An Apology

A day or so ago, I wrote a post about Mike Huckabee using a standard Anti-Mormon trope in an article that will be published in the New York Times Magazine. I pointed out why I thought the trope was silly. Since then, Huckabee has apologized. Perhaps it is time for me to do the same.

I try to be honest about who I am. I am, although I am not proud of it, a little sexist, racist, and ethnocentric. I try to overcome these elements in myself, but I know that the problem is what I don’t notice that I am doing. The assumptions I take into any conversation or situation that I don’t realize I have to tamp down. There are attitudes in me that I fight against and seek to destroy. I am more or less successful in this.

My greatest prejudice is against Evangelical Christians. Most of this has to do with my upbringing. I grew up in the Evangelical South and I was faced frequently with questions about my religion. Usually, people were very nice about it (as they are in the south), but it was ever present. The people in my neighborhood mostly attended a very conservative Evangelical school in the area (the cheerleaders had skirts down to their ankles). As a child, I often attended parties and church functions with friends who were Baptists (it was a primarily Baptist area). No-one ever said that I belonged to an inferior religion or that I was going to hell. But the members of that church were closer than we were in that neighborhood. I was always a little bit of an outsider.

As I got older, I would attend occasional functions with my Baptist friends. We would go to lock ins and so forth. I would be invited and go to their functions; they would be invited and not attend mine. Is that prejudice? I don’t know. I remember a conversation once where I had told a friend in 6th grade that I would debate his sister about the church. We did it on the phone. I had a copy of Mormon Doctrine in my lap. She asked me who the prince of this world was. I said Jesus. She said the devil. I looked it up and read her the entry in MD, telling her that I was wrong and she was right. I don’t remember the outcome of the conversation. In 8th grade, one of my friends, who I really liked, entered into a conversation with me wherein he told me what I believed. He calmly explained why I belonged to a cult and why I didn’t believe in Christ. My defense was that I had a pretty good idea of what I believed and that he wasn’t describing it. We weren’t so close after that.

One of my defining characteristics growing up was being Mormon. I gave a presentation to my high school’s faculty describing Mormons as an ethnic group, of whom they needed to be culturally aware. I was well known as someone who wouldn’t have sex or drink coffee or smoke. Of course, I was also a normal hormonal teenager, so some of this chafed, but I managed. I was always, everywhere, a spokesman for the church, for better and for worse. As such, I occasionally found myself in discussions with my Evangelical classmates about God. I did my best to explain LDS positions, but I didn’t really have much ammo that I didn’t come up with myself. They had books and things. They were prepared by occasionally “cult week” lectures that let the world know that I was a brainwashed freak. Everyone was nice to me, but I was always different. Parents were unsure around me. Friends sometimes audibly censored themselves. I was desperate to fit in, but knew that I never really would unless I gave up the church.

Sometimes people talk about the persecution complex that Mormons or other minority groups get. Maybe that’s what this was. I just always felt my religion was a sticking point with some people, when it shouldn’t have been. I dated a girl once who dated me half out of genuine teenage crush and half out of a desire to redeem my soul from the eternal flames of hell. My neighbors knew about the word of wisdom, but consistently offered me tea.

I suppose that I went through a period much like what some Mormons do when they arrive in Utah and find people just as thieving, murderous, unpleasant, and smelly as they are everywhere else. You say to yourself, “But these are Mormons?” In my case, it was “But these are church-going, morally upright Baptists? And they don’t really like me. Without even knowing me, they are suspicious of me.” In this, I lost my faith in the Christian right. For a long time, my general rule was if the Christian right is for something, I am against it (or, at least, deeply suspicious of it). I suspect President Bush, at least in part, because I am pretty sure that he doesn’t believe that I belong to a real religion and that I am incapable of having a real religious experience. I have become someone who is always, always deeply suspicious of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (although I still respect Billy Graham). I see them all as used car salesmen, using the Lord’s name to get ahead. I don’t believe in the faith of any of them.

This is my prejudice. I was reminded of it again in the past two days because I realize that if I don’t think that Romney’s Mormonism should be a factor in his getting elected, then I am not sure that Huckabee’s offhand anti-Mormonism should be either. I don’t think Huckabee is a practiced anti. I’m sure that as a Baptist preacher he has conducted his share of “cult weeks” but I doubt he really thinks that we are a force for evil in the world. It is just so easy for me to see that in him, because of my own prejudices. Should Huckabee’s beliefs about Mormonism matter? It isn’t as if his first order of business would be to investigate the church’s tax-exempt status or to file an extermination order. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. It is just hard because I am so used to not doing it.

So, I am sorry, Mr. Huckabee. I should give you the benefit of the doubt. I am sorry that I haven’t up to this point. But, I will also watch you very carefully on this point from here on out. While I am not sure that your beliefs about Mormonism should matter, they probably will (with me, at least).

Comments

  1. Steve Evans says:

    Your apology was a lot better than Huckabee’s.

  2. Latter-day Guy says:

    This is very nice of you John, but I don’t think your initial response was entirely unreasonable. I think of it as Pavlovian. Just as we Mormons must, for good or ill, bear some of any stigma created by those of our community, members of other communities are under the same onus.

  3. John,

    I am not sure this apology is really needed. Huckabee dropped some standard anti talking points to a reporter. You reacted. Big deal.

  4. I’m not sure what Evangelicalism is. I think it’s a religion.

  5. Antonio Parr says:

    Your apology would be necessary if you were to take the position that you wouldn’t vote for Huckabee because he is an Evangelical Christian. Being troubled by his aversion to Mormons and Mormonism is not cause for repentance.

    As to the issue of refusing to vote for someone because they are anti-Mormon, that is a different issue altogether. I, for one, will not support any political candidate who takes the overt or covert position that my faith is cultish and that members of my church are so theologically flawed that they cannot be trusted with positions of leadership (such as President of the United States).

    There are multiple reasons for this. First, I would question whether such a candidate would work to protect the interests of the country’s LDS citizens. Second, I would worry about the impact such overt animus would have upon my children. Third, I would question the intelligence of a candidate who lacked the savvy to conceal a disdain for an otherwise wholesome bunch of Americans, especially when they constitute a formidable voting block in several states.

    I will never vote for Huckabee because he is, in a blatantly calculated manner, using his religious affiliation to pander to the prejudices of the Evangelical far right, and, with a wink and a nod (“Mormons believe that Jesus is the brother of Satan, don’t they?”) attempting to rid a pesky Mormon from the political arena.

    Romney characterized Huckabee as a “good man doing the best he can”. That is gracious, indeed, and as far as I can go in “forgiving” Huckabee. As to Huckabee’s exploitation of his religion, I find it absolutely appalling.

  6. bbell,
    I think it is needed because I am, to larger degree than I am comfortable with, an Evangelicalist. I am at the “I’ve had a lot of Evangelical friends” stage. I still tend to think of them as “those people.” So when I see them doing the same and call them out for it, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. Hence, the apology.

  7. cj douglass says:

    John,
    You got off easy. My wife (who is from West Virginia) was told she could not attend her high school bible club because she “didn’t know the Lord”. With the full endorsement of the school of course. Many of her friends parents forbade their children from associating with a cult member. And of course when she tried to show some good faith by attending her friends churches, she was given a healthy dose of anti-mormon rhetoric from the pulpit. It’s bittered her so much, she can’t even listen to harmless Joel Olstean without getting angry….I wouldn’t call what she feels as prejudice. I’d call it a healthy distrust of those who profess Christ with their lips but in there hearts are far from him……

  8. I think Evangelicalism might be a subset of Christianityism.

    Antonio: Perhaps Mormons constitute a “constitute a formidable voting block” in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona, but they probably only matter in Arizona (10 electoral votes). The Republicans could nominate Ed Decker and still win Utah and Arizona.

  9. Utah and Idaho, I meant.

  10. My wife (who is from West Virginia) was told she could not attend her high school bible club because she “didn’t know the Lord”

    I attended a Christian Legal Society meeting along with another LDS classmate in my first few weeks at law school. Before we even introduced ourselves, the conducting officer said that Mormons were welcome so long as we didn’t say anything.

  11. Very thoughtful post, John.

    Fwiw, Huckabee’s (to me) obvious willingness to use anti-Mormon rhetoric is personally troubling but politically understandable. I think he truly believes Mormonism is a cult and Romney is headed to Hell. Playing on that in his campaign bugs me, but I realize it’s the only chance he has to get the nomination. He has to win Iowa and South Carolina, and that’s the only way he has any chance to do so.

    FAR more troubling to me is his previous willingness as governor to influence the early release of a serial rapist essentially because he believed the man’s profession of repentance. The fact that the man then kidnapped, raped and murdered a young woman is horrific, but the whole process appalls me even without the end result. He stepped in and influenced one sentence based on his religious convictions while NOT influencing others because they did not fulfill those religious convictions. There are thousands of convicts who (rightly and wrongly) claim to have repented but who were not assisted by the governor. He picked one to believe and others to disbelieve. That is DEEPLY disturbing for someone who is running for President.

    To me, that underscores my belief that Huckabee was aware of what he was saying – and that he has an established pattern of championing his religious beliefs no matter his political position. In a very real way, I admire that – his willingness to follow his religious convictions; but I do not admire it in a potential President when it appears to be above the rule of law and applied only to those who appear to share his specific beliefs.

  12. I, too, have had negative experiences with “Evangelicalism.” A local minister went so far as to tell parents to forbid their children to play with the few LDS children in our community. Anti-Mormon articles were run in the paper. My religion even played a factor when the rumor spread that I was running for mayor and that “the Mormons” (all three families) would be taking over the town. We finally moved from the area. Unfortunately, a couple of my children succumbed to the pressure and are no longer active (I’m not saying that was the only cause for their falling away, but it contributed–teenagers want to fit in).

    I was beginning to take a closer look at Huckabee, but no longer. I really don’t think an apology from John C. was necessary.

  13. Nick Literski says:

    As I read this post, I realize something really odd about Romney’s posture. Suppose every member of the LDS church were to follow his example.

    LDS high school student gets pestered by Baptists, with questions about Mormonism. He declares, “I’m not attending high school as a Mormon. I’m attending high school as a candidate for a diploma. I’m not going to answer questions about my faith, because it has nothing to do with me being a high school student.”

    This kind of behavior would likely meet disapproval from fellow LDS members. Many of them would think this young man was failing in his duty to “stand as a witness, in all times and all places.” Yet we applaud it in Romney?

  14. Antonio Parr says:

    GST — I understand the historical allegiance of Utah and Idaho to the Republican Party, but wonder how long they will stick to a platform that provides “Mormons — we don’t want you to lead, but we do want (and expect) your vote”.

  15. #12 – a string of very insightful comments, followed by this. That’s why I love you, man. *grin*

  16. Antonio Parr says:

    Ray — It can be argued that Romney best stands as a witness for Mormonism by taking the position that he took (in the context of running for an executive office in a pluralistic society).

  17. When I commented on John’s original post, I made a half jesting statement about Evangelicals wanting an America like the one described in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I’m surprised no one called me on that, because it was quite harsh.

    I’m with John on this. I grew up in Utah, but have been the subject of several serious attempts since moving to Seattle by well meaning friends trying to “save me”. One of the local evangelical churches here has a “Save the Mormons” night, where they discuss how to counter our missionaries and ask what they perceive as difficult questions. They have even come into our ward’s building on our youth activity nights, claiming to have questions, but then asking the leading kinds of questions that are not about learning, but casting doubt.

    I don’t like those kinds of tactics, but I am trying to be tolerant of being targeted. I’m glad that Huckabee has apologized, but am I the only one that detected somewhat of a backhanded attitude when reading the whole statement?

    I really like these friends, and they are great folks, fathers, husbands. But there is a subtle tinge of intolerance that makes me uncomfortable.

    So I’ll apologize about the “Handmaid’s Tale” comment, and I’ll try to be sincere about it. Perhaps that is why I am not the best member missionary. I don’t like feeling like I have a target drawn on my chest, and that makes me be very cautious about targeting others. If they ask, I’m fine, but I’m not good about asking them first.

    Tolerance is really a great virtue, and I hope that I can certainly cultivate more of it in myself.

  18. I think Huckabee’s comment does matter. I don’t care what he believes, but I don’t like that he puts someone down because of their belief.

    MRKH

  19. I think Huckabee should marry Hilari Clinton.

  20. cj douglass says:

    This kind of behavior would likely meet disapproval from fellow LDS members. Many of them would think this young man was failing in his duty to “stand as a witness, in all times and all places.” Yet we applaud it in Romney?

    Nick,
    interesting take but you’re assuming that there is a common consent among all LDS of what it means to stand as a witness at all times and all places… You’re slippin….

  21. Nick – you ask a good question, but what I see is that for the purposes of a general election, Romney has to focus on issues that will get him elected. Focusing on answering questions about his faith will deter that. And he has given several other responses besides saying that he isn’t a spokesman for the faith.

    The rest of us can usually take the time out of our lives to answer somebody’s questions, but in the fast-paced (yet seeming eternal lasting) life of politics, it would be a lot harder to do.

  22. Frankly, I don’t think this is much different than how a lot of non-members feel in Utah. They are invited to church functions consistently, but how many Mormons go to their church functions? They don’t really feel like they fit in in their neighborhood as a “neighbor”. To the rest of the neighborhood it is the ward, ward members and the ward boundaries. On occasion, their kids are told by other children that their church isn’t true, and/or their not allowed to play with them.
    I know at least one occasion when after an interfaith Christmas choir concert some Mormons complained saying that one of the other churche’s music was not reverent.
    Oh yeah, and all the kids get to go to Mormon study classes during school, and you have to find some other thing to fill the time slot.
    Sometimes I wonder if it is any worse to not vote for someone simply because s/he doesn’t like your religion than to not vote for someone because you don’t like their religion.

  23. Nick Literski says:

    Good thoughts, all. Mind you, I wasn’t trying to condemn anyone. I was just musing on what it would be like if others took Romney’s approach into their own spheres.

    I especially liked cj douglass’ reminder that “standing as a witness” can mean many different things.

  24. Antonio, I agree with #15 completely – I just don’t see the connection to what I said to Nick.

  25. Great post John C. I guess those of us raised among the Evangelicals need to do better at loving them despite what they’ve done to us. That’s what Jesus taught, after all.

    In my area of Dallas, you always knew when the various Baptist and other Evangelical churches had their “cult week”.

    But people were nice to me at school and my friends’ parents were nice as well. I attended “Fort God” (Prestonwood Baptist Church) a couple of times with a friend who belonged to that church and found it to be entertaining, although I felt “undercover” wondering what all the people around me would do if they knew I was a Mormon. All in all, my neighbors, classmates, and friends’ families were very good to me. The schools had the occasion fundamentalist teacher who gave Mormons a rough time but I guess that comes with the territory of being a Mormon.

  26. The motivation behind this post is not Mr. Huckabee per se and it is definitely not his apology. I just recognized something ugly in myself.

    I don’t know if Mr. Huckabee’s apology is sincere just like I don’t know if a friend I have likes me for me or because he thinks it will be a way to bring me to the light. Certainly, the parent’s of my friends in high school worried about the same thing from me.

    mmiles has a good point. My alienation in Florida was probably no different from a young Baptists alienation in Utah. Certainly I see enough of the same symptoms among the Mormons here of complacent religious superiority that I saw there. Of course being in a minority group always affects ones perceptions, especially a barely tolerated one.

    John F., I had the same thoughts in attending those lock-ins and Baptist activities. My friends and I would sometimes ponder how things would have gone differently if my religious affiliation was known.

    Part of all of this is the realization that the reason the Evangelicals don’t trust us is the reason I don’t trust them. We all expect a knife in the back from the other. They slander us. We convert them. They would probably say the same things. It would be nice to put this behind us, but I am not sure we can. I certainly have no intention to be quiet about what I believe is true (when I deem it necessary to not be quiet); why should I expect the anything different from them?

    It’s all a mess really. We should just be nicer to each other.

  27. #12: Apples and oranges: Romney is running for president and saying that his religion has nothing to do with his qualifications for the job. The high school kid in your example was merely being asked about his faith. To compare the two examples, you would have to place the high schooler in front of the school board, where his religion is used as a determinant to his getting a diploma or attending school. In that case, I think most Mormons would agree that religion has nothing to do with it (a la Romney’s words).

    There’s also an appropriate time to discuss faith. We wouldn’t applaud the high schooler for bearing his testimony or even simply answering questions about Mormonism in the middle of math class, would we?

  28. You’re a better man than I John C. I’m still pissed off and Huckleberry. And your apology was much better than his. His apology was pretty much, “I’m sorry I made an anti-Mormon comment. I didn’t think anyone important would hear it.”

  29. What a great post, John. I think about my religious prejudices from time to time, and I really appreciate your candid reflections on yours. You’ve provided me with a fine model.

  30. My children’s experience here in North Texas is similar to John C’s, and john f’s. My daughter’s best friend routinely tells her she’s not Christian — and this is her best friend! My experience in Ohio was the same, except it was the Catholics joining the Presbyterians and the Methodists. I wasn’t allowed to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, because we weren’t “Christian”. Then again, most of what FCA did was drink and party on the weekends, so maybe I lucked out.

    My pioneer ancestors suffered much worse, though.

    What dismays me, though, is seeing the similar bigoted behavior from extended family members in Utah basically trumpeting “majority rules, minority loses” rules in approaches to school prayer, Sunday shopping, etc. My ancestors didn’t leave everything they had in Kirtland and Nauvoo to go to a land where their posterity could act just as boorish as those who persecuted them.

    Many of the ward missionaries in my ward don’t like it when I say I maintain strict rules about not talking about religion with my evangelical neighbors and associates. It’s just not worth it.

    I’ve heard business associates say that “BYU” is a big red flag in a discussion (I often wear a “BYU” golf shirt on business trips, in an attempt to foster what little member missionary work I do). For me, “Wheaton College” induces the same involuntary twitch.

    I’m trying. Really, I am. One of my mentors is a very open-minded Wheaton College grad (but still trying to save me).

  31. BrianJ
    I’m not sure what you mean. Rleigion shouldn’t be addressed in the public sphere? It may be inappropriate for a teacher or student to ask questions about Mormonism in Math class, but then should the student necessarily dismiss them and say, “I’m sorry. I won’t answer those questions in class.”
    I know Elder D. Callister actually challenged the class and teachers to read the Book of Mormon while in grade school for one of his assignments, and testimony bearing went on. It was for the assignment–and was not considered inappropriate.

  32. I like what you’re trying to work through, here, but every know and then something comes up and I find myself being less and less disposed to treating the anti’s with charity and compassion. And, unfortunately, I’ve found that most – but certainly not all – anti’s come from the evangelical fold.

  33. Thanks for sharing some of your story, John C.

    And noticing this . . .

    I certainly have no intention to be quiet about what I believe is true (when I deem it necessary to not be quiet); why should I expect the anything different from them?

    Thanks for the acknowledgment on this.

    At one time I hardly managed a peep, growing up in Mormon country and trying to muster some courage. Concerning social experiences, I experienced your reverse.

    Now I feel sincerely convicted in heart about having some discussion.

    I like asking questions and talking. But I can hardly keep up a little sign, 3’x3′, on the church property advertising “heartissuesforlds.org” for just a week before someone takes it down in Ammon, Idaho.

    I am thankful for the freedom in our country to kindly challenge and debate the merits of religious views, but sometimes it does get messy when you live in predominant areas of one particular religion.

    But I respect John C.’s individual convictions to share what he believes rather than pressuring me to bow to the gods of religious pluralism, where I have to believe that all religious beliefs are equal and on the same road to heaven.

    I think at one time a politician could firmly believe in freedom of religion and respect for all and yet not have to be constantly badgered by religious pluralism. This is not the case today. Today, one must put on the straightjacket in order to survive.

  34. John,
    Good point about the fact that there is mutual distrust between us and the evangelicals, but one major difference is our attitude vs. theirs: Our church leaders (and hopefully most of us) are very adamant about treating others’ religious beliefs with respect (i.e. not belittling them) and not telling them basically that they are “going to hell” if they don’t convert, or that we are somehow superior to them. In contrast, their attitude, from many of their leaders, is to treat other religions that way, especially those they deem as “cults”, like ours. So we are basically trying to take the high road (though some of us err) while they, for the most part, don’t.

  35. Your apology may not have been necessary, but I don’t like to discourage people from being better than they need to be. Plus, it was big of you. I like when people are big.

    I’ve had limited experience with anti-LDS bigotry. I went to a Baptist college, where I was the only Mormon student (shocking, I know), and I once had an unpleasant encounter with a COGIC student who at one point was either trying to exorcise my demons or, believing that I *was* the demon, was trying to cast me out of the dining hall. I should say that she successfully cast me out of the dining hall because once she started speaking in tongues, I left. You just can’t fight an exorcism.

    It’s somewhat amusing in retrospect, but at the time it was deeply hurtful. So I can only imagine what it would be like to grow up in an environment when you experience this hurtful behavior on a regular basis and that it would naturally make you resentful and/or suspicious of evangelicals. (Just as I’m sympathetic to non-Mormons who grow up in Mormon-dominated areas.)

    However, I should add that following this incident I was approached by many of my (Baptist) fellow students, who offered their sympathy and said things along the lines of, “I can’t believe how calm you were during that whole thing.” Believe me, at the time I neither felt calm nor like being calm, but I was blessed with that moment of clarity when I realized that I couldn’t win. I couldn’t win, so I had to not fight. That’s why I cringe when Mormons get so defensive in these situations. I totally understand the defensiveness, but it’s a losing battle. My observation indicates that we can afford to outsource our indignation. Decent people can see when someone’s being picked on. Our cause is better served, I think, by not dwelling on our own victimhood.

    For the record, most of the religious Baptists I met in college were perfectly friendly to me. (I went to some of their BSU meetings, but I doubt they would have elected me president.) Fellow Mormons would warn me about these people, that they acted nice, but they secretly thought I was going to hell, so they weren’t really my friends. But I actually don’t care if someone secretly thinks I’m going to hell. If they can keep it a secret, I appreciate it. Especially if they hide it under a thick layer of decent behavior. That’s always appreciated.

    I’m still not voting for Huckabee, Chuck Norris notwithstanding.

  36. It sure would be nice if people stopped tying their religious views to their political views. Then perhaps we might care less if someone prays to Mary, or another thinks Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, or another has to pray facing towards Mecca five times a day. Maybe then we might focus on what they will actually do to improve this country.

  37. Baptists fund “The Godmakers” in Romania. I cannot look at them but with sadness and disappointment.

    Most of the anti-Mormon literature is funded by pastors like Mike Huckabee. Why we keep pretending we are like them is beyond me. They are our abusive hick boyfriend we keep going back to for more and more beatings.

  38. 36 – This is a threadjack, but it is impossible not to tie your religious views to your political views, at least in some sort of way. Like it or not, religious views inform people’s moral views, and moral views inform political views. The relationship that all three have to each other is quite complicated, but no matter how hard you try, they do get intermingled. What is needed is to learn how to not impose those views on others who disagree.

  39. I agree with what Rick Brookhiser said this morning:

    Huckabee’s Mormon smear recalls a line of Sherlock Holmes: “It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the making of a very pretty villain in you”

    Of course all this anti-Mormon stuff is a distraction. As a Republican, Huckabee’s record is pretty pathetic.

  40. John

    I think you clearly showed how one takes the moral highground. A very good post.

  41. mmiles: “in the middle of class”, i.e. as the teacher is trying to teach, Mormon boy is chatting with his friend. It’s not the right time to be discussing religion (or anything else except math).

    Dismiss the question? By no means. Simply tell the friend, “Let’s talk after class, at lunch or after school.”

  42. They’re good, Christian people who are just sure LDS are going to burn in Hell, and that our missionaries are trying to take them with us. We see the consequences of them being wrong as eternal life in the Terrestrial kingdom, in the presence of the Son, whose glory defies all description. They see our wrongness as leading to fire and pain and endless anguish and the bitter torments of damnation for eternity.

    No wonder they’re so high-strung.

  43. John,

    Thank you for this excellent post. Your forgiveness of and apology to Mr. Huckabee is an example of Christ like behavior for all of us.

    However, I wonder if taking the high road when people slander us is always best. For example, the following are some transcripts from Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Lawrence O’Donnell after his rant on PBS about Mormonism:

    LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I don’t think he [Mitt Romney] believes everything in the Book of Mormon. I think he’s lying about that. It’s an insane document produced by a madman who was a criminal and a rapist. [...]
    HUGH HEWITT: Would you say the same things about Mohammed as you just said about Joseph Smith?
    O’DONNELL: Oh, well, I’m afraid of what the….that’s where I’m really afraid. I would like to criticize Islam much more than I do publicly, but I’m afraid for my life if I do.
    HEWITT: Well, that’s candid.
    O’DONNELL: Mormons are the nicest people in the world. They’re not going to ever…
    HEWITT: So you can be bigoted towards Mormons, because they’ll just send you a strudel.
    O’DONNELL: They’ll never take a shot at me. Those other people, I’m not going to say a word about them.
    HEWWITT: They’ll send you a strudel. The Mormons will bake you a cake and be nice to you.
    O’DONNELL: I agree.

    I’m not suggesting we threaten people with violence when they offend us. But we don’t earn anyone’s respect by being a doormat either.

    When I was in college at A.S.U. I was the only Gentile (non Jew in this case) in my Hebrew 101 class, so I got to be friends with quite a few Jewish students. The university newspaper printed an article they considered anti-Semitic so a group of them stormed the University Press office and demanded a retraction and the resignation of the editor. (If I remember, they got the retraction.)At the time I thought they were over reacting. But you know, 76% of Americans polled said they had a favorable view of Jews. Only 53% had a favorable opinion of Mormons. Why the difference. I think it’s because people know that if they say something derogatory about Jews the Anti-Defamation League will be all over their butts. But when Al Sharpton says something inflammatory about Mormons we give him a VIP tour of Temple Square. In fact, sometimes it seems the Anti-Defamation League defends Mormons more than we defend ourselves. Do we need a Mormon Anti-Defamation League?

  44. From 22 –

    Oh yeah, and all the kids get to go to Mormon study classes during school, and you have to find some other thing to fill the time slot.

    Ummm… I’m not sure the non-Mormon students care too much about this. They’re taking that extra science class to help get them into a better college during that time slot.

    I think that release-time seminary puts LDS students at a disadvantage.

  45. 76% of Americans polled said they had a favorable view of Jews. Only 53% had a favorable opinion of Mormons. Why the difference. I think it’s because people know that if they say something derogatory about Jews the Anti-Defamation League will be all over their butts.

    Jews have been around a lot longer than Mormons have. Jews have a higher profile than Mormons have. Jews have been persecuted a lot more than Mormons have, for about 3,000 more years. I feel quite certain that the general population understands more about Judaism than they do about Mormonism (not that they understand much about Judaism). And I don’t think your average Joe worries much about the ADL. Probably there are other factors at play here.

    Anyone know if we have higher number than the Scientologists? Just curious.

  46. I swear I’m not such a Mormon nerd that I regularly read BCC at 4:00 in the morning. I’m just up with a sick 3 month old tonight.

    Madhousewife, everything you wrote about Jews vs. Mormons is true. And yet, if the same poll was taken just 70 years ago American’s opinion of Jews would have been much lower. At least one reason for the improved perception of the Jews in America is that they as a group (not just the ADL) have been very active in the last 60 years at confronting anti-Semitism head on, and I admire them for that.

    My point in quoting O’Donnell above was to show that our more passive approach to confronting anti-Mormonism doesn’t seem to be working. We tend to think that if we continue to play nice people will eventually get to know us and see that we ain’t so bad. O’Donnell already knows that we are “the nicest people in the world” but it didn’t stop him from calling our religion evil and the Book of Mormon “an insane document produced by a madman who was a criminal and a rapist.” We are the easiest of targets. While the populations of Jews and of Mormons in America are roughly the same, Americans’ opinions of Jews are the highest of any religious group (tied with Catholics at 73% possitive) and Americans’ opinions of Mormons are about as low as any religious group with only 53% positive. (Positive opinion of Muslims in general at 43% and of American Muslims 53%. I couldn’t find anything about Scientologists).

    Speaking of the ADL, here is what they had to say about Romney’s religion speech:

    Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
    “Governor Romney has made an important contribution to our ongoing national dialogue regarding the appropriate role of religion in politics. We agree that there is no place in our society for bigotry, and that one’s religion should never be a test for political office. We realize that Gov. Romney is fighting an unacceptable prejudice against him because of his faith, and understand his need to proclaim himself a Christian.
    We are deeply concerned, however, that it has become part of our political culture for candidates to be forced into asserting their religiosity, with some even openly hawking their faith on the campaign trial. Some of the things that the candidates have said about their religious views make us deeply uncomfortable. There is this dance, this appeal based on religion, that candidates use to attract religious voters which we feel is contrary to the spirit of what this country is all about.
    While we believe that candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters, there is also a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate, and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours.”

  47. Great insight, madhousewife, in # 35. Thanks for sharing that.

  48. O’ Donnell is someone I had never heard of prior to his rant. I assume that he will fade back into obscurity soon enough. I don’t think his rant will have any effect more lasting than the Godmakers. For that matter, it strikes me as interesting that the Godmakers video gets more hits on YouTube than the South Park lampoon. But what can you do?

  49. These are some things I don’t see the average mormon doing in Utah:

    Jesus said in Matthew 5:
    You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

    I’m also bothered by the well documented fact that Joseph Smith misntraslated Hebrew and made several mistakes during his translations (based on early church records). For instance, he said that IM is always plural, citing Cherubim and similar words, as the reason. This inspired his multiple God theory.

    So how will you react to this? I suggest that you go more than 1 mile, go 2, and study what I’ve just told you. Your hate can do no good.

    As a lifelong Utahn I’ve seen my family denied jobs due to not being mormon. Here’s a hint next time you think of asking “What ward do you go to?” you should shutup. I’ve heard of my cousins having rocks thrown at them. I was told repeatedly growing up I couldn’t play with children because I wasn’t mormon. I’ve lost more friends than I can count, who started out wanting to convert me.

    You guys have a lot to learn about follow Jesus, if that’s the path you choose.

    With love,

    George

  50. Nick Literski says:

    #34:
    Our church leaders (and hopefully most of us) are very adamant about treating others’ religious beliefs with respect (i.e. not belittling them) and not telling them basically that they are “going to hell” if they don’t convert, or that we are somehow superior to them.

    While this is almost always true, there is a major exception–that of Mormon Fundamentalists. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen LDS leaders refer to another religion as a “cult,” unless that religion happens to be a Mormon Fundamentalist group. Gordon Hinckley even went so far as to say they don’t exist–something I imagine Mormon Fundamentalists found a bit offensive.

  51. George # 49 I too grew up in Utah. My experience was very different than yours. In my experience, the Mormons went out of their way to include and be kind. I never saw anyone rejected or not included because they weren’t Mormon. I’m not saying it doesn’t or can’t happen, just that it doesn’t ring true in my experience.

    Further, your willingness to accept the second-hand story of your cousins suggests to me that you are all too willing to see and take offense where it just doesn’t exist. How could you “see” your family denied jobs? Isn’t that just your surmise? Were you there when the decision not to hire was made and you know it was due to the fact they’re not Mormon? Moreover, if YOU were told you couldn’t play with children because you weren’t Mormon, that implies that your own parents would let you play with Mormons. Don’t you mean that other children told you that their parents told them they couldn’t play with you?

    However, your statement that Mormons are best served by avoiding hatred and going miles out of their way to include non-Mormons and treat them kindly is certainly well taken.

    Finally, Smith wasn’t correct that ‘im always is a plural — but he was correct that where the ‘im had been read singular it often must be read as an appropriate plural when referring to “gods.” He didn’t make that up and he wasn’t wrong — the Hebrew Bible refers to gods who are sons of God. So his view of plurality of gods is not based on a mistranslation as you assert.

  52. George has a point, people. Only two or three years ago in GC president Hinckley read us the riot act for failing to be good neighbors and for not allowing our children to associate with children who are not Mormon. When Roman Catholics hear us talk about the great and abominable church or the whore of the earth, I don’t blame them for getting a little punchy.

  53. George has a point, but he is also clearly anti. It is one thing to point out that we are not living up to our ideals. It is another to point out that our ideals are LIES, LIES! To be succinct, George underscores his point by failing to extend the basic human decency whose lack he decried in his stories. George, I don’t think I like you much.

  54. MikeInWeHo says:

    The 47% who have a negative perception are people who don’t know any Mormons (ignorance) or who are blinded by religious hatred (fundamentalists, et. al.).

    Keep in mind that outside certain area of the West many people never meet any Mormons at all. In my current work and social milieu there are ZERO active members. None. If I weren’t in here I would have no regular contact with any believing Mormons, and I live in Southern California. Imagine what it’s like in small-town Mississippi.

    Maybe the LDS need their own version of the ADL. The ADL does incredible work on behalf of the Jewish community, and interestingly, the gay community has a very similar organization (glaad.org) which is also quite effective.

  55. George, maybe you lost friends because you are a jerk. Troll.

  56. BrianJ
    It is inappropriate to talk during math class about anything except math. I don’t think it is fair to single out religion. Religion shouldn’t be such a taboo.

    JohnC–
    Are you going to apologize to George like you did about Huckabee as soon as he says he’s sorry?

  57. George,

    Thanks for coming on and illustrating why we really do need and LDS-ADL. Anyone want to start a chapter?

    That being said, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience growing up around Mormons in Utah. Let me know where you live so I can send you a strudel and bake you a cake.

  58. Doesn’t FAIR kind of function as an ADL?

  59. Nick Literski says:

    So far as I know, the ADL doesn’t engage in the kind of polemics we see from FAIR, queuno.

  60. gst (#10) – Please finish the story…did you stay? return? speak anyway?

  61. mmiles,
    In my opinion, Huckabee’s comment reminds of the standard, non-hateful religious bigotry of my youth. I don’t think he means ill to people, he just likes being in the right. George represents hatefulness pretty well, so I am not sure an apology alone would cut it. I don’t see a way to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  62. Since FAIR is involved with apologetics I’ve always thought their job was more defending our doctrine than defending the Mormon people themselves. Maybe that’s the same thing. My idea of and LDS-ADL would be a well funded organization that made sure no one could defame, stereotype (see George’s comment) or openly discriminate against Mormons without some type of social, political or economic consequences. Right now it seems like we’re fair game (no pun intended). Maybe if we all contributed to FAIR it could expand into this, but I wonder if they would really be interested. Anyone here that’s active in FAIR that can comment?

  63. Just copy the ADL and GLAAD. Steer clear of doctrine and apologetics completely. The ADL doesn’t use its resources to defend the historicity of the Pentateuch. It creates an environment where those kind of theological attacks become unacceptable.

    There is no more evidence that Moses really existed than Nephi. Why is it OK for Evangelicals to put Mormons on the defensive over that, when it would never be tolerated if they approached Jews that way?

  64. What I’m trying (incoherently) to say is, I’m not sure there’s much difference between attacking LDS doctrine and attacking the LDS people as a minority community.

    Might it not make more sense to respond to the Ed Deckers of the world with “This is an attack on us as a faith community and we will not tolerate it, period.” rather than “The Book of Mormon, then, does not require the view that all Native Americans must be literal descendants of Lehi….blah blah blah”

    The former approach has the advantage of opening the door to defensive alliances with other minority faiths which are routinely attacked by fundamentalists.

  65. Mike,

    it might be interesting to you based on your #64 that most evanglicals I know feel that they are a persecuted religious minority. They feel persecuted at work, at school, in politics (by the left), in the media etc.

  66. You’re right Mike (in West Hollywood).

    As an example, SNL’s church lady character, all in good fun, spoofs Christian piety. To plagiarize Kathaleen Parker

    Mike Huckabee: Well, you know I would never question another person’s religion, especially Mormonism, because I don’t know anything about that doctrine, even though I have a degree in theology and am a Baptist minister and was once a speaker at the Southern Baptist convention that, ironically, was held in Salt Lake City.

    Look, I don’t know if Mormons are heretics or not. The sister of the wife of a friend of my first cousin mentioned something about Mormons believing that Jesus and Satan are brothers, but what do I know? I hardly even glanced at that book they handed out at the convention, “Mormonism Unmasked.”

    Church Lady: Did you say SATAN?????

    Huckabee: Only as something I heard. Again, I would never question another person’s religion. I have a hard enough time explaining my own.

    Church Lady: Well, isn’t that special? Just to clarify: If the heretic Mormon thinks that Jesus and Satan are brothers, what else might he believe, hmmmmmm?

    Mitt Romney: Excuse me, Madame Church Lady, but if I could just make a brief comment.

    Church Lady: I’m not talking to you. Mikey, you have 30 minutes.

    Mike Huckabee: Let me just say, though, that I am really very sorry I ever mentioned the Jesus-Satan thing to that New York Times reporter, who took those words among 8,000 and made it sound like I was trying to remind voters that Mormonism is a false religion. I wasn’t. Like I said, it was just something I heard.

    Mitt Romney: Madame …

    Church Lady: Alrighty, alrighty, everybody shut up. We’re out of time and we didn’t even get to talk about Giuliani’s naughty parts. Well, I guess out of Christian charity, we should give heretic Romney five or 10 seconds. Make that three.

    Mitt Romney: Thank you, Madame Moderator. I just wanted to say that as president, I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. And, of course, I forgive Mr. Huckabee, even though he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    Church Lady: Isn’t that special.

  67. Kurt, re #46: You’ve hit the nail on the head. We need to have a bit more righteous indignation on our own behalf.

  68. Refreshingly effervescent “The Un-Cola” pundit ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-odonnell/romney-me_b_76764.html Lawrence O’Donnel ) believes that “religious affiliation is not a good reason to vote for or against a candidate for president.”

    Some of my best friends are Mormons….

    …Evangelical Christians seem to know a little too much about the faith of his fathers….

    The pundits…loved the bit about Romney’s father marching with Martin Luther King. None of them knew that if at the end of the march with George Romney, Martin Luther King was so taken with Mormonism that he wanted to convert and become a Mormon priest, George Romney would have had to tell him that they don’t allow black priests…. It took…ten years [before...] the president of the Mormon Church…had a conversation with God in 1978 in which God finally decided it was time to allow black priests. Mitt Romney was 31 years old when he heard that lie….

    I have been attacked widely…for getting into the specifics of what Romney…believes…. …On Hugh Hewitt…Hugh began by asking if I am Catholic. I gave…a very Clintonian answer….that there are Catholics–very few–who, Romney style, adhere to everything their church says. Then there are American Catholics….

    The more you know about Romney’s religion, the more you want to ask him… Do you really believe that your possible general election opponent, Barack Obama, is black because his people turned away from God? Are you in favor of…turning the site of the Garden of Eden into a national park? I wouldn’t ask Romney…if he hadn’t decided to make a political speech in which he pretended to tell me about his religious beliefs.

    I could vote for a devout Mormon for president…if I agree with the candidate’s policy positions. I used to agree with a lot of Romney’s policies before he flip-flopped…. Flip flopping…is a Mormon tradition. In 1890, the Mormon president claimed he had a chat with God that finally convinced him polygamy was no longer cool. …I…a libertarian on marriage…gay marriage, Giuliani’s serial polygamy, and Mormon style polygamy…not involv[ing] the rape of children…and as long as women can marry as many men as they want. I know you think those are crazy beliefs. All I have to do to prevent you from attacking me for those beliefs is to create a religion….

  69. Anonymous, please give the lengthy comments a rest — pasting links will do.

  70. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 65

    Oh I know!! The tendency to feel persecuted and quickly return the favor to the next group down the line is not one of the loftier aspects of human nature. Evangelical Christians are not persecuted in this country. Losing cultural arguments and not getting your way politically 100% of the time does not = persecution. Lots of groups do it. I could introduce you to obscenely wealthy urban gay men who believe they have one foot in the concentration camp just because they can’t get their legal civil union re-labeled marriage.

    Do humans like feeling persecuted?

  71. mmiles, #56: “It is inappropriate to talk during math class about anything except math. I don’t think it is fair to single out religion.” I’m glad we are in agreement, since that is exactly what I said in #41: “…or anything else except math.”

  72. Re: #68.

    See, anti-Mormon bigots don’t just go away if we ignore them. Why should O’Donnel retract of appologize? He knows the Mormons won’t do anything. He still gets to show up for work and MSNBC and PBS and most disturbing, he will keep collecting a paycheck for portraying a Mormon on HBO despite the network’s assurance that Big Love was not an attack on or exploitation of Mormonism. I haven’t heard one word of reprimand from his employers for spewing this tripe. In fact, they’re probably secretly pleased – this is just good TV! Another example of why we need an LDS-ADL. O’Donnel’s tirade should have lost him his job and everyone’s respect, but instead he is milking it for all it’s worth. Why don’t you tell us what you think about Muslims Larry? I dare you, you coward. By the way, is anyone falling for the old, “some of my best friends are Mormon” line?

  73. I think O’Donnel has a point. He probably didn’t need to make it but he has a point. In personal conversations I have had with many of my “educated” friends, very few believe that the Book of Mormon is an historical document. Among those that keep up with the archeological and genetic information, as they pertain to the Book of Mormon, few believe that it is an historical document. Few of them would stand up in fast and testimony meeting and say it but I think that the Book of Mormon is slowly being viewed as an inspired document. I for one have changed my mind on the topic. 50 years down the road I think the Church will admit Joseph wrote it and that the Lord guided his pen (his scribes pens).

  74. John W.,
    That is still the viewpoint of a very small minority. As an “educated” person, I don’t buy it myself. Do with that what you will, I don’t think it represents a trend the church as a whole is going to buy into.

  75. John C.

    It is a sticky point and I may be wrong. If the transition is to take place it will have to be done in either a very organic way or in a very diplomatic way and probably both. I just think as more research is done on the topic the Church will have to change its position. The “Limited Geography” idea is already, albeit slowly seeping its way into mainstream Mormon thought. If that is a trend then I think I am on to something. My question is this, how do you deal with the facts that disprove the claims of the Book of Mormon? Not an attack, just curious.

    John W.

  76. John W, there have been multiple threads dedicated to that topic. This is not the thread for that discussion. On an appropriate thread, many of us would be happy to disabuse of the notion that there are “facts” that disprove the claims of the Book of Mormon.

  77. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 76 You’re ahead of your time John W. Prepare for a major bloggernacle smackdown! But you’re right, this shift is clearly happening on the Mormon down-low. Rather than threadjack this one discussion, maybe Ronan or somebody could put up a poll to ask people’s views of BoM historicity. Then we could have a nice civilized discussion of the changes of opinion that are occurring.

  78. Re: #73: Kurt: you are absolutely correct. O’Donnel should have lost his job for bigotry. But it is open season on Mormons and the one last prejudice that is just fine in America is calling all Mormons crazy and dissing their religion. That MSNBC and PBS continue to fund this guy is totally revealing of their gimourmous blind spot and willingness to support bigotry in America without blinking an eye. But where are the voices calling for a remrimand?

    Perhaps the fact that O’Donnel looked like a complete lunatic while calling Mormons crazy, and expressed bigotry and clear animus while calling Mormons bigots, and revealed himself to be a complete moron while calling Mormons stupid is a good thing for Mormons.

  79. Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal comments on Mike H’s “apology.”

  80. Re:#80.

    Here it is http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/

    I especially like the part where she likens Huckabee’s “question” about Mormon’s belief that Jesus and Satan are brothers to the candidate in Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” who starts a whispering campaign that his oppnent’s wife is a thesbian.

  81. Thanks for the link, Stephen and kurt. Perhaps my favorite political quote of all time:

    “Maybe they’d love to have him (Bill Clinton) back in the White House. Maybe they just don’t want him to bring her.”

    Abso-freaking-lutely priceless!

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