Sad comments from our evangelical brethren

I really prefer to offer up-beat commentary and news on M*, but I couldn’t let these comments go by without pointing them out.  It truly saddens me to see so much hatred from our evangelical brethren for the Church and its members.  Yes, I know that anonymous comments on a blog can be ugly and unrepresentative, but still, these comments are so over the top that I am hoping that we can help shine some light on these sentiments so that hopefully we can start changing perceptions about the Church.

The matter at hand is a story in “World” magazine, which is primarily aimed at conservative evangelicals.  The post itself is straightforward — looking at the Pew report, it points out that Mormons are in many ways more politically conservative than evangelicals.  But many of the comments were, to be quite honest, uncharitable at best and downright evil at worst.

Here’s a sample:

Ouch! How can a bunch of polygamist, angel worshiping, joseph smith following, baptizers of the dead beat us at our own game? Since when was it conservative to think that Jesus is Satan’s brother?

Or this:

I am glad that Mormons are conservatives and vote mostly with the GOP, God knows we can use every vote we can get, but to compare them to Evangelicals is like comparing a Cadillac to a Yugo; the Mormon theology is something out of science fiction and rivals L. Ron Hubbard’s Christian Scientology.

Or this:

My indictments of mormonism should not be taken to mean that the religion makes its adherents treacherous. I merely believe that, being founded on a lie, it does not encourage honesty.

To be quite frank, these comments made me sick to my stomach.  Why do people think it builds up their faith to insult another faith?  It is amazing to me that nobody came forth to say:  “c’mon guys, lay off the Mormons, you may disagree with them, but they are fellow children of God, and your attitudes are uncharitable.”

The purpose of this post is to bring these negative attitudes to light.  For many of you, none of these comments are a surprise.  My hope is that by shining some light on this issue we can figure out some ways to convince at least some evangelicals to tone down the rhetoric.  It is simply unhelpful to begin a conversation by insulting the people who disagree with you.

The purpose of this post is NOT to say that we should hate evangelicals, write them off or avoid them altogether.  And it is certainly NOT the place to hear that old tired argument that we should not ally ourselves with them politically.  The reality is that you need to stand up for what you believe is right, regardless of who your allies are because you can’t always pick your allies.  For all of you who buy the “we should never ally ourselves with evangelicals,” I would ask you:  should liberals stop believing many things just because atheists believe the same things?  The answer is obviously no.

Mean-spirited comments about our evangelical brothers and sisters are discouraged.  Comments with ideas about how to “bridge the gap” in a loving way are encouraged.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

33 thoughts on “Sad comments from our evangelical brethren

  1. I would like to point out that the most spiritual people in my ward are a couple who were, until just a few years ago, evangelical Christians. They began talking to the missionaries and were converted because of the Holy Ghost and a lot of love from the missionaries and fellowshipping from their Mormon neighbors. Anybody who thinks we’re going to win over evangelicals by trading insults with them is sadly mistaken.

  2. Geoff,
    With all due respect, I don’t find any of the comments you referenced as evil, and not even that mean spirited (except maybe the first one).
    They think our religion is based on a lie. So what? They didn’t call believers of Mormons idiots or stupid or crazies. Our faith does come across as “really out there” sometimes. I’m not a Scientology hater so I don’t think it’s cruel to compare us to them.

  3. I agree with MMiles. We shouldn’t be shocked others find our religion odd. I confess I find the religion of conservative (theologically) Evangelicals just as odd as they find mine. But it doesn’t bother me too much so long as we tolerate each other with respect.

    I wouldn’t mind in the least allying myself with Evangelicals although some Evangelical conservative politics makes me a bit queasy on the social front. I tend to see them as just too extreme on abortion, gay rights, free speech and much more. Often I think there’s a conservative position to take and I suspect my views are common with most readers here. But I find there’s a definite streak among Evangelicals who take such positions way too far. (i.e. ban abortion for nearly any reason, not allow homosexuals almost any rights for things like visitations and the like, etc.)

  4. 1. Forgive them, Geoff, for they know not what they do/say.

    2. Please don’t go “looking for evil.”

    2. The bitter feelings of Evangelical rank-and-file towards LDS are generally not generated by their own research, but from what professional antis (“Mormon-haters”) have gone around and told them.

    3. I used to be Evangelical/Pentecostal.

    4. That branch of Christianity has enough pieces of the truth (they preach Jesus, and Him crucified; and to seek for the continuous guidance of the Spirit) that Heavenly Father was able to use them to prepare me to receive the fullness of the restore gospel at a later date.

    5. Brigham Young said (and quoted by Carlos Asay) “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 351.)

    6. Bridget Jack Myers, a “gellie” chick married to a Mormon guy, is already doing a lot to counter some of the stupid and frustrating things they say like “You guys believe Jesus is Satan’s brother”. (Hey, in LDS theology, we’re all both Satan’s and Jesus’ brothers/sisters, right? So we could counter, “YOU’RE Satan’s brother!”)

    7. I know it’s frustrating to read such twisted accusations as the Satan’s brother thing, but remember: You can’t fix stupid.

  5. 8. I’ve heard LDS say terrible things about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, and blacks. So evangelicals don’t have a lock on stupid.

  6. Yes, and some of those terrible things about the Catholic church appeared in the first edition of a book called “Mormon Doctrine” written by a Seventy…
    I am glad that our church leadership has moved towards respecting other faiths, and hope that the members would follow-suit. I think there is room for improvement on our side too (although the Huckabee crowd is far, far worse).
    Even agnostics/atheists should not be disrespected–they’re just as much the children of God as anyone else, and many of them are good people.

  7. I’m no big fan of evangelicals, but in general, commenters on news stories are the dumbest of the dumb. (The bloggernacle and certain specialty blogs seem to be the serious exception.) So I’m not too worried about the people who made these comments. It would bother me if I met people I respected who were so misinformed and credulous but, along with Bookslinger, I’ve unfortunately heard my fellow saints make the same misinformed, sad comments about other religions. Although I think it’s the exception.

  8. My experience is that most evangelicals who have spent time with faithful Mormons are generally willing to stand up for us when someone is speaking bad about us at their church or in social groups. I remember some friends of mine learning in their sunday school class all about us Mormons (Their sunday school lesson was taken from a book called Errors in Religions). Anyway, they told me all the nasty things they had said about us, and many in the class who knew me and knew about the church spoke up and told them what we really believe, and how it wasn’t anything like what they were teaching at all. I wonder how their teacher felt when these teenagers in his class felt when they began telling him how off-base he really was.

  9. I used to get worked-up when I saw negative comments about the Church. More often than not, I shrug my shoulders and move on. The negativity is actually good for the Church when it spurs someone to take a closer look at our religion and beliefs.

    I love this statement/prophecy from the Wentworth letter:

    The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; . . . the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

  10. We choose whether we will be offended by what someone says or does. If we feel offended, we can then pray for those who have offended us and experience peace of mind in the process.

    Negative comments about our religion remind me to be kind, charitable, and loving when I speak about the heart-felt religious beliefs of others. Hosting Iraqi dignitaries in our home gave me a great respect for the Islam religious. As I observed their devout, earnest beliefs and their love of family and God, I appreciated my own religion–and theirs–more.

  11. Mormons and Evangelicals are on the same team. “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” We just need to understand each other better.

    Instead of getting worked up about anti-Mormon comments and general hatred for the Church, I decided to inform myself. I have come to realize that most of these hate-filled comments from Evangelicals stem from a simple misunderstanding of the LDS doctrine, and when truly understood these doctrines conform nicely to Evangelical thought. If we could but use their terminology to explain our doctrine, we would find out that we are pretty much the same, with a few exceptions.

    To come to this conclusion, I read the following books:

    “How Wide the Divide: A Mormon and Evangelical Conversation,” by Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson.

    “Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical,” by Robert L. Millet and Gregory C.V. Johnson.

    “Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate,” by Robert L. Millet and Gerald R. McDermott.

    As you may have assumed, each book was co-authored by an LDS scholar and an Evangelical scholar. I highly recommend all of these books. It made me realize that our teachings are not so dissimilar, but it is mostly our vernacular and simple misunderstandings that divide us. Fortunately, these books are also read by Evangelicals who, I can only hope, have come to the same conclusions as I have.

  12. “My hope is that by shining some light on this issue we can figure out some ways to convince at least some evangelicals to tone down the rhetoric. It is simply unhelpful to begin a conversation by insulting the people who disagree with you.”

    My own experience is that as I have gotten more closely acquainted with some of my conservative evangelical Christian brothers and sisters, including heart to heart talks relating to feelings about God, life, and meaning, I have come to greater respect for them and their understandings and I hope they did for me as well. In my opinion, we have much more in common than that which separates us.

    I have mentioned before that I once participated for a period of time in a quasi ecumenical bible study group with others whose faiths crossed the spectrum from complete disbelief to fundamentalist Christian. We came to respect each other. I was flattered and honored when a fundamentalist Christian member of the group introduced me to another fundamentalist friend outside the Bible study group by saying, “This is David, he is a Latter-day Saint Christian.”

    I think attitudes will change and respect will grow as we rub shoulders with one another and are open to nonproselyting discussions about life and God.

  13. Of course, many of the comments in that discussion about Mormons are stupid at best. But so are a lot of other statements — quite a few of the people there seem to think that if you truly a Christian you couldn’t have voted for Obama.

    Many of these people are idiots.

  14. I didn’t think these comments you sampled were so bad. From an evangelical perspective, they’re actually quite reasonable and well expressed.

    We are competing religions, and I don’t think we’re all ever just going to sing “Kumbaya” together happily, like you seem to want.

  15. Christopher, you may want to try changing things around and see how you would respond if LDS people said similar things about evangelicals. I personally have never seen or heard something similar in 11 years in the Church and many years blogging.

  16. I’m stunned that you would think they would react otherwise. It seems like expecting the sky to be pink, and being disappointed when it is blue.

    I am sure there are evangelicals who get along and defend Mormons…..somewhere. I’ve never met them. I volunteer to help with pro-life causes; they “forget” to invite me to meetings, or worse.

    And it’s really a problem in communities with a shadow school system, where the only choices other than homeschooling are inadequate public schools which may not even be accredited or a “Christian school” which is where virtually all middle class families send their kids. What do LDS do? One family I know drove an hour into a university-run demonstration school.

  17. Just as Heavenly Father was and has been patient and long-suffering with Lamanites (however you want to define them) due to the fact that their errors were the result of the false traditions of their fathers, I think He would also be patient and long-suffering towards creedal Christians who are following 1700 years of false traditions of their fathers.

    Atheists and agnostics also have mitigating circumstances for their disbelief. All the bad examples of those who profess to be followers of Christ over the past 18 centuries, can seem to overshadow the examples of true religion.

    I recently quoted a cool saying from Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  18. Naismith, I have had a lot of interaction with evangelicals, and I’m stunned that of the nearly 200 comments not one came to the defense of Mormons in any way and that the moderator let the discussion take place in such a way. I guess I have a lot more faith in people than I should sometimes.

  19. Geoff: Bridget (the young evangelical lady who went to BYU) reported a comment that one of her profs there made. The prof asked God when Bridget was going to join the church. The prof said the answer was “When I tell her to.”

    Apparently “the work” is so big, that the Lord needs key people outside of the church to do things that LDS members can’t.

    Assuming that is a correct account of the question and the answer, it confirms or illustrates some of my perceptions of Evangelicals’ relation with the restored gospel versus a part of the gospel. Most of them aren’t asking “which church is ‘true’?”, so they aren’t getting an answer. And for the small minority that might be asking that question, the Lord has His reasons why He isn’t answering those prayers yet.

    Most devout evangelicals (as most LDS) also realize that God can initiate a communication without waiting for us to ask a question first. Most of the communication from God does come in response to prayer, but the D&C illustrates (as do many LDS stories about promptings of the Spirit) that the Lord sometimes says “Hey, listen up, I have something to tell you.”

    God does occasionally direct evangelicals to the LDS church. A great story is called “The Good Bishop Walker”, at http://tylerpaul.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/the-good-bishop-walker/

    He didn’t ask which church was true, but the communication to contact the Mormons came in response to a prayer about how he could get closer to God.

    One of the tenets of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism is that people can walk in the Spirit and receive personal revelation. I think that will be the key to many of them finding the restored gospel. When they turn that key, and when the Lord sheds forth his Spirit for that purpose, they will see the truth and join the church in droves.

    I think the adversary has been very busy spreading lies and twisted doctrine to blind them and prevent as many as possible from seeing the bigger picture.

    In my opinion, another factor about why some really good people are totally content with their “subset of the gospel” (as we see it) is that their glass is full. For many, the vessel of their life is already overflowing with good things, and it’s inconceivable that there could be more, and if there were, they’d just have no room left over for it.

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  21. @Tim
    Of course, it’s progress that the brethren are more respectful of Catholicism today but Bruce McConkie’s reading is objectively more accurate.

    During the 19th century, everybody in the United States knew that the Catholic Church was meant by “the great and abominable Church.”

  22. While I haven’t heard a lot of bashing of evangelicals over the pulpit in the LDS church, I have certainly heard (and in my youth, been part of) the bashing of the “born agains” who did things like pray every morning around the flagpole. That mormons say things about evangelicals as part of a group, instead of just among themselves, doesn’t absolve them.

    During the last election, I heard some mormon-initiated evangelical bashing about Huckabee that went beyond just “give and take.” I think that an evangelical blog could easily find comments comparable to the ones on this blog.

  23. Nice post and conversation Geoff.

    I think that we LDS play the victim too much and to the detriment of spreading the gospel. Here in our little town is a mega Baptist Church. We moved here 17 years ago and the entire time we have been here the members of our church have derided this particular church. The reason being about 20 years ago “The God Makers” was reported to have been shown at this church. Our distain for this church and it’s membership went so far that at one youth night a youth visitor, who attends this Baptist church, came to one of our activities and a youth leader made several unkind comments about this church. You know that kid did not feel welcome.

    A good friend of mine got to know one of the pastors of this church. This pastor was unaware this church had engaged in any anti-mormon talk or behavior. She then got to know other members and found them to also be unaware of any anti behavior.

    I think wallowing in our “victimization” we in-turn “persecuted” the Baptists. This victim mentality is, IMHO, part of the reason we got into trouble in Missouri. As Christians, it behooves us to rise above the crap that is thrown at us and be mindful of not starting or engaging in the crap throwing. I say this as someone who also needs to do better.

  24. It has been my experience that if you sit and talk with evangelical Christians you can usually find plenty of common ground and come to general agreement, even on some of our more unique doctrine. It is certainly true that one has to be careful with terminology, a word that means one thing to Mormons is not guaranteed to mean the same thing to an evangelical Christian.

    That said, I have met a few who refuse to give an inch and deride Mormonism instead (and all other religions not their own). I suspect these people are largely compensating for doubts of their own. It becomes easier to believe your own religion if you convince yourself it is your religion or no religion.

  25. I’m completely on board for more mutual understanding and respectful and charitable interfaith dialogue. It’s still perfectly fine to disagree with each other, but let’s at least disagree about the doctrines as understood by the adherents and not caricatures of their beliefs.

  26. There sorts of perspectives seem silly to me, but in a small way it makes me feel a little guilty. They are comments that can only be made out of ignorance, so Mormons as a whole apparently aren’t doing a great job at showing our Evangelical neighbors who we really are. I live in the South where this stuff is pretty common, but in my experience very few people who personally know a Mormon continue to harbor such opinions. They still disagree with us vehemently, of course, but they don’t usually spew absurd rhetoric.

    By the way, I like that the second quote compares Mormons to Cadillac and Evangelicals to Yugos. I don’t think that was the intended meaning, but someone got a little confused in his/her sentence structure.

  27. I think pointing out such comments just fans the flames. I would never have even seen them if you did not point them out here. As for how to engage them, I would say to be like a duck and let the comments roll off like water. The best we can do is live in such a way that people will be able to evaluate for themselves the ridiculousness of such sentiments, and exercise self-control to not let anger take over when we do hear such things.

  28. Sorry Jordan F., but the flames are burning whether you see them or not. They aren’t posted here in order to agitate us, but to help us seek better mutual understanding.

  29. Gotcha, clean cut. Which is why I offered a comment on how we might engage with these types.

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