With all the controversy between Republican candidates about Mormonism, some people have wondered why I haven’t weighed in. While I want to maintain this as a blog on textual analysis and not politics, I do think it’s important as a critic of Mormonism to establish my position. Admittedly, this blog exists in part because of the coming attention to Mormonism expected from the presidential race, but should not be confused with campaigning for or against any particular candidate.
First of all, the frequent question that arises from my criticism of Mormonism is, “Why do you hate Mormons so much?” A point that I’ve made multiple time so far is that criticism of a religion does not in itself equate to hatred towards that group. While there may be people with an irrational fear or disdain for Mormons, my arguments have all been logically articulated, and targeted at any faiths that share these same illogical beliefs, not just Mormons. In fact, I’ve been equally outspoken about Christians who essentially hold Mormon beliefs about revelation and scripture. Since most of my criticisms are applicable to some of the evangelical candidates as well, I see this issue as politically neutral.
Despite my own harsh criticism, however, I would agree that certain candidates and pundits have gone too far. At the risk of feeding the Mormon persecution complex, I can relate to their perception of being treated unfairly in this climate. For instance, after Prop 8 passed, overturning gay marriages in California, a huge protest congregated outside the Mormon temple in Los Angeles. What may have started out as civil turned ugly, with signs and chants about polygamy and incest. Now, I don’t think it’s victim blaming to suggest that by disproportionately contributing 70% of the funding to the Yes on 8 campaign the LDS church probably created this backlash themselves. What I do think is unfair, however, is that a little over a year later a rally outside a mosque in Orange County protesting two terror-implicated keynote speakers basically recycled the same incest and polygamy slogans and jeers, but the latter rally was largely condemned by the media. In my opinion, both protests were over the line, the only apparent difference to public opinion seems to be that the Prop 8 opponents were mostly gay and Mormons are mostly white, whereas Muslims are mostly non-white.
On the campaign front, the outspoken evangelical candidates all seem to hold American views of Christianity which are closer to Mormonism than to the truth. Their claims that “God told [them] to run for president” are eerily reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s own announcement for presidential candidacy in 1844. However, while I don’t think a Mormon president could do any more harm than some of the past presidents with equally fallacious beliefs, I am uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon president not out of prejudice, but because of the statement it would make. Up until now, Mormonism has just been another subversive religion that, aside from the settling of Utah before its statehood, hasn’t been a respectable force in the world. There have obviously been Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and even Baha’i world leaders, but never a Mormon. An LDS president would elevate the LDS church out of the domain of the crazy religions like Scientology and Urantia, and give it unwarranted legitimacy in the world arena. Of course, even if a Mormon candidate does win, I suppose it would be a natural development of American folk religion that was bound to happen eventually. The odds of a logical, orthodox candidate winning an election don’t seem to be a likely prospect.