Myths Be Gone

Myths & RealityThe LDS Church has posted a 10 minute video on it’s web site titled, “Myths & Reality.” Originally produced to answer common questions from journalists during the 2002 Olympics, the video has been updated and is now available to the public.

“Myths & Reality” opens with a minute and a half of man-on-the-street clips of people stating what they “know” about Mormons. Most of the statements are incorrect; the video subsequently seeks to dispel three of the “misunderstandings” raised. The spokesman, Steve Young, explains,

“In the next few minutes we want to show you some things we hope will dispel some myths about us, because the myths are still out there, alive and well.”

The first myth addressed is “Mormons Practice Polygamy.” The video spends 50 seconds on this topic, stating that Mormons discontinued the practice of polygamy over 100 years ago. Steve Young then explains that Mormons are “bothered” when Fundamentalist Mormons are called “Mormons” because these people are not Mormons. Gordon B. Hinckley “state[s] categorically that this church has nothing whatsoever to do with those practicing polygamy,” and the video moves on.

Myth number 2 is “Mormons Care Only For Their Own.” The video deals with this by spending 1 minute and 55 seconds highlighting the LDS Church’s laudable humanitarian efforts worldwide.

The final myth addressed is “Myth #3: Mormons Are Not Christian.” This topic is apparently considered the most important of the three; more time is given for this issue than the other two myths combined: about 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

The spokesperson during this segment is Sharlene Hawkes, a former Miss America. She says that it’s hard for Mormons to understand this myth because “We are Christian to our core.” Ms. Hawkes suggests one reason people might think Mormons are not Christian is because of the nickname “Mormon.” Mormons prefer that the full (correct) name of the Church be used because “it includes the name of the Savior” and that’s important to Mormons.

Ms. Hawkes tells viewers that Mormons love the Bible and try to follow the example of Jesus Christ, but that they are “different from other Christian faiths in important ways.” Ms. Hawkes talks about these important differences, including the Book of Mormon (a “companion to the Bible”), the belief in modern prophets and continuing revelation, the commitment to temple-building, the LDS Church as a restoration of the ancient church, the large missionary force, the focus on families, the work of compiling genealogies and how “even those who have passed on can be linked to us in an eternal family chain.” The video then concludes with Gordon B. Hinckley extolling Christ.

We can’t really expect much more than this in a 10 minute video. Still, it doesn’t seem to me that many bona fide myths were dispelled. In fairness, the LDS web site says these are the questions journalists were raising in 2002, but it also says the video “has been updated and posted on Newsroom today to help counter persistent myths about the Church.”

Are these really the questions people are asking today — the “misperceptions” they struggle with? How could anyone in America today who watches television or reads the newspaper think Mormons still practice polygamy? Are people really hung up on the misperception that Mormons aren’t actively engaged in humanitarian relief? In fact, the man-on-the-street which initially raised the issue spoke in glowing terms of how Mormons care for one another, not criticizing that they don’t care for others. Could this be a straw-man myth?

I do think “Myth #3” is a current and persistent question coming from those outside of Mormonism. But the video did next to nothing to address the question and inform people in a meaningful way.

Journalists today clearly know and promote every “reality” contained in this video. The LDS Church’s Public Relations department has publicized all of these things many times over. I wonder if it has ever occurred to the LDS Church that perhaps the things they call “misperceptions” persist because they never adequately answer the questions.

Surely there is a better way, even in under 4 minutes, to clarify the charge, “Mormons Are Not Christian.” Maybe they could have done something like this:

“This is a complex issue and not easily explained in a short video. We believe we are — and define ourselves as — Christian. In fact, we believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the truest form of Christianity on earth today and that Mormons are better than any others at following the teachings of Christ. Though we share some things with other Christian churches, Mormonism is different and unique in important ways. The foundational differences that cause some to claim Mormons aren’t Christian are found in the way we define the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and the content of the Gospel. Mormons differ significantly from traditional Christians in each of these areas — and others. Our Prophet has explained that we worship a different Christ than the Christ worshiped in traditional Christianity. Some people believe this strips Mormons of the title ‘Christian’; we disagree. We are Christian to our core. That is, we accept our Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world; differences in theology — who or what God is, and who Christ is — don’t affect that.”

What are your ideas for a myth-buster reality-promoting video segment discussing “Mormons Are Not Christian”?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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53 Responses to Myths Be Gone

  1. Daniel says:

    Amanda, I’d like to follow up with something you said…you said that evangelicals place the Bible before what God thinks. Are you claiming that the two don’t line up, that God thinks things that are different from what we have recorded in the Bible? Because as for me, I worship a God who doesn’t change (or change his mind). If I “place the Bible before what God thinks,” it is only to make sure that when I hear God speak to me, I want to make sure that I’m not listening to the devil. We would be naive to believe that God is the only one who can reveal to us “spiritual” thoughts or feelings, and God has given us the Bible as the litmus test, to know that if something contradicts the Bible, it cannot be true. We are commanded to test the spirits, and Paul commended those who searched the scriptures to confirm his message. I don’t doubt that God speaks to people, and reveals things about himself to people today. But I do not believe that anything God chooses to say or reveal to us today is different from anything he chose to say or reveal 2000 years ago. The God I worship does not change. He doesn’t have to.

  2. Lautensack says:

    Amanda,
    There are a few things you stated that I would like to address. The first regarding the statement “but is the world and the matter of faith this black and white? I have come to realize that perhaps it isn’t, only to God who knows all things could make black and white conclusions. Since we are eternally limited, I think it is dangerous to make black and white conclusions regarding someone’s understanding of God and the legitimacy of their testimony.”
    My question then is how can we know anything about God at all if we cannot say God said do this and not that? I used the example of killing babies to show my point, however in the spirit of fairness since you did say it was an emotional argument and I am inclined to agree, I will use one from recent history. If “God” told me, gave me a testimony that I should hijack an airplane and use it to blow up a building how could you invalidate that it was God telling me to do this? The Islamic fundamentalists who blew up the World Trade Centers did indeed sincerely believe that God had called them to do that. If we are simply appealing to “testimony” then you have no right to say that God did not tell them this. Thus we must conclude that somethings about God must be black and white and while it is God who truly determines who is saved and who is not, if nothing can be known from His word then what can be known of Him at all? Who is to say that the Islamic fundamentalists were not correct in their testimony?
    As for the fruits being the only evidence you need, you and I both know we could pick out scores of Mormons with less than desirable fruits, as we could do with Christians. By and by most of the Mormons I know are nice people and Christians look like ogres when we tell them they are wrong in their beliefs, however Jesus and the Apostles warn us of false teachers and tell us to avoid association with them. However your fruits argument fails to hold water because some of the most “moral” people I know are Buddhist.

  3. Lautensack says:

    …CONT…
    As for the new testament being historically accurate I suggest reading a first century Jewish historian, Josephus. Also on the topic of historical evidence, yes it does evolve, however the evidence for the Book of Mormon is evolving to show its invalidity not its validity. Furthermore to say that there we can have little to no confidence in what scholars say because they “try to draw a complete picture before we have a more complete context” is a red herring because it makes the claim that we can truly know nothing at all is foolishness. Sure one can say we can never prove gravity, and we cannot, we can simply interpret the data and come to the conclusion that it does. To take skepticism to the level you would suggest would state that I do not know if the color of the sky was blue or red during the sun’s zenith.
    I do not doubt that you have never had a negative experience from following the Book of Mormon, I have a dear friend,an Agnostic, who has never had a negative experience from his sexual relations outside of marriage, does that mean that what He is doing isn’t wrong? By no means, so simply because one does not feel or have a negative experience from something does not mean that it is good or true. He too would gladly bear witness to something he believes is good and true. He too tells me that I should try his lifestyle, because he wants me to experience the pleasures he does. Therefore while I believe you are sincere I believe you are sincerely wrong as I do with my friend.
    As for the Book of Mormon standing “solidly as the word of God” and speaking “for itself.” What evidence outside of an unprovable spiritual experience, no different than the Islamic fundamentalist’s, speaks for the Book of Mormon? What precepts from it can be found that are useful for people who reject its message? While scores of people reject that the Bible is the word of God, they do take from it some things, such as the Proverbs.

    Lautensack

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