What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Does Behavior Matter? More Hate Filled Evangelicals

Posted by JLFuller on August 19, 2008

For some time now, there have been groups of anti-Mormons who parade in front of the Temple, the Conference Center at conference time and protest at the dedication of Church buildings around the country. They engage in highly confrontational, in-your-face tactics at our events and claim they are just informational. OK, I accept they have doctrinal differences with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They say they are only interested in informing the LDS membership and others of errors they perceive in our Church and believe their methods are justified. Apparently they think they have some role in deciding what others are allowed believe. In any event, I fail to see how such confrontations can do anything but alienate others. Then again I don’t think they intend to bridge any divides. 

 

One such group, Mormon Research Ministries, says they consider the term anti-Mormon  offense and liken it to a racial slur. Evidently they see themselves as some kind of victim. But  thier verbal violence and in-your-face confrontations make a mockery of legitimate victims of religious persecution. They prefer the term critic as though they were providing peer reviewed commentaries. I suggest anyone who observes this group’s behavior will conclude the term anti-Mormon fits – regardless of what they want us to believe.

 

This confrontation tactic is not a new strategy. It is in fact an old one. We have seen it elsewhere such as anti-war demonstrations as well as by such groups as NOW, Code Pink, the Black Panther Party, The Nation of Islam and others. Even the American Nazi Party used this tactic in their 1977 confrontation of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. So both radical ends of the spectrum have found the tactic useful. Groups in the mainstream find other more constructive ways to express opinion and differences with others.

 

Recently at the Mormon Miracle Pageant event in Manti, Utah, anti-Mormon women dressed up as Joseph Smith’s wives and paraded in front of attendees as a way of expressing their views of Joseph Smith and his polygamist beliefs. I can’t comment on the accuracy of what they attempted to convey and I suggest they can’t either. I don’t think any one knows the whole story. To this writer it appears MRM had a nickels worth of opinion and wanted us to believe it was a dollars worth of fact. MRM writer Aaron Shafovaloff told me the resource they used was Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness although in reading Compton I found he denounces the very methods MRM uses.

 

Compton says “… I also dislike Mormon history that systematically censors out anything “positive.” Mormon history is filled with wonderful people who have performed authentically Christ like actions. There are many stories of heroism and sacrifice. While some church leaders have been authoritarian and controlling others have been warm and inclusive. Anyone who continually hammers on only the negative is guilty of censorship and cover up, just as is the person who censors out the negative. Both write unrealistic and unbelievable history. Furthermore, the person who includes only the negative can be guilty of sensationalism and the low moral atmosphere of yellow journalism.”   www.lds-mormon.com/compton.

 

I don’t know if the message MRM wants to convey holds water or not or how much is accurate and how much is contrived or taken out of context. I have doubts about the accuracy because MRM does not provide the other side which is a sign their intent was just to spread more propaganda. In fact, when it comes to LDS theology and history we  see only negative comments and articles coming from MRM. So when they present a piece I have serious doubts about its legitimacy. They certainly are not balanced and, to my way of thinking, are not credible. I find it too hard to get past their behavior to seriously consider what they say. I think a lot of people are like me. It certainly is not in keeping with the Savior’s way of treating other people. Mormons believe creating conflict is Satan’s way and that Christ rejects it.

 

But, right or wrong, there they were. Their method was intended to be provocative and so it was. As I read the reports of the event and saw the photos taken, I couldn’t help but think that these were likely fine people. But a lot of fine people are poorly led. The issue I take with them is not their doctrine or belief about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or anyone else. I object to the blatantly offense manner they choose to express themselves and their beliefs. Let them believe what they will. But how do attendees protect themselves from these openly hostile behaviors? This was a family event with small children, elderly and invited guests to a beautiful, spiritual event intended to praise God and honor Mormon forbearers.

 

MRM’s blog MormonCoffee.com has pictures and commentary of the event.  Shafovaloff reports on the event if readers care to follow this link – www.blog.mrm.org. As in many of these staged events the outcome is often predicted in advance to have been a “roaring success” according to those who put it on. However those not connected with the event often have a different view. I wonder if it is even worth the effort. It certainly rallies the troops, and I suppose such expressions raise money and keep some people’s interest up.  But isn’t that like preaching to the choir? What kind of person is impressed with behavior like this?

 

Nation of Islam’s (Lewis Farrakhan) Million Man March of a few years ago claimed to have over a million participants. But the National Park Service who monitored and licensed the event reported a significantly smaller number of less than half that. In Farrakhan’s case success was defined according to someone’s preference rather than the actual outcome. Who knows whether this MRM event was a success? I suppose it depends on how you define success and who you think was listening.

 

All this brings me to the point I try to make on this blog and wherever I comment or participate in a discussion. I ask if we are getting closer or farther apart? Does the discussion lead us to becoming more Christ-like? So I ask it here too. In the case of the Manti event, is the divide between LDS and the protesters narrower or wider and whose interest does it benefit, Satan’s or Christ’s. 

 

I have offered Shafovaloff the chance to say what he wants in response to my piece. In fact I sent him a draft of what I said here so he would know what to respond to. I think that is only fair given I mentioned him and his site by name. In the past, others have claimed that the end justifies the means. They believe they have a duty to educate unknowing Mormons about some unsavory behaviors, as they see them, and that such behaviors are indicative of the falseness of our religion. They think Mormons are oblivious to the failings of the people who preceded us. We are not. When it comes to Joseph and Brigham, I don’t think we have the whole story. In fact I am sure we don’t. We don’t know enough to judge. I don’t know and I am OK with it until someone with gravitas and says otherwise. I want to hear the other side before I draw conclusions. Until then, these stories are only half-told.

 

So, in answer to my question, does behavior matter? Of course it does. There is a threshold which legitimate discourse must meet to be considered worthy of discussion. That is, participants must respect the premise enough to consider all sides of a question and practice a modicum of restraint in arriving at conclusions. MRM’s behavior is analogous to inviting oneself over a colleague’s home and forcing themselves verbally upon him. Honest, responsible people do not behave this way – or so it seems to me.

 

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