Mormon Times says religion can be bad, but not theirs

Abuse Health Hypocrisy Joseph Smith mormontimes.com

I couldn’t help but stop by MormonTimes.com for this headline, “Elizabeth Smart case shows best and worst of religion’s influence“. I thought since Brian David Mitchell is a splinter from Mormonism the writers at MormonTimes might suggest something really “out there,” like, maybe, Mormonism can, in fact, be bad for humanity if certain ideas and practices are emphasized rather than others. Okay, the odds of that happening are virtually zero. But the headline grabbed my attention. Instead, what we get is efforts to distance Mitchell from Mormonism and even from religion, like the following:

In fact, when Mitchell used his quasi-religious beliefs to justify victimizing Elizabeth Smart, religion itself came under fire.

and

In the local press, some commentators compared Mitchell to Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asserting that Smith also used claims of religious authority to victimize others. If some people have trouble distinguishing the likes of Mitchell from Smith, Smart does not. In her testimony she denounced Mitchell as an evil hypocrite.

The article fails to admit that this assertion – that Mitchell and Smith both did use their religious authority to victimize others – is true, and even in the same way: they claimed divine retribution against girls if they didn’t stick their penis in their vagina. I don’t mean to suggest that Smith and Mitchell are the same; as far as I know Smith never actually abducted any women and raped them over a lengthy period of time. He was a much smoother operator and apparently liked variety over domination. But the method employed wasn’t that different.

The article then turns its focus to how Mormonism has helped Elizabeth Smart cope with her trauma:

Faith in God helped Smart cope with violence, even violence hypocritically perpetrated in God’s name. When asked by KSL-TV why she chose to serve a Mormon mission, Elizabeth said she wanted others to know what she knows: “Whatever could happen to me, whatever happens to me, I will always be with my family,” she said. “I know that there is a God and he loves us, and that no matter what people can take from you or do to you or harm you, they can’t take that away from you.”

I don’t want to dismiss the fact that it does seem to have helped Elizabeth. I’m glad Elizabeth is doing well and I do hope she continues to do well in light of the trauma she suffered.

I just think the phrasing of the article, using qualifiers every time it talks about Mitchell’s religion (“hypocritical”, “quasi-religious,” “quirky”), is interesting. It isn’t uncommon for people to insist that those like them who behave in deplorable ways are, in fact, not like them. My favorite example of this was what a student in one of my classes said when I noted that there are Christian terrorists. The student said, “I’m a Christian. I would never do that. So, they can’t be Christians.” This perfectly illustrates my point: Mormons are, well, Mormons. And since they value their religion and think of it as a good thing, they have a hard time believing that their religion could motivate people to do abhorrent things.

News Flash for the MormonTimes: Religion isn’t necessarily good or bad; it can be used in good ways and bad ways. Religion doesn’t make people good. And quasi-religion doesn’t make them bad. What do you say you add a little nuance to your articles that better reflects reality?

66 thoughts on “Mormon Times says religion can be bad, but not theirs

  1. Holly, I never said that biologism isn’t used against women. Nor have I said that a movement away from biologism requires a movement away from the body. There are plenty of feminist embodiment theorists — my favorite is Elizabeth Grosz. But as much as she concentrates on the body, she still moves beyond it to think about the body in its context.

    In terms of relating gayness to male patterned baldness, my comment here addresses that.

    Chanson, my statement about 1970s feminism might be infuriating and polarizing, but I’m merely referring to the state of feminism as named “feminism” in LDS culture today. It’s being reclaimed by those at FMH and other groups. This “reclaiming” demonstrates that something happened in the history between the Church and American feminist politics: the fight over the ERA, questions of female ordination, etc. I’m merely reporting on the polarization, not saying that the Church and feminism are mutually exclusive. In fact, I stated above that they are not mutually exclusive because of the fact that there is no single feminist position. I agree that there is an infusion of feminist thought in conservative culture.

  2. Yes, Alan, I have been familiar with Grosz for 15 years. The fact that she has well nuanced ideas about embodiment doesn’t do much to improve yours.

  3. Chanson, my statement about 1970s feminism might be infuriating and polarizing, but Im merely referring to the state of feminism as named feminism in LDS culture today. Its being reclaimed by those at FMH and other groups…. Im merely reporting on the polarization, not saying that the Church and feminism are mutually exclusive.

    And from talking with feminists at fMh and other groups, I know that a great many of them have no problem with the statement “[LDS] culture is thoroughly misogynist.”

    It’s not like those of us who were Mormon and alive during the fight over the ERA are unaware of the historic polarization between Mormonism and feminism, or have failed to notice how things have and have not changed. It’s not exactly news, so reporting its existence might not be quite the service you seem to suggest.

  4. I only mentioned Grosz because @47, you made it seem like you hate theory, like it always works against itself. I see now that you don’t believe that.

    Before you said that you would like to live in a world where people can choose whoever they want to be with, and all I’m saying is that perhaps our politics should be geared toward that world, instead of focusing on the present. I can only gather that you’ve pointed me to all the realities of female embodiment as a reminder of those real issues of the present, but I don’t really see how setting femaleness and maleness in stone helps alleviate those issues. Isn’t the problem of Mormon misogyny the fact that male and femaleness are set in stone the way they are — that gender and sex get linked the way they do?

  5. I know that a great many of them have no problem with the statement [LDS] culture is thoroughly misogynist.

    I’m sure you also know just as many who would have a problem with that statement.

    You should probably know that I would also call LDS culture “thoroughly misogynist” depending on my audience. But I’m just curious if you ever engage in middle-ground politics or if you find it to have little to no value.

  6. Sorry for the duplicate comment–want to fix the formatting. (It’s very early.)

    Im sure you also know just as many who would have a problem with that statement.

    Well, duh. Thats one reason I made my statement here instead of there. Although I have a lot of friends from fMh with whom I discuss feminism, and though I try very hard to support them in my published work, I dont read or comment there.

    You should probably know that I would also call LDS culture thoroughly misogynist depending on my audience.

    Really? You would make a blanket statement that seems, as you put it in #37, unhelpful?

    But Im just curious if you ever engage in middle-ground politics or if you find it to have little to no value.

    Of course I engage in middle-ground politics, and of course I also shape my statements to fit my audience.

    MSP is an audience where I figure its pretty safe to call the church thoroughly misogynist, as well as a place where I figure its appropriate to call someone out for recoiling in shocked horror and acting like MSP is NOT a safe place to call the church thoroughly misogynist.

  7. Before you said that you would like to live in a world where people can choose whoever they want to be with, and all Im saying is that perhaps our politics should be geared toward that world, instead of focusing on the present.

    Given that we don’t know what will happen between the present and the point when we get to that future you/I want, I think that’s foolish.

    Of course we should have goals and work toward them, but our efforts need to start from the present and move forward, and instead of starting in the future and working backward. We aren’t ever entirely able to understand the present moment, but we certainly understand it a lot better than we understand the future.

  8. Really? You would make a blanket statement that seems, as you put it in #37, unhelpful?

    Notice I said “seems,” which leaves the door open. =)

    In terms of future goals, we shape the future.

  9. Really? You would make a blanket statement that seems, as you put it in #37, unhelpful?

    Notice I said seems, which leaves the door open. =)

    Great. But next time you might just skip the step of calling into question the validity of both a general rhetorical strategy and a specific statement you will later acknowledge are in certain contexts (and this is one of them) thoroughly valid. It saves time, and makes you look smarter.

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