In Defense of the Mormons, Yet in Recognition of Irony and Hypocrisy

Uh oh, it looks like some feisty Tongan Mormons got themselves into trouble by tearing down same-sex advocacy signs from a fence around the LA temple, and then getting into a fight. Though I don’t condone the violent behavior, I am in complete agreement with Mormons that the “hate crime” approach the police are reportedly taking to the incident is absolutely absurd.

As for the whole issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, let me say loud and clear: many same-sex marriage advocates have shown themselves to be shallow, unthoughtful, and irrational. The position religious conservatives take with respect to homosexual marriage is rooted in a moral system of values that is incompatible with the fierce ideological commitment of same-sex marriage advocates to have the practice of homosexuality publicly, governmentally, and socially condoned, approved, recognized, and validated. I am convinced that this agenda has less to do with rights and more to do with social approbation. The cause is a religious and/or ideological one, with a dogmatic, foundational commitment to the concept that committed same-sex relational entities should be equally privileged as heterosexual family entities.

Mormons (and other religious conservatives) saw same-sex marriage as a threat to one of the fundamental institutions that helps our society flourish, so it made good sense for them to support Proposition 8. It was no more “hateful” of Mormons to do this than it is for same-sex marriage advocates to argue against legalizing state-sanctioned polygamy. The accusatory “hate” rhetoric that same-sex marriage advocates have thrown around should be seen for what it is: A lack of capacity and/or willingness to grow up and have an adult conversation about sensitive issues.

And just in case it is not clear, KEEP UP THE GOOD POLITICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL FIGHT, OUR MORMON FRIENDS. WE STAND BESIDE YOU in the cause for traditional marriage. Do not, in the eagerness to see yourself persecuted, see evangelicals as thinking, “an enemy of an enemy is my friend”. Conservative evangelicals were a big part of the Proposition 8 battle too, and we will work alongside you to make sure Proposition 8 stays. We sincerely hope that this whole experience will give everyone the ghusto to stand up for what they believe and say, Athanasius contra mundum, yes, I know that we do teach that. “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!”

All that said, the ironies are not lost on me. In a critical review of an article by Bill McKeever, one Mormon apologist wrote recently, “An ‘anti-Mormon’ is essentially a religious racist. We could call them theological skin-heads, or Christian nazi’s.” Sound familiar? I hope Mormons will long remember this mess in California and think twice now about labeling critics of Mormonism with “hate” and “anti” language. As I have written elsewhere, many Mormons seem to have embraced postmodern or pluralistic definitions of “tolerance” and “hatred”. Targeted religious criticism toward Mormonism is often understood to necessarily indicate personal animosity, venomous hatred, and bigotry towards the LDS faith. Bill McKeever notes that when “it comes to the Mormon Church, respectful and critical are not normally two words they recognize in the same sentence. You either praise them or you risk being accused of ignorance and/or bigotry.” Mormons, I ask you, how does it feel to be accused of hatred and bigotry toward homosexuals when you in reality feel heart compassion in your toward them? Does that not hurt? Is it not frustrating? I hope you can for a moment imagine all the hurt and undue frustration you have caused by hurling accusations of hatred toward your evangelical critics.

Another irony that is striking to me is that many of the same-sex marriage advocates protesting around the Mormon temple do not support the legalization of polyamory, polygny, or polyandry. MMMMmmmmmmm, what’s that smell? I smell hypocrisy. But doesn’t that go the other way around, too? I am reminded of what Orson Pratt wrote regarding religious freedoms and polygamy in The Seer, pp. 12-16:

The Constitution and laws of the United States, being founded upon the principles of freedom, do not interfere with marriage relations, but leave the nation free to believe in and practice the doctrine of a Plurality of wives, or to confine themselves to the one wife system just as they choose. This is as it should be ; it leaves the conscience of man untrammeled, and so long as he injures no person, and does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is free by the Constitution to marry one wife, or many, or none at all, and becomes accountable to God, for the righteousness or unrighteousness of his domestic relations…

[U]nder the broad folds of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah have the right to pass laws, regulating their matrimonial relations. and protecting each of their citizens in the right of marrying, one or many wives, as the case may be. If Congress should repeal those laws, they could not do so on the ground of their being unconstitutional. And even, if Congress should repeal them, there still would be no law in Utah, prohibiting the free exercise of that religious right : neither do the citizens of Utah feel disposed to pass such an unconstitutional act which would infringe upon the most sacred rights of conscience.

Tradition and custom have great influence over nations. Long established customs, whether right or wrong, become sacred in the estimation of Mankind. Those nations who have been accustomed from time immemorial to the practice of what is called Polygamy, would consider a law abolishing it, as the very height of injustice and oppression; the very idea of being limited to the one wife system, would be considered not only oppressive and unjust, but absolutely absurd and ridiculous ; it would be considered an innovation upon the long established usages, customs, and laws of numerous and powerful nations—an innovation of the most dangerous character, calculated to destroy the most sacred rights and privileges of family associations—to upset the very foundations of individual rights, rendered dear and sacred by being handed down to them from the most remote ages of antiquity.

On the other hand, the European nations who have been for centuries restricted by law to the one wife theory, would consider it a shocking innovation upon the customs of their fathers to abolish their restrictive laws, and to give freedom and liberty, according to the plurality system. It is custom, then, in a great degree, that forms the conscience of nations and individuals in regard to the marriage relationships. Custom causes four-fifths of the population of the globe to decide that Polygamy, as it is called, is a good, and not an evil practice; custom causes the balance, or the remaining fifth, to decide in opposition to the great majority…

If the people of this country have generally formed different conclusions from us upon this subject; and if they have embraced religions which are mere congenial to their minds than the religion of the Saints, we say to them that they are welcome to their own religious views ; the laws should not interfere with the exercise of their religious rights. If we cannot convince you by reason nor by the word of God, that your religion is wrong, we will not persecute you, but will sustain you in the privileges, guaranteed in the great Charter of American Liberty : we ask from you the same generosity—protect us in the exercise of our religious rights—

And this is where Pratt gives us one of his most popular and oft-referenced quotations:

convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds. Come, then, let us reason together, and try to discover the true light upon all subjects, connected with our temporal or eternal happiness ; and if we disagree, in our judgments, let us impute it to the weakness and imperfections of our fallen natures, and let us pity each other, and endeavor with patience and meekness to reclaim from error, and save the immortal soul from an endless death.

It was the issue of nontraditional marriage that led Pratt to plead for healthy, hearty dialog and reasoning between opposing viewpoints. Let us use the same issue today as an occasion to plead for the same.

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13 Responses to In Defense of the Mormons, Yet in Recognition of Irony and Hypocrisy

  1. bws71 says:

    Aaron – I was really embarrassed and saddened when I saw some young members of my church behaving poorly on television during the protests. I can understand their misplaced zeal but their actions were not in harmony with my feelings nor supported by LDS policy in my mind.

    If I understand your post you are complaining about the double standard you see among mormons and the idea of hate speech. You feel we should be more tolerant of our critics and embrace criticism as Orson Pratt suggests- especially since we ourselves are very vocal critics of the homosexual agenda. Instead of making room for critical views we get defensive and accuse our critics of being haters. Is this how you feel?

    In my opinion hate is best defined by the person who feels the recipient of it. You can tell me you feel no hate towards me but if I feel it from you, I feel it from you. And I do feel it from your group in general. When speaking with people from your side I feel my words are often interpreted in the most narrow and slanted way possible. I feel opportunities for disagreement and contention are pursued relentlessly while areas of commonality are minimized. When I participate in discussions on this group I anticipate that negative assumptions will dominate the conversation and I am usually correct. This is not what happens between two groups who share Christian love. If indeed your mission is to positively influence the mormon heart and mind, your strategy is a losing one for people like me. Something for you to consider. What would you say is your mission here?

    On the way to work this week I was listening to the recent conference address by Robert D. Hales called “Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship” I found it to be such a moving sermon on the topic of interfaith discussion. Have you read it? What do you think of it?,5232,23-1-947-22,00.html

  2. Would you say that same-sex marriage advocates are right to level accusations of hatred against Mormons, simply because they may feel hated? Of course not. Advocates of homosexuality are shirking the responsibility they have to take a more holistic look at the motives and intentions and heart-attitudes of their ideological opponents. So the question here is, are Mormons shirking that same responsibility?

    When speaking with people from your side I feel my words are often interpreted in the most narrow and slanted way possible.

    I would say the exact same thing about Mormons when it comes to parsing evangelical language about “salvation by grace alone” and a “God without passions”. It goes both ways. The issue is this: are you going to press on in dialog without resorting to immature sensitivity and petty accusations of hatred?

    I remember accusing my mother of “hating” me at times when she critically engaged my behavior. Did feeling hated make it so? No, I had to grow up.

    PS Thanks, I’ll check out the Hales talk later.

    Grace and peace,


  3. To paste something I wrote elsewhere:

    It takes a lot of self-introspection, humility, and patience to stomach stinging Biblical language that goes beyond our American standards of Victorian civility and nicety. As one sees from reading Proverbs, it comes down to whether we love truth, discipline, reproof, and discernment, or whether we love being sinfully simple, stupid, and prideful. And I use the word “stupid” because Proverbs does.

    “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

    “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.” (Proverbs 15:10)

    “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31)

    “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

    The clear message of Proverbs, if I could apply modern paraphrase, is: Love discipline, love knowledge. Do everything you can to get it. Don’t be stupid, don’t hate harsh assessments just because they make you feel bad. Grow up, be a man, don’t be immature, stop whining about fear and harsh words and treasure them as life-giving. Treat as precious the rod of your father and the wounds of friends. Don’t be like the stupid fools who love simplicity and ignorance. Instead, treasure words of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.

    Being finally heaven-bound or hell-bound has a lot to do with whether one’s heart is humbled to accept the gracious “wounds” of God without rejecting them as hateful. This whole issue of having the maturity to move beyond “feeling hated” has eternal consequences.

  4. bws71 says:

    “immature sensitivity and petty accusations of hatred…”

    Interesting choice of words Aaron =) I’m curious what part of my post seemed immature and petty to you? Or are you referring to something outside our conversation? If you are referring to MORMONS of the world – I can’t speak for them. What do you think of what *I* have said?

    Did your mom hate you when she shared her negative opinion of your beliefs or behaviors? Undoubtedly no. Could she have engaged you in a way that didn’t feel like hate to you while still keeping true to her values? I think that is very likely. So if you are taking the role of the mother, correcting those she loves, consider how you may do it without producing feelings of persecution and conflict. It can be difficult but it can be done. I know because I have been corrected lovingly many times.

    People are much more open to criticism when they feel it is coming from someone who knows, understands and cares for them. That should be your first goal in any dialogue. You need to cultivate true love then make sure it is coming across in your communication. I’ve never had a productive religious conversation with someone who was not confident in my positive esteem and care for them. They need to know that I truly assume the best in them and their faith. Mormons will not listen to you until they feel that type of relationship of trust with you.

  5. Could she have engaged you in a way that didn’t feel like hate to you while still keeping true to her values? I think that is very likely.

    When I was a child, it wasn’t my mother’s fault that I played the “hate” card on her. It was my heart’s attitude that was the problem. I wasn’t being humble or docile.

    If feeling hated is always the fault of the person who is accused of hatred, then Mormons absolutely hate homosexuals. But Mormons obviously don’t hate homosexuals. See the point?

    Proverbs talks about those who “hate reproof” and it feels the need to point out that the wounds of a friend are faithful and good. Why? Because it is part of our fallen human nature to reject reproof and unfairly interpret wounds. Playing the victim is a great way to avoid responsibility and disassociate ourselves from painful reality. Loving relationships can mitigate this problem, but you have a far too naive few of the nature of man if you think it is a sure-fire certain way to prevent it.

    Do you realize how ironic your comment is? If pre-established relationships of trust are always prerequisite for meaningful religious communication, then you need to get off this blog lest you be a hypocrite for leaving comments that strangers (who don’t know you) will read. Relationships of trust are a good context to preempt petty accusations of hatred with demonstrations of good-will, but in the public sphere of hearty conversation and constructive debate, we don’t always have that liberty.

    Grace and peace,


  6. Rick B says:

    if you want a sad angry mormon story, go to the blog, I am one of his favorite topics. He claims we need to love like Jesus, but then calls me a flaming homosexual that is lusting after him, even though he posts a picture of me with my wife he stole off of my blog.

    And Aaron did A post speaking about a mormon, who from the name and state sounds just like this guy, in the letter this guy wrote to Aaron, he threatend to beat Aaron up if he came to see him and simple talk. Yep, thats a loving mormon. Rick b

  7. bws71 says:

    Rick – I’m sad about your experience. I’m sad whenever one person abuses another. I read a bit of his blog. Ugh. I’m embarrassed. Luckily he’s just some dude. He doesn’t speak for the church. Try reading the link I posted above to see how mormon leaders teach we should interact with people whose views differ from our own.

    What I don’t understand about posts like Aaron’s is – what is the point? Is the point that shortsighted, hypocritical, selfish, bigotted, petty and immature mormons exist? I don’t see much value in this statement. It is certainly true – so true it doesn’t seem productive to state it. Yes. Some mormons make poor choices and have narrow world views. But I can’t think of a group of people that doesn’t include petty hypocrites. Can you? Gays, buddhists, baptists, nuns, trekkies – what earthly group can claim an absence of human frailty? None, I think.

    Lets talk about the people here. Let’s start with you and me and work outwards.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    bws, I like the cut of your jib.

    I agree with what you agree that some Mormons are exactly as Aaron pointed out. But, what you said after, sounds like you are saying that the majority of Mormons don’t feel like we are “attacking” or “hating” on them. – this is not true, ESPECIALLY about 95% of the LDS that post on this blog (this I can say from seeing it and experiencing the discussion on this blog first hand.)

    I stand by my statement when I say that 95% of the LDS posters on this blog have at one point or another played the “victim” card. I would venture to bet that around the same percentage of people from the homosexual community feel like people in opposition against homosexuality are the same way.

    While I agree that there could be less harsh ways for us to get our point across, I don’t believe for a second that the LDS posters on this blog would be satisfied if all evangelicals on here were more “nice-nice” with their comments. The mere existence of this blog is a threat to Mormonism and I really don’t see majority of the LDS posters on this blog being happy until this voice of reason in the dark is squelched and the blog destroyed.

    Aaron, good thread. I think there’s a “he hit me, wahhhhhh” mentality that runs among all groups of people in the United States and it is my hope that people stop being so quick to immature sensitivity.

  9. bws71 says:

    I like sailing. My parents had a 16 foot HobieCat while I was growing up. Awesome.

    As to your post – once again, I don’t know how to speak for ‘95% of the LDS’ posters here. So all I can do is shrug. If you see/hear me “playing the victim card?” call me out and let me attempt to clarify. The truth is I’ve found the discussions here so chaotic that no one seems to hear each other anyway. Today has been different, probably because the traffic is low.

    I can tell you how/when I’ve felt offended and attacked by evangelicals. When someone tells me what I believe or don’t believe I feel attacked. I know what I believe. When someone professes to understand my doctrine and my leaders better than I do I feel angry. When someone presumes malice or subterfuge on my part when in fact I feel none, I feel attacked and defensive. When someone stands outside of my temple and yells insults to my deeply held beliefs I feel at best misunderstood. These modes of communication are not productive for mormons.

    As you realize most (not all) mormons believe they are where God wants them to be. They believe what they believe because they feel God has confirmed it in their hearts – not because it all makes perfect sense.

    The only thing that will change a mormon’s mind about God is God. It becomes then the mission of evangelicals like yourselves to create the environment where God can speak to Mormons, to open their hearts and minds. Instead what often happens is a battening down of the hatches, a call for the cannons and ramming speed. Lemme just tell you man, you’re not going to help mormons like me that way. Is that because we are babies? If it is, then you should learn how to deal with babies. I mean that. I’m not being flippant here. The onus is on you if you truly desire to help Mormons see the truth. If you just want to ‘prove’ us wrong – any old hammer will do. But if you want to help us, you need to understand us and adjust

    I like the sailing references

  10. The only thing that will change a mormon’s mind about God is God.

    We of course agree, but the question is, what kind of instrumental human communication does God work through to change hard hearts? As evangelicals we have a different view than Mormons on the scope of biblically sanctioned interaction, and we have the advantage of personally knowing a lot of ex-Mormon Christians in our Utah evangelical community. Until the day we die, we evangelicals will need the grace of God to be more like Jesus, “full of grace and truth”. We are messy people with either too rough edges or too soft edges. I have at times in my life personally apologized to Mormons before for my attitude and demeanor. But I simply know too many people who were, in the long-term, constructively impacted by challenging and alarming apologetic information and bible-based authoritative preaching. I refuse to give up any of that to gain the favor of ardent, unrepentant Mormons.

    Is that because we are babies? If it is, then you should learn how to deal with babies.

    I agree. The challenge here is, in a measure, to graciously accommodate spiritual immaturity (that comes with an unwarranted sensitivity to an exchange of opposing truth-claims), and yet to treat people like adults who are created in the image of God, endowed with dignity, a mind, a heart, and an accountable soul. The gospel is a call to repentance.

    Let’s go back to scripture. Proverbs was written for the spiritually young, for the spiritually immature. At times there is a pleading that the listener or reader would consider the precious value and benefit of having true knowledge and wisdom and discipline. But we also hear Wisdom portrayed as a street preacher, calling out (1:20-33):

    Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
    at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
    “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
    How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
    If you turn at my reproof,
    behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
    Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
    because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
    I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
    when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
    Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
    Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
    would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
    therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
    For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
    but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.

  11. Arthur Sido says:

    Mormonism aside, this is a view of the future for any who challenges the radical homosexual movement. The message being sent is loud and clear: walk in lockstep with what is politically correct or it might be your church being vandalized next time.

    I have no love for the mormon church, although I love many of the people. But what I see when I watch this is a scary view of the future in this country and around the world.

  12. amanda says:

    I agree Arthur. Which is why I call on many of you believers on this site to spend your time supporting those who believe in God because it is God who is the original author of agency. Any belief contrary to an almighty God is contrary to our moral agency.

    Arthur, I commend your judgment. I felt the same way watching that. We all know the unwavering peace we find when we know He is still in charge. No matter what, Christians need to stick together. Stop fighting each others causes and stick together like the coalition of faiths did in California. I hope this is an example to all of you what the real enemy is. We need to send this message loud and clear over and over again.

    With MUCH love,


    P.S. that doesn’t mean there won’t be time to discuss our differences with respect, love and genuine concern

  13. I’m not going to waste time with the spiraling personal attacks. Comments have been deleted and this thread is closed.

Comments are closed.