Who are the Anti-Mormons?

Angie C AKA Hawkgrrl has been a pillar of Bloggernacle for years. She’s a mother of three, a business travel executive living in Asia, and a BYU grad. We’re lucky she agreed to be our guest. You might know her from such other blogs as Wheat and Tares.

As we look ahead to the 2012 election, Mormonism is back in the spotlight, and with it, its ugly underbelly: anti-Mormonism. Recent articles in the Atlantic have highlighted what is being published about our faith: the unflattering truths, the close-but-not-quite-right facts, and the outright lies. (Is anyone else sick of hearing the term “magic underpants”? Mine are not magic. They just lay there like a gray lump, even when I try the Expecto Patronum charm on them. Very disappointing.) In other words, as the election cycle advances, we’d better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Even without the increased limelight, there are many on the internet publishing information about our faith, often not very flattering. Some of that information is faith-shaking. But where does it cross the line into being “anti-Mormon”? Some would say that anyone who says anything that is not uplifting or faith promoting is anti-Mormon, but that seems like a pretty low bar. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who meets that standard. I’ve certainly heard talks at General Conference that didn’t meet that standard. What is uplifting to one person is downright depressing to another.

So, who are these anti-Mormons? Here are some possible divisions:

  • Outsider critics. Growing up in Pennsylvania, anti-Mormon literature was ubiquitous. I used to take delight in writing rebuttals in the margins of these treatises so the target audience would have the benefit of my teen Mormon wisdom. It seemed quite clear to me that these materials were designed to protect the flocks (as well as the payroll) of local ministers. These materials were a mix of unsavory truths, speculation, and sensationalist conclusions. A quick search today revealed a $65 anti-Mormon, er “witness” kit that someone with a lot of time on their hands and $65 to burn can use to argue with and likely confuse their Mormons neighbors. Fun at block parties, I’m sure.
  • Insider critics. I never considered the idea that insider criticism could be labelled “anti-Mormon” until the Bloggernacle really took off. Growing up in a ward run mostly by college professors, I considered cultural debate to be a fundamental aspect of the culture; after all, both Jesus and Joseph Smith got their start by being critical of existing religions and their cultures. I do think insider critics can cross the line if they present as fact what is speculation. But are insider critics a threat to the organization or just to those who love the very things they dislike? One person’s bathwater is another person’s baby.

Perhaps it’s easier to identify anti-Mormons based on their intentions:

  • Seeking to destroy the church vs. seeking change to improve the church. Usually when I’ve heard the term “anti-Mormon” it has been to describe those who wish the church ill, who would like to see it destroyed, who think it is a force for evil or that it is deceptive and harmful. But some (both insiders and ex-Mormons) do in fact have valid criticisms of our culture, our history and how it is portrayed, and even some of the byproducts of our doctrines. Where is the line crossed between lobbying for change that one believes will make the church more successful and seeking to destroy the church? Is all ark-steadying going too far? That presupposes that leaders only take direction from God, not from members, even when changes sought are cultural rather than doctrinal. I suppose it’s like dieting. Do you still love the body and want it to be healthy or are you at war with the body, starving what you hate?
  • Persuading people to leave vs. supporting belief. Is it ever appropriate to encourage someone to leave the church? Some would advise that if it’s a toxic influence in your life because of your own individual circumstances, you should move on. Some orthodox members would say that people who don’t like it should leave it. Where is the line? For me, it’s at the point where critics feel belief in the church is a character weakness? Yet, there are those who restrict how belief looks and sounds to the point that they limit how many people can belong. Personally, I found Paul Toscano’s argument compelling, that more people have left the church because of its leaders than because of anything he (as a detractor) said. It’s one reason that the Book of Mormon cautions us about the weaknesses of leaders being a stumblingblock. The only people who have no impact on others are the ones who say and do nothing, and our words and actions can have unintended consequences.
  • Telling ugly truths vs. making specious conclusions. There are sites that would like to expose the white-washed version of history as a conspiratorial cover-up. In so doing, these sites frequently make the same errors of the white-washers. They make unfounded conclusions based on scant evidence. They just do it in the opposite direction. They are anti-apologists, but are they anti-Mormons? Are they anti-Mormon if what they say is true but not the party line? Are they anti-Mormon if they don’t know that their speculations are not necessarily accurate? If so, can’t that same criticism be leveled at believers who have unexamined assumptions that are based on wrong information?

Or perhaps we should ascertain who is an anti-Mormon by what they hope to gain from sharing their views:

  • Anger over personal wrongs. There are those who have been personally wronged (often by poor local handling of a sensitive matter), and others who inaccurately perceive they were wronged (including some with mental health concerns). Is it being anti-Mormon to share those grievances in a public forum when private handling has failed these individuals? Do they want to put others on their guard? Do they want to call attention to abuses? To me, this falls into the “collateral damage” category. A large organization like the church will fail some individuals some of the time. If their wrongs are not effectively redressed in a discreet manner, their version will come out somewhere, and it may not be pretty.
  • The so-called three “enemies” of the church: homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals. The downside of labelling these groups anti-Mormon is that there is a history of them not being treated very well in the church so they have some legitimate grievances. Additionally, belonging to these three groups is more of an innate characteristic rather than a choice, and all three groups operate with some disadvantage or stigma within church culture. The internet provides a soft power alternative for those who have little social power in the church. Is it better to be an advocate for others (e.g. a man who is a feminist, a heterosexual who supports the GLBT community) to ensure one is not merely acting in self-interest? Who advocates for the outcasts of our culture?

Do intentions matter or are outcomes more important? Is it anti-Mormon if someone shakes people’s faith when they were just trying to improve matters or share information that is accurate? Is it anti-Mormon if someone wants changes that are positive for the disenfranchized but negative for others? My own view is that intentions are what makes someone anti-Mormon. Luke 9:50: “for he that is not against us is for us.”

In my view, someone is anti-Mormon if they believe that being Mormon is foolish or bad, if they think people would be better off without it, and if they consequently seek to bring it down. Those who seek to improve it through change, even if they are critical in the process, even if they have personally left it, are not anti-Mormon in my opinion – even if an outcome is that some people do take their information as justification to leave the church. Frankly, many also leave due to orthodox opinions shared at church, and nobody is taking those folks to task over it as far as I can see. How do you see it?

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Anti-Mormonism is notoriously difficult to define, as your post illustrates. To me it’s sort of a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing. But I agree with you that the main consideration is one of intent.

  2. An institute discussion comes to mind: are Mormons anti-Islam? Are we anti-Catholic? Are we anti-Atheist? I argued to my Institute class that we seek to honor and cherish “light” no matter what the source, confident and faithful that God is active in everyone’s life and gives light to all. To be “anti” in that perspective is to reject such light, light that our faith should help us trust and embrace. To be “anti-Mormon” in that respect is to reject light God has given this particular group/church/culture.

  3. Oh, and to persuade others to reject that light.

  4. I thought it was interesting how you suggested possible definitions based on intent (which can be very difficult to be right about) and overall objective (which even if well-meaning could still be acted out in ways I might consider “anti-Mormon by my lights).

    I tend to reserve the label “anti-Mormon” for groups or people who spend a disproportionate amount of time mocking, criticizing, or spreading misinformation about the Church in the form of counter-cult materials, etc. I reserve it for the circus-type folks like Ed Decker of “Godmakers” fame or Aaron Shaf, the Calvinist fellow who pickets at the Manti pageant. Also, the wiki on anti-Mormonism is longer than I expected!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Mormonism

    Also reminded me of this old BCC post:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/11/29/six-anti-mormonisms/

  5. E.A. Jarred says:

    I really enjoyed/felt enlightened by this post; thanks, Hawkgrrl. Applying your take, Is Harold Bloom, per some of the allusions/turns of phrase within his recent op/ed, an “anti-Mormon”? I think he escapes this detemination. Bloom could stand to lose some of the piece’s “fears of conspiracy” [if not his own conspiracy theorizing], but what Bloom really is, it seems to me, is merely a critic of religiosity. (For example: note Bloom’s seeming kudos of Jon Huntsman’s relative secularism.)

  6. Thanks for the post, Angie! I think there is a huge gray area in which people dip their toes and traverse back and forth over their lifetimes. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with anyone who has criticized or left the church because they thought it was the wrong thing to do. Perhaps there is a problem in semantics when labeling people anti-Mormon, similar to the unfortunate label of atheist. Focusing on the negative aspects of one’s outlook disregards what they stand for. Does anyone self-identify as an anti-Mormon? Or, do they consider themselves pro-equality/history/naturalism, etc?

  7. I think a really important consideration which the post misses out on is our own intention in using the label “anti-Mormon.”

  8. EAJ #5 – great point about Bloom. I tend to think his latest nyt piece is evidence that he forgot to take his meds. He has historically been so rational and neutral. That piece felt like Hitchens or one of his cronies at Slate underwrote it. Hitchens was another disappointment to me because I always look to atheists to be the voice of reason in the crowd, not the conspiracy theorists.

    BHodges – that is indeed something we should all consider. I assume our intention is to discredit them. But when what they say is partly credible, partly not, full discrediting may be unwarranted.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    #7/#8 — yes, a major consideration is our rhetorical intent in using the term. We know it’s a loaded expression geared towards instant branding. In the cases of calling some members anti-mormon, it’s an exercise in boundary-building (and who doesn’t love that??).

  10. Wes Brown – “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with anyone who has criticized or left the church because they thought it was the wrong thing to do.” No, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t anti-Mormon. Maybe taking the “s” off the word helps. I’m anti-sexism. I’m anti-racism. I’m anti-Pepsi. (It’s the poor man’s alternative to Diet Coke; Diet Pepsi is to me a counterfeit beverage for restaurants who lack financial stability and possibly moral fiber. See how the language is so similar to anti-Mormon rhetoric?) Everyone is against something.

    “Focusing on the negative aspects of one’s outlook disregards what they stand for. Does anyone self-identify as an anti-Mormon?” Perhaps like people don’t self-identify as pro-sexism or pro-racism, they might not. However, there are detractors out there who would say they are against Mormonism. I think calling our faith a cult is being against Mormonism as demonstrated by their sensationalist word choice. I think a better indicator is when someone who is not Mormon can determine that someone is being anti-Mormon.

  11. You had me at “expecto patronum”

  12. hawkgrrl, I am not Mormon, and I feel like I know when somebody is being anti-Mormon. I used to be one.

    In my case, getting rid of my anti-Mormonism was not a Pauline conversion, no grand epiphany. It was more like a snake shedding his skin, neither mourning the loss nor thinking overly about the process. It was just skin that no longer fit the body.

    My dispute (as an openly gay man in a 11-year same-sex relationship, the last 3 of which legally married in California) with the LDS Church is very deep, but it is not wide. I now have LDS friends straddling this chasm with both legs. I no longer feel an urge to push them in just to prove to them how deep it is.

  13. Dan, really loved your comment.

    Great post, Angie C. With regards to the post, like being Mormon, I think most anti-Mormons self-identify themselves as such. The reason I find your definition problematic is that I have been accused of fostering apostasy and I consider myself to be a fairly orthodox member of the Church. I’m just not comfortable with labeling someone anti-Mormon simply because I think there efforts will ultimately harm the Church. That judgment is often based upon too many unknown factors.

    Further, I have an issue with how the term is used in my ward and stake. It becomes a symbol for anything I do not like or that makes me feel uncomfortable. I would like to see more care taken with how it is used.

  14. “I think most anti-Mormons self-identify themselves as such.”

    This is not my experience. Most of those in the professional boat ( giving lectures, writing books or other “literature”) fall all over themselves to assure everyone that they *love* Mormons, they’re not anti-Mormon!

    Much of this is fuzzy. “Seeking to destroy the church vs. seeking change to improve the church” What one considers an improvement, another may well consider the founding seed of destruction, e.g. the Manifesto. Evangelical critics would love to improve the Church by having us jettison Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and claims of revelation and some kind of uniqueness (“only true and living Church.”) When cultural Mormons advocate the same, should we assign them to the same general category as the Evangelical critics? If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, is it a duck?

    Good post highlighting the tensions.

  15. Ben S., perhaps, but I wonder whether what those people mean that they love Mormons-as-people rather the Mormonism the Church. I imagine there are very few who are anti-Mormons-as-people. I was referring to those who consider themselves anti-Mormonism. They seem much more willing to self-identify their dislike for the institution or theology of the Church.

  16. Aaron, I’ve never seen anyone so-labeled accept the *label* in any way.

  17. “Who advocates for the outcasts of our culture?”

    This was a great post, Angie – but that line above jumped out at me. Who are the “publicans, sinners, lepers, etc.” within our own Mormon culture, and how are we treating them? Further, how many of them who now legitimately can be called “anti-Mormon” would be anti-Mormon if we were treating them as Jesus told us to treat those who persecute and despitefully use us? (The anti-Mormon comments on newspaper article threads hurt my head sometimes, but the responses by LDS members often hurt my heart.)

    At heart, I believe most anti-Mormons are sincere people expressing sincere beliefs that reflect a real concern for the welfare of Mormons’ souls. I think, in general, they “hate the institution, but love the member” – as well as they know how, which in some cases is badly. I think, however, that the same can be said by others about many LDS members – that they “hate other denominations (generally not other religions), but love the members” – as well as they know how, which in some cases is badly.

    Given their theology, that’s to be expected of them; given ours, it shouldn’t be expected of us. So, who is under greater condemnation for being “anti-others”? Who is more responsible for eliminating internal “outcasts” (and by that I don’t mean at all the elimination of core societal standards and an acceptance of everything as fine and dandy)? Is it any different for them to reject us as Christians for believing differently than it is for us to reject “our own” as Mormons for the exact same thing?

  18. Sorry, what those people mean when they say that they love Mormons is that they love Mormons-as-people…

  19. In my limited, online experience, it seems to me that Anti-Mormon Evangelicals who claim to love Mormons love the idea of converting a Mormon as a validation of their belief more than they love actual Mormons. They are similar to missionaries, I suppose, in this.

  20. Ben S., I think the Tanners would be one example of what I mean. They clearly see their own work as attempting to undermine the Church’s truth claims. Ed Decker would be another. I am not saying that they necessarily call themselves ‘anti-Mormon’ but that they do see their own efforts in as accomplish a particular aim for which they aspire.

  21. Related to anti-Mormonism by insiders (church members) is the question of how you define “evil speaking” about the leadership etc. For me I have always defined it as impugning the character of leaders, claiming deceptive and injurious intent on their part. Yet it seems many Mormons take any suggestion that they might make mistakes or that the Church as a whole could be improved as meeting this criteria and thus tag people as “anti-Mormon”. For me there is a bright line between constructive criticism with the intent to build and improve Zion and destructive criticism designed to tear down and destroy. Anytime dishonesty in attempt to manipulate enters the picture one is on shaky ground.

  22. HG, great post, as ulsual. And a fascinating discussion of the tensions.

    I agree understanding our own motivation for branding folks anti-Mormons is at least as important as what they think. Certainly, detractors, like the poor, will be with us always. Do we love them? Hope so.

    An evangelical neighbor welcomed the missionaries (who were tracting in our neighborhood) into his home and spent the entire hour trying to poke holes in their message. He would not say he was anti-Mormon (though he used all the techniques), but pro-Christian.

    #2 Shawn: great question!

  23. Paul, I suppose my response would be that it serves no purpose to label that person as an anti-Mormon. Moreover your story raises questions around what are the ‘techniques’ used by anti-Mormons. Are anti-Mormons defined by their approach, their rhetorical strategies or by their intentions, as Hawk suggest?

  24. This is really a great post. I love your use of questions to explore the issues.

    My perspective on the legitimacy of criticism was shaped by an experience at a training in Washington DC several years ago. I was working for a federal agency that works in conservation, and the director of the agency met with us in a brief discussion group. He was talking about the constant litigation that the agency is involved in with environmental watchdog groups. I had grown up being conditioned to think of these people as the “other”, or the “opponents”. He said something like, “We have a mission to perform, and sometimes some of our friends think we’re not doing a good enough job, and they sue us, and often times they are right ” He went on to talk about the way that this criticism and litigation kept the organization from idolizing itself, and helped us to more fully accomplish our objectives. I see that as a healthy and perhaps helpful paradigm.

  25. Rah – the admonition is not to speak evil of “the Lord’s anointed.”. Either that’s Jesus (who’s dissing Jesus?) Or it’s all endowed members. I am not sure there is justification to single out leaders for protection from backbiting, at least not based on the wording alone.

  26. #23 Aaron, I think we’re agreeing — my neighbor did not see himself attacking Mormonism as much as protecting and advocating for his faith (even though the missionaries were not very comfortable in the exchange). I should point out that the neighbor is a friend of ours, and my wife teaches his kids piano; he has never been anything but kind and genuine toward us.

    I think our motivations are similar to my Christian friend’s: we seek to protect the church and our position in it (and even to defend our position of belief). That’s why I think Shawn’s question is a good one.

  27. I’m not sure that labels are very useful, at least not in any truly meaningful way. However handy they may seem in ostensibly helping to “shorthand” a discussion, I suspect they’re simply too reductionistic to be of much help in the long run. What about it: do labels serve a useful purpose?

  28. I have always used the broader definition of a now defunct website that was called “HateWatch”. “An organization or individual that advocates violence against or unreasonable hostility toward those persons or organizations identified by their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability. Also including organizations or individuals that disseminate historically inaccurate information with regards to these persons or organizations for the purpose of vilification.” Unreasonable, in my estimation, is when they cross the line from expressing opinions to those around them (as we all do) to publishing or advocating with the intent of damaging the person/organization verbally or physically. It is the gap between “I don’t like you” to “I am going to do whatever I can to get rid of you”.

  29. Chris Gordon says:

    @27: Gary, I’d call labeling helpful to the extent that shorthanding a conversation is a helpful tool. If in your judgment, the details are less important than the conclusion, labels are a convenient way to cut to the chase. You always run a danger in labeling people with a loaded label (hence, the “I’m a Mormon” campaign).

    I think that there is also value in the attempt to apply labels in that the effort of categorizing and sorting forces one to think of the individual details and discover key nuances, commonalities, differences, etc. The labeling exercise here might not lead to the convenient discovery of proper labels, but the effort engenders an analysis that is a useful, positive end unto itself.

  30. SteveDensleyJr says:

    #27 Gary, Yes, I think labels are useful. Of course, the term “anti-Mormon” can have a range of meaning and it could possibly be represented on a spectrum. When someone says another person is an “anti-Mormon,” I can be confident that the other person is not viewed as an uncritical supporter of the Church (TBM?), which is probably what lies at the other end of the spectrum from anti-Mormon. The difficulty comes in knowing more precisely what is meant when someone uses a label. Of course, the fact that I don’t know exactly where someone fits on a spectrum does not mean it is not helpful to indicate that a person lies more at one end of the spectrum than the other. I think it is important, however, to recognize that there are many shades of meaning associated with each label. So if we can actually come to an agreement on a more precise definition of a term means before using it, it will be even more useful to use the term. For this reason, Hawkgrrrl’s post is very helpful.

  31. Chris (29) and Steve (30), I think I understand what you’re both saying–that sometimes the use of labels can help in streamlining a discussion. If I think of terms such as “historian,” “scientist,” “poet,” “novelist,” etc., I can see your point. But when I think of “anti-Mormon,” “critic,” “apologist,” “believer,” or even “progressive,” “liberal,” “conservative,” etc., I have a harder time understanding how this benefits a discussion. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t say that I’d look forward to seeing myself reduced to one word, whatever the intention.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    Labels are immensely useful, if you’re lazy. And I’m lazy.

  33. John Larsen says:

    What you have defined is anti-Mormonism. There is a key difference. And more specifically, what you have defined is anti-Mormon Church-ism. Of course, Mormon beliefs, Mormon heritage and the Corporation of the Church are all different things. We do a disservice every time we conflate the the three.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    That’s interesting, John, since I would consider your site to be pretty much anti-Mormon.

    See how that works?

  35. Anger over personal wrongs. […].A large organization like the church will fail some individuals some of the time.

    Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke about four roots of faith in the Leadership session of the 4/1985 Gen Con: believing blood, truth, personal experience, and friendship.

    About the second, he said,

    “The second root is the root of truth. It is a very powerful anchor, but must be part of the member before it has any holding force. A firm foundation of faith is laid in the excellent word of the scriptures, the standard works. The foundation includes an understanding of deity, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Paul emphasized the need to be rooted in Christ. The work of Joseph Smith is at the foundation of our faith. Priesthood authority is essential in the government of the Church.

    “When members know and assert these fundamentals, their own root of truth digs into the soil and wraps around the cornerstones to securely embrace that firm foundation. Each time a testimony is exrpessed, this root is strengthened.

    “Those who oppose the Church attack this root of truth. They generally focus most cunningly at the target of priesthood authority simply because leaders are human and imperfect. The Master chose to administer his affairs by giving authority to ordinary men. He identified them as ‘the weak things of the earth.’ Yet he empowered them to thrash the nations by his spirit. [D&C 35:13, 133:59]

    “But the Lord gave this important principle by which we may remain firmly rooted in the faith. ‘If my people will hearken unto my voice and the voice of my servants, whom I have appointed to lead my people… the shall not be moved out of their place.’ [D&C 124:45] Then, he warned, they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, [n]either the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and the apostles shall be cut of from among the people [see D&C 124:46, 50]. The root of truth is entrusted to the care of the leaders of the Church.”

    (My transcription of talk included in 4/1985 GenCon’s cassette tapes).

  36. Great post, Hawkgrrl.

  37. Gary’s #31 resonates with me. In many cases I’ve seen the labels act more as a way to categorize a particular claim as “acceptable” or “unacceptable,” “accurate” or “specious,” based largely on the label, discouraging thoughtful analysis of an idea. But they are terribly useful, too. I personally try to be conscientious when using labels, and try to be explicit in what I mean by them. Though that can be awfully pedantic.

  38. One thing I think is wrong is that some clearly anties want to be called critics. This gives a bad name to the real critics. I think anti is a person, who do not want to even consider a possibility he is wrong or read our site of the story. A person who is there to push the “critisism” every where, even hijacking discusitions to get his agenda in light. A person who namecalls people we respect and considers us stupid. A person who is waiting those with real questions, so they can pour out a full sack of “truths” which by closer exsamination are not even reliable. A person who is not able to discuss respectfully.

  39. Maybe instead of “anti-mormon” we should use the term “mormophobic”

  40. #39
    Gold star for you!

  41. Chris Gordon says:

    @Gary (31), there’s probably a difference somewhere between labeling and being reductionistic. The more nuanced the term, the more reductionistic it is to apply it as a label. I guess the kicker as a discerning listener is to, when we hear someone being labeled, to make the inquiry. Otherwise the listener is as lazy in accepting the label as the speaker is in applying it.

  42. #25

    I think “the Lord’s annointed” are understood basically to be the apostles or more broadly those who have been called in stewardship over you but especially the apostles. I have never heard any other interpretation, ever. But maybe there are others? I would be curious to know.

  43. Ugly Mahana says:

    My definition: An anti-mormon is anyone who:

    (1) Claims that Mormons do not worship Jesus Christ,

    (2) Asserts that any Mormon or group of Mormons influence in public life should be muted because of the Mormon’s or Mormon group’s adherence to or belief in Mormonism, or

    (3) Intentionally misrepresents Mormon belief to discredit Mormonism or to limit the impact of a Mormon or group of Mormons in public life and discourse.

    I hope that this leaves room for those who disagree with Mormons on doctrinal matters to disagree without being labeled anti-Mormon. I also hope it leaves room for those who dislike Mitt Romney on political grounds to lodge their dislike without being bigots.

    I hope this definition includes Harold Bloom, at least so far as his recent piece in the New York Times is evidence of his thinking. That was trash, no matter how well-written.

  44. That was trash, no matter how well-written.

    Nah, it wasn’t even well-written.

  45. Persuading people to leave the church does not make a person antimormon. Else, many councils would all fit into that category.

  46. observer fka eric s says:

    The only thing I’m sick of hearing is the “He’s calling from Salt Lake” joke. It’s so played out and tired.

  47. I would point out that there are Church members, or former members, who wish to “help” the Church by discrediting most or all the Church’s claims. These people would include writers like Grant Palmer who wrote An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins to “increase” faith by proving Joseph Smith was not a prophet, priesthood was not restored and the Book of Mormon isn’t true. I would say these cross the line despite their honest intentions. Calling them anti-Mormons I think is a little grey.

  48. Ugly Mahana – the one question I would have about your definition is whether it would also apply to someone who just repeats those things naively assuming they are accurate depictions. For example, I’ve absolutely met people who believe “Mormons are not Christians” and assume it means we are like Jews or Buddhists, not that we are simply not Protestant trinitarians. They have no “anti” feelings; they don’t understand the nuances of what they are saying (which those who made the statements are banking on).

    I think I need to do a follow up post “Who Are the Anti-Labelists?”. I do agree that labels can be harmful when misapplied or oversimplified, but they are useful in communicating. People don’t like labels that point out their motives, but they then have the ability to respond and clarify, as we do to labels like “non-Christian or “cultist”.

  49. Anti-Labelists FTW. Great post Angela.

  50. Angela, remember this old conversation about labels? Those were the days!

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2011/05/manifesto-against-tbm/

  51. … vs. making specious conclusions — often by those with mental illness.

    I’m in mind of an ex-client, who I still feel sad for.

  52. Ugly Mahana says:

    Hawkgrrrl – As you said in the OP, intent surely matters. I think the ant-Mormonness of someone claiming Mormons are not Christian depends on what they have been told or researched (which is really hard to know).

    That said, I think my definition works for anyone who claims to have researched Mormonism.

  53. Blair (50), thanks for the link to your earlier post. I recommend that anyone who’s interested in the topic read it. This has been a very interesting thread–very thought-provoking. To be honest, though, I’m still not sure I personally see any real value in labels. The way they seem to be applied in those areas of greatest interest here tend more, I find, to obscure than enlighten. If I label someone “anti-Mormon,” or “anti-Christian,” or “anti-intellectual,” or “apologist,” or any one of a number of similarly loaded, value-laden terms (at least, in the present conversation), am I really saying something about them? And if so, what exactly? Or am I saying more about myself, and how I see the world? I agree wholeheartedly with Chris (41): More discernment is needed–that, and tolerance, understanding, compassion …

  54. Gary, I pretty much agree, but we still need a few labels, like “saint,” “sister,” “brother,” etc. ;)

  55. SteveDensleyJr says:

    Gary, if you are talking about using labels as pejoratives, I can understand your position. However, I am not convinced that labels are useless, or that in using them as adjectives, we are not at the same time able to exercise discernment, tolerance, understanding or compassion. (Actually, even as pejoratives, they serve some use in communicating our ideas, although it is harsh to do so.) Can you honestly say you have never used the term “apologist” to describe someone? And did you really find it entirely useless in communicating your ideas to others? I agree that the label “apologist” does not fully describe any individual, but I don’t usually have time to give a full biography of a person as I am explaining my understanding of where a person stands on the issues. I therefore use terms such as conservative, liberal, anti-Mormon, apologist, etc. But at the same time, I understand, and I try to help others to understand, that such labels do not entirely explain the views of any particular individual.

  56. Steve (55), thanks for your questions. I’m sure it’s my own experience with labels that causes me today to be so leery and skeptical of them. I have used them in the past, and for that reason, in part, now find them mostly unhelpful. I try to avoid them, but it’s sometimes difficult–they’re so easy and tempting, and it seems they should help to advance a conversation, especially if one doesn’t want to take any more time than what one believes is necessary to try to situate a person, idea, etc. Yet I’ve found that my reliance on labels, especially of the more-loaded variety, invariably ends up being counter-productive. I agree that “labels do not entirely explain the views of any particularl individual.” I worry that such advice is not taken more widely to heart.

  57. Most of those in the professional boat ( giving lectures, writing books or other “literature”) fall all over themselves to assure everyone that they *love* Mormons, they’re not anti-Mormon!

    Often, there’s the claim of “Advocate of Truth”. Yet, is misrepresenting something that is taught in the LDS Church really being an “Advocate of Truth?” That’s one test to me.

    In the 1980’s there was one person who had claimed he was a Christian Minister, joined the Church, then left the Church, then claimed he had actually be a officer in the Church of Satan before joining the LDS. He went on the “Dr.” Walter Martin show. It looks like a faux Doctorate for Martin, when you get it from a College that was not even accredited to give doctorates at the time! Yet, when challenged about the Doctorate, Martin threatened to sue for defamation. Advocacy for Truth? The former member claimed that the spires on the LDS Temples were designed to reach up & crucify the returning Christ when he comes again. Martin did nothing to disagree with what was said on his show.

    The Tanners became aware of this, & distanced themselves for this, probably because they feared that it work make others who are against the LDS look like fruitcakes in general. The Tanners related their comments in an article in their newsletter called Confessions of Syn.

    This schism got worse, with Ed Decker claiming that evil spirits had possessed the Tanners, & offered some kind of exorcism. Think I’m making this up? I saw the news letter for the first part of this, and there was a Wiki spot about the last part.

    Then, like a century ago, there was a woman who had lectured around the US, tell people she had escaped a forced plural marriage to one of the 12 by running through the Salt Lake Temple, jumping out a window to the Temple wall, then jumping into the Great Salt Lake, & swan away. She must have bee a good jumper, since the Great Salt lake is several miles from the Temple!

  58. Your garments aren’t dementors, so I’m not sure why you’d need to cast a patronus charm at them. Maybe try accio garments or wingardium leviosa? (Just be sure to pronounce it right.) /nerd

  59. Jeff Lindsay had a recent experience with this in USA Today.

    http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2011/11/quoted-in-usa-today-on-issue-of-romney.html

  60. Jamie S – I wish they were white enough to pass for a patronus! Perhaps there is a bleaching spell.

  61. johnhlarsen says:

    @Steve: lol yes I see how it works. Anyone on the internet can throw around whatever label they want.

    So, yes, I would expect you to labeel my site as anti-Mormon. But that doesn’t make it such.

  62. John, precisely right. Agreed, anyone on the internet can throw around whatever labels they want. It’s not my labels that make your site anti-Mormon; it’s more a function of your site’s content.

  63. Steve, if its the function of a sites content that makes something anti-mormon, then you can throw the same label at lds.org. As an in depth reading of a some of the talks found there will do a good job in destroying faith.

  64. Jake, I suppose the same could be said of many things. Those seeking to confirm their faith will find inspiration almost anywhere; those looking to destroy their own faith will be able to do likewise. Except John’s site, that’s anti-mormon.

  65. Steve, Your right that people will read whatever they want from any source depending on their motives. Given then, that John’s site is anti-mormon, I guess that just adds to the irony that I, and many of my friends, have been more inspired at times by an anti-mormon site then we have in Sunday school and Elder’s Quorum.

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