According to Boyd J. Peterson, author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, many Mormons suffer from a divided sense of self. Mormon Times reported,
“…members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live with contradictory public images.
“‘They are both revered and reviled, feared and revered,’ Petersen said. Outmigrants, those Mormons who have left Utah, ‘have this divided sense of ourselves.’
“Mormons have their own sense of themselves and their church. They also look closely at what others think about Mormons and Mormonism.
“This divided self, or ‘double consciousness,’ is common with minorities, Petersen said….
The Mormon Times article noted that one “coping mechanism” used by minorities, including Mormons, is “special coded language.”
“It allows them to speak to two different audiences at once. It is a form of doublespeak, and Mormons use it to both give information and to hide information, according to Petersen.”
This really rings true. There are many examples of this behavior in Mormonism that could be put forth; I’ll name a few.
Remember when, in late 2007, Mike Huckabee suggested that Mormonism teaches Jesus and the devil are brothers? The Associated Press reported,
“A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee’s question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.
“‘We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all,’ said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. ‘That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.'”
Ms. Farah engaged in doublespeak. She did not clarify doctrine, but instead used coded language to appease two different audiences. She satisfied the non-Mormon audience with something that sounded orthodox, yet Mormons understood that she was only telling part of the truth (see The Relationship Between Jesus and Lucifer in a Mormon Context by Bill McKeever for more information on this example).
How about Gordon B. Hinckley’s response to a doctrinal question in 1997? Richard Ostling, writing for TIME Magazine, asked President Hinckley if the LDS Church held to the idea that God the Father was once a man. His reply:
“I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it … I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it” (“Mormons, Inc.,” TIME Magazine, August 4, 1997, page 56).
Mr. Hinckley artfully deflected the question. Non-Mormons hearing his answer were placated and believed Mr. Hinckley had just denied the heretical teaching that God was once a man, while Mormons understood that this core LDS doctrine, though a mystery on some levels, was nevertheless affirmed by their prophet.
FOX News asked the LDS Church 21 questions about Mormon beliefs. Among the many good examples of doublespeak evident in the Church’s answers we find this:
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?
A: The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.
In an older Mormon Coffee post, Aaron pointed out the way the Church used doublespeak to answer:
“Mormonism has a long-standing unrepudiated teaching on the literal nature of Christ’s conception which redefines the term ‘virgin’ to allow for having had sex with an immortal.
“By saying that the Church ‘does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived’ they gave an ‘out’ for all the Mormons who redefine ‘virgin’ as ‘not having had sex with a mortal man’, and by saying ‘the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary’ they gave the impression to the masses that they positively affirm the traditional notion of ‘virgin’.”
People who engage in faith conversations with Mormons encounter Mormonism’s coded language and doublespeak all the time. It really is used to “both give information and to hide information.” It’s an interesting (though frustrating) phenomenon. What has been your experience with Mormonism’s coded language?
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.