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Mormonism is not like an artichoke…

September 22, 2010

artichoke

Faith-Promoting Rumor is having a discussion about anti-mormons. Who are they? What do they do? And how do they do it?

I like these discussions…I get to see first how members would define anti-Mormonism generally…but then also, to gauge what members think about ex-Mormons in general. Are all ex-mos seen as being antis? Are only some? What are the criteria?

According to Mike Parker, we can find out who is anti-Mormon in the same way we can figure out who is anti-artichoke.

I don’t like artichokes, but I spend absolutely zero time complaining about them. If someone asks me if I’d like to have one with my dinner, I tell them my feelings, but I don’t go out of my way to blog about my hatred for artichokes, how I was once an artichoke lover but now refuse to eat them, or how people who like artichokes are delusional. Doing that would make me anti-artichoke.

Leaving the Church does not make one anti-Mormon. Complaining about the Church when asked does not make one anti-Mormon. Writing a blog about your awful experiences in the Church and why it’s an idiotic belief system? That’s anti-Mormon.

Welp!

As I mentioned recently, one of the things I want to address here at Irresistible (Dis)Grace is the idea of “leaving the church but not leaving it alone.” I think many people, including faithful members, do not understand why this might be the case, and so they assume that it is an unnatural or deviant event…that “normal” people would leave quickly and silently and fade away and never be seen again. And if you don’t, well then, you are obsessed, a maniac, and anti-Mormon.

I don’t think this is the case. I think that this is an unreasonable expectation of people, and that, in fact, based on what the church is, and what role that it has in its members lives, we should be far more suspicious of people who can drop it without having any shake ups. We might wonder how invested they ever were in Mormonism when they were members. If you can leave the church with no scratches, then were you deeply involved?

So, my thoughts are that some discharge should be expected from the disaffected — yet this shouldn’t necessarily be criteria to call the ex- the anti-.

I think there are issues with the artichoke analogy. Worst of all, I think that Mike’s analogy insults the magnitude of influence of the church, whether he recognizes it or not.

For example, you tend not to have a drastic time, energy, and financial commitment to artichokes (not even getting into the ideological and emotional connection). In a way, Mike’s comparison with artichokes reminds me of a moral universalist’s criticism of relativism. The moral universalist says: “Your relativism seems to equate moral rules with flavors of ice cream. It argues that flavors of ice cream are merely preference…but moral rules are more than mere preference. They mean something more.

In the same way, I feel that one’s attitude toward a church should be deeper and more pervasive than one’s attitude toward an artichoke.

When you stop eating artichokes, you generally don’t have residual artichoke in your system that lingers. You may not have various adverse effects from eating artichokes for all this time.  You don’t have habitual actions, thought processes, and vocabularies from your time of eating artichokes. Eating artichokes doesn’t tend to color the way you view the world, so you don’t have to “readjust” when you stop. And when you stop eating artichokes, you generally don’t have to worry about strained relationships from your family and friends. You generally don’t suddenly discover that all they had in common with you was artichokes (and your relationships were informally predicated on your partaking of artichokes with the rest of them). Finally, you also generally don’t have to worry about artichokes taking certain political and social actions that negatively affect you or people you know.

As a result, I think it’s a little bit unreasonable and unrealistic to make the dividing line between an ex-mo and and anti-mo be, “Well, the good little ex-mo will fade away and be quiet, but the bad anti-mo won’t.”

So I think this establishes a reasonable ground to understand the conduct of many ex-Mormons. So, still, what makes the anti-Mormon, and how can we distinguish? I think there were other great comments to address the issue. For example, BHodges, who wrote the article, argued that anti-Mormonism in his opinion comes with a sense of argumentative disingenuousness. Commenter Ben elaborated with what I thought was a great comparison to anti-Semitism.

Natan Sharansky provides a “3-D test” to distinguish between legitimate criticism and outright anti-semitism. They are (adjusted by me):

Demonization. When the Church’s or church members actions are blown out of all sensible proportion.

Double standards. When criticism of the Church or church members is applied selectively—singled out for a behavior that is known of other groups and ignored.

Delegitimization. When the Church’s or church members fundamental rights are denied.

I can buy these criteria.

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29 Comments
  1. I like those definitional criteria too. I don’t think I fit the definition, but I imagine there are some Mormons who beg to differ.

  2. Jon “I feel an obligation to read the BoM” Adams, an anti?

    never.

  3. I agree that the Church isn’t exactly an artichoke. It’s obviously something much less trivial than that.

    But doesn’t this simply mean that it’s more likely and easier to become an anti-Mormon, than an anti-artichoke-er?

  4. Well, take this comparison… LDS missionaries teach every investigator about the apostasy. Implicit in the definition of apostasy is the understanding of how the Catholic Church has gone wrong.

    Most investigators I taught this to on my mission were Catholic. They didn’t overtly ask us to point out the problems in their religion but we did it. Are LDS missionaries Anti-Catholic?

    Consider the goofy Protestant minister in the pre1990 temple ceremony. Protestants didn’t ask Mormons to weigh in on their priesthood authority in their temple ceremonies.

    Thus, using the artichoke definition, LDS Doctrine is anti-Catholic and even anti-Protestant as long as they teach the apostasy.

  5. I think there are four categories.

    1) Religious competitors. Evangelical Christian types see Mormonism as dangerous heresy. Effectively, this kind of anti-Mormonism is just garden-variety sectarianism. It’s better understood as competition than persecution.

    (Mormons return the favor, asserting that they are “the only true and living church upon the face of the earth.” They run an aggressive missionary effort targeted primarily at taking away the members of other Christian denominations, which LDS scriptures and temple rituals call “abominations” and “whores.”)

    2) Ex-mos. These folks’ criticism of all things LDS stems from a deep sense of betrayal. If they can’t leave it alone, it’s either to process their own sense of having been violated by a trusted authority figure or to warn others that said authority figure is dangerous. It’s a mistake to call these folks anti-Mormons; they are closer to whistle blowers. Some of the most factually accurate information about the LDS Church comes from former Mormons.

    3) Enemies of the Church. The LDS Church has identified several groups of people to target as enemies. It shuns these people and seeks to deprive them of civil rights using its outsized political influence. Feminists and homosexuals are examples. When the targeted groups call out Church tactics such as lying about ballot measures, Mormons trot out the anti-Mormon label. This is kind of pathetic.

    4) Everybody else. Other than that, NOBODY CARES. If you don’t believe me, do a Google trends comparison between the search term “Mormon” and the search term “Nordstrom”. You’ll find that Nordstrom gets THREE TIMES the number of Google search queries as the LDS Church. In other words, people care more about what’s on sale at a minor regional department store than about the only true and living church upon the face of the earth.

    Anti-Mormon paranoia is one of the pillars of LDS culture. It reinforces group identity and justifies the shunning of apostates and heretics. It inoculates Mormons against the Church’s historical skeletons. It is one of Mormonism’s least attractive traits (along with patriarchy, xenophobia, anti-gay animus and anti-science Biblical literalism).

    But then, I’m just an anti-Mormon.

    • Calling homosexuals “enemies” of the LDS Church, is no more fair of a label than “anti-Mormon” in its use. Same goes for indiscriminate use of the word “homophobe.”

      As for “whistle-blowers”, aren’t you being just a tad self-congratulatory?

      I suppose you’ll want me to refer to Dr. Shades as “galactic super-hero extraordinaire” next.

  6. Andrew, an excellent refutation to a stupid argument.

    I don’t consider you any more “anti-Mormon” than I do myself, yet I’m sure you’ve been accused. I have, although I love “Mormonism”. I simply hold little allegiance to the corporation currently in control of my beloved religion.

    The true believers have no understanding of the nuances between Mormonisms’ enemies and it’s disaffected family members. So they label them all as enemies and dismiss them all.

  7. Seth,

    If you feel that the brokenness of the analogy doesn’t suggest we need a new criteria to determine an “anti-”, then yes, that would mean more anti-s.

    But I don’t think the church isn’t “exactly an artichoke.” I think the significant differences between the church and artichokes means the criteria espoused by the analogy aren’t sound.

    dadsprimalscream,

    as MoHoHawaii mentioned, (and there actually was an article on By Common Consent years ago too) I can see the case for saying someone is an anti-Mormon from “theological conviction” or from being a religious competitor, so I can easily see how Mormons could be “anti-Catholic” or “anti-Protestant”…but my issue is that this does allow for the vast expansion of what an anti-Mormon can be, and I think that the negative connotations with the word don’t justify that expansion.

    Also, with the artichoke analogy, I think Mormons could say that missionaries don’t dwell their time and energy on the apostasy. (I think that it would be interesting if we could add testimonies to the mix…many people do have in their testimony…”I was x religion, but it wasn’t true!”)

    MHH, as you kinda mention, these four categories might be consistent when church members may commonly “trot out the anti-Mormon label,” but as you say, this is somewhat fueled by paranoia (or, I’d even say, persecution complex.)

    But does this mean that anti-mormons are all those people? Or that there isn’t such a thing as an “anti-Mormon” and the term has no effective meaning? I think that based on the *way* people argue or treat Mormons and Mormonism, there are people who do things sufficiently differently that they ought to have a different name: e.g., anti-mo.

    Rock, what I find interesting is that whereas you (and a few other people I know) emphasize some of the unique, distinct, “older” things of Mormonis, some people seem scared, threatened, or turned off by that old stuff of Mormonism…and so they cling to new, correlated, watered down doctrines…while others are pretty much the opposite.

    But I agree. Some members don’t seem to be able to distinguish who is on the battlefield fighting for the enemy and who is simply a friendly fire casualty in need of recuperation…

  8. MoHoHawaii permalink

    But does this mean that anti-mormons are all those people? Or that there isn’t such a thing as an “anti-Mormon” and the term has no effective meaning?

    There is some public disagreement motivated by sectarian competition, insider disillusionment and political disagreement, but that’s it. The idea that an institution with the financial, political, cultural clout of the LDS Church is in any way a victim of persecution is absurd, yet the cultural theme of persecution dominates LDS culture. Whenever the term “anti-Mormon” crops up, you should be very, very skeptical.

    • Are you saying that large organizations are – by-definition – never subject to being persecuted?

    • Additional question: Even if the institution were not subject to persecution (up to debate), could the individual members be? Does every individual Mormon have “financial, political, and cultural clout”?

  9. haha, oh those kooky mormons and their love affair with analogies, speaking of things they know not about. whatever’s easiest to believe, to manipulate people with, to scare them, make them feel safe and right and better.

    whatever. call me an artichoke. i’ll call you a garlic bulb, grown underground. head in the sand sort of thing.

    yeah, that about works.

  10. I used to know what an “anti-Mormon” was, at least as far as evangelicals were concerned. I had all four volumes of Robert & Rosemary Brown’s They Lie In Wait To Deceive on my shelves. Ed Decker, Walter Martin, Dee Jay Nelson? Seemed pretty fair to me. The Tanners? I think they’re considerably more honest than the former three individuals, but a good case can be made that they are career “anti-Mormons.” Matt Slick, James White? I’m really not going to object if you call them “anti-Mormon,” and Matt Slick even self-identified as “anti-Mormon” when I knew him.

    When I really began getting into Mormon history and tried discussing it with LDS friends, a funny thing happened. If I related something I’d learned in my studies that didn’t fit well with the current narrative, my LDS friends would accuse me of having been deceived by “anti-Mormons” or giving them “anti-Mormon” information, even though most of my information was coming from faithful Mormon historians. I picked up more “anti-Mormon” material from David J. Whittaker’s History 382 “Mormonism in the American Experience” class at BYU than I ever did surfing the Internet as a teenager.

    The Mormon Defenders by James Patrick Holding, The New Mormon Challenge edited by Carl Mosser, Paul Owen, & Frank Beckwith, and I ♥ Mormons by David Rowe were all labeled “anti-Mormon” books by the FARMS Review; in my opinion, the first two were respectful attempts at engaging LDS apologetics and the latter was a respectful guide for helping evangelicals reach out to Mormons, and I didn’t think any of them deserved the “anti-Mormon” label. “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics & Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” by Mosser & Owen was likewise described as a “call for better anti-Mormon attacks.” One really has to marvel when even papers that present generous praise of Mormon scholarship and rebuke fellow evangelicals for not taking Mormon studies seriously enough are mixed in with “anti-Mormonism.”

    And then of course there’s my own last 2+ years of blogging. I’ve seen Andrew S., Christopher Carroll Smith, Tim @ LDS & Evangelical Conversations, and myself shouted down as “anti-Mormons.” None of us are anywhere near what I would have ever thought of as “anti-Mormon” back when I knew what the word meant.

    Pejoratives are the spice of language. When you sprinkle them on anything and everything, the spice loses its savor and people get tired of it. It hardly matters that it really is a good spice that can be totally transformative when used on the right dish; once you’ve abused it and slathered it on everything you cook, people will be sick of it. It’s time to retire it until a day when it can be savored again.

    And so it is with “anti-Mormon.” The word once had (and arguably still has) a precise meaning that would have been useful for the purposes of interfaith discussion and religious studies, but overuse and abuse of the term by Mormons (many of whom should have known better) has rendered it near useless. It now means little more than, “a person whom I don’t like who has disagreed with me on some aspect of Mormonism.” Ben’s parameters on what makes an “anti-Mormon” are perfectly reasonable, but I fear it’s too little, too late. Time to grab the shotgun, take “anti-Mormon” out behind the woodshed and put it out of its misery. We’ll bury it next to a familiar archnemesis that suffered a similar fate at the hands of evangelicals: “cult.”

    • Personally, I prefer the term “jackasses” when referring to some of the choice fellows over at RfM and exmormon.org.

      “Anti-Mormon” just doesn’t have the same precise descriptive power.

    • So, Mormonism is *not* an artichoke, but anti-Mormon is an overused spice.

    • Wait a minute, Ms. Jack, you’re not anti- mormon?? ;)

      I appreciate Ms. Jack’s comments and I agree that the meaning is currently:
      “It now means little more than, ‘a person whom I don’t like who has disagreed with me on some aspect of Mormonism.’”

      Of course, that also depends on who (whom?) you are talking to in the mormon community. Honestly, the same holds true for former mormons/the DAMU/people-who-have-never-been-mormon-but-know-a-lot about its history/culture, i.e. people like Ms. Jack.

      The question is, what do the majority of LDS members see as “anti-mormon”? Are some things labeled anti-mormon that shouldn’t be? Is there disagreement within the various communities?

      What about various FLDS sects, who may consider themselves “mormon”. Would most Utah/Brigham LDS consider themselves anti-FLDS, and also anti-mormon?

      I personally do not think that the former mormon/new order mormon/liberal mormon/DAMU/people-who-have-never-been-mormon-but-know-a-lot-about-the-history/culture can all be painted with the same brush.

      There are simply too many opinions and perspectives. Each group or perspective must be studied and evaluated on its own merits.

    • debra hamidian permalink

      Mormons don’t know Mormonism. I was really judged because I believe in the evolution theory has some merit. After they were so harsh. I asked them did they know President Monson’s, 1st counselor, Pres Henry B. Eyring? He wrote a book on his father, Henry Eyring, a very famous scientist. His father is the one that convinced US to put evolution in the schools. He did it so eloquently with his testimony of Jesus Christ and Evolution. I have gotten it so much that I grew weary. It was so bad lately that when my lung collapse and did breath for a long time, I wrote something on my facebook I said I just came back from hell and rented a room in ICU. They actually thought I went to hell. I couldn’t believe it. I was very active and went to the temple often Yet, I stay educated especially in what the church approves. They don’t approve it. I am mainly homebound but I don’t attempt to go there. Actually, it really hurt me. For a church that believes in 3 stages of heaven and many stages within; I go to hell.

  11. MoHoHawaii permalink

    My problem with the word “anti-Mormon” is that it connotes persecution in cases of mere disagreement over doctrine or politics. The word denies the possibility of respectful disagreement and therefore cuts off all possibility of amicable exchange of ideas and information. All are worse because of it.

    Mormons have a deeply ingrained sense of persecution. My point above was that such persecution does not exist. One way to understand the paranoia about nonexistent anti-Mormon persecution is to look at cases of real animus.

    Do a Google search for the term “Jew” and see what comes up. You will find Web sites with almost unimaginable hate for the people themselves. The stuff is so ugly and disturbing that I have to warn you in advance that you may not want to read it. It’s so bad that Google puts a notice at the top of the search results page that says “We’re disturbed about these results as well. Please read our note ….”

    Or, search for the term “homosexual.” You will find threats to life and limb along with the worst kind of hate speech among the search results. You will find debate over whether such persons should be executed.

    You won’t find anything like this kind of stuff if you search for “Mormon.” There is plenty of disagreement over doctrine and history, but epithets, theories about world domination and threats of violence or extermination just won’t be found. There are no drawings of hook-nosed usurers.

    I would like to see “anti-Mormon” stricken from our vocabulary. I know it’s not going to happen; Mormons love to feel persecuted.

  12. MoHoHawaii ~ My problem with the word “anti-Mormon” is that it connotes persecution in cases of mere disagreement over doctrine or politics. The word denies the possibility of respectful disagreement and therefore cuts off all possibility of amicable exchange of ideas and information. All are worse because of it.

    Very well said.

  13. Now I can’t stop thinking about eating artichokes . . .

  14. Well, you see… Ogres are like onions….

    They have layers.

  15. Nice to be mentioned in the combox in reference to the New Mormon Challenge. Several years ago, I published a critique of one of the FARMS reviews: “Sects in the City: Mormonisn and the Philosophical Perils of Being a Missionary Faith,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 9.2 (Summer 2005): 14-30.

    It’s on my website as a pdf, if you care to read it: http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/Sects.pdf

  16. I loved that article, Dr. Beckwith. Also one of the best titles I’d ever seen.

  17. Thanks Ms. Jack. You want to know the original title that I could not summon the nerve to send to the SBJT?:

    “Sects in the City: Mormonisn and the Philosophical Perils of Being in the Missionary Position.”

  18. Even more awesome.

    If I cite it for another paper here at TEDS, maybe I’ll slip the original title into my notes and see if my professors notice. ;)

  19. Love, love, love this post!

    I like your 3-D break-down of what anti-Mormonism is. I think Mormons tend to throw that word at anybody that makes them uncomfortable, and thus, it has lost all meaning.

    I’m not an anti-Mormon. I get accused of it pretty regularly, which bothers me. I may be critical of the church, but I’m certainly not anti-Mormon.

  20. debra hamidian permalink

    I Love the church and there is nothing i love more than General Conference. I love my Ensign. The culture is beyond me. I feel like an underdog. The politics, attitude towards flaws, uncomfortable being yourself, feeling like an all around outsider and the constant BOM devotional scripture reading when I love nothiing more than the Bible. There is also the BIG ELEtPHANT in the room that no will address not even if you do. You join the church all excited and you tell all your family. Everyone of them reject it. So, you run to church; you continously listen to eternal families, born under the covenant and temple marriages. My Mom turned on them over temple marriages. Everytime she said something about her marriage; it reverted back to temple marriage like her marriage was nothing. I know they it’s apart of the doctrine her marriage is not eternal but death do you part. Still, my parents were married 54 years and they could see these other eternal married couples had issues. They could have shut up long enough to learn from them. Recently, I was told I don’t have long to live. I thought before I die; I am going to be honest. That’s another; I’ve held back all my feelings. So, I told them about the elephant in the room and I told them that I love the gospel and believe in it but sometimes I ask myself why am I there.> Everyone I really love supposedly will not be in the celestial kingdom. They were offered the truthfullness of the gospel here on earth and rejected it. I have never felt apart or like I belong. You can go to a penecostal church, tell them you just got out of prison, you need a job and a place to stay. Continue with l want to give my life to the Lord and just serve him. You want to get rid of alcohol and drugs in your life and you will do anything to be what the Lord would have you be. You won’t get back to where you are staying without 4 or 5 people driving up beside you to help you out. You do the same thing in the Mormon church and they will quickly with a smile lead you away. Then, everyone will feel so embarrassed or nothing for you. It kills me how they only see the persecution and bias against them but they talk trash about others all the time. Nothing makes me more upset than them cutting down another religion to validate theirs. Why do they constantly do that?!!! It should be not allowed!!! I went to a great deal of churches before I joined and I am grateful for the influence for each and everyone of them. The one thing that bothers me is how they tell you in relief society how other religious people believe. Really and how many do they know? Normally, none. I am always defending those religions and get tired of it. The one thing that bothers me the most is when they say no one else believes in personal revelation. When they hear that phrase; they think you are calling yourself a prophet or something. If you said do you believe in praying for guidance and being led by the Lord; they would say definitely. Why do you think anyone would pray? Anyway, I write every Mormon I’m close to these thoughts and haven’t gotten a response yet. They ignore it completely. That’s what I am talking about.

    • debra hamidian permalink

      OH, I quess this makes me anti-Mormon but not anti-Mormon doctrine? I say neither in my eyes. Itt just makes me honest and what’s hard for me to accept.

  21. debra,

    Thanks for commenting (although it’s a lot to take in). Maybe you don’t get responses because people don’t really know where to start?

    That being said, i do think that many people recognize a difference between Mormon doctrine and Mormon culture…so a lot of people dislike the culture, even though they believe in the doctrine.

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