.
You then follow with a non sequitur, claiming religion is irrelevant (which my first comment illustrated is not true). You then make a bald-faced assertion claiming that Romney knows how to separate his religious devotion from his job, which is actually specious – how do you know that and why would that even be the case? Are you saying you cannot be a good business person if you are a Mormon. I don’t think any critics of Mormonism on here would even claim that 😉
I do, however, agree that it is erroneous to claim that Mitt would be authoritarian because his religion is (which is a concession on your part that Mormonism is authoritarian). This is an example of the ecological fallacy, that because you belong to a group that is statistically X you too must be X. That is a fallacy. But qzed pointed out how Romney is authoritarian. Which means he is, at the very least, illustrating correlation (maybe not causation). So, I wouldn’t consider that a non sequitur – it very well may follow (and we know from Bob Altemeyer’s work that it does) that members of conservative religions tend to be authoritarian.
I welcome you to the blog, john f., but be prepared to have your logically fallacious arguments attacked 🙂
First, you use an ad hominem to attack the author – claiming anonymity is cowardice.
I never claimed anonymity is cowardice — those are your words which you are attributing to me, which is a logical fallacy.
You also create a strawman. qzed never said Romney was authoritarian because he hadnâ€™t seriously considered Mormonism and left it.
This is either an unintentional misreading of what I have written or an intentionally fallacious mischaracterization of what I have written. qzed specifically stated the following:
I quoted this specific sentence and responded to it as follows:
This argument is not a strawman but your characterization of my argument in your comment # 15 is a nice textbook example of one. You claimed that I argued in the portion I have quoted above that qzed said that “Romney was authoritarian because he hadnâ€™t seriously considered Mormonism and left it.” As the portion quoted above shows, my statement was directly to the point about looking under the hood of an organization, which was an argument made by qzed; specifically, qzed argued that Mormons don’t question their leaders or “look under the hood of the organization”. My response, quoted above, illustrated the irony of qzed’s criticism considering the fact that looking under the hood of organizations and rationalizing them into productive and efficient entities is what Romney is particularly known for and good at. It is irrelevant whether Mormons in general question their leaders or look under the hood of the organization of the Church or whether Romney has taken this approach to the Church. This is neither a strawman, nor specious, nor any other kind of fallacy. It is a valid response to qzed’s reasoning about what Romney’s religion means for his competency as Chief Executive.
The authoritarianism point is another matter and does not derive from specious reasoning, although a strong case can be made that qzed’s accusations about Romney’s religion and its implications for authoritarianism as President are not only erroneous, as you agree, but indeed specious. You noted that even if the Church is authoritarian then that does not mean that Mitt Romney is authoritarian. But you then validated qzed’s line of argument anyway by noting that qzed is pointing out correlation even if qzed fails to establish causation. This is based on the fact that qzed made the following claim:
The readers of this blog, if any are actually so inclined to read the survey linked in the original post, will have to decide for themselves if this is an accurate, good-faith summary of Romney’s survey answers. Simple logic, however, suggests otherwise — that it is a reductivist description of Romney’s views and displays a high degree of attribution from the author rather than an accurate representation of the survey. Could it really be an accurate description to state that Romney believes that his Administration would be “almost completely unfettered by law, treaties, or congressional oversight, as long as he felt he was pursuing the aims of the office in protecting the interests of the people”? It is unlikely that such an extremist view could be voiced in the centrist democracy we have in the United States.
Interestingly, showing that qzed is off-base with this attribution to Romney is one area where Romney’s Mormonism could actually be relevant: it is possible that, if he is a believing Mormon, he shares a common Mormon belief that elevates the Constitution to quasi-scriptural status as a document inpired of God, meaning that if he shares this tenet of the Mormon faith, he would believe that the checks and balances, including all restraints on the executive branch built into the document (and arguably in Supreme Court caselaw unpacking the information in the document), are inspired by God and therefore to some degree inviolate.
John (to continue our debating from the other post)…
On the anonymity issue. True, you didn’t say “anonymity = cowardice,” but why did you bring it up if not to imply it? If you didn’t mean to imply it, problem solved. We drop that one.
The second point is an unintentional misreading. I had to go back and look at exactly what both of you said. You have carefully parsed one element of qzed’s post – saying that people don’t look under the hood of Mormonism and then used that to claim that Mitt does look under organizational hoods. When I read your summarized version I thought what was being said was not an examination of the organizational structure but an examination of the “dirty secrets” of Mormonism’s past. Those are very different arguments. So, my mistake.
As for the authoritarianism argument, I don’t think you are reading things correctly. As I noted earlier, Altemeyer has illustrated that members of conservative religions tend to be far more authoritarian than members of liberal religions (or the non-religious). The ecological fallacy is when you assume that a statistic applies to every member of a group. But the statistic is derivable precisely because many members of a group share that characteristic. So, it can accurately be said, “Mitt Romney, as a member of a conservative religion, is more likely to be authoritarian in his views.” It cannot be said, “Mitt Romney is authoritarian because Mormons are authoritarian and he is Mormon.” It also cannot be said that “Mitt Romney is authoritarian because he is Mormon.” It could just as accurately be said that “Mitt Romney is Mormon because he is authoritarian.” The trick is the causal argument. In short, qzed did illustrate correlation – Mitt and Mormonism are authoritarian. But he cannot assert causation (e.g., Hellmut is a Mormon and not particularly authoritarian).
I read through Mitt’s answers. He sounds authoritarian to me:
Q. Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?
A. The Bush Administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11. The Administrationâ€™s strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact.
If Bush is authoritarian, and I think he is, Romney is. But we can agree to disagree on that.
As for the Constitution being inviolate (and quasi-religious), that is still a matter of interpretation. What Bush interprets the Constitution to mean is a far cry from what Dennis Kucinich interprets it to mean (or the ACLU or EFF for that matter).
In short, if Mitt is authoritarian, and his religion is authoritarian, I don’t think it is absurd to think they may be related. I don’t think you can make a causal argument, no, but there is a correlation. And that, to me, is interesting.
Hi John, thanks for your question. If you look up the exact wording, you will find it is “acts of violence at the hands of believers.”
I am thinking of teenagers getting assaulted by believing “friends” because their families have resigned from the LDS Church.
On the DAMU, such reports surface regularly. Unfortunately, I am in no position to verify them but many of these reports seem plausible.
Just think of the lengths that some missionaries have gone to, to prevent their companions from leaving.
Were we supposed to forget or overlook the fact that the Pres is the one who selects (hires & fires) the heads of all the department heads, responsible (?) for enforcement & policy implementation people (remember Brown, the ‘head’ of FEMA?)
GWB often if not daily circumvents the laws & intent of congress by legal AND extra-legal means.
Air pollution regulations/California/court decisions are the current poster child for this.
GWB & ‘his war’ in Iraq is sending the a few thousand soldiers to death, a few 10’s if not 100s of thousands injured…+ next 4 to 6 generations of americans into debt,if not poverty to fulfill his (& Chaneys) desires. When congress balks, he pouts like a spoiled child.
Isolationists shudder, but GWB is following thru with his dreams of a ‘New World Order’ wherein Democracy (his secretive, non-disclosure/executive driven brand) is ‘the only True government’.
Wish I had some Halliburton stock…. (not really).
I am thinking of teenagers getting assaulted by believing â€œfriendsâ€ because their families have resigned from the LDS Church.
On the DAMU, such reports surface regularly. Unfortunately, I am in no position to verify them but many of these reports seem plausible.
I have seen those claims as well and do not agree that they surface regularly. A few have indeed surfaced and, even if true, do not say anything that could be generalized into a statement about the Church or its beliefs other than that those particular teenagers (such a small number of incidents that they are actually statistically insignificant) were misguided and did a horrible thing — something their parents, neighbors, or anyone in their communities would certainly condemn.
If you look up the exact wording, you will find it is â€œacts of violence at the hands of believers.â€
Having just looked at the exact wording as you suggested, I find the following:
Unfortunately, some of us have also experienced violence at the hands of believers against our property, our bodies, and most often against our children. The latter is actually quite common.
Finally, our leaders continue to reenact Galileo Galilei in the twenty-first century. Not even the Catholic Church does that anymore.
These acts of violence invoke an irrational epistemology of feelings, which in turn buttresses a problematic notion of authority.
In other words, my response to you was on point and did not stem from a misreading of your comment. Your comment cannot be limited to the very isolated accounts, which you have said that you have not been able to verify, about teenagers being assaulted by friends because their families have left the Church, as you have tried to clarify in your comment # 18.
You are playing loose with the meaning of words by accusing the Church of “acts of violence” against dissenters and those who criticize the Church by ignoring or disciplining them. This weakens your arguments and reframes any criticism you might have against the Church as some kind of vendetta. It is not ideal that six people were excommunicated in 1993, ostensibly for what they published about Church leaders, doctrine, or history (although the Church has not made a statement about why they were excommunicated). Everything would be better if that had not happened. But it is debatable whether your very disparaging conclusions about the Church actually follow from this situation. Having said that, however, you have made the right choice to leave the Church if you did not agree with the climate discouraging dissent or criticism that exists within the Church. You need to do what makes you happy. However, millions of other people who believe the truth claims of the Church are happy within the climate of the Church, even if some of them feel that things are not ideal and could be always be improved in numerous ways. Not all criticism leveled at the Church disrespects the intellectual and faith choices of those who remain in the Church, but many that appear here and elsewhere in the DAMU certainly do. This is an interesting approach for people to take who raise as an important criticism that people who remain in the Church do not respect their intellectual and faith choices of those who have left the Church or who do not believe in the truth claims of the Church.
Although speaking in terms of “acts of violence” by the Church against those who do not believe the truth claims of the Church, ridiculing the beliefs of those who have stayed in the Church, slandering individual current Church leaders including with such hyperbolic designations as racists, misogynists, homophobes, tyrants, dictators, even murderers, is mutually reinforcing among some people who have left the Church or who do not believe in the truth claims of the Church, this approach forfeits a lot of credibility among those who remain in the Church, although admittedly it will have scare value for those who might be listening who do not know much about the Church.
Willard reminds me of Eddy Haskell.
The problem with stories of ostracizing of unbelievers at the hands of the faithful is that it’s always hard to tell whether the incident was really religious in character or not.
For instance, we hear of some high school kid getting crap thrown at him after he left the church. Was that because he was an “infidel” or just because he was a loser that no one liked to begin with?
Is the kid simply trying to blame his own social unattractiveness on the LDS Church?
Or were the kids truly motivated by some sort of religious zealotry in their hateful actions?
Or is it a bit of both?
Human relations are complex things. I find most personal anecdotes to be unpersuasive when trying to get the pulse of an organization of any sort. Especially angry, overwrought, emotionally charged anecdotes.
Seth, imagine for a moment what would happen to you if you lived in Orem and resigned from the LDS Church.
I imagine, Hellmut, that this imagination exercise is supposed to bring Seth or others engaging in it to the conclusion that they would be victims of acts of violence.
Hellmut, imagine for a moment what would happen to you if you lived in [random small town in Germany] and you joined the LDS Church.
Does my hypothetical make you vomit and raise the spectre of a Mormon victim mentality? If so, what effect do you suppose your hypothetical has?
Is it possible that Latter-day Saints in Orem, Utah will shy away from family and friends who have left the Church? Yes and that is unfortunate and certainly contrary to the behavioral standards implicit in the doctrines of the Church that recommend following the example of love set by Jesus Christ. Do all Latter-day Saints react this way to family or neighbors leaving the Church? Such a claim would be an unsustainable generalization.
Another factor is whether the person who left the Church in Orem, Utah spoke of the Church, its leaders, and its members in the way that the Church, its leaders, and its members are spoken of on this blog and elsewhere on the internet by some people who have left the Church or who do not believe in the truth claims of the Church. If that is the case, it is only natural for people to have less enthusiasm to spend time around them if they are constantly abusing their religion and intellectual and faith choices.
So perhaps it is a dynamic that works both ways.
I don’t need to imagine becoming a Mormon in Germany, John, because I lived it. It’s a lot easier to be a Mormon in Germany than to be a gentile in most parts of the Mormon corridor.
There is no comparison between converting to Mormonism in Germany and leaving Mormonism in Utah. Remember, if it was up to the LDS Church there would not even be the opportunity to resign from the LDS Church.
If the LDS Church had its way then it would excommunicate people whose conscience does not agree with its tenets and announce their excommunication to the community. In the process, resignees would be identified as sinners.
Resignation is a fruit of the United States Constitution. The LDS Church resisted freedom of conscience until Norman Hancock sued the organization in federal court.
Clearly, discrimination is not just the action of some overeager members. Their actions are fully consistent with the institutional view of resignation as a sin that needs to stigmatized.
Itâ€™s a lot easier to be a Mormon in Germany than to be a gentile in most parts of the Mormon corridor.
Hellmut, reasonable readers will recognize this for the distortion that it is. It is unclear why you resort to such extremes of hyperbole in your attacks on the Church but you could score better points in your effort by avoiding it. People who convert to Mormonism in Germany face de facto disenfranchisement from the political process and civic life in addition to the mere ostracization by neighbors, colleagues, and family. The most people in Utah face in leaving the Church is ostracization by neighbors, colleagues, and family; they retain the full range of priviliges vis-a-vis the political process and civic participation and many are even quite successful in political and civic life despite their choice to leave the Church. In truth, instances in which inviduals are ostracized by neighbors, colleagues, and family for a decision to leave the Church are much more isolated than is often claimed. In most cases family is indeed sad because religion means a lot to them but still accepts and loves the individual who has made that choice, and still invites that person’s company, at least in inverse proportion to the extent to which that person criticizes, mocks, ridicules, and insults the Church, its leaders, and the religious beliefs of its members when that person spends time with neighbors, colleagues, or family who have remained in the Church. It is a natural dynamic that people start to spend less time and seek fewer opportunities to spend time with people who ridicule and attack their religious beliefs. This is of course not ideal but in the end analysis, this is only natural. I suppose the ideal would be for people who remain in the faith to be willing to take the verbal beating but people just don’t seem to be built that way.
As to those who in fact ostracize people who have left the Church but who nevertheless respect the intellectual and faith choices of those who remain in the Church, this is tragic and certainly contrary to the principles of the Church which emphasize Christlike behavior toward all people, including those who do not share the religious beliefs of Church members.
Religion is important in many places in Utah but leaving the Church in Utah is not much different than leaving a Baptist or other Evangelical creedalist denomination in a small town in the South and joining the Mormon Church. Many such converts face permanent ostracization from neighbors, colleagues, and family, as well as negative repurcussions at work. This is even true in such “open-minded” places as California. Just a couple of days ago I heard the experience of someone whose neighbor initially brought her cookies when she moved into the neighborhood but then hasn’t spoken to her in eight years after finding out she was a Mormon. Following the approach of generalizing from isolated incidents, this incident should be taken as representative of everyone in California and consistent with the principles on which California society is based. But of course that does not reflect reality and it is an example of one person being a jerk out of her own prejudices.
John, I do not know a single Mormon who has been disenfranchised for any reason in Germany. On the contrary, Frerich GÃ¶rtz, the former stake president of the DÃ¼sseldorf stake, was deputy minister in the Federal Postal Ministry in the Kohl administration. I also know several Mormon city council members on liberal and labor tickets.
I don’t know Hellmut, Wilfried over at Times and Seasons might have a different take on this than you.
There is certainly a price to pay if you become Mormon in Germany, Seth, but not in terms of disenfranchisement.
The way to deal with one’s minority status is to get connected in secular ways. I joined a local party chapter and a dueling fraternity. Even before that, I consistently prevailed in pursuit of privilege.
By the way, the situation is exacerbated by the literalist nature of the missionary discussions. Corridor Mormons who are missionaries do not appreciate how converts will relate to their message.
For example, on average converts will associate a much stricter obligation of obedience with the title of a modern day prophet than many corridor Mormons.
You might remember the classic Dialogue (?) essay about Liahona and Iron Rod Mormons. Converts have a much harder time to give themselves permission to deviate from the literal word of the prophet.
Legacy Mormons, on the other hand, have developed a more sensitive culture of what elements of the prophetic message need to be discounted while proclaiming conformity.
That skill isn’t necessarily available to somebody who has not enjoyed a Mormon upbringing, especially as the missionaries are most likely to be successful among people who are least prepared to deal with additional marginalization.
Anyways, I don’t know Wilfried. It would be interesting to see what exactly he is reporting.
He’s a permablogger who lives in the Netherlands.
I think what you are describing represents a pattern in many new converts. My own father converted to the LDS faith while in college at BYU – the first and only member of his family to do so. He is highly orthodox and rigid in his approach to the Church. Anyone who’s read my comments long enough however knows that I’m somewhat different.
Perhaps it’s a lack of experience and nuance. Perhaps it’s a lack of complacency in Gospel approach. Who knows?
In my opinion, it’s taking the missionaries at their word.
I don’t think the GAs, ‘TBMs’ allow different approaches to be considered. In a top-down society, culture, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
I have Never seen any diminution of that approach…