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?