Six Anti-Mormonisms

What is an anti-Mormon? Latter-day Saints tend to have quite strong, and quite negative, feelings about anti-Mormons. My guess is that they might be our least-liked group — the one that Mormons would feel most reservations about allowing to speak at a library or teach at a high school (standard indicators used to measure social tolerance in survey research). But defining the boundaries of this highly-disliked group is a bit difficult to do. Some of us define anti-Mormonism in such broad terms that virtually all non-Mormons, and some faithful Mormons, fit in the category. Others choose a more narrow definition.

Terminological debates like these are typically painful and difficult to resolve. If a major moral taint didn’t attach to the word, it probably wouldn’t be worth thinking about what it actually means. But moral stigma does attach, with anti-Mormons thought of by some Latter-day Saints in the same ways that anti-Semites are thought of by World War II-era Jewish folks. So it may be worth tracing through definitions and thinking about who would be included.

Wikipedia’s definition, quoted by Guy Murray in a recent BCC thread, reads:

The term “anti-Mormon” is composed of the prefix “anti-,” meaning “against,” affixed to the word “Mormon,” meaning a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or LDS Church). The term is typically used by Mormons to refer to literature, activities, or people perceived to be in direct opposition to the Saints or their church. Some Mormons differentiate between honest criticism and anti-Mormon propaganda, reserving the designation “anti-Mormon” for claims that are sensational or misleading.

This is an incredibly broad definition, yet it is perhaps the clearest and most specific I’ve encountered to date. Let us consider six categories of people who would fit within this definition of anti-Mormonism.

  • Anti-Mormons of Private Conviction. Individuals who quietly believe, in their own hearts and minds, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not God’s only true and living church have committed themselves to opposition to one central tenet of Mormonism. As such, these individuals stand against the Mormon movement and therefore meet the basic definition of “anti-Mormonism.” On the other hand, anti-Mormons of private conviction are not guilty of any act that hurts the church’s missionary efforts, retention rates, or public reputation in any way. It seems likely that almost all non-Mormons who know anything about Mormonism are anti-Mormons of private conviction. Some members of the church may be, as well.
  • Anti-Mormons of Theological Conscience. Individuals who have a deep commitment to another theological system, and who seek to rebut Mormon theological claims from the perspective of that system. These people are not opponents of the Mormon church as an organization or of the Mormons as a people; rather, they object to what they see as distortions or errors in Mormon theology. Because they publicly stand against specific Mormon religious ideas, these individuals also clearly meet the definition of “anti-Mormonism.” Yet anti-Mormons of theological conscience have exact parallels among Mormon leadership and rank-and-file. Every time a Mormon talk or lesson argues against trinitarian conceptions of God, or example, or the idea of a closed scriptural canon, that talk or lesson is engaged in a behavior that is exactly as offensive as anti-Mormonism of theological conscience. Most committed believers in other religions can be brought to play the role of anti-Mormon of theological conscience through interaction with Mormons.
  • Anti-Mormons of Historical Conscience. Individuals who have developed and discussed in public a firm intellectual conviction, on the basis of historical evidence, that Mormon truth claims are not correct. Such individuals sometimes come to believe that the leaders of the Mormon church must know the same evidence that they know, and therefore suppose that our leaders are lying when they bear testimony regarding the church’s divine mission. In opposing the church’s official representation of itself and its history, anti-Mormons of historical conscience clearly meet the definition discussed above. Once again, exact parallels exist within Mormonism, including James E. Talmage’s book The Great Apostasy, the introductory anecdote of Le Grand Richards’ A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (which rules Protestantism out as a group of religions because of concerns about the Reformation), and so forth. It is perhaps worth noting that certain faithful Mormon historians may be seen by some as having crossed into this category by publishing works that contradict official interpretations of Mormon history. Examples might include Juanita Brooks for her work on the Mountain Meadows Massacre; Richard Bushman, Richard S. Van Wagoner, and Steven Walker for their early acknowledgment of Joseph Smith’s treasure-digging and treasure-seer activities, and so forth.
  • Public Policy Anti-Mormons. Individuals who argue against Mormon political power, rather than Mormon religious influence. Such people were, in the 19th century, motivated by the clear evidence that Mormons violated mainstream American values regarding the family through the practice of polygamy and that Mormons lived under a theocratic political system. In the 20th and 21st centuries, such concerns in the US often focus instead on the fact that Mormons believe in a church leader who claims to receive binding revelation for members — and the possibility that the head of the Mormon church might control the political actions of Mormons serving in political office. Such attitudes reflect a specific form of rejection of Mormonism as a culture and of Mormons as individuals; hence, it meets the definition of anti-Mormonism. Public policy anti-Mormons are common in American society; surveys suggest that more than 40 percent of Americans would hesitate to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. However, parallel sentiments are common among Mormons, as well; how many Mormons would be willing to vote for an openly atheistic or Muslim presidential candidate?
  • Circus Sideshow Anti-Mormons. These are anti-Mormons whose public rhetoric and behavior is driven by such strong motives that debate is not limited to genuine points of divergence with respect to theology, history, or public policy. Circus sideshow anti-Mormons will adopt any criticism, or employ any tactic, to score points against the Mormon antagonist. Because of the shifting nature of the intellectual attack, it is often difficult or impossible to identify the motives or underlying convictions behind the individual’s engagement with Mormonism. Rumor, gossip, and fantasy are all useful tools for public debate. Circus sideshow anti-Mormons do not merely commit mistakes in their debates (after all, everyone does that). Instead, they adopt tactics of the most blatant invention, speaking without cogent sources or recognizable evidence. In their headlong rush to damage the LDS church, such people clearly meet the definition of anti-Mormonism. However, a warning is needed: church members may sometimes mistake individuals who actually belong to one of the other categories of anti-Mormonism for circus sideshow anti-Mormons if they aren’t fully informed about the more challenging aspects of Mormon historical evidence.
  • Anti-Mormons of Physical Persecution. Individuals and groups who go beyond rhetoric (public or private) to acts that physically damage the livelihoods or persons of Mormons. These people fully embody the definition of anti-Mormonism; their opposition to the Mormon church extends to the point of harming specific Mormons. The classic examples of anti-Mormons of physical persecution are the mobs of 19th-century Missouri and Illinois. Arguably, US federal policy during the polygamy period may also have fit within this category. During the 20th and 21st centuries, such anti-Mormons are quite uncommon in the US. Instead, this kind of anti-Mormonism has largely been represented by third-world guerrilla groups such as Peru’s Shining Path, who attack Mormons as symbols of US imperialism. There seem to be relatively few analogues to this form of anti-Mormonism within the Mormon community. The clearest and most famous exceptions would by the Mountain Meadows Massacre killers, although the Danites in Missouri may also fit in this category.

These six categories share little or nothing other than the central trait of the definition of an anti-Mormon quoted above: they all oppose Mormonism or Mormons in some way. Because of its inclusiveness, the term ‘anti-Mormon’ does a great deal of political work. It blurs the distinctions between anti-Mormons of private conviction, theological or historical conscience, or public-policy motivations; circus sideshow anti-Mormons; and anti-Mormons of physical persecution. The term allows Mormons to imagine moral continuity between the mobs of the 19th century, the ill-considered rants of Ed Decker and his fellow-travelers, the far more modest and carefully reasoned works of Dan Vogel, Brent Metcalfe, et al., and the personal religious reservations of friends, neighbors and coworkers. Branding these all as ‘anti-Mormons’ allows us to feel that we join in the persecution suffered by the early Saints, even though we don’t lose our wealth, our homes, our families, or our lives. Further, the terminological sleight of hand involved in the label ‘anti-Mormon’ allows us to ignore the differences between honest and honorable men and women who oppose us, on the one hand, and unprincipled villains, on the other.

If we would be as honest in our representations of our non-Mormon brothers and sisters as we would like them to be in their discussions of us, it is time to retire the blanket category of ‘anti-Mormonism.’ My six-fold typology of anti-Mormonisms is probably not complete, but it may provide the starting point for a less distorting language for discussing the varieties of people who stand outside of, and in at least one way against, the Mormon community.

Comments

  1. I think you could also have an “Anti-Mormon” by accident section. Where someone says or does something “against Mormons” accidentally, in that they offend or undermine members of the church without intent. An example would be A person at church getting up and preaching false doctrine or a Bishop holding unrighteous dominion…

  2. Personally I would only consider your last three categories as anti-mormons.

  3. Chris Smith says:

    “The term ‘anti-Mormon’ is composed of the prefix ‘anti-’, meaning against, affixed to the term ‘Mormon’, meaning a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or LDS church)”

    Hey, I wrote that! By the way, the “Historical Anti-Mormonism” section on Wikipedia still needs a little work, if anyone is interested in contributing (Just make sure to check the talk page first; we’ve discussed the kinds of changes we’d like to see). Someone could even add a link and/or reference to this blog post, if you feel it’s worthy.

    I do appreciate your attempt to clarify the issue, Mr./Dr. Nelson-Seawright. I am somewhat torn; I despise the anti-Mormonisms of the circus sideshow and physical persecution variety, and have even spoken publicly against them (my contributions to the Wikipedia article being one example). At the same time, I have occasionally been labeled “anti-Mormon” myself! I probably fall somewhere within one of your first three categories.

    One distinction that I have found somewhat helpful is Massimo Introvigne’s (and Daniel Peterson’s) “traditional” and “new-age” categories of anti-Mormonism. However, even within each of these categories there is a range of personalities, including both extremists and friendly critics. My own mother is an anti-Mormon of the new-age variety according to the Introvigne/Peterson definition, but by no means does she or has she ever treated a Mormon person badly. She simply has a strong conviction that Satan is active in the world and that Joseph Smith (and those who follow him) fell prey to his deceptions. My mom is the quintessential third-wave Pentecostal, by the way.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    What Eric said, though I do believe it is imperative to draw the methological and contextual distinctions among those who may oppose the church. Your average evangelical preacher is not the same as a Missouri mob.

  5. Matt, I think you’re right that people say anti-Mormon things by accident. So perhaps that’s another category, or perhaps we’d be inclined to revise the overall definition to exclude people who aren’t deliberate in their position against some component of Mormonism.

    Eric, fair enough. A lot of people would be inclined to classify folks like Dan Vogel, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and Wesley P. Walters as anti-Mormons, even though they fall in the second or third categories. Of course, you might see things differently. In any case, my point would be that the last three categories are just as different from each other as they are from the first three.

    Chris, thanks for your comments. I think the traditional vs. new-age anti-Mormon distinction usefully points to different paradigms that people have used in opposing Mormonism. However, I would suggest that either category can probably be used as a basis for acting in any of the six ways I discuss in this post. So I guess I’d tend to see those two types as constituting a separate dimension from the one I’m discussing. One reason that seems good is that the traditional/new-age distinction doesn’t really seem to carry a great deal of normative weight and can in fact include quite normatively different roles in either category, whereas the typology I’ve proposed does try to separate out groups that raise different levels of normative concern.

  6. Nick Literski says:

    You do well to point out that most of your categories are mirrored by LDS who behave similarly toward other religious groups. You don’t do that with regard to the “circus side show” variety, however.

    I would suggest that some of our apologists, however well-intentioned, tend to cross into this arena. F.A.R.M.S., though improving significantly of late, has had a reputation for making ad hominem attacks in it’s “Review of Books,” rather than dealing with actual issues. D. Michael Quinn’s writings were “reviewed” by emphasizing that he was gay. Brent Metcalf was famously criticized in a F.A.R.M.S. review, in which the first letter of each paragraph spelled out “Metcalf is Butthead.” I have known self-appointed LDS apologists who find these tactics amusing and acceptable. I think most adults, however, would find them embarassing.

    You could also add a seventh category, titled “Anti-Mormon LDS.” Certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are obsessed with making the church look “just like” other christians (or “not weird,” as it has been stated elsewhere). In doing so, they downplay, or even deny, teachings which are distinctive to Mormonism. They spin, hide, or even re-invent church history in an effort to make earlier Mormonism look much more like modern LDS-ism. In the name of “protecting testimonies,” they tell half-truths and open falsehoods.

    These are arguably the most dangerous “anti-Mormons” of all.

  7. Oh, please. Should we really retire the term anti-Mormon just because there is a spectrum to the various degrees of anti-Mormon motivation and behavior? The exact same could be said of the terms racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic, terms which are equally broad, but remain useful, and even necessary.

    There’s quite a few different breeds of dog, but when people use the term I usually manage to grasp what they’re talking about, am aware of a wide range of varieties, and am capable of seeking and making distinctions on my own.

  8. Nick, I agree! 110%

  9. Nick,

    Inasmuch as one of the central tenets of Mormonism is that the current prophet can modify doctrine according to his understanding of God’s will, I fail to see how the process that surrounds that (although sometimes a little ragged) can be called anti-Mormon. I’d say reinterpretation is thoroughly Mormon. Judging by the years between 1830 and 1844, I’d say it’s very Joseph too. Was Joseph an anti-Mormon because he ended up preaching against some of his earlier positions and emending the odd revelation here and there? Hardly.

    RT,

    I wholeheartedly agree that “anti-Mormon” gets banded around so much that it almost loses its worth.

  10. Excellent post. Whatever typology you want to use, drawing distinctions between the various forms of “anti-Mormonism” is important. But to draw distinctions accurately, we have to be willing to actually engage our opponents (of whatever sort) and understand what they are saying. I think many of us are too frightened or too lazy (or both) to actually do this. Thus, I am not optimistic that the majority of my co-religionists will adopt a more sophisticated understanding overnight. It is easier and safer to throw the anti-Mormon label around with reckless abandon, and to gasp at our perceived ideological opponents indiscriminately.

    Aaron B

  11. Brian,

    Your examples do exactly the opposite of what you want them to do. A really good case can be made for jettisoning terms like “racism” and “anti-Semitism” altogether (and replacing them with more precise terminology) because of the ridiculous political baggage that attach to them and the unbelievably expansive definitions that so many people have in mind when they use them. It has become common to use both terms to apply to the actions of individuals without regard to their intentions, which is light-years removed from the more useful and traditional meanings of the terms. Ditto for the term “anti-Mormonism.” Exact same phenomenon often goes on.

    Your canine example is totally different. It is in no way analogous.

    Aaron B

  12. cj douglass says:

    JNS
    I like how you broke this thing down and I certainly think it can help us speak more informatively about others. It makes me wonder though, who really cares about being labeled an “anti-mormon”? When I stopped going to church for a few years, I was called an “anti” on more than one occassion and it really didn’t bother me. It certainly doesn’t carry the same public stigma that “anti-semite” or “racist” carries. As we saw last week, even racists don’t like to be called racists.

  13. cj douglass says:

    On second thought, maybe over using the word “anti” is a Utah thing. I once overheard my grandmother of Murray, Ut respond to the question “who is voting for the liberal mayor of SLC”. Her answer: “The anti’s.” What a world we live in!

  14. Aaron,

    To eliminate or retire terms like racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic, or to call for their retirement, is to suggest that such attitudes and behaviors do not exist. It’s the nature of language that we need general terms, and quite frankly it’s essential groups that suffer stereotyping, persecution, and discrimination be able to label such behavior and thought appropriately. Certainly, it is unfortunate that some people are improperly labeled, or that such terms are frequently used to stigmatize political opponents or what have you, but nevertheless that is a small price to pay in order to be able to talk openly and frankly about types of hate, insensitivity, and opposition.

    As far as my dog analogy, I can only suppose that you’re not sufficiently sensitive to imagine what it’s like to be a dachsund and be mistaken for a beagle, or to just be roughly labeled a dog, only because you have four legs, a tail and eat Alpo.

    Either that or you’ve lost that sense of humor you were once well-known for.

  15. D. Michael Quinn’s writings were “reviewed” by emphasizing that he was gay. Brent Metcalf was famously criticized in a F.A.R.M.S. review, in which the first letter of each paragraph spelled out “Metcalf is Butthead.”

    The Metcalfe thing was never published, and more than a few pages were devoted to examining Quinn’s historical claims in detail by descendants of the people Quinn claimed were gay. Let’s be reasonable in our characterizations of attackers AND defenders.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Precisely defining “anti-Mormon” is indeed difficult. I pretty much fall back on the Justice Stewart principle, “I know it when I see it.”

    For instance, to suggest that the Tanners are not anti-Mormon, to my mind at least, basically guts the term of any meaning at all, inasmuch as they are the classic case, Exhibit A. I know some people like James White object vociferously to use of the term to describe them, but I’m not aware of the Tanners objecting to it. I think it is descriptive of them. If I felt as they did about the church and spent my life trying to bring it down, I would proudly wear the label “anti-Mormon.” I don’t perceive it as having the negative social nuance that “anti-Semitic” does.

    It seems to me that at the very least any one who makes his living in a “countercult ministry” is an anti-Mormon. If not, then the term is devoid of any practical meaning.

    Conversely, those who simply reject the faith claims of the Church or responsibly disagree with it are not ipso facto anti-Mormon. I think there needs to be either the sensational or misleading element mentioned by the Wikipedia definition, or an intent to harm either the people or the institution. Another characteristic is a lack of balance; an unwillingness to see any good in the institution or its people at all, but to view every jot and tittle through a negative lens.

  17. As an example of how this term allows Mormons to feel morally superior to all of their opposition:

    In an institute class about a year ago, my teacher got up and said that he had been taught when he was young (and still believes) that all Anti-Mormons fall into three categories: misinformed (mormons have horms), mud-slinging (destroying the church with vicious lies), and axe-grinders (ex-mormons trying to lead others away.)

    I asked “what about those people who genuinely believe mormonism is incorrect and share their views in a well-informed and kind way?” and his response was “I’ve never met such a person.”

    The term “anti-mormon” allowed him to make a snap judgment about everyone opposing the church without ever listening to them. Quite convenient.

  18. Christopher Smith says:

    >> I think there needs to be either the sensational or misleading element mentioned by the Wikipedia definition…

    Kevin,

    Part of the difficulty is in identifying elements that are “sensational” or “misleading”. Mormons and non-Mormons alike are likely to disagree on this matter. For example, if someone represents the Church very responsibly but expresses the opinion that the Book of Mormon was demonically inspired, is that “sensational” and/or “misleading”? I’m sure that Dan Peterson would say it’s “sensational”, but the author might not intend it that way. I know of individuals who hold that opinion simply because the Book of Mormon is a complex and multi-layered book that Joseph Smith could not have produced by himself, yet his money-digging and polygamy preclude the investigator from accepting him as a prophet. For such an investigator, to call the Book of Mormon “demonically inspired” is not a judgment on Mormons, but rather an honest attempt to hold in tension all the evidence.

    I’m also sure that all Mormons would agree that such a comment is “misleading”, but then that kind of begs the question, doesn’t it? Certainly it’s not intentionally misleading, if the person really believes what they’re saying. And while the comment may be misleading in that it is incorrect (IMHO), it is no more so than incorrect opinions and arguments advanced by LDS apologists.

    My point, really, is that “sensational” and “misleading” are sometimes in the eye of the beholder. While I suspect that Loftes Tryk might admit to having written a “sensational” treatise on Mormonism, I doubt that Sandra Tanner would make a similar admission. In her case, the reader must make a subjective judgment. Different readers will probably come to very different conclusions.

    I think we also have to distinguish between intentional sensationalism and sensationalism that springs from ignorance. If someone perpetuates a nasty rumor (about Mormons having horns, for example) out of sheer naivete, is that a sign that they are an anti-Mormon? Not necessarily. They are mostly just ill-informed.

    -Chris

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Chris, it is indeed a personal and subjective judgment. And on the margins at least it is indeed a difficult one.

    When I published my review of the two BoM chapters from The New Mormon Challenge in the FARMS Review, my original draft had a long paragraph in which I concluded that I didn’t perceive the authors as being anti-Mormon because they were responsibly critiquing the BoM (even if I disagree with their critique, which I do). But one of the readers of my manuscript had a very strong objection to that material, so I pulled it, because it was just too difficult to reach a common view of what constitutes anti-Mormonism.

  20. Kevin: Precisely defining “anti-Mormon” is indeed difficult. I pretty much fall back on the Justice Stewart principle, “I know it when I see it.”

    Brian G.: Should we really retire the term anti-Mormon just because there is a spectrum to the various degrees of anti-Mormon motivation and behavior? The exact same could be said of the terms racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic, terms which are equally broad, but remain useful, and even necessary.

    Right on, both of you.

  21. Christopher Smith says:

    >> “But one of the readers of my manuscript had a very strong objection to that material, so I pulled it, because it was just too difficult to reach a common view of what constitutes anti-Mormonism.”

    That is disappointing. While I can understand why your reader might disagree, I see no reason for their disagreement to mute your distinctive contribution to this issue.

    Anyway, God bless,

    -Chris

  22. Nick Literski says:

    The Metcalf insult certainly *was* published, though it was pulled and replaced. There are still copies of the original issue out there, and they have become quite collectible for that reason.

  23. Jonathan Green says:

    JNS, I don’t think your six categories are useful, unless one wants to obscure the difference between non-Mormon and anti-Mormon, deny that anti-Mormons have anything in common with each other (for example, their distinctive dislike of the church), and emphasize the symmetric similarity between Mormons and anti-Mormons. I don’t buy any of it.

  24. I feel like pointing out that physical persecution of the Church and its members still exists in the United States. It’s nothing like Missouri and Illinois, but how many of our buildings are damaged or destroyed by arson each year? Here’s a link to an appeal in U.S. vs. Grassie. (Scroll down a third of the document to “Statement of Facts”.) My brother-in-law was an officer in the affected stake in New Mexico; imagine updates on the status of a criminal who has attacked you being an item in high council meetings. Also, my stake center outside Baltimore was burnt about fourteen years ago and had to be rebuilt. We can say these are the acts of lunatics and idiot teenagers, nothing more than that. If they are, then I suppose vandalism of Jewish cemetaries is just the excess of unruly youths.

  25. A bunch of great comments — thanks, folks. Let me quickly respond to a few of the remarks here.

    Brian G. says:

    Oh, please. Should we really retire the term anti-Mormon just because there is a spectrum to the various degrees of anti-Mormon motivation and behavior? The exact same could be said of the terms racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic, terms which are equally broad, but remain useful, and even necessary.

    I couldn’t disagree more thoroughly with the idea that anti-Mormonism is comparable with sexism, racism, etc. Let’s take the example of racism against blacks in the US. A variety of social psychologists have argued that a specific variant of racism called “symbolic racism” is now the predominant form of racial prejudice in America. That leading package of racist beliefs underlies a wide variety of racist behaviors and attitudes — so people who carry out those behaviors and attitudes share a lot more of a belief system than merely negative affect toward blacks.

    Specifically, people who carry out one of the wide variety of racist acts available to us are very often motivated by their belief in the following package of four ideas:

    1) Racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle to blacks’ prospects for a good life.

    2) Blacks’ continuing disadvantages are largely due to their unwillingness to work hard enough.

    3) Blacks’ continuing political demands are unwarranted.

    4) Any improvement in blacks’ social or economic position from where they are at present would be unwarranted.

    That belief system reflects a substantial amount of agreement among racist people — even those adopting widely different practical stances toward black people. (Note: there are many good sources for research on symbolic racism. A good starting point if you want to learn more is DR Kinder, DO Sears, 1981, “Prejudice and politics: Symbolic racism versus racial threats to the good life,” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.) Can anything like this much psychological content be attributed to anti-Mormons as a group? Of course not. Commenters here have only pointed to negative affect toward the church; not even everyone who has been characterized as an anti-Mormon shares that trait, though, since some feel that the church is fine as far as it goes but the members deserve to know about flaws they see in the church’s argument.

    In other words, there’s a world of difference between ideas like racism and sexism that point to a coherent belief system underpinning a huge range of behaviors, on the one hand, and anti-Mormonism which serves only to point to and homogenize a huge diversity of both behaviors and belief systems. The comparison is fatally flawed.

    Jonathan Green, your comment doesn’t really get where you want it to get. If you think that Mormons don’t often act in ways that exactly parallel the behavior of anti-Mormons, you need to argue against the range of examples I’ve given — not just react with negativity to the proposition. If you can’t rebut the argument, then it stands, no matter how much you and I might dislike the reality behind it.

    Kevin Barney, I agree that the “sensationalistic or misleading” criteria are important for some people as a component of the image of anti-Mormonism. You seem to use it as a tool for narrowing the range of people and statements classified as anti-Mormon; that’s fine and probably praiseworthy. But in general I think these criteria aren’t helpful in classifying anti-Mormonism(s), for basically the reasons that Nick Literski points to. For many Mormons, it’s impossible to conceive of an argument against Book of Mormon historicity that wouldn’t be misleading.

    John Mansfield, thanks for the link. I’d agree that physical persecution still exists in the U.S. On the other hand, there really do seem to be very few instances of church buildings being burned down these days. This kind of anti-Mormonism is, I think, relatively rare in the 21st century USA in comparison with either the 19th century or the third world today.

  26. RT, I think the term Anti-Mormon is used pretty much whenever the concept either states or implies: “The Church is false.” Now that being the case, I don’t think it is useful to label and dismiss Anti-Mormon statements. I think that is a greater problem than defining what is and is not Anti-Mormon. I think a better response is “That’s wrong because…” or “That can not be empircally proven one way or the other. Here are some reasons we believe what we believe…”

    I think we only damage ourselves by saying “That’s Anti-Mormon” and then dismissing it for being anti-mormon. I am actually grateful that FARMS seems to steered away from this for of dismissive approach, though it does occasionally crop up.

    I do understand that therte are situations where we are not physically, spiritually, or emotionally prepared to handle a statement which goes against our beliefs. In most of these situations we do not help ourselves be stylizing some form of Counter-Attack, but are better of either giving Heavenly Father the benefit of the doubt while we mull it over, or by simply not engaging the perceived offense at all. In my own personal life, I have found this approach to always bring me a faithful resolution with which I am happy and feel like I have kept my integrity.

  27. Also, my stake center outside Baltimore was burnt about fourteen years ago and had to be rebuilt. We can say these are the acts of lunatics and idiot teenagers, nothing more than that. If they are, then I suppose vandalism of Jewish cemetaries is just the excess of unruly youths.

    Actually, that is exactly how I would read those events. Mormons, like Jews, blacks, homosexuals, etc. provide easy targets for undirected aggression. I don’t see a vast conspiracy behind those isolated events.

  28. Matt W., as you can imagine, I’m pretty sympathetic with your comment #26. Let’s think for a moment, though, about who would be included in your definition for ‘anti-Mormon.’ If anti-Mormons are those who believe that the church is false, then pretty nearly every non-member who knows anything at all about Mormonism is an anti-Mormon. So also are many inactive Mormons, and at least some active Mormons. In other words, virtually everybody is an anti-Mormon.

    Definitions are, of course, flexible things. Your definition is as good as any other. But, with that kind of definition of anti-Mormonism, we aren’t justified in holding any negative feelings or preconceptions toward anti-Mormons whatsoever. After all, almost everybody is one, right? And most people aren’t vicious in any way about their belief that the Mormon church isn’t true; they just have a different experience than we do. So, if we harbor negative feelings toward anti-Mormons as you’ve defined them, we’re unambiguously in the wrong.

  29. I don’t think we are justified in harboring negative feelings toward anyone under Christ’s teachings. As for preconceptions, I think having preconceptions is unavoidable and probably naturally a good thing, whereas allowing those preconceptions to become final judgments is definitely a problem.

    Further, I think reacting to someone merely because they are an “Anti-Mormon” is a mistake. I think we can call a prideful jerk a prideful jerk, or an arsonist an arsonist, but I think we need to do this with what the Arbinger Institute calls a Heart of Peace.

  30. Jonathan Green says:

    JNS, you’re not making an argument that can stand or not. You’re elaborating a definition of “anti-Mormon.” That’s a worthy endeavor, but it’s judged by the utility of the result. If you find your categories useful, more power to you. For me, the categories you propose have undesired effects.

  31. Roasted,

    I think you fatally misread my comment. I drew a comparison between the terms anti-Mormon and the terms racist and sexist. There is a world of difference between comparing terms and their uses and comparing what the terms represent. I never would attempt to say anti-Mormonism is equivalent with racism.

    Having said that, I think that there are more similarities between anti-Mormon thought and racist thought than you allow for, and such similarites support my comparison of the terms.

    I think you would agree that no studies like the one you cite on racism have been done on anti-Mormonism, so it is both premature and specualtive on your part to assume that there is no coherent unifying ideas underneath anti-Mormonism. In fact, the study you use as support has no less than four distinct ideas that supposedly unite racist thinkers. You have slightly more categories in your recently invented taxonomy of anti-Mormons, but not enough more to prove the great diversity of belief among those refered to as anti-Mormons that you insist upon. And it does nothing to justify the retirement of the term anti-Mormon which you call for, and I object to.

    I wonder how ardently you agree with the study you cite in the first place. My opinion is that in spite of the prevalence of symbolic racism there is still plenty of circus sideshow racism, and racism of physical persecution, and public policy racists in the U.S. and abroad, if I might use the same distinctions you feel necessitate the retirement of the word anti-Mormon. Maybe you disagree, but I assume you don’t, and that you aren’t about to call for the elimination of the word racist.

    Regardless, this idea of symbolic racism is fascinating, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention, because I do believe there might be a parallel in anti-Mormonism, a symbolic anti-Mormonism which is developing, and is more sophisticated and harder to spot than what has come before.

    As long as we’re categorizing, its leading package of beliefs might be something like this:

    1) Mormons are no longer in danger of being beaten, tarred and feathered, or having their property or rights taken away.

    2) Mormon anger or offense at perceived threats or insensitivity is largely unwarranted, and Mormons shouldn’t be sensitive about having their odd beliefs or practices mocked or misunderstood.

    3) Any effort on the part of Mormons to gain more political influence and/or better representation in the popular media is largely unwarranted or unjustified.

    4) Nearly all efforts to defend the Church are misguided, academically or intellectually inferior, and hypocritical.

  32. Jonathan, you had objected to the argument — which I did make in passing and would probably defend — that Mormons often behave in ways, with respect to other religions, that parallel most categories of anti-Mormons. That is an argument, and it does stand or fall, even setting aside the categories.

    With respect to the effects you see in splitting up “anti-Mormonisms,” I think most of them are actually pernicious results of our current conceptions, rather than flaws of my proposed changes. Most conceptions of “anti-Mormonism” tend to include all non-Mormons at least some of the time; I think that’s absurd and a reason to break up the category. Furthermore, the category of “anti-Mormonism” creates a hollow illusion that anti-Mormons have a lot in common. You can’t name things they have in common, but you have the sense that there are such things. I would argue that your inarticulated perception of commonality among anti-Mormons is a consequence of our overly homogeneous conceptualization — and an argument against that conception.

  33. Brian G — let me clarify. The four ideas involved in racism are ideas that are shared among most US racists. That is, the package is agreed to among such folks.

    By contrast, the four ideas you list for anti-Mormons aren’t distinctively shared by most or all anti-Mormons by any means. For one thing, many or most faithful Mormons believe category #1. Many people classified as anti-Mormons wouldn’t agree with categories 2, 3, or 4, either. This isn’t a widespread, packaged belief system — but racism is one. That’s the crucial distinction.

    Retiring the term is important because the term leads us Mormons to sin. It leads us to feel unjustified malice toward people on the basis of other “anti-Mormons” who don’t resemble them in any meaningful way. We attribute the blame many of us see as justified with respect to 19th century mobs and governments to modern people who have done nothing more than discuss our history or theology. The category leads us to see evil where there is merely difference in belief systems. As this thread has shown, it helps us “discover” imaginary connections among different categories of people, and thereby to blame and reject them all without paying attention to who they are or what they stand for. If real connections did exist among these categories, as they do among most racists by way of an elaborate shared belief system, then the picture would be different.

  34. From http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2006/01/defining_antimo.html :

    “The term ‘anti-Mormon’ has two meanings. First, it means anyone who is opposed to the LDS church. In this sense, there are plenty of anti-Mormons. But the second meaning, which is a semantic parallel to the term ‘anti-Semite,’ describes people who engage in acts of vitriolic hatred, or even proto-genocide, toward the church.

    “As far as I can tell, there are really quite few (although not zero) anti-Mormons in the second sense. So the first definition would probably make the term more useful. Unfortunately, the emotional weight of the second meaning is so much greater than that of the first that it bleeds over. So I think it’s really unacceptable to use the term ‘anti-Mormon’ when you’re not describing someone engaged in actual acts of persecution — because your audience will emotionally experience the statement as involving persecution…

    “Bias or even an intention of convincing people not to be Mormon isn’t the same as actual persecution. It’s not anti-Semitic in the hate-speech sense to claim that the Law of Moses was fulfilled with the coming of Christ. And it’s not anti-Mormon in the persecution sense to claim that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. These kinds of ideas, as well as the intention of convincing people not to be Mormon, fall squarely under the first category of anti-Mormon but not the second. We need a different word for these kinds of people, a word that isn’t inappropriately tainted with genocidal implications.”

  35. This is interesting. I have no qualms with calling Aaron here an anti-Mormon. Anyone who spends as much time as that and only uses negatively biased sources and demonstrates at general conference is demonstrably so. This isn’t Naturalistic scholarship.

  36. Aaron, hey, you’ve found earlier remarks by me on this same subject! (For any readers who may not know, I’m RoastedTomatoes.) It may or may not interest others to compare the extent to which I still think the same things about the term ‘anti-Mormon’ today that I thought on January 5th of this year — but I find the comparison fun. Well, how solipsistic of me. But thanks, Aaron, for the link and the memories!

  37. Christopher Smith says:

    Aaron Shafovaloff:

    Great quote. That is one of the best explanations I have seen of the complexities of this issue.

  38. I actually thought by the title of your post that this was going to be about the top 6 Anti-Mormon Tenets. Which could be mildly entertaining if done in the right light and to the right audience. Hopefully if they were refuted too, but then that could get into bible bashing.

  39. J.,

    I’m just sharing ideas for sub-categories just like you are, no doubt I’m not as good at it as you though. Maybe I need more practice.

    I never intended for my four ideas to define all anti-Mormons. I was pointing out some of the great diversity in thinking sometimes characterized, often unjustly, as anti-Mormon. I thought you’d be proud of me.

    What I’m not doing is sinning by arguing that we should hold on to the term anti-Mormon. Words like “jerkwad” and “bonehead” also lead to sinning. Should we also get rid of them?

    Hold on. Wait. Maybe we should retire the term sinner altogether because there’s a wide range between the sin of mislabeling someone an anti-Mormon and other unconnected sins.

    And trust me, I’m sophisticated and smart enough to know the difference between someone dragging a Mormon out of his home for a beating, and someone writing an honest examination of our faith and history–even one that concludes our claims are false.

    Let me hazard a guess that this post was motivated by sympathy toward people who have been, or who still are, unfairly labeled anti-Mormons. A noble intention. We would both agree that when that occurs it is unfortunate, often ignorant, and sometimes sinful behavior.

    As I stated earlier such hateful labeling occurs with similar terms such as racist and sexist. Still I refuse to advocate abandoning those terms, because that is a small price to pay for allowing women and racial minorities to have the necessary language to identify and confront those who oppose them in a grand variety of ways from subtle to overt. Mormons need and deserve the same privilege and a similar word.

    You seem to resist any and all comparison between the terms sexist, racist, and anti-Mormon. Okay, fine. But just because Mormons sometimes sin in their use of the term anti-Mormon does not mean that they don’t need it in order to point out when they’re being sinned against.

    My opinion is that you are really smart, but that your desire to get rid of the term anti-Mormon is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  40. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind being called an anti-Mormon if it wasn’t used as a “terminological sleight of hand”, and if the term didn’t imply to so many that I was frothing at the mouth with some sort of hatred. I have a genuine theological, historical concern, as well as a personal concern that you guys not go to hell for worshiping an idol (not to mention those sucked in with mainstreaming tacticts).

    [Aaron] “only uses negatively biased sources”

    If it helps, you’ll notice that my wiki provides an abundance of links to pro-LDS material. It’s my goal that people would come to my wiki to get quick access to the best of both sides, albeit with the evangelical side of things highlighted.

    Grace and peace, in Christ who justifies the ungodly like me (Romans 4:4-8),

    Aaron

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Aaron, I don’t think that you’re going to avoid being called anti-Mormon. Sorry!

  42. Wear it with pride Aaron. It is what you are.

  43. JNS/RT: Interesting post and analysis. Like Eric and Steve, I tend to think your last three categories are where I begin my definitions of anti-Mormon. And, like Kevin, I rely a great deal on the “I know it when I see it” type of definition–though, the sensational and misleading also plays a large role in my own analysis. So, depending on what the “average evangelical preacher” says, may make him or her just an anti-Mormon as a Missouri Mob.

    What is an anti-Mormon? Latter-day Saints tend to have quite strong, and quite negative, feelings about anti-Mormons.

    Whatever they are, I don’t think these feelings are necessarily a bad thing–particularly if they motivate one to confront anti-Mormonism.

    If a major moral taint didn’t attach to the word, it probably wouldn’t be worth thinking about what it actually means. But moral stigma does attach, with anti-Mormons thought of by some Latter-day Saints in the same ways that anti-Semites are thought of by World War II-era Jewish folks.

    I’m not so certain that this moral taint is a bad thing either. While the history of persecution of the Saints from the 1800′s up to the present may not be on a par with the holocaust–still some of the motivations may be similar, i.e., hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and probably others.

    If we would be as honest in our representations of our non-Mormon brothers and sisters as we would like them to be in their discussions of us, it is time to retire the blanket category of ‘anti-Mormonism.

    Like some others who have already commented on this thread, I strongly disagree with this retirement. I think the term still serves a purpose–though you have a valid point that it can be used irresponsibly. And, perhaps you think I did so in labeling Mr. Sullivan’s posts and discussion of Mormons and Mitt Romney over the last couple of weeks.

    My six-fold typology of anti-Mormonisms is probably not complete, but it may provide the starting point for a less distorting language for discussing the varieties of people who stand outside of, and in at least one way against, the Mormon community.

    I don’t if a uniform anti-Mormon definition is possible–or even desirable. But, I agree that perhaps your framework is a starting point for a better discussion.

  44. Jonathan Green says:

    JNS, if you are admitting that the similarity of Mormons to anti-Mormons is what you are arguing for, then I will concede that you have made an argument. It is a stunningly ghastly and absurd argument, but an argument nonetheless. I am, however, unpersuaded by arguments that begin by defining words to mean whatever one wants them to mean.

    If you want to criticize a clumsy definition, or caution against its over-broad application, or point out the heterogeneous nature of anti-Mormonism, fine. But it’s silly to claim that anti-Mormons don’t exist as a group as cohesive as any other social group defined by a common foe.

    When it’s time to build a Buddhist temple in Utah, or renovate the Church of the Madeline in SLC, does the Church offer its help, or does it encourage members to protest and shame people who worship differently?

  45. Brian, I didn’t say you were sinning because you wanted to retain the overall term — I simply made an argument that the term’s primary remaining purpose is to enable sinful misjudgment, anger, and hatred on our parts. You aren’t necessarily engaged in any of those things; my point is that the category of ‘anti-Mormon’ traps many or most (but not necessarily all) who use it in such things.

    I’m not sure that you’ve yet understood the argument about racism. The point with racism is that there’s a specific package — including all four ideas mentioned above — that almost all racists share. That makes racism a real category; people who are racists agree with each other about a lot. Your proposed parallel list of anti-Mormon ideas proves that there is no such package for anti-Mormons, because you came up with a list that wouldn’t all be accepted by very many of the people opposed to the church (and different people would accept different parts).

    Do we need the term ‘anti-Mormon’ to point out when we’re being sinned against? Is it really our business to decide we’ve been sinned against? Our scriptures seem to give us mandates to leave such judgments to God and to forgive rather than accuse.

    Guy Murray, thanks for your comment. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but I also worry that your comment displays a bit of the blurring effect that worries me about the term ‘anti-Mormon.’ You say:

    Depending on what the “average evangelical preacher” says, may make him or her just an anti-Mormon as a Missouri Mob… While the history of persecution of the Saints from the 1800’s up to the present may not be on a par with the holocaust–still some of the motivations may be similar, i.e., hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and probably others.

    In these statements, you are rejecting a moral distinction between people who talk about religious ideas (maybe even in distorting or dishonest ways) and people who rape, murder, plunder, and expropriate. But it seems that the two categories aren’t morally similar. Ed Decker may be a bad man — I certainly don’t approve of his work — but he hasn’t killed anyone that I know of. Is it really right for us to assign him some of the blame for the behavior of, say, Lilburn Boggs? If so, then by the same logic it may be okay to blame you and me for the Mountain Meadows Massacre… After all, we have some of the same beliefs as those people did, right?

    Of course, we aren’t to blame for Mountain Meadows. My point is just that I worry when we connect people speaking peacefully against us in a time when we’re relatively free from physical persecution with people engaged in actual acts of persecution. You may have an argument for why this connection is better than I see it as being. If so, please share.

    Jonathan, I do claim that anti-Mormons don’t exist as a social group of any sort. There are very different kinds of anti-Mormons, who don’t necessarily agree with each other over tactics or even regarding what’s actually wrong with Mormonism. They also don’t always communicate with each other at all.

    Not all anti-Mormons protest outside Mormon buildings. Some merely publish arguments against our beliefs. Well, we publish arguments against their beliefs. Arguing against other people’s beliefs is just something that people with beliefs do. If there are specific tactics that you want to reject, regardless of who engages in them, I think that’s fine. But Mormons do in fact use most of the kinds of arguments against others that others use against us. That’s my argument — and it’s neither ghastly nor absurd, as far as I can tell. Perhaps you can help me out with the details on that one.

  46. but I also worry that your comment displays a bit of the blurring effect that worries me about the term ‘anti-Mormon.’ You say:

    Depending on what the “average evangelical preacher” says, may make him or her just a[s] anti-Mormon as a Missouri Mob… While the history of persecution of the Saints from the 1800’s up to the present may not be on a par with the holocaust–still some of the motivations may be similar, i.e., hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and probably others.

    RT: The whole notion of an anti-Mormon, or for that matter an anti-anything, I think is by definition going to contain variations of blurriness. Your own framework has six tiers with some convergence. This is where the “I know it when I see it” factor helps clarify a bit (though admittedly this can be and is highly subjective).

    In these statements, you are rejecting a moral distinction between people who talk about religious ideas (maybe even in distorting or dishonest ways) and people who rape, murder, plunder, and expropriate. But it seems that the two categories aren’t morally similar. Ed Decker may be a bad man — I certainly don’t approve of his work — but he hasn’t killed anyone that I know of. Is it really right for us to assign him some of the blame for the behavior of, say, Lilburn Boggs?

    No, not really. I agree there is a moral distinction; but, why can’t Ed Decker (or the Tanners and others) and those who actually act out their anti-Mormon rhetoric all be considered anti-Mormon? I think they can. I think Ed Decker, The Tanners, and Lilburn Boggs are/were all anti-Mormon–regardless of their moral culpability in acting out those anti-Mormon feelings.

    Further, I would argue that a guy like Sullivan is perhaps not anti-Mormon in the sense of Ed Decker, the Tanners, or those clowns who parade around General Conferences and Temple open houses. Rather, I see Sullivan more as making anti-Mormon statements and spreading misconceptions about the Church. Overall, Andrew Sullivan probably doesn’t care much about Mormons–though he can make and has made, I believe, anti-Mormon rants on his blog. Yet, he is in a different class of anti-Mormons than say Ed Decker, or to a degree the Tanners who have made their entire life’s work denigrating and/or fighting against the Church.

    My point is just that I worry when we connect people speaking peacefully against us in a time when we’re relatively free from physical persecution with people engaged in actual acts of persecution. You may have an argument for why this connection is better than I see it as being. If so, please share.

    We’re relatively free from physical persecution because as a society our mores and responses are much more sophisticated now than in the 1800′s. After all, we had the same First Amendment and other legal protections in the 1800′s as we have today. People’s attitudes have evolved.

    I wonder though, how safe are we today from the physical persecutions that plagued the early saints? Prejudice, ignorance and hate are powerful motivators. Prior to 9/11 I think many probably looked at individuals of Islamic faith or middle-eastern descent differently than might be the case today. Look at the reaction of America’s lawmakers in response to 9/11. The Patriot Act has trampled on many constitutional principles once held inviolate.

    Of course the point I’m trying to make is that circumstances can and do change. The relative peace and quite the saints enjoy today, may not stay the same in the future.

    I think the fact that one’s anti-Mormonism or anti-Mormon rhetoric may be peaceful doesn’t imbue it with any less hate, bigotry, or prejudice. But, again each case is individual with its own set of circumstances. Where I would agree with you is that it can be dangerous to throw the anti-Mormon label at everything with which we disagree. In Sullivan’s case, I think he merited the designation–even though his rants were relatively peaceful, and no one was killed, injured or maimed.

  47. Guy, one of my underlying concerns here is with the idea that people who oppose the church are acting with “hate, bigotry, or prejudice.” Was Jerald Tanner? Perhaps he hated the church, but he didn’t hate Mormons. Was he bigoted against Mormons? Again, no, he was kind toward them. Was he bigoted against Mormonism? Once more, no. He opposed Mormonism because of the (very real) evidence that Mormon doctrine has changed a lot over time — an idea that he found incompatible with the claim that Mormonism was revealed truth. Was he prejudiced? Yet again, not against individual Mormons. Almost certainly not against Mormonism, either. Prejudice requires a decision to be made before a consideration of evidence, but Tanner’s decision to leave and then work against the church was made after looking at a lot of evidence.

    Jerald Tanner opposed the church professionally. In that sense, if anyone is an “anti-Mormon,” he was. But he shows a danger in the category, which transmutes opposition to the church into bigotry.

  48. RT, Jerald Tanner is a great example of an anti-Mormon. I just don’t see the point of your equivocations here. A man who works as his full-time job to bring down the Church or to bring people away from the Church is an anti-Mormon. It’s very simple really. You make assumptions that Tanner did not hate individual Mormons. I have no idea what you would base those assumptions on but they are actually irrelevant. The proof is in the pudding. An anti-Mormon is an anti-Mormon. I don’t see what we are gaining by saying that Jerald Tanner wasn’t actually an anti-Mormon. He was; I’m sure he would have been the first to admit that.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    John, I think part of what RT is getting at is that those who have personal hatred for the members of the church are different, and more scary, than those who “merely” seek to destroy the institution. I agree that both types are anti-mormons; Tanner was clearly an anti-mormon, and self-designated as such. However, he was also a pacifist and from all reports, a nice guy in most other respects.

    Just when we talk about bigotry, etc. it helps to clarify that most people we identify as “anti-mormon” only really hate the Church, not any particular mormon.

  50. Requiring hatred for individual Latter-day Saints as a prerequisite for true-blue anti-Mormonism seems utterly contrived to me. Return to Brian G.’s points above about comparisons to sexism and racism. Is the only truly bigoted racist one that actually hates individual people based on their race? Is that really so common among racists — that is, do racists as a general matter actually hate individual members of a given race, or just the race itself? Anti-Mormons hate the Church and what it stands for. Whether they hate individual Latter-day Saints seems entirely irrelevant. I think that RT gives too short of shrift to Brian’s points on the comparison to racism.

  51. (Now that we’re allowed to use Nazi analogies, see Slate article currenlty linked on BCC’s Sideblog rejecting the restrictions Godwin’s Law places on rational discourse when it comes to comparing Bush and Republicans with Nazis and such things as the Republicans’ plans to alter Senate rules on Democratic filibustering of judicial nominations to the Enabling Act of 1933, couldn’t we say that many a Nazi professor or school teacher were entirely “professional” about how they taught the superiority of the “aryan” race? I would guess that many of them did not really hate a single — or very many — individual Jew, Slav, or gypsy. What does professionalism have to do with whether someone is anti something or not, or whether someone is a bigot or not?)

  52. Nick Literski says:

    Keep in mind that amidst all the voices chiming in after Mark Hoffman “discovered” various documents which questioned the church’s historical claims, it was Jerald Tanner who, all along, said the Salamander Letter was a HOAX. Tanner also disputed the unfounded claims of other critics of the LDS church, such as Ed Decker. Say what you will, but at least the Tanners were acting within their own best integrity.

  53. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, no one is questioning Jerald Tanner’s integrity.

  54. John F., racism isn’t only or primarily hatred. It’s a complex belief system that attributes less worth to individuals based on a network of conceptions about groups those individuals are said to belong to. If “anti-Mormons” in general shared a complex, uniform worldview, this post would be irrelevant. But different kinds of people who oppose the church differ from each other on virtually all points of belief, so there isn’t a uniform “anti-Mormon” worldview. Nobody in this thread has managed to rebut this argument.

    Further, would you argue that anybody who doesn’t hate the church isn’t anti-Mormon? Suppose somebody thinks the church is just a man-made organization and doesn’t deserve hatred or strong emotion, but that its doctrine is false and will lead people to hell (i.e., imagine someone with roughly the belief system that motivates most Mormon missionaries to work all day to bring people out of other churches and into our own). Is that person not an “anti-Mormon”? If “anti-Mormonism” depends on the existence of hatred within an individual’s heart, then our ability to determine whether a particular person is an “anti-Mormon” becomes quite limited; as the scriptures say, we can’t look on the heart.

  55. RT, I was rejecting the premise that hatred for individual Latter-day Saints is the touchstone for true anti-Mormonism.

  56. John, fair enough. If hatred for individuals or for the church isn’t the touchstone — then it becomes that much harder to locate a touchstone at all.

  57. Hatred for the Church is enough, I would guess. Don’t you think?

  58. MikeInWeHo says:

    To debate whether or not Tanner was “anti-Mormon” seems odd to me. His clear intent was to pursuade all the LDS to leave the Church and become Evangelical-type Christians. He dedicated his whole life to that end. Had he achieved his goal, there would be NO Mormons anymore. How could he not be considered anti-Mormon, no matter how you define it? Just because he didn’t express anger and was soft-spoken?

  59. John F., perhaps hatred for the church is sufficient but not necessary? Surely there are some people who are routinely categorized as “anti-Mormons” who don’t hate the church — they just think it’s wrong, like Mormons think the Catholics are wrong.

    Mike, let me clarify one more time: I’m not arguing that Jerald Tanner wasn’t “anti-Mormon.” However, Eric and Guy Murray above defined the term as only including my last three categories, which would make Tanner not an anti-Mormon. So, your complaint really targets them, not me. My argument, instead, is that the term “anti-Mormon” is perplexing, hard to adequately define, and creates a grouping that leads us to unreasonably and perhaps unrighteously attribute hatred and bigotry to a wide range of quite different people. As such, it isn’t really my mission here to argue that specific people are or aren’t anti-Mormon. Instead, it’s to suggest that we need different categories.

  60. Nick Literski says:

    I don’t think there’s any question that Jerald Tanner was an “anti-Mormon.” My only point was that the man at least did what he did with a level of fairness and integrity. The same can’t be said for many other prominent critics of the LDS church (Ed Decker comes to mind).

    Ironically, the Tanners did quite a lot to assist Mormon historians, by reprinting documents which were at the time very difficult to access otherwise.

  61. However, Eric and Guy Murray above defined the term as only including my last three categories, which would make Tanner not an anti-Mormon. So, your complaint really targets them, not me.

    RT: Actually, that’s not exactly what I said, or meant anyway. I really said:

    Like Eric and Steve, I tend to think your last three categories are where I begin my definitions of anti-Mormon. And, like Kevin, I rely a great deal on the “I know it when I see it” type of definition–though, the sensational and misleading also plays a large role in my own analysis. So, depending on what the “average evangelical preacher” says, may make him or her just a[s] anti-Mormon as a Missouri Mob.

    I was trying to say (perhaps unartfully)that I would begin my definition using your last three categories–not necessarily limit it at that.

    But, I do agree with you in part:

    that the term “anti-Mormon” is perplexing, hard to adequately define . . .

  62. RT/J.,

    Please don’t mistake my failure to agree with you for failure to comprehend you.

    I understand your point about racism having a more unifying body of ideas behind it than anti-Mormonism. I think you overestimate the unity in racist thought, and you may perhaps understimate the unity among anti-Mormons. As I stated earlier to my knowledge no comparable studies have been done. It’s easy to prove variety of belief among anti-Mormons if you include all non-Mormons in your first category of anti-Mormons as you do here–a clever way of providing for a great variety of belief and motivation.

    My list was never meant to be a unifying group of ideas all anti-Mormons share, but speculation about the existence of some other very subtle types of beliefs that may fit on the more benign end of the spectrum you suggest. I was never trying to set-up an exact parallel to the list in your study.

    For the sake of argument, and because I’m sure you’re as tired of repeating yourself as I am, I’m willing to quit disagreeing on whether there are social psychological similarities between racism and anti-Mormonism. Your argument is a linguistic one, and it should be carried out on linguistic turf.

    I disagree that the primary purpose of the term anti-Mormon is to enable sinful misjudgement, etc. The term’s primary purpose remains, like most words, to be an identifier, so that two or more people can talk about something and understand each other. In this it is is similar to words like racist, homophobe, anti-Semite, etc., which are sometimes similarly misused to harmful effect, but remain necessary to racial minorities, gays, and Jews.

    In spite of the fact that there is much more hurtful stigmas attached to those words than anti-Mormon neither of us is arguing for the retirement of such words. If sinful misjudgement of others is your first concern than that would seem logical to go down that path as much more people are misjudged using those words than anti-Mormon on a daily basis.

    Regardless of the debatable unity or disunity, variety or uniformity among the groups the words help us represent, the terms themselves are useful as identifiers. Homophobe is a good example, as its rise in usage has accompanied a beneficial rise in discussion about gay issues, gay rights, and gay discrimination. Yes, people are sometimes wrongly labeled homophobic, I am sure, yet without such words groups would not be able to draw attention to their issues and their conflicts, whether they be ideological, physical, or political.

    Misuses of these terms is unfortunate, but if political correctness has taught us anything it is that you can change words and terms easier than you can change attitudes. In fact, the new terms undergo a process of pejoration with time if attitudes don’t change. If your number one concern is the word anti-Mormon leads to sinful misjudgement and misuse than at the very least you shouldn’t suggest replacement terms like circus sideshow anti-Mormon that are much more pejorative than the original term.

    I believe we agree on the existence of the problem if not its severity. The term anti-Mormon shouldn’t be tossed around. If the sole purpose of your post was just to suggest categories and distinctions we’d see eye-to-eye, but its your insistence on eliminating a necessary and useful word that I disagree with.

  63. Brian, the necessity/usefulness of the word ‘anti-Mormonism’ depends centrally on its content. The social-psychological argument, as well as the divergence among all six categories in my original post, point toward the idea that there’s really almost no general content to the term ‘anti-Mormon.’ As such, there’s really nothing to lose except judgment in abandoning the term. You have repeatedly disagreed with this idea, but it seems to me taht you haven’t yet provided evidence or a solid argument in disagreeing — and so I see the argument as un-rebutted. This isn’t necessarily a permanent situation, but changing it would require more detail than you’ve provided yet.

  64. Jonathan Green says:

    JNS, how many more people have to tell you that you’re off track before you declare that you’ve proven your point beyond all doubt?

    Back in #54, you told John, “If ‘anti-Mormonism’ depends on the existence of hatred within an individual’s heart, then our ability to determine whether a particular person is an ‘anti-Mormon’ becomes quite limited; as the scriptures say, we can’t look on the heart.” And yet your six categories are largely dependent on differentiating between individuals’ motivations, i.e. looking on their hearts. How can your categories be anything more than your guesses about what makes various people tick?

    But I don’t think most Mormons actually care about motivation at all before using the term ‘anti-Mormon.’ They care about actions: an anti-Mormon is someone who expends abnormal energies in opposing and tearing down the Church of JC of L-dS.

    Our eleventh Article of Faith and recent statements by the Prophet indicate Mormons are nothing like a mirror image of anti-Mormons. The mistake you’re making in the comparison is to equate the essential core of anti-Mormonness to an element of Mormonism that is marginal and pathological, if it exists at all. When was the last time Mormons picketed and handed out anti-JW literature outside a new Kingdom Hall?

  65. Daniel Peterson says:

    I just noticed this, and have to comment:

    “F.A.R.M.S. . . . has had a reputation for making ad hominem attacks in it’s “Review of Books,” rather than dealing with actual issues.”

    It’s true that we have that reputation. It has never been accurate.

    “D. Michael Quinn’s writings were “reviewed” by emphasizing that he was gay.”

    Simply false. Mike Quinn’s writings have been subjected, at considerable length, to very substantive criticisms. We knew that he was a homosexual for years before he came out of the closet, but never mentioned it.

    “Brent Metcalf was famously criticized in a F.A.R.M.S. review, in which the first letter of each paragraph spelled out “Metcalf is Butthead.””

    Although that decade-old acrostic continues to loom large in the demonology of some critics of FARMS, it was, in fact, never distributed by FARMS and never formed part of any argument advanced by the review’s author.

    In any event, even if we had showcased it in letters of gold it would not constitute an ad hominem logical fallacy. At the worst, it would be an obscure and largely invisible insult. (The two are quite distinct.) On the other hand, suggesting that FARMS arguments should be dismissed because one or even all of the hundreds of people who have written for FARMS are nasty would be a textbook illustration of that very fallacy.

  66. I’m not anti-mormon in the sense that I dislike mormonism’s adherents. I don’t think anyone “hates” or dislikes people simply because they are mormons. I’m an orthodox Lutheran and I have encountered several dozen mormons and jehovah’s witnesses, etc. in my work and travels. They have all been nice, intelligent people. I have a problem with mormon doctrine, but not the people themselves. I dislike no group simply because of their believers. I disagree with mormonism vociferously when given a chance, but I do not hate, nor am I anti-mormon. I like to read varying viewpoints on religion, and mormons, like JWs, and Scientologists kind of fascinate me. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I cannot believe people have not held onto the one true faith that the saints instituted back in Jesus’ day. I have a problem with Mormonism stating that there was a great apostasy. There wasn’t. Saint Matthew plainly states this… and I’ll quote from the KJV to please the mormons on this site.

    Matthew 16:18 (King James Version)
    King James Version (KJV)

    18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    Saint Peter was the chief apostle, not the pope as our Catholic brothers like to say. There is such as a thing as apostolic succession, however, as was taught by God Himself in the Bible. Apostasy against what Christ instituted is impossible. The Church is not a building, a set of doctrinal books — it is the body of TRUE believers in the one orthodox faith that God Himself instituted when He walked the earth as Christ Jesus.
    It is impossible to fall away from the truth IF you are a true Christian. Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, stated as much when He said “No one shall snatch the sheep from my hand.”

    To finish, no one hates or dislikes mormons simply because of their beliefs. I think people fear what they don’t understand, and frankly, from what I’ve noticed, most mormons don’t really know their faith that well.

  67. Jonathan #64, for what it’s worth, there are only a handful of people who’ve rejected my approach in this post — they’ve just done so several times and at some length. A large number of others have been supportive, either in comments above or via email messages. If this were a vote rather than an intellectual exchange, my proposal would be elected. But, well, it doesn’t work that way.

    I’m also not trying to claim that Mormonism is a mirror image to anti-Mormonism. Rather, the point is that good Mormons sometimes engage in tactics that closely parallel those of anti-Mormons, and therefore we should consider being more tolerant of some anti-Mormon behaviors than we sometimes are.

    During my mission, to take up your example, it was a favorite tactic of many missionaries (and one that produced a number of converts!) to be walking down the street when evangelical protestant church services let out. Then, we missionaries would go up to the people leaving church and strike up a conversation with them about Joseph Smith’s revelation (which, as it turns out, says that their church is false!). Is that like Jehovah’s Witnesses proselytizing outside our meetings? I think pretty much.

  68. During my first week as a missionary, I was assigned to pair up with the zone leader for a day. The ZL took me to a meeting of J.W.s in which he proceeded to make everyone very uncomfortable with his questions, etc. All of this was going on while these people were just trying to have their worhsip services. It was unconscionable and I left the meeting to make my way back to my apartment alone.

  69. Jerry Smith says:

    I think this new movie, September Dawn, will shed some light on LDS History. True, it is a movie, but it will open people to discussions and begin dialog that will either confirm or deny the birth of a religion.

    http://www.septemberdawn.net

    What do you think?

  70. Steve Evans says:

    jerry smith, I think you are an ignorant spammer troll. That’s what I think. Go to hell.

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