I read a lot of articles on Mitt Romney, not so much because of my interest in him (the articles don’t reveal anything new about him), but because I’m fascinated with the way that the media talks about Mormons. And just as fascinating is reading comments about Mormons on (non-bloggernacle) blogs. I understand that some people have a deep need to ridicule us, and I’m okay with that. But the problem I have is when they try to encapsulate our religion in a few lines of text that go something like this:
“The Mormons believe that a 19th century charlatan money-digger named Joe Smith found a golden bible written in “Reformed Egyptian”. He looked into a hat at a stone and “translated” it into the Book of Mormon, which they claim is a record of Jews living in pre-Mayan America (even though DNA denies this claim). Then Joe Smith said God told him to have a bunch of wives (some underage, some married at the time) and lie about it to his own wife. After he was killed the racist prophet Brigham Young took the remaining members across the country to the Salt Lake Valley and established their racist, women-hating, gay-bashing “religion”. Among other things, Brigham Young taught that Adam was God and that blacks couldn’t have the priesthood because they were unrigheous in the “pre-existence”. The Mormons believe that they are the only ones who will get into heaven, that men will have many wives there, that God was once a man, and that women need to be subject to men. THAT’S the Mormon religion for you! Aren’t they WEIRD!?!?!”
Yes, many of those things have some truth to them and yes, that would be weird if that’s what we actually talked about in church and personally based our decisions on. But I live my life according to what we actually teach and emphasize at church: God is our Heavenly Father. Opposition in all things. Through Christ we can be forgiven of our sins. Living the commandments will bring happiness. Don’t consume tobacco, alcohol, coffee or tea. We can become like God. Forgive others their trespasses. Faith without works is dead. Pray always. Be a good example. A duty of the deacon is to pass the sacrament. Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and was told to not join any religion. Pride is the mother of all sins. Etc., etc., etc..
I’ve been a faithful member of the Church my entire life, went on a mission, went to BYU and I didn’t discover many of the questionable issues in the Church’s history until the bloggernacle. That would suggest that either those issues are part of our current dogma and I somehow missed them at every single turn, or that they aren’t really a part of our Church’s teachings now. (and don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that many of those things aren’t true or didn’t happen, I’m just saying that the Church doesn’t teach or talk about them).
So please folks, if you’re going to encapsulate our entire religion, do so by encapsulating what the religion actually teaches, not only the weird-sounding, cherry-picked issues from our past that most of our membership doesn’t know anything about. And if you must point out that the Church whitewashes its history, fine, but remember that when you do that you’re also admitting that those historical issues don’t encapsulate our religion.