Errol Louis, columnist for the New York Daily News, wrote an opinion piece about Mormonism for the online publication last Sunday (25 November 2007). More specifically, the article was about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism; but in the course of Mr. Louis’ remarks, he provided some basic information about the LDS belief system.
Though not LDS himself, Mr. Louis did a fair job representing the various aspects of Mormonism which he chose to discuss. Nevertheless, his column brought criticism and accusations from some members and friends of the LDS community. One reader noted:
“This is just Mormon bashing (and very uninformed bashing at that) disguised as an opinion piece of thoughtful commentary. 90% of the statements regarding Mormonism are either totally incorrect or given a spin to make the beliefs of these wonderful people sound ridiculous.” (tpdrjkt Nov 26, 2007)
What? Ninety percent of Mr. Louis’ statements regarding Mormonism are “totally incorrect” or spun to make Mormons look silly? This didn’t seem right to me, so I pulled out the fact-based statements about Mormonism (as opposed to Mr. Louis’ statements of opinion) to get a better look. Here they are:
• “…the [specifically] Mormon holy books [include] the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price…”
• “Mormons, it turns out, believe human souls have existed for all eternity, temporarily inhabit physical bodies and can eventually evolve into gods. They also believe the Garden of Eden was in Missouri and that tribes from Israel traveled to what is now America, built ancient cities and fought epic battles…”
• “Needless to say, there’s no physical evidence of the cities or the thousands killed in the ancient wars of the Mormon holy books, and DNA evidence rules out American Indians as descendants of ancient Israel…”
• “I want to know more about Bishop Romney’s beliefs and actions related to the Mormon religion’s odious and longstanding practices of racial segregation…”
• “Brigham Young, an early father of the Mormon Church, preached, ‘If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain [those with dark skin], the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.'”
• “Mormons barred blacks from becoming priests or taking part in the religion’s holiest rituals. This went on until 1978.”
I’m having trouble understanding “tpdrjkt’s” complaint. None of the above statements are “totally incorrect” and there doesn’t seem to be any added spin. Yet “tpdrjkt” is not alone with his concerns over Mr. Louis’ remarks. Consider this:
“Br. Louis, Italians have a name for what you’ve been told about the LDS Church: Baloney. For reasons of their own, certain vocal people love to spread the twisted stories you re-told. There are too many in your column to correct without a column of equal size. ..we mourn especially the twisted version of LDS racial beliefs you’ve been fed.” (Carelli Nov 26, 2007)
Another reader questioned Mr. Louis’ education. Wondering if such a man could possibly have any friends, “Leinads” complained that the article is filled with errors. Really, the accuracy of only one fact-based statement made by Mr. Louis can be reasonably disputed; that is, that Mormons believe human souls “temporarily inhabit physical bodies.” Mormonism teaches that the bodies inhabited by human souls after resurrection are different from earthly bodies, but they are, nevertheless, “physical.” Mr. Louis’ use of the word “temporarily” was imprecise; all other points he made are correct, amply supported by the teachings of LDS leaders.
So what’s all the commotion over Mr. Louis’ statements regarding Mormonism? Why are these pretty standard LDS doctrines labeled “baloney” by Mormons who should know these things are part of their church’s teachings? Is it possible they really don’t know?
Another New York Daily News reader took issue with Mr. Louis’ quote of Brigham Young. I wonder if it was the inclusion of the Mormon Prophet’s harsh words that generated the disclaimers from Mormons and their friends. The reader wrote,
I doubt if Brigham Young said any such thing. That is an outrageous quote attributed to Brigham Young – what is the source of that quote? I have an extensive database of thousands of Mormon references and find no match for a [s]ource for that quote. An[t]i-Mormon attacks, which I have studied for many years, have a long history of misquotations or outright false alleged quotations – so what is the source for this quote, because I do not find it in any Mormon sources? Even if he said such a thing, that is only his opinion, and personal opinions of Mormon leaders are not sources of Mormon doctrine or official Mormon beliefs.” (chuckb20DN Nov 26, 2007)
If “chuck20DN” had trouble finding the Brigham Young quote, he should have Googled it. When I searched for “seed of cain” the first hit was a link to an article on MRM’s web site which provides the Mormon source for the quote (Journal of Discourses 10:110) as well as additional related teachings by LDS leaders.
This reaction to Mr. Louis’ article strikes me as smoke and mirrors. Why is it Mormons seem to have such a hard time owning up to what Mormonism really is (or has been)? I ask (tongue-in-cheek), why are “ninety percent” of the criticisms brought against accurate remarks about Mormonism “totally incorrect” or spun to make the journalists look bad?
Agreeing with a popular misquoting of the Bard, “Methinks the [Mormon community] doth protest too much.”