Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Is This an anti-Mormon Website?

Being called a Mormon is something some LDS members do not like to be called. In this new century I see the old Mormon system of belief being changed to the New LDS belief system. Missionaries no longer ask "what do you know about the Mormons" like my parents used to do. Official LDS church publications shy away from the term Mormonism even though it is in the D&C and ironically one of the church websites is www.mormon.org.

This is not an anti-Mormon site. I am pro-Mormon as far as supporting the LDS church's family values, ethical teachings, and philanthropy. In fact, I've written a lengthy article on the positive side of Mormonism. Calling me an anti-Mormon for being critical of the claims of the LDS church would be like calling a critic of the claims of Judaism an anti-Semite. Someone can be a critic of a theology but not be anti "the people of that religious organization." As LDS apologist (Mormon defender) John A. Tvedtnes writes:

"A non-Mormon who writes about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not necessarily an anti-Mormon, even if he gets some of his facts wrong. To me, an anti-Mormon is one who deliberately misrepresents the facts about the LDS Church and its scriptures ..." (Source: Shades of Darkness by John A. Tvedtnes FARMS Review: Volume - 12, Issue - 2, Pages: 427-40).

If any of my facts are wrong I welcome anyone to point them out to me. I am very careful about citing sources and seek honestly to accurately tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

If I am to be called an anti-Mormon by an LDS member then to be fair they should accept the label anti-Baptist or anti-Catholic. Of course, Mormons aren't anti-Baptists or anti-Catholics, they just disagree with their theology and critique their doctrines in books like The Great Apostasy and many others. In fact, in the Joseph Smith—History 1: 17-20 , Smith says God forbade him from joining any of the Christian sects and that God said to him, "their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: [']they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Does this make Mormons Anti-Traditional-Christianity? Afterward Smith told his mother that he had just learned for himself "that Presbyterianism is not true." Does this make Mormons anti-Presbyterian? Of course not, Mormons can be critics of traditional Christian creeds but not be anti-Christian. Likewise, I can be critical of LDS doctrines and not be an anti-Mormon.

I have heard many LDS members criticize the Catholic Church's doctrine of celibacy and their views on the sacrament or communion, yet those same LDS members would say it is unfair to call them anti-Catholic. They would say, being a critic of certain aspects of Roman Catholicism doesn't make them anti-Catholic, just a critic. For some reason they don't apply that same logic to their friends and family members who are critics of Mormonism (the LDS corporation) while loving Mormons individually.

I think if a mature conversation is to take place then certain LDS members need to stop the name-calling which is what calling someone an "anti-Mormon" is. It is a way to stop the person from being heard by slandering their character, by verbally attacking them with the pejorative (disparaging and insulting) label anti-Mormon. The reason it is slanderous and pejorative is because in the mind of most Mormons it is akin to calling someone an anti-Semite; in that in the Mormon mind that person labeled "anti-Mormon" is envisioned as essentially evil and a liar and trying to destroy Mormonism and hates all Mormons.

There is another element that adds to the damaging effects of the label anti-Mormon when it is leveled against good people. And that is that it triggers in the minds of many Mormons a loyalty promise they made when interviewed for entrance into the temple; that they would not associate with those who oppose Mormon dogma. Hence, labeling someone an anti-Mormon can possibly destroy friendships and families since the loyal Mormon may very well fear and distrust the person labeled anti-Mormon.

Some Mormons will rationalize using the term saying, "Well, 'anti' just means against or opposed to, and so the critic is 'against Mormonism.'" The first problem with that argument is obvious, in that the person is not called anti-Mormonism but anti-Mormon, which makes it sound like the person is against the Mormon as an individual. This is another reason why the term is akin to the term anti-Semite. Also, the Mormon must agree in the temple interview that they will not associate with "any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and the question also asks, "do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?" So calling someone anti-Mormon would logically lead the LDS members not associating with them or sympathizing with them. Thankfully, most Mormons don't take it that far. But to really understand just how ugly and divisive the term anti-Mormon is the reader has to understand the cosmology of Mormonism as believed by the more literal minded LDS members. According to the most literal LDS members, Mormon theology holds that there are essentially two forces in the world, God and Satan. Everything that supports the LDS religion is of God, anything that does not support the church is of the Devil. With this worldview in place, some Mormons see the world as not just "us against them" like with two competing sports teams, but they create a cosmic battle resulting in what I like to call "Horns versus Halos." The "good, believing Mormon" is seen among these kinds of Mormons as if he has a Halo (holy, righteous, and part of the in group) and the critic of Mormonism (even if what he says is factually true and can't be refuted) is seen as if he has Horns (unholy, unrighteous, and part of the out group). So when Mormons accuse someone of being an anti-Mormon they are not just saying he or she is against a certain LDS church policy or dogma, they are accusing him or her of being on the side of the devil. You can imagine then how hurtful it can be for a family member to call another family member an anti-Mormon. They are saying to that friend or family member, you are not part of the in group, you are of the devil, evil, etc. So to be labeled anti-Mormon (in the eyes of many LDS members) is to be labeled basically on the side of "darkness." The damaging affect of this tradition in Mormonism can be seen all over the world, as more and more people are leaving Mormonism, and LDS fathers and mothers are fearing their own former Mormon children they reared from infancy; seeing them now as less than human being perceived as on the side of evil for merely voicing an intellectual disagreement of opinion. Of course, sometimes it is reversed and it is the former LDS parent that is ostracized by the LDS children who are grown up.

Mormons are trained by their leaders to not study the opposing point of view and to avoid any history books that reveal the whole truth are not 100% faith-promoting. They are also trained to interpret any uncomfortable feeling they experience, while learning about some fact regarding church history, as a feeling that proves the information is of Satan; and thus most Mormons experience anxiety with the first learning of the true historical facts and stop learning and investigating. So most LDS members remain largely uninformed of the details of their own history (warts and all) as the official LDS church produces a sanitized white washed version of the church's history, akin to the book 1984. So being uninformed the LDS member often feels attacked by the former LDS member who often just wishes to share historical facts with the LDS member. Since the Mormon is trained to fear information that is not faith-promoting they become anxious, defensive, and tribal: in that they feel part of the in group of Halos afraid of contamination from the out group of Horns. It does not matter if the out group is your friend or family you've know your whole life! It does not matter if the person trying to inform you of the historical facts is your spouse, your parent, your kids, or best friend; the critical truth teller often threatens the Mormon's comfort zone and their brain's flight or flight system often kicks in. So when a former Mormon tries to share information with them the LDS member most likely will feel scared, defensive, anxious, and then angry and proud defending the in group and will seek to protect their religious views. There are exceptions of course, as not all Mormons are the same.

The term anti-Mormon then must be understood in this larger Mormon context to understand why say a business owner in a state like Utah, who is labeled anti-Mormon, could actually lose his business. The term can literally destroy people's lives. Spouses risk losing their loved ones. In some Mormon families the family member labeled anti-Mormon is ostracized from family gatherings. Good people are demonized and slandered for having a difference of opinion and telling the truth as they see it. Some Mormon leaders in the past and present are even willing to squelch free speech in order to silence the critic.

The term anti-Mormon may have been appropriate a hundred years ago to refer to the occasional angry non-Mormon mob that arose here and there in Mormon history. After all, these mobs were often full of hate and attempting to do literal bodily harm to Mormons. But to accuse someone of being anti-Mormon today -- who is a law abiding citizen and wishes no harm upon Mormons, and just so happens to be a polite critic of Mormonism while having friends who are Mormons -- is downright immoral in my opinion and it needs to stop.

I say to my Mormon readers, this is not the tactics of a mature world religion, this is the tactics of a cult; and since Mormons do not want to be thought of as a cult they need to not act like one in this regard. For example, some of the members of the Moonies will call critics of their religion anti-moon. This is clearly a cult style "thought stopping" technique, wherein, it is my understanding that the Moonie will think negatively of, not trust, and not "hear the person out" who is labeled anti-moon. I don't think the Mormons are a cult like the Moonies so I wish they'd stop using some of those tactics you find in such cults.

I applaud those many Mormons who recognize the errors of the term anti-Mormon and refuse to use it. I applaud Mormons like Jeff Lindsey who wrote Cutting a Little Slack for Ex-Mormons. May there number increase. You see I think most Mormons are better than this kind of tactic. Resorting to these immature destructive tactics that divides families and ruins friendships is beneath most Mormons I know; who are kind and compassionate people of integrity. The more noble minded Mormons need to speak up about this and discourage this destructive language among some of their LDS peers. An honest disagreement of opinion and open discussion of facts can ensue without name calling.

I love Mormons as they are among my friends and family. Growing up in the church and serving a mission in Brazil I have a great love for the ethical culture it fosters and the men and women of good character it often produces. Thus calling someone like me an anti-Mormon would be nothing less than a form of slander and a cult-like thought stopping technique; as a way to control the inflow of information and keep members ignorant of the opposing viewpoint. That is the opposite of the Mormonism I have read about in LDS literature that speaks of accepting light and knowledge wherever it comes from and being open to criticism for the sake of attempting to uncover the truth without pride or prejudice.

I find that it is often the kind of Mormon who is the most uninformed of their own church history and the plight of former Mormons, that is the most ready to dismiss their former Mormon loved ones with the anti-Mormon label. You even have some LDS parents calling their own children anti-Mormon just because the son or daughter studied church history and came to a different point of view. Meanwhile, the parent who verbally attacks their own child with such divisive labels has never read their own church history and the reasons why their child has left Mormonism. They refuse to humbly seek first to understand and listen to what the son or daughter has to say. They let fear and tribal pride allow them to be driven to slander their own blood for the comfort of the group, rather than truly trying to understand their loved one's point of view. I have even heard of these same LDS parents, turning around and inviting that same son or daughter to church after representing their religion in such cold and divisive ways. It makes one think, "Really, this is what you are selling? Agree with me or I will slander you and not even try to hear you out. That is what you are selling? Come join a group that will take someone you spent your whole life knowing and then turn them against you over a mere difference of intellectual opinion? That is how you behave and then you invite the person you just slandered as devilish back to that very same system that has influenced you to behave that way? Really?"

Thank goodness not all Mormons are like that! There are so many kind and open minded LDS members. There is even a video put out by these kinds of level headed and noble Mormons called Alone (available on YouTube). The video description reads, "Feeling alone, Justin shares with his father and wife his concerns about his [LDS] church and comes to a new understanding of his [LDS] faith and those he loves." The video shows how to better treat a person who doubts the claims of Mormonism. Thus, there are plenty of examples of Mormons who avoid the destructive term anti-Mormon and instead seek to listen to the former Mormon, love them, and try to truly understand them.

I consider myself friendly toward the LDS Church. I have many friends and family who are true believing Mormons. One of my motivations for this webpage is that I am concerned about LDS members who do not become educated about the controversies. It can lead to later shock and dissolusionment as evidenced at www.exmormon.org. LDS members should also look at both sides of their religion, the pro and con, in order to better understand those family members or friends who go inactive or are no longer Mormon.

I want to unite people through mutual understanding. As LDS author, Steven Covey says in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we should "seek first to understand." Only when one tries to understand someone's point of view can real love and understanding take place. The former LDS member understands the devout Mormon's point of view, having "been there and done that," so isn't it only fair that the Mormon try to understand the former LDS member?

I know that the LDS member has to choose to look at both sides of their religion, and it is not my place to tell them what to do. Unfortunately, when I was a Mormon I was trained to see anything critical of my religion as "anti-Mormon." This caused me to develop an aversion to other points of view regarding Mormonism; it was as if a subconscious "red flag" would pop up in my head anytime I thought about or read something that wasn't "faith-promoting." 

Ask yourself this: "If by any chance the former Mormon wasn't wrong - if there were any chance that Joseph Smith wasn't what he claimed to be - and the Mormon Church wasn't what it claimed to be, would you want to know? If there was something you could learn about Mormonism that could change your mind about it, would you want to hear it?" This is obviously a test of open-mindedness.

Maybe you're not ready for the so-called "meat," and don't want to know what I know. If so, take the "blue pill" and sign off. But if you're ready to learn more see the table of contents. As Morpheus says in the movie The Matrix, "You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more..."

Related web articles:

What is an anti-Mormon? by Dr. Shades

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