Randomly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught the word “Mormon” on the page of a book a commuter was reading in the subway train on my way to work. (It must be some kind of Mormon radar — I’ve this kind of experience many times before.) Although I don’t make a habit of reading over other people’s shoulders while commuting, I glanced up from my own book to take a closer look and caught the following sentence, which, likely due to its direct relevance to me and its shocking content, I was able to memorize immediately before he turned the page:
Thus in the US we see the right wing racist, imperialist Christianity of the Moral Majority and the Mormons and the left wing anit-racist, anti-war Christian tradition of Martin Luther King.
My heart dropped and I looked for an indication of the title of the book. In the bottom right hand corner next to the page number it said International Socialism, which I took for the title of the book (I never got to see the cover as I had to exit the train shortly thereafter). The sentence was on page 69. Googling, however, has not helped me turn up the book and I now wonder whether “International Socialism” might have been the title of a subsection of a book by a different name, or even the title of an article in an anthology. The book appeared to be an academic book complete with endnotes on the page following the page that contained the above sentence. The title of the chapter appearing in the header of each page appeared to be Socialism and Religion, or something to that effect.
This was disheartening because it reminded me of the reputation that Mormons have in the eyes of many people. It is not even in the category of assertions that require a footnote with a source establishing the claim; rather, it appears to be considered self-evident in some circles. It raised a number of questions in my mind.
To the extent that Mormons have this reputation in the eyes of the academy, or the Left, or the public at large (or anyone, for that matter), what are we, as a people, and the Church, as the premiere symbol and face of Mormonism, doing about it on a daily basis? Can the Church ever overcome this perception?
Does the Church’s late-twentieth-century policy of teaming up with the religious right, the “Moral Majority”, on a host of policy issues prevent us from ever differentiating ourselves, our beliefs, and our approach to life and being from the reputation of the other loud voices constituting the Moral Majority? Does an assertion like the one in the book arise merely because of the Church’s association with policies of the Moral Majority for the last couple of decades or are the Mormons mentioned as a separate category in addition to the Moral Majority?
Do we as Mormons care that an academic book about international socialism (perhaps a college-level anthology or textbook) characterizes Mormons this way as if it were a given? (I do.) Is it to be celebrated that we are considered part of Christianity if it has to be a “right wing racist, imperialist Christianity”, or would it be better if society at large differentiated between a right wing racist, imperialist Christianity such as the Moral Majority on the one hand and the Mormons on the other? (Leading question, of course.)