Friday, September 28, 2012

Why We Fear Mormons

To say that the topic of Mormonism has become increasingly popular is an understatement.  And as people are discussing Mormons and their behaviors and rituals, people are quickly taking sides.  LDS figures in the news media are stirring debate and Americans, especially, are becoming polarized.  Despite their fairly unchanging view of the world, Mormons seem to be getting crazier by the second.  So why are Mormons so controversial?  Why does the tone set by discussions of this religion differ so much from the discussion of Catholicism, Protestantism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhism, etc (Islam not considering)?

Mormons on Parade
Obviously a large factor of the increased heat on the LDS church relates to Mitt Romney.  Despite his attempts to make his campaign about something other than his beliefs, he has coaxed out the cavalry.  Mormon critics previously content at letting the LDS church be the LDS church feel threatened now that a Mormon may be making important decisions for them.  In an environment like a presidential campaign where everything is black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, sane and crazy--there is no way a misunderstood religion like Mormonism wouldn't come under some new fire.

My Dad Warned Me About You Folk
As much as Americans would like to think that they are not swayed by their parents' biases, we all have learned them.  Just as many Mormons are raised by Mormon parents who sway and teach them to believe in Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith, other parents were teaching their kids about the "quacks down the street."   Since the 1800's, Mormonism has always been equated with Polygamy (even after the practice was abolished in 1890).  Abraham Lincoln himself described polygamy as one of the "twin relics of barbarism," siting the Rupublican platform of 1856.  Mormons were portrayed as barbarians and rapists in movies and newspapers.  The fact is, that near-sightedness has not died out and many still hold on to the cultish reputation the church received in the 1850's.  Especially among other religions, the LDS church represents corruption, perversion, and outright barbarism.  Coincidentally most of these religions share a vast majority of common beliefs and practices with these "quacks."

I Was Mormon Once
Interestingly enough, the most intense fear and hatred of Mormons come from former Mormons.  This often stems from what they feel is the cause of their dysfunction in society or from having wasted their childhood living a Mormon life-style.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which is the official name of the church) demands a great deal from it's members.  Members are to attend 3 hours of church once a week; they are commanded not to smoke, drink alcohol, drink coffee or tea (black and green, not herbal), encouraged to participate in activities and service projects throughout the week, attend the temple.  19 year old males are encouraged (and expected) to serve a 2 year mission, being sent wherever they are needed--this could range from the next state over all the way to Mongolia. 

Needless to say, being a Mormon isn't just something you believe, it's something you live; a lot is demanded.  So if someone comes to the conclusion that they do not believe in what they've been living their whole life, there is often a "how could you" effect.  They've lived their lives under certain assumptions and once that is taken away, they feel as if their world has been turned on it's head.  This isn't unique to the Mormon church, this happens as many children grow up and decide to lead a life very different than how they were raised.  Being an ex-mormon, however, gives that adolescent life-style a name to point their finger at.

Personal Note
I am an active Mormon, so obviously I have my biases.  Having done everything that has been expected of me so far (the mission, the church attending, the temple attending, etc.) there is a conclusion that I have come to.  If I were to leave the church tomorrow, I would still be grateful for the experience of growing up in the LDS church.  I can assure you that no belief, practice, commandment, expectation, or ritual was ever detrimental to my development as a quality human being.  In fact, any person (believer or not) living a Mormon lifestyle would be better off for having done so.   Most ex-Mormons I know (and I know and associate with quite a few) are good people, partly because they grew up in a wholesome and enriching way.  The ex-Mormons who consistently go out of their way to blame the church for their dysfunction always claim a life so much happier post-Mormonism, yet all I hear is how messed up the church has made them.  It isn't new that as people become unhappy or unsatisfied with their life and/or choices they are tempted to blame their parents (not to discredit legitimate parental abuse or neglect).  Being raised Mormon gives you something else that's easy to blame.  If only Mormons weren't so judgmental I would have been a happier person.  Scapegoats are common, a happy childhood is not.  Belief aside, a good, healthy, and active life is a happier life.

Here's some fun Mormons: