A Mormon By Any Other Name
by Johnny Townsend
A Mormon by any other name would smell as sweet. Or, more accurately, a Mormon by any other name would smell as saccharine.
I don’t mean to sound offensive. That’s always the trick, isn’t it? Not sounding offensive.
It’s perfectly okay to be offensive, though, right? “I love you but I hate your sin of homosexuality, so you can’t bring your ‘friend’ to dinner.”
Granted, we should be happy when Mormons use the word “homosexuality.” Just as they tend to bristle when people label their religion a “cult,” gays and lesbians don’t like being called “people suffering from same-sex attraction.”
LGBTQ folk shouldn’t feel singled out, however. Black skin used to be “the mark of Cain.” For over 150 years, “pure and delightsome” characters in the Book of Mormon were described as “white and delightsome.” That particular book of scripture used to be a record of the Lamanites, indigenous people known by most others as Native Americans. And it used to be about all Native Americans, but now Lamanites are considered to be “among” the original inhabitants of the Americas, and the book is definitely no longer a “history.”
Speaking of scriptural adjustments, the Book of Abraham until recently was a “translation” of the papyri Joseph Smith purchased. Now, with evidence that the actual translation is vastly different, Church leaders say Joseph’s version was merely “inspired” by the Egyptian funerary text.
Words matter. That’s President Nelson’s reason for insisting we no longer use the word “Mormon.” What used to be a proud nickname embraced by the “I’m a Mormon!” campaign, and reflected in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, mormon.org, Mormon Newsroom, and countless other official Church terminology, is now a “slur.”
It’s that insistence on “correct” usage that is so maddening both for Mormons and those who interact with them regularly. When a Disciplinary Council is labeled a Court of Love, when enabling sexual predators is described as “protecting the name of the Church,” when gender discrimination is explained as “we all have different roles,” people are not fooled.
“I say people. You say apostate.” Come on, sing along.
After “anti-Mormon lies” are verified, Mormons change their claim to, “The Church has always taught that.” When embarrassing facts are hidden on the Church’s website, often only decipherable if one looks up the references in the footnotes to see the actual information, Mormons call this “transparency.”
Words matter. They can be used to illuminate. They can be used to obfuscate. And they can be used to oppress.
Kicking out one’s gay child isn’t “tough love.” It’s heartless cruelty. Keeping non- member family away from a temple wedding isn’t a matter of “worthiness.” It’s both a form of punishment and a means of control.
The list of deceptive and manipulative terms used by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could go on and on. The “Church,” by the way, is actually a corporation. That’s not a slur. It’s a fact. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Some people like roses. Others like Shakespearean plays. And some prefer Bible fan fiction.
That’s all fine. People like what they like. They believe what they believe. But let’s call a spade a spade. Mormonism by any other name would smell like nutrient-rich fertilizer. Oh, who the frack are we kidding? You know what it smells like.
I love this. Thanks, Johnny.
Words make a world of difference. One of the most disturbing sights during the last priesthood session was seeing a bunch of mostly white men stand for the congregation hymn and sing about being the chosen race and then sing about the heathen nations. (Come, O Thou King of Kings) We still sing about how Ephraim (historically associated with Europeans) will be crowned with his blessings in Zion (Spirit of God). Any other church singing about how white people will be blessed and about the chosen race would cause a stir, but Mormons are very used to racist and sexist language. It is in our hymns, our lessons and preached over the pulpit.