Reasons Mormons aren’t Liked

Primary season is once again arriving and the news has hit that there probably won’t be one, but two Mormon candidates for President. Romney has all but announced his run for office a second time. With Huntsman quitting as ambassador to China, rumor has spread that he too wants the White House chair. Not surprisingly there have been newspaper articles highlighting the two candidates and how they can never get elected because of their faith. The blame for their lack of a chance is always, and not unreasonably, put on the shoulders of the Religious Right found in Southern States. Assumptions are implied by these articles that secularists and atheists wouldn’t care one way or another beyond political disagreements. Comments made on the Internet news articles prove this isn’t the case. Mormons aren’t liked by just about any group. Surprisingly, reasons expressed for not liking Mormons by both the religious and non-religious are the same.

There is no particular order what might come up in the comments section of news about Mormons, but there is little deviance from reasoning. It is almost like a set of talking points have been handed out and the script must be followed. Any comment sections that are at least 15, and sometimes less, long will include the “required” criticisms and disagreements. A few non-Mormons might call foul because they like those they met, but more often even those end up agreeing with the stereotypical negative viewpoints of the religion. This wouldn’t really matter if it wasn’t for the criticisms sounding more like anti-Jewish “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” rather than a healthy skepticism of a religion they don’t belong to. Even those who don’t like religion in general find Mormonism especially grievous.

To state that what they claim is out of context and often based on conjecture goes without saying, but trying to reasonably explain has proven more than once a futile endeavor. Most of the respondents doubledown and push harder to prove what they say is true by compounding even more out of context, rumored, and conjectural arguments. It become a house of cards that stands up nicely. Point out they aren’t made of bricks and accusations of your own complicity in some kind of scandalous coverup is thrown at the conversation.

Probably the first criticism that will pop up without hesitation is that Mormons believe they can become Gods who rule over a planet. It is said as if this automatically makes Mormons have super-egos already wanting to control the planet, or your neighborhood. Don’t trust them, this tidbit seems to say, or they will end up making you a slave. Some really believe (both secular and religious) that a group consisting of less than one percent of the world population is out to take over the world and dominate with an iron fist. The only ones that seem to not have a problem with the Mormon view of Exaltation are some philosophers who find it an exciting religious notion.

Of course, this leads into the racism charges. Those evil Mormons didn’t allow blacks to hold the priesthood until the late 1970s and therefore they hate all people of color. They will quote the scripture in The Book of Mormon that the skin was turned dark and when righteous will be turned white. With one fell swoop the critics claim the whole of the Mormon Scriptures, minus the KJV Bible if the critic is Christian, is all about white superiority. Point out that blacks could still be baptized and no other races were held back and it is all the same to them. Don’t talk about the history of Christianity dealing with this same issue because diffusion of religious traditions makes all others immune. Mention that even today there are segregated churches of the same denomination and it doesn’t matter.

Next will come the comment that women are also no more than cloistered servants of men forced to have litters of children. More than that, they cannot be saved without a man reaching out a hand to pull them out of the grave for the resurrection. All alone without the permission of the man and the women are doomed for eternity. There is never a mention that men without a woman is just as likely not to reach the highest place of honor for those who are faithful to the Lord. It is as if the critics have never talked with a Mormon woman, if they have talked with a Mormon at all during their lives. Most of the feminist issues that are legitimate are no different than any other conservative religious traditions, and even less than some.

All of this is brought about because of the scam artist known as Joseph Smith. His gold plates, peep stones, moron(i) angel, treasure hunting, revelations, masonic temple rituals, and of course polygamy prove he is an absolute fraud. They never say exactly what his intentions were, although money that he never made and women that a good looking guy like him didn’t need religion to attract sometimes is mentioned. Notoriety is a possibility, but there were easier ways to become famous and well liked without getting tar and feathered and eventually murdered. Regardless, there is so much written evidence and no scientific proof for the founding of his religion, it is incredible anyone in this modern enlightened world could believe such (fill in with your own negative descriptive word). He is a David Karesh (yes, someone actually said that) figure who founded an early version of Scientology for the frontier.

What Mormons wear underneath everyday clothing will always be mocked in a short, almost formulaic, sentence.

Nothing would be complete without some snide remark about polygamy and having more than one wife. Never mind that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the group they are actually talking about, will excommunicate anyone who marries more than one wife. That the LDS Church did away with the practice of polygamy over 100 years ago is of little concern. It makes for an easy target.

Lest any readers think the above is all innocent deviance of a hokey religion, the critics will relish in giving details of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that happened yet again over 100 years ago where Mormons killed a wagon train of people. That it happened on that never to forget date of September 11 only proves the bloodthirsty intentions of the believers. When pointing out that it was an anomaly of history, they shrug and state the Mormons are just waiting for the right moment to do it again on a grander scale. Mormons are secretive that way.

Admittedly some of the above is exaggerated, but not much and only in a few spots. Why it matters is that, despite pleads by those who claim the above, the views are personal. The criticisms of Mormonism are often followed by putting into question the worth of Mormons themselves. The followers must be brainwashed by their leadership, born in the religion (despite missionary work that has been successful, there is absolutely no belief many people actually join), ignoramuses, forced with fear to remain members, hypocritical, unhappy, morons (a popular play on Mormon), liars, and generally zealous bigots. They might mention for some odd juxtaposition they are nice people.

How can Mormons deal with such nasty views of the religion and its membership? Polls have shown that it isn’t only cranks on the anonymous Internet that have negative views like above. There are real world ramifications beyond a slowing down of converts. Relationships can become hard to maintain if no outright impossible to start. For example from a blog describing a lost friendship because of religious differences:

Today when I picked Liz up from school she was super sad. She said that one of her “kiss ‘n ride friends” doesn’t want to be her friend anymore because Liz told the girl that she’s Mormon. Lizzie was so hurt. She said, “Now she’s not my one of my BFF’s anymore” (and then immediately defined “BFF”–I’m not that old kiddo).

I felt horrible for Liz. I’ve certainly encountered negative responses to my religion, but not at such a young age. As I tried to empathize and comfort her, I told her about the time a man hit my friends and I as we crossed a Chicago street because he knew we were Mormon. She said, “You’ve told me about that before and that doesn’t hurt as much as losing a friend.” I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that.

Sad as this girl’s experience, it is not isolated. Yet another blogger wondered how to react when her own friend become negative about her religion. See how many of the usual contentions can be picked out:

A couple nights ago I was hanging out with 2 of my good friends. One of them shared with me his beliefs on why the Mormon religion was a cult. I know, we’ve all had these friends. He admitted that he was not fully educated but proceeded to give me his reasoning. One reason was that we change our beliefs all the time. I do not understand this and I asked him to clarify he said he didn’t know but he knew Mormon people – and our beliefs change. The only example I could think of was Polygamy which was a very long time ago and there have been multiple general authorities address this issue in which I would have referred to if necessary. But I kept my mouth shut and kept listening. He continued to explain that we brainwash our children at such a young age and that’s just ridiculous. He also shared with me that he disagreed with parents disowning their children from the family and damning them if they leave the religion. I’m not sure where he got that one. The next one was that he didn’t agree with us giving 10% of what we earn to our bishops. I told him that the bishops didn’t collect a penny from what we donated to the church. He told me that he knew a bishop who had more money than he knew what to do with – and he thought that was odd, and wanted to know where that money came from. I explained to him that there are very wealthy people who are Catholic and Presbyterian and there are very wealthy people who are LDS who are NOT bishops. He still thought it was fishy. His last argument was why we had to send people out to join our cult. He wanted to know – if it was so good – why everyone didn’t want to join without having to be approached or convinced. He didn’t agree with us sending out people to convince everyone to join.

When so many people don’t like you or your religion it becomes hard not to feel a sense of persecution. It is true that in Mormon dominated communities the outsiders might feel slighted with a reversal of the little girl’s experience. That shouldn’t happen no matter what. Yet, Mormons really are different enough and are viewed with such negativity that I am not sure how they can be friends generally speaking with any other group than their own. On a personal level there might be some individuals who respect both you and your religion even if they don’t agree with your beliefs, but that seems rare. It is almost once in a lifetime. We are commanded to love our enemies and for that matter everyone. That is a doctrine Mormons must always strive to achieve. Trying to get that same love from the population has proven over time to be tipping at windmills. Mormons are left asking, as the blogger B. Lindblom, should we be doing more and is it worth trying? If so, what should we be doing without changing who we are? If not, then should we embrace our distinctiveness and not care what others think?

33 thoughts on “Reasons Mormons aren’t Liked

  1. I’m a life long member in her late 30’s. All my best friends aren’t members. I guess I’m a rarity. I only have a couple good LDS friends.

  2. I think patience is probably the key. I believe the situation is getting better as time goes by. As Mormons get in the spotlight from time to time, our mysteriousness will go away.

  3. One slight disagreement: the church has been able to find common ground with other groups on specific issues. Elder oaks initiative for religious freedom is being done in alliance with the Catholics, for example. Otherwise, we just need to embrace our uniqueness and try to get along with others as best we can.

  4. It hurts to read stuff like this. Not so much from the “Mormon” angle specifically, but from the angle that tolerance is still largely a fadish fraud because it’s only demanded for your political allies. Mormons are just the most obvious test case for true tolerace because they can’t fit in to either ‘party’ well.

    I do wish sometimes that Mormons were way more liberal. Because then we’d have the democratic party demanding tolerance for us in enough numbers that we’d probably get it.

  5. I’d say that liberals tolerate us far better than conservatives. The vast majority of liberals, for example, could care less that their Senate Majority leader is Mormon. Some liberals may dislike our religious beliefs, just as some conservatives dislike our religious beliefs, but I think liberals are more likely to tolerate and accept Mormons as individuals.

    Consider, for example, Idaho, with a large percentage of Mormons. Quite a few Mormons have run for governor of Idaho, and many of them weren’t even wacko. The current governor’s major threat last year was Mormon. However, Idaho has only had two LDS governors. Want to guess what party they belonged to?

    And outside of the Mormon Corridor, LDS politicians seem to do better in very liberal areas than in very conservative. Romney in Massachusetts is just one example.

  6. Okay, I’m not trying to be condescending when I say this. I think ‘political liberals’ (whatever that means) tend to have ‘politics’ play the same role in their lives as religious people do with religion. (And, yes, I know plenty of conservatives that that is true of too.)

    I think we tend to forget that ‘religion’ is a type of ‘ideology’ as is ‘politics’ and that all humans are ‘ideologues’ by nature.

    It is our moral worldview that first and foremost defines us. It is where we get our meaning in life from. We would rather die then lose the meaning in our lives.

    So, yes, Tim, I agree with you. But this seems to me to be because a ‘liberal’ (whatever that means) is very likely to only care if you are ‘part of their religion or not.’ They don’t care if you are Mormon or not. They just care if you are part of the ‘one true religion.’

    In this sense, there is an unfair comparison between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ when it comes to Mormons. Really they are both the same. It’s just ‘conservatives’ happens to lump in a group of people called “Believing Christians” that happen to hate Mormons for theological reasons, not political ones.

    What I find distasteful about liberals in this regard is that they don’t mind mocking Mormon practices and beliefs (just like conservative Christians do) because it is seen as an means to an end. At least in the case of conservative Christians the means and end are theoretically one and the same. With political liberals, I think we have ample proof that they will require people to be tolerant of our ‘religion’ if we just come over to their way of thinking first. But if we don’t, then all’s fair in love and politics.

  7. Jettboy,
    I’m interested in your opinion on the questions you posed. Are we as Mormons doing enough? Should we forget trying to live in the world?

  8. Martha, I am kind of torn on the answers to those questions. In some ways I think we try too hard. We have a distinctive theology, but don’t focus on it because others don’t like us for those differences. Hate to say it, but Sunday School often bores me as much as any “liberal” who has expressed frustration at its domestication. It is those very differences that I find make Mormonism so worth continued belief. That is one reason you might notice a theme run through some of my posts about staying away from modernizations. Currently, I am contemplating another post that somewhat answers the underlying questions of the critics about why a modern person would belong to the LDS Church.

    The second question is in the Scriptures where it says to live in the world, but not of it. Exactly what that means is arguable. Still, the pattern has been that the Saints in all ages have been commanded to leave behind the cares of this world in preparation for the next by Faith. We should be friends with Mammon (i.e. the world) only so far as doing so keeps us wise in our interactions. We should not forget trying to live in the world because we are commanded to go out into the world and preach the Gospel. On the other hand, we must transcend the world as we are called out from it to a more lasting eternal life. In practice I think that means we should have guarded relationships with those not of our faith. We are to be examples to the world and not the other way around. For the most part it hasn’t worked out that way both as an organization and individually.

  9. I don’t believe that Mormons should be crying because they don’t understand why people don’t like them I have been a member for well over 20 years now.(converted from Catholicism) I have never made it through a Sunday school lesson on Baptism where someone who has never been Catholic, or any other religion other than Mormon has not bashed the Catholics. Maybe if Mormons(Born in the Convenant)would stop acting so superior there might be better experiences with those who don’t believe. I can tell you that as a Catholic, going to Mass, Sunday School, CYO we didn’t bash people of other faiths quite like the Mormons do. In fact, I could go to Church and you wouldn’t know who has been a member all their life and who was a new convert because quite honestly it doesn’t matter. After all if one is so sure of faith, there should be no need for the I’m better than you attitude that is often displayed.

  10. “I can tell you that as a Catholic, going to Mass, Sunday School, CYO we didn’t bash people of other faiths quite like the Mormons do.”

    I believe you.

    But this is my experience with Mormonism as well. It probably differs by area.

  11. I don’t think it goes as far as bashing, but I’ve been in plenty of classes where the inevitable “they worship the cross!!!!” or “they worship Mary, that’s so weird!!!” comes up any time Catholicism is mentioned.

    And I guess we’d have to wait until either Romney or Huntsman is the actual candidate, but my liberal friends have have all been pretty positive about Huntsman. They consider him a reasonable candidate in a sea of “extreme Conservative wackos”, and I can’t think of one that went off on his religion. When it comes to politics I think the biggest enemy of LDS candidates is always going to be the Conservatives like Palin and Huckabee that have gone to churches all their lives that had special showing of Godmakers as family activities. You have to face them long before you face the liberals running against them.

  12. “When an apostate lifts up his voice against this people, when he makes dastardly charges against the Latter-day Saints, he lies, and I have no patience with him. I have breathed this mountain air so long that I feel inclined to discard a little of the gospel and knock such men down, and repent afterwards.” – J. Golden Kimball

    Ever since Joseph Smith, the son of a poor farmer, reported that he had seen God the Father and His Son and lived to tell about it, there have been preachers who felt that their livelihoods were threatened by this upstart, and quite a thriving industry has emerged to bash the Mormons at every turn. As a convert, I was not interested in seeking out which church was popular, but which was closest to following the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have heard about or read all the major attacks, and they have only convinced me that the Latter-day Saints must be on to something.

  13. @ Charles,

    just because someone disagrees with Mormonism does not make them a liar. And so goes another reason why people don’t like Mormons. ( I happen to like J Golden Kimball) But honestly, the mentality behind saying the only good and righteous people are Mormons gets a little tiresome. There are plenty of good people of other faiths, and even more good people who don’t believe in any faith at all.

  14. I actually happen to like Catholicism in the same way that Joseph Smith did; there are some ancient teachings that are nearer to the Gospel as understood by Latter-day Saints than many of the Protestant denominations. As for bashing Catholics, the reasons in context are that Mormons are Protestants by heart. I am not saying that is an excuse dblock, and your probably right that Mormons born in the faith should be more tolerant. That said, if you go to another Christian denomination I would bet you would feel equally uncomfortable. Mormons do not hold the market on Catholic bashing.

  15. Jet boy

    You are right, I’m thinking particularly of Baptist, and other Evangelical Christian sects. And its’ funny when I walk into a so-call Christian Bookstore they are always bashing people of other faiths. Its’ just disgusting

  16. dblock says,
    “just because someone disagrees with Mormonism does not make them a liar.”

    I must have missed where someone said this.

    jjohnsen, “I don’t think it goes as far as bashing, but I’ve been in plenty of classes where the inevitable “they worship the cross!!!!” or “they worship Mary…”

    Okay, I’ll admit to having on occaision heard things like this. But to their credit, I always correct them and the response is always “Oh, really? You mean they are closer to what we believe than I thought? How wonderful!”

    Again, attitudes like this will very from area to area. So I’m not trying to make a blanket statement one way or another.

    But I do think we need to make some allowances for honest misunderstandings that exist within all religions towards another. There is generally very little incentive to seek out correct information because it is another religion.

    However, I draw a differnet line around people that claim to have studied it and are holding anti-classes, etc. This moves beyond mistake and into bearing false witness because now I reasonably can expect the person to have tried to find correct information.

  17. It may be time for us to be scattered. Take Utah and Southern Idaho, tip them upside down and shake them like salt all over the lower 48. Leaven the whole loaf. We are an easy target when we are all huddled together behind the Wasatch. The paradigm shift may show us what is the gospel and what is cultural. One of the biggest problems the Savior encountered with the Jews he taught was a superiority complex born of homogeneity.

  18. I’ve actually started asking people I meet, when it comes up kind of naturally, why they have a negative view of Mormons (if they have one). I’ve gotten two responses over and over again, usually together. 1: Mormons are weird and that makes me uncomfortable. 2) Mormons are snobby, look down on everyone else for not being as good as they are, and are only superficial friends unless you join their religion.

    I’ve never had anyone answer with a list of weird factoids about the religion itself. For most people I’ve met, their biggest reason for not liking us is because they think we didn’t like them first. They give examples of things like friends who distance the relationship after they reject missionary efforts, members they’ve talked to who say that Mormons are the only ones who are going to heaven, and instances where the Mormon not drinking/smoking/whatever is turned into an opportunity to preach. I think they’ve got a point, personally. We’re so concerned with not being of the world that I think we forget to see the other point of view and be tactful. And all of these misplaced missionary efforts are sending the message that we care more about them as converts than as people.

  19. I can understand number two Conifer, but the weird label has always confused me to no end. We aren’t, after all, the only religious people on the planet or the United States. The only things I see that are strange is perhaps no drinking, smoking, sexual morality, and lack of salty language. Beyond that we have families, go to work, wear normal even if conservative clothing, and generally act like any other Westerner I have ever known. Maybe next time you can ask them what they mean by weird for some comparision :) to others. Frankly, I find Westerners intolerant, ignorant, self-important cusses when it comes to the majority of cultures in the world. They couldn’t last one minute (and I’m not saying I could really) in India, China, Japan, or the Middle East. People who live there would make Mormons look like, well, typical Westerners. Enlightened atheists don’t get a pass on the description.

  20. I can see why people would think we’re weird. There are a lot of things about our religion — and especially about cultural Mormonism — that are outside the norm. A lot of Mormons even have a different way of talking about things, a different almost fake-sounding cheerfulness that can come across as pretty weird. Then there’s all the stuff they probably just don’t know about. What goes on in the temple? Do you really wear weird underwear? Why all the jello jokes? What’s the big deal about coffee? I think even people who are trying their best to be respectful of our differences see us as weird just because we’re different and they don’t even know exactly in what ways or why.

    But for most people I talk to, #2 far overshadows #1.

  21. I don’t think jello molds are mutually exclusive to Mormons, I’ve seen them at other church functions for other denominations as well.

    But I would agree with Conifer about the other things that she/he has mentioned(sorry conifer I don’t know if your a man or woman) I think the bigger obstacle is the elephant in the room is always polygamy. And the fact that many outside the faith still think of Mormons as being Racist.

  22. I’m a woman. :)

    That’s a good point about race, dblock. That also made me think about how we don’t exactly get good publicity in the news. Prop 8 didn’t help most people like us very much. I have no idea how many regular, everyday people remember that.

  23. Yes, and the only publicity we get are from people like the Osmonds, Steve Young, Vai Sihihema Gladys Knight.

    My Stake made a pointed effort to have Gladys Knight come and sing and bear testimony. But many in the audience(particularly African Americans) kept trying to get her to sing Midnight Train to Georgia. While she did give a “whoot whoot” she didn’t succumb to their request. I know the Stake President along with regional representatives were trying to get more African Converts

  24. One way to illustrate to a mistaken (but sincere) Christian critic of the church that they are mischaracterizing what Mormonism is, is to use this mischaracterization of Christianity as a parallel:

    The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    IE, any belief system can be cherry-picked and mischaracterized for ridicule.

  25. Bookslinger.

    LOL

    Good point.

    One thing we need to keep in mind that the word “weird” is NOT a description of some characteristic of the thing being called such, but rather is a characteristic of the person doing the calling.

    i.e. “Weird” means “I am not familiar with it.”

  26. “Prop 8 didn’t help most people like us very much.”

    I thought “most people” voted for it.

  27. “wear normal even if conservative clothing, and generally act like any other Westerner I have ever known. Maybe next time you can ask them what they mean by weird for some comparision to others.”

    There’s plenty about us that is weird. Secret stuff going on inside temples, magic underwear, polygamy, MMM, etc. If you only know the minimum about us along with a few half-truths, how could you NOT think we are weird?

    One big thing that seems to go for us, at least according to my friends outside Utah, is similar to what goes on with gay couples. Many people that start to support gay marriage report that they have friends or family members that are gay and have come to love them. My friends say that they thought Mormons were weird until they got to know somebody that is LDS, then they started telling everyone that Mormons are the nicest people on Earth (which I guess could be considered weird in its own way).

  28. This discussion raises what is, for me, an important question: will we be called, as a people, to gather again at some point in the future — a point where Babylon is so hostile to the Church (physically or metaphysically) that safety demands it.

    If we are to build Zion, don’t we at some point have to separate ourselves from those who have no interest in being part of Zion? Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  29. I’m a somewhat-left-of-center, Californian Presbyterian, and I couldn’t care less what religion a politician espouses. What’s most important is that he or she represents my interests and those of my fellow voters. All the Mormons I know and the Mormon politicians I know of are far more conservative than I am, so I doubt it will be any time soon that I’ll be voting for a Mormon. But it would be a pleasure to do so in the future, if there were ever a Mormon politician who I thought shared my political beliefs.

  30. Jettboy, your thought about the difficulty distinguishing a Mormon in Asia from other Westerners reminds me of what Chaim Potok said about his time in Korea as an army chaplain. It was the first time in his life among people who could look at him and not see a Jew.

  31. I think if Huntsman runs in the primary it will help Romney. Huntsman will take a lot of the flack, he will be seen as more of a RINO and Romney will become the safe(r) pick.

    Romney’s problem last time was not only that he had Huckabee to the right, but he was seen as the farthest left candidate (who was merely pretending to be right). Now that won’t be true.

    If Huckabee or Palin runs on the right (even though Huckster is not a far right conservative, the Evang. will see him as one), you’ll have Huntsman on the left and Romney in the center.

    Romney will take the place McCain took in the last cycle.

  32. On one hand, the argument about being more mainstream and less homogenous seems to make sense until you consider the common thread binding people of LDS faith: religion. Like other posters have aptly stated, religion is the “ideology” that informs one’s world view, establishes a moral compass, and provides meaning in life. It’s not like sharing an interest in stamp collecting or muscle cars.

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