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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : O’Donnell Touches a Numb Nerve » O’Donnell Touches a Numb Nerve

O’Donnell Touches a Numb Nerve

Christian J - December 17, 2007

I’m still in the middle of handing in final projects and taking final exams for school. I really don’t have time for this. Unfortunately, I heard a snippet of Lawrence O’Donnells Mormon rant on Mclaughlin group and cannot get it out of my head. For some reason the Bill Maher or Christopher Hitchens rants never seemed to phase me. I’ve heard it from various sources my whole life. School teachers, friends, relatives, total strangers. I’m not sure why O’Donnell got to me. It’s not because I respect him. It’s not because his words were totally untrue. Maybe its because he alters the facts just slightly to make it hard to argue against. Joseph Smith pro-slavery? Any legit historian will tell you otherwise. But yet he wasn’t a hardcore abolitiionist either. Its this sound-bite world we live in. There’s no time to dissect the complexity of an issue. No time to discuss context or hypocrisy. It has left me frightened to open myself up to people let alone talk about the complexity of my church.

So my question is: What do all of you do when your faith is challenged? What do you do when in spite of your unwavering conviction through real spiritual experiences, you realize that your churches history is nearly impossible to explain ?

14 Comments »

  1. For me, it totally depends on the circumstances. I respond if: 1) I’m in a bit of a mood and just want to have a go at the questioner, which relly doesn’t happen all that often – but more often than my wife approves of; 2) the quetioner is, IMO, truly wanting an answer and not just trying to jerk my chain; and 3) if the questioner _is_ trying to jerk my chain, then if there is an interested bystander who might be aided in my answer.

    Then, the way to answer is to invite the questioner to a situation that is NOT “sound bite” and allows an approach to complexity and context. Something like, “Yeah that’s an interesting question that took me e bit of time to understand. I’d love to tell you more when I can give you the whole picture that I had to get.”

    Otherwise, PBS. (pearls…….)

    Comment by mondo cool — December 17, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  2. I read the O’Donnell article when it came out, and I have to say that it sent me into tears. Tears of anger and frustration. I didn’t know what to do –I thought about blogging, writing, ranting, raving, etc. and then I stopped myself. I turned off my computer and went to read a book (which happened to be Sheri Dew’s new one). Slowly –but surely –my anger melted away.

    I don’t think the answer, though, is to always ignore it. But I think mondo cool has a good point. Sometimes engaging in the discussion –especially when the person criticizing the LDS faith has more education –can just lead to contention and angry feelings. That doesn’t help anyone.

    I think the problem with having to explain the history of the church is that we don’t know all the details or reasons behind them. But why should we? I mean, every religion has its ups and downs. Every theology has questions unanswered. Why must they poke holes in ours? Why is it that the media –or the world –demand answers from Mormons, but not from other religions? I find it so ironic that small, tiny details of theology that LDS members believe (such as Satan and Christ being spiritual brothers) make the country just FREAK OUT, but nobody thinks to question Catholic Theology when half their clergy turn out to be child molesters? Why do they insist on knowing all the historical details of every revelation or every bad event (polygamy, priesthood, MMM), but have basically forgiven the Catholics (sorry to the Catholics, I’m not trying to single you out!) for the Spanish Inquisition? (did I spell that right?)

    Satan is wise. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

    But I have a feeling that in the end, these annoying questions will not be so bad. Although I’m frustrated, I’m sure that when it’s all said and done, the Church’s exposure during this election will turn out to be a very good thing. We just have to endure it, plow through it, and hopefully reach the other side with our faith and testimonies intact.

    Comment by Cheryl — December 17, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  3. We can’t even explain history when the people involved are still alive and on video. If you bring up Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, you would still get rants on either side.

    That said, I was very unhappy with the O’Donnell rant. Learning about Mormons from someone so misinformed is like learning about race relations from a skinhead.

    I did make a comment on the Huffington Post thread and I just mentioned that I love being a Mormon and a few reasons why. The responses to my comment were not too negative for the most part.

    And after working through my anger, plus a good Sunday School class yesterday, I now agree with Cheryl that it may expose some of the crazies and be a net positive in the end.

    Comment by C Jones — December 17, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  4. So if the nerve is numb wouldn’t that mean it wouldn’t bother you at all?

    Anyway, I agree with your general point that this O’Donnell guy is a bigoted tool who is spreading ridiculous misinformation about us.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

  5. Geoff,
    My point was that the nerve has been numb in the past (it’s never bothered me that much). Now, for some reason, its starting to bother me. Thus the once numb nerve regains some feeling….

    Comment by cj douglass — December 17, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  6. Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) is a great place to start learning about true skinhead origins and not the jerks who co-opted the look.
    People have a tendency to think that if something is referenced enough in pop culture it must be true. Hmm, remarkably similar situation to the stereotypes proliferated about the Mo’s, no?

    Comment by M to tha O — December 17, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

  7. “…nobody thinks to question Catholic Theology when half their clergy turn out to be child molesters?”

    What does one thing have to do with the other?

    “…sorry to the Catholics, I’m not trying to single you out!”

    actually you are.

    On behalf of my Catholic extended family, this LDS guy respectfully disagrees with your points.

    Comment by Phouchg — December 17, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  8. Like you, there are some critics who bother me more than others. I can’t explain why.

    I can’t recall a time when somebody said something that I felt challenged my faith. Oh, yeah, it was in Sunday School last week when my annoying neighbor bothered me by a comment she made.

    But I don’t think I’ve ever been called on to defend the faith. Maybe I am now and I’m failing that call. Geez, so much to think about.

    If somebody started spouting some of the crap they spout about us, say, on the plane, I’d say, “that’s crap. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

    I’m not joking, that’s probably what I’d say. It’s not the right thing, obviously, but there you have it.

    I’m actually wishing Mitt hadn’t run for president because I’m getting so mad at the those who throw cheap shots in ignorance.

    Comment by annegb — December 17, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

  9. Like you, there are some critics who bother me more than others. I can’t explain why.

    I can’t recall a time when somebody said something that I felt challenged my faith. Oh, yeah, it was in Sunday School last week when my annoying neighbor bothered me by a comment she made.

    But I don’t think I’ve ever been called on to defend the faith. Maybe I am now and I’m failing that call. Geez, so much to think about.

    If somebody started spouting some of the crap they spout about us, say, on the plane, I’d say, “that’s crap. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

    I’m not joking, that’s probably what I’d say. It’s not the right thing, obviously, but there you have it.

    I’m actually wishing Mitt hadn’t run for president because I’m getting so mad at the those who throw cheap shots in ignorance.

    Comment by annegb — December 17, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

  10. What do you do when in spite of your unwavering conviction through real spiritual experiences, you realize that your church’s history is nearly impossible to explain ?

    It’s not impossible. Just ask Richard Bushman. You just have to take a deep breath and deal with one issue at a time. With a guy like O’Donnell, it seems impossible because he comes at you with so much all at once. Take his distortions one at a time and they all fall apart under scrutiny. His demeanor exposes him as a demagogue, and he ends up causing people to have sympathy for us rather than buy into what he says. Think about it, when have you ever believed a word from anyone who behaved like that?

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2007 @ 12:23 am

  11. CJ – I like what MCQ said. But I also remember when I used to commute more than 125 miles round trip to work everyday. I guess it was a form a masochism that I would turn on the local Christian radio station every afternoon on my way home to listen to “The Bible Answer Man.” Inevitably he would get around to trashing the Mormons in one way or another with his phony soft voice and I would be livid by the time I got home. I also remember, as I’ve stated before on this blog, working a summer job with an evangelical Christian who would make subtle comments directed at some of our religious beliefs. In both cases it caused me to search the scriptures more diligently and attempt to understand our theology better.

    In terms of a face to face confrontation (my summer work mate was not outwardly belligerant, just subtley annoying) I remember doing a neighborhood “missionary blitz” with all the missionaries from our district and encountering a group of evangelicals who were all engaged in helping one of their friends move (sound familiar?). It seemed as though they were waiting for us as they all went into the house and got their Bibles and then started a debate. At the end of the discussion I challenged them to seek the truth and when they learned that the things they had been told about our church were false, they might consider the motivation of the one who told them that false information. I was somewhat surprised at how calm I was in this situation.

    Comment by Lamonte — December 18, 2007 @ 5:26 am

  12. Pouchg-

    I apologize for offending. That was not my intention.

    Comment by Cheryl — December 18, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  13. The thing about the Catholics is that the Protestants don’t like them either.

    But I wholeheartedly agree that other denominations couldn’t hold up to the same scrutiny.

    I think the anti comments that bother me the most are the ones which have the potential to reach the greatest number of people.

    However, while satan is at work, so is Heavenly Father. We just need to keep our eyes, ears and when need be, our mouths open, in order to do our bit.

    And one last thing….I think we need to give people a little more credit. I think the majority of people recognise that an anti-mormon person may not be the best source for information on Mormons. True, they may be influenced by the comments but all of that would be undone in an instant upon meeting and speaking with a member.

    Comment by Shanny — December 18, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  14. I was taken aback by O’Donnell mainly because he seems so unhinged. He’s just raving. When the raving is about you (or us), in public, within respected media institutions, it can be a bit scary, I think. When the attacks come in anti-Mormon literature passed out in evangelical churches, it’s less threatening because people are being sneaky about it.

    Cheryl: “…nobody thinks to question Catholic Theology when half their clergy turn out to be child molesters?”

    I know for a fact that people have and do question Catholicism, Catholic theology, Catholic policy on celibacy, etc. in general, and specifically because of the abuse scandal. Why is there this urge to see every slight as some widespeard pattern of abuse in society’s treatment of Mormons? O’Donnell’s tirade was nonsense, and many non-Mormons saw his rant for what it was. But I don’t think many people (except Hugh Hewitt, of course) will buy into the paranoid notion that O’Donnell is just one part of society’s drive to attack Mormon religious people but no other religious people.

    CJ: “when you realize that your church’s history is nearly impossible to explain?”

    I don’t think it’s impossible to explain. It may be very hard to *believe* the first time to hear it, but when you hear the story told in a serious way it’s not easy to reject either. Hitchens and O’Donnell probably have fine, glib answers to explain the number of witness to key events of the Restoration, but that’s because they’re committed themselves to opposing Mormonism. This thing was not done in a corner, nor did Mormonism come purely out of Joseph Smith’s head. There were a multitude of sober-minded participants who didn’t and don’t bear the marks of fanaticism and obscurantism.

    Comment by Jeremiah J — December 19, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

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