What I’ve learned about Mormons

Jeff Blake FOR THE WASHINGTON POST A Mormon missionary shows the Book of Mormon and the New Testament to an … Continued

Jeff Blake

FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

A Mormon missionary shows the Book of Mormon and the New Testament to an interested potential convert on January 11, 2012.

It looks like evangelicals—at least many of those in the evangelical world who normally vote Republican—have made their peace with the Mitt Romney candidacy. Not that their support is necessarily enthusiastic. Romney will get their votes, but it isn’t clear that they will mobilize on behalf of his candidacy.  They will end up deciding on the basis of “anyone but Obama.” But that doesn’t mean they will feel clean about voting to put a Mormon in the White House.

Anti-Mormon sentiment runs strong among evangelicals.  We differ on this from mainline Protestants and Catholics. Those two groups don’t necessarily like Mormons, but the evangelical version of the dislike is more intense.

Evangelical hostility toward Mormonism has been there from the beginning. And it has typically been reciprocated. Joseph Smith saw himself as restoring true Christianity from the distortions that had run rampant for almost two thousand years. And the kind of “false church” that loomed large in his mind was represented by the various strands of evangelical Christianity that dominated the religious scene in his part of New York state. The angry denunciations flowed freely in both directions.

Unlike our mainline Protestant and Catholic counterparts, we evangelicals actively seek converts, and this means that we see Mormons—also passionately committed to evangelization—as direct competitors. In fact, we often compete for the loyalties of the same groups of people. In some regions of South America, for example, missionaries from both movements are aggressively seeking to bring exactly the same villages—whose residents may hold to a form of animistic religious—into our respective folds.

I have experienced the anti-Mormon hostility personally from my fellow evangelicals.  A dozen years ago I helped to organize an ongoing dialogue group of evangelical and Mormon scholars. In the context of those discussions I have also formed friendships with some key LDS church leaders in Salt Lake City. We agree that many of our theological differences go deep, but we also have seen some important areas where we have misunderstood each other.

Hoping to reduce the level of angry rhetoric on the evangelical side, I have encouraged my fellow faithful to engage in friendly give-and-take with Mormons before simply making uninformed pronouncements about their church’s teachings. Some evangelicals have thanked me for taking up the cause. They have friends—even close family members—who are Mormons and have been looking for a more positive approach. But others continue to reproach me. They tell me that I am aiding and abetting an “evil cult.”

Nothing that I have learned about Mormonism in the past twelve years of serious engagement with Mormon life and thought leads me to question the ability of a Mormon to serve as president.  I don’t worry that Mitt Romney will be unduly influenced by the leaders of his church. In fact, there is at least one issue on which I wish that he were a better Mormon—his church leaders have expressed a much more humane approach to immigration issues than his stated positions on the subject. It might even be a good thing if Mitt would stop by Salt Lake City once in a while for a refresher course on some of his church’s teachings!

Mouw, a philosopher, scholar, and author, is president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

About

  • CultEnthusiast

    NOT a great article Richard. I don’t care if you’ve had “good” experiences with Mormons. This doesn’t represent a statistical sample, this doesn’t represent anything other than your highely biased opinion. I don’t know how you can call yourself man of God and be unable to realize that your opinoin about Mormons doesn’t mean that everyone should step in line and consider the Mormons to be good people. You media people keep asking and asking, “Why do people not like Mormons? They seem nice.” Well, you have only spoken to a select few Mormons, you’ve only spoken to their media departments; what on earth did you expect? This type of reporting is absolutely ridiculous!

  • CultEnthusiast

    I love how you Mormons in the comment section here are so entirely upset and angry at the anti-Mormon efforts on the internet. You Mormons have nothing positive to say at all. I love how you post scriptures and tell us you love the world and that you are peacesul, but when cornered, you turn into savages and dogs; you have something inside you that is very very mean and wicked; I’ve never seen or read anything like this in my life, you guys are completely insane and have no basis in Christ.. I don’t believe in a God, but I do know very well the teachings of Jesus Christ and what you Mormons are doing is nowhere close to what the Christ of he Bible taught. This is just disgusting, I can only assume that it will become worse as time goes by. I hope you know what you are doing becuase your “happy Mormon propagand” is not working to your benefit, it’s actually helping us non-Mormons realize your true nature.

  • Lance Peters

    AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: Quotes from great Mormon leaders about the future takeover of America by Mormons:

    “U.S. President Zachary Taylor is dead, and in hell. And I am glad of it.”

    -Prophet Brigham Young, quoted in Perry Brocchus,“Utah Officials’ Report to President Fillmore,” Congressional Globe, new series, v. 25, p. 87; cited in B.H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1930, v. 3, p. 520, footnote 3
    “Mormon leaders consistently expressed their feelings that the war had been brought on by the wickedness of the United States, which had rejected Mormonism and permitted the death of the prophet of God and his servants…. Although the waste of lives was lamentable, a war between states would avenge the death of Joseph Smith. The Saints seemed especially gratified that Jackson County was a war zone and that Missouri would suffer the penalty of its cruelties to the Mormons. Besides avenging the blood of the innocent, the Lord would also prepare the way before his coming, which Mormons believed would occur in Jackson County, Missouri…. William Clayton wrote that such a spirit seemed to operate on Brigham Young’s mind:‘All Latter-day Saints will not stay here [in Utah] forever. He [Young] talks much and frequently about Jackson County, Missouri.”

    - Eugene E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869, 1988, p. 235

    “So as to make you realize the enormity of Mormonism suffice it that I found them a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and wh**r*es. The people publicly rejoice at the reverse to our arms and thank God that the American government is gone as they term it, while their prophet and bishops preach treason from the pulpit. Federal officers are entirely powerless and talk in whispers for fear of being overheard by Brigham’s spies. Brigham Young rules with despotic sway and death by assassination is the penalty of disobedience to his command.”

    - Colonel Patrick E. Conner, Union Army officer, letter dated September 14, 18

  • Lance Peters

    Mormon Missionaries’ Positive Views of Hitler:

    Quotes from Missionaries serving in Germany 1930s – 1940s:

    “He recalled: ‘When we came home [from our missions], we loved the German people. We didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing. We liked Hitler. We would just eat up articles where some of his news people were showing how the pioneers were organized into groups. They were tying our LDS history into kicking the Germans out of their colonies in Africa. We used it for material to disseminate the gospel.’ . . .

    “Other LDS Americans were impressed by Hitler and his ability to speak and motivate people. Wendell C. Irvine wrote in an article in the [official Mormon Church magazine] ‘Improvement Era’ that despite all of Hitler’s weaknesses, ‘the greatest thing that could be said of him, however, might well be inscribed on his tombstone, ‘Adolf Hitler Orator.’“[. . .

    “Sanford Bingham, a missionary at the same time as my father, felt the same way. After listening to one of Hitler’s speeches after Germany took over Austria, Bingham concluded, ‘I’m afraid if I stayed here a few more years I would become completely Nazified myself.’ . .

  • sloagm

    @ CultEnthusiast: I am wondering who you would suggest that Richard talk to? What would an unbiased statistical sample look like?

    Your references to “the mormons” and “they” as though mormons are a monolithic entity seems to me to be the typical non-scientific stereotype that one would expect in the nameless, faceless shelter of the comments section of the WaPo.

    Mr. Mouw is no mormon apologetic yet he is at least willing to engage civilly. I think that this type of mutual understanding and empathy is what happens when people are willing to sit down in a civil discourse.

    The lobbing of fecal matter over the wall at one another, meanwhile, is left to the critics in the crowd…

  • fkratzor1

    I’ve been around 52 years, much of the time spent in “Mormon Country” Wyoming and Utah. I’ve never, not one time, had a bad encounter with anyone belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the early 80′s I spent almost a year in and around Brigham City, UT, drilling natural gas wells in the middle of bird refuges. At that time we had three pressing concerns; we often couldn’t find a pub, couldn’t get girls and mosquitos.

    Regardless of ones religious tendencies and beliefs, dislike or hatred of others you don’t personally know because of their belief system is narrow minded at best. We should all be able to respectfully disagree without fueling hatred. This nation needs much less of that not more.

    If we fail to learn from our history, and use hate filled words spoken decades ago against each other, then are we truly progressing as a nation as human beings?

  • Kent French

    Come on Lance. Stop trying to lead people astray. You know full well what the Mormon position on gays and Lesbians really is. However, in case you forgot I will repeat it here for those who read your posts.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider same-sex attraction a sin, but sexual relations are only acceptable within the marriage of one man and one woman. This applies to heterosexuals as well. That’s it, there isn’t any more.

  • Kent French

    Furthermore, you spout various personal Mormon oppinions of a selected few as if they are official doctrines of our church. But beyond that, your versions of what they have said appear to be doctored up a little or out of context to me. Who knows, some of your posts about what people have said may even be pure fabrictions. Just because something is written down does not make it true.

  • campbellaj39

    I agree! Because we know, undersatnd the full doctrines of Jesus Christ, through the restoration, we want to share it with everyone. We believe that all humans are related; brothers and sisters. These brothers and sisters of different sizes, shapes, colors, languages are either born in this country, or migrate to this country; like all of us, even the so-called founders of this country. Mitt Romney [and many Ilike him] would like to keep this country for themselves, and yet are taught by the gospel of Jesus Christ to be “no respecter of persons”. So how can Mr. ‘BROTHER’ Romney find anything wrong with what PRESIDENT O’ Bama offered to these Hispanic families??? How can he speak, while addressing a group of White Southerners, against Blacks???
    Mormons, Blacks, Whites etc., Should Not vote for an individual based on assumptions due to religion or race, but on the prayerful study of the person running for office; any office.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘Prayerful study’ is an oxymoron.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘Just because something is written down does not make it true.’

    Irony radar just exploded in my hands.

  • Secular1

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider same-sex attraction a sin, but sexual relations are only acceptable within the marriage of one man and one woman.” A distinction without any difference.

  • Kent French

    I don’t see anyone on the Republican side disagreeing. In fact, every bit of his idea was stolen from Republican Mark Rubio, as every Fox news viewer knows..

    The only thing that is a concern is that O’bama did it by executive order rather than by the legislative process as called for by our constitution. In other words, he is starting to act somewhat like a dictator.

    Beyond that, the Republicans were going to bring it up soon, and Obama obviously wanted to beat them to the punch for political purposes.

  • fkratzor1

    There were many people sucked into Hitler’s rhetoric including Americans, else why in the world would we ever have done business with IG Farben? If you want to read some crazy sh!t, Google that.

    My mom grew up in Graz Austria during the time of Hitler, lost her twin brother (a pacifist) on the Russian front, lost her citizenship, all her posessions and many of her friends during the war. She emigrated to the US in the early 1950′s and fell in love with this country and the state of Wyoming and the communities of Pinedale and Thermopolis where she lived out her life for her remaining 50 years. I saw in her, a true appreciation for what is good and what is just and what is fair. She had seen the darker side of humanity first hand and didn’t much care for it.

    Hitler exploited the weakest aspects of human nature and parts of the worst using non stop propaganda filled with hate and paranoia, then offered a solution. I think if you check your history, you’ll find that many Catholic clergy stood by watching as Hitler and his associates grew the Nazi Party into its murderous organization.

    This post, means little.

  • fkratzor1

    I don’t pray

  • Kent French

    I didn’t used to either, and that was a big mistake!

  • fkratzor1

    Why?

  • netzach

    You do understand the meaning of “genocide” – correct? It isn’t apparent from this cite, nor the link.

  • Kent French

    Sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage as God has established it can and will sooner or later lead to unhappiness for adults, youth and the little children.

    Adultery, rape, divorce, venereal disease, the loss of self worth, low self esteem, feeling unclean and despondency are just a few of the terrible consequences that arise out of sexual sins. None of those things bring happiness or peace to a persons soul.

    The good news is that any person who is caught in Satan’s snare can repent, be forgiven, have their burdens lifted and move on to a happy life.

  • netzach

    Sometimes the truth is not very useful. For example, if your wife asks you if a certain pair of pants makes her look fat. The truth may be that her rather large backside makes her look fat – not the pants. But that’s not a very useful reply.

  • netzach

    No, I guess you don’t understand the meaning of “genocide.”

  • netzach

    So, your advice is to just ignore all the lies and distortions?

  • David L Sadler

    Anyone not intelligent enough to realise the Book of Mormon is a particularly dull 19th century work of fiction should not be leading the free world.

  • Kent French

    Hey David

    Since you think the Book of Mormon is so dull I challenge you to take a one question test.

    How many gospel principles are taught in the first verse of the Book of Mormon, and what are they? Let’s see how you do.

  • dcdinnell

    “as related by D. Michael Quin,” does not make it factual…. verification of truth comes only from whence the spring flows…. not the water downstream….

  • dcdinnell

    Guess that would explain the 30 year war in Europe that was started between the Catholic and the Protestants and killed almost 12 million….

  • Bets

    Correctly perceived views – I am a Mormon

  • r-h-a

    Name them. let’s check your facts.

  • r-h-a

    Since when did God promise anyone convenience?

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I’m not sure you’re making the best case for the BOM not being dull here, Kent.

  • SODDI

    Book of Mormon, Dianetics – cult books, like Oahspe.

    Don’t need to stick your nose in dog doo to know you should walk around it so as not to step in it.

  • SODDI

    If he ignored all the lies and distortions, then he’d be an agnostic.

    He’s simply choosing WHICH lies and distortions to ignore.

  • Kent French

    Because my wife and I missed out on so many blessings by not leading a gospel centered life. You see, even though I have Mormon ancestry I didn’t really know anything about the church because my parent and their parents before them didn’t go to church. As a result, it wasn’t until I was 32 years old that my wife and I met with the missionaries, and we ended up repenting of our sins and being baptized.

    We joined the Church when God kept his promise by individually witnessing to us that the missionaries were teaching us the truth.

    Then, once we joined the Church we began to experience a big difference in our lives. Blessings began to be shower upon us, and they have just kept coming right up to this very day. By the way, I am 77 years old now and I know (not believe) that God lives, and that Jesus is the Christ!

  • Kent French

    There are four stepts to prayer.

    Address you Father in Heaven.
    Thank him for the things in life that you are thankful for.
    Ask him for the thing or things you need.
    And close your pray by saying – in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

  • Kent French

    To Skins fan,

    We will see if I am making a good case if he ponders that verse and responds.

  • Kent French

    To Skins fan,

    As of now it’s obvious that SODDI hasn’t even read the first verse of the Book of Mormon. That makes him a great authority on its dullness doesn’t it

  • Kent French

    Areyousaying

    Yes, of course a person can be gay and celabate and be happy, or he can be married to a woman have kids and be happy. There is a lot more to happiness than sex.

    God doesn’t give us commandments that we can’t keep. For instance, think of all the men in this world, married or unmarried, who do not commit adultry even though they are attracted to all those sexy women out there. Many men avoid that temptation on a daily basis. As a result they and everybody who loves them end up with a happier life than they would have if they fell to the temptation.

    God said keep my commandments, but he didn’t say it was going to be easy, but he blesses you if you do.

  • Kent French

    I have the same opinion of his other posts as well.

  • EW88

    I see many comments here indicating that people with religious beliefs (or particular religious beliefs) can’t be trusted, they’re irrational, they’re stupid, etc. Why? What secularists miss and misunderstand – and those who don’t think about religion in general – is that a spiritual witness doesn’t come from the scientific method. I don’t expect them to do so. What I do expect is that they can respect and tolerate others’ beliefs without ridicule. Thanks for listening.
    http://www.conservativemormonmom.blogspot.com

  • Wemedge

    I’m an Evangelical missionary in Greece and have met several Mormon missionaries. They are without exception polite, non-argumentative, and respectful- some even came to church with me. I don’t care what Romney is- as long as he governs well.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    There is precisely no reason to respect a person’s ideas unequivocally. Ideas could not be further removed from personal characteristics such as ethnicity and nationality that ought to be respected out of common courtesy. If you are tired of your ideas being ridiculed, espouse some ideas that are not so abjectly ridiculous. Religious literalism has always been the mark of the dim, the humorless, and the intellectual coward. The sooner you square yourself with this fact the better.

  • fkratzor1

    My wife is tougher and meaner than I am; I’m 6’2″ she’s 5’3″. If I committed adultry, she’d kill me in my sleep. Or at least that is what she has hinted.

  • EdgyMormon

    I attended and graduated from BYU during the early 70s and really never encountered a gay person. I am certain there were probably some around. That said, I received a solid education from a top university and it has served me well.

    What is it that makes people with same sex attraction feel that their deviant abnormal behavior must be accepted by others? I have no desire to persecute homosexuals, I also have no desire to understand there rather odious and repellent practices. If I am closed minded so be it.

    I would simply say that if this abhorrent practice appeals to people there are certainly other schools where it will be readily embraced and accepted.

    With regard to gay people being Mormons, the doctrine is clear, acceptable sexual relations are between a man and a woman within the bounds of matrimony.

    Just because some state passes a law stating marriage in some other format is legally recognized doesn’t change my view in the least.

    I am willing to live and let live. There are some highly rated educational institutions in San Francisco. People with same sex attraction would, I dare say, find that environment far more comfortable and accepting to their particular “life style”.

    As far as I am aware no one holds a gun to a person’s head and forces them to go to BYU or forces them to go through shock therapy. Once they qualify academically and are in compliance with the BYU code of conduct they make the choice to go there.

    The real shock and it certainly isn’t therapeutic, comes from the erosion and dismantling of folkways and mores that made this country the greatest country on the planet.

  • Tornogal

    “The spiritual witness doesn’t come from the scientific method.” How true.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    You forgot a few intervening steps, allow me to complete the list:

    Pledge to your Father that you will tune out any subversive knowledge, opinions, ideas, and even established facts that might run contrary to the dictates that he has prescribed for you.

    Make it your business to investigate, judge, and if possible, legislate the private lives of your neighbors that may not be keeping the Father’s commandments, and of course, report back to Father.

    Assure your Father that you simultaneously fear and love him, and ignore the fact that this is the definition of a sadomasochistic, master/slave relationship.

    Reiterate to your father that you are not in the least bit concerned that he might be one of the innumerable ‘dead gods’ that have come and gone throughout the whole narrative of human history (Zeus, Thor, Appollo, Horus, etc.)

    Perhaps most importantly, remind your father that you hold his earthly intermediaries in higher esteem than all the rest of mankind, and will happily oblige them the next time they pass around the collection plate.

  • Tornogal

    I wonder if your view would remain if he were a Scientologist, or a Wickan.

    Does Romney govern well? I think the evidence proves he does not.

  • Kent French

    Wrong again skins fan. How can you come up with such garbage in answer to a serious post on the four steps to prayer? Please don’t answer. I didn’t mean that as a sincere question.

    By the way, we don’t pass the plate in church. We just write big checks and hand them to the Bishop in an envelope. Then, guess what happens, that money (all of it) is used to build more chapels and temples and operate the ones we have. So, you see It is all spent on us. Not a penny goes to pay Priestood Holders because we have a lay Priesthood who work regular jobs to support their families. Of course, you know that, but the people reading your posts may not, and that’s why I post it here.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘Wrong again skins fan.’

    I present the most extensive and coherent defense of mormonism ever posited by any of its constituents.

    ‘Then, guess what happens, that money (all of it) is used to build more chapels and temples and operate the ones we have.’

    I suppose it would be redundant to point out that this is a waste of human energy, attention, and resources, just as it would be if all tithing found its way into clerical paychecks (and you can be sure that some of it does).

  • readbofm

    Tornohal, he is not Scientologist, or a Wickan so that is N/A.
    Thank you for your opinion on how he governs. I think he governs well/
    .

  • Tornogal

    read:

    The point is highly relevant. There is a thin line between Mormonism and Scientology.

    And thanks for your opinion as well on his governing. My sense is he is a typical politician. His record in Massachusetts is anything but “governing well.”

  • tea412

    There is not a thin line between Momonism and Scientology. They are nothing alike – at the very least you should not make such statements. I don’t really care what either of them believe – that is their right and good principles could come from either. But really – lumping them together is ridiculous.

  • Tornogal

    Tea412:

    If you have the courage, do an Internet search on “Mormonism Scientology parallels.”

    Lumping them together is completely appropriate.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.