Why are non-Mormons uncomfortable with Mormonism?

On October 10 (2011) LDS blogger Joanna Brooks posted an interview with Patrick Mason, author of The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (Oxford University Press, 2011). The topic of the interview: “Why Do Southerners Call Mormonism a Cult?

Dr. Mason said that before the Civil War,

“…wherever Mormonism went, anti-Mormonism followed. Some of it was basic theological opposition to Mormon doctrine presented in tracts, books, pamphlets, and so forth. That’s reasonable in a free marketplace of ideas, and Mormons have certainly said that other churches were wrong. Theology is fair play.”

How refreshing for a valid theological difference between Mormonism and Christianity to be acknowledged. Yet, the purely theological concerns became overridden by social concerns:

“But something changed around the Civil War. In 1857, LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt was killed as retribution for alleged polygamy. And that’s the spark that motivated the rise of violent anti-Mormonism: the perception that Mormons were coming to steal women and corrupt Southern womanhood…not just theological difference, but the fear that they’re coming for our women.”

Dr. Mason noted that “violent anti-Mormonism” disappeared once the Mormon Church “dropped polygamy,” but the “anti-Mormon movement” continues today via Christian ministries that produce “sophisticated anti-Mormon literature based in historical research.”

Something I found interesting in Dr. Mason’s remarks was his characterization of Parley Pratt’s murder as “retribution for alleged polygamy.” I don’t think there is any doubt about Pratt’s polygamy – why does Dr. Mason call it “alleged”?

Furthermore, Pratt was murdered not only because he practiced polygamy according to the teachings of the LDS religion, but because he engaged in “spiritual wifery” with another man’s wife, and sought to steal this man’s children as well.

Pratt’s murderer was Hector McLean. McLean’s wife, Eleanor, had abandoned her family to become Pratt’s 12th plural wife. Soon thereafter, in 1857, McLean learned that Eleanor and Pratt were intending to abduct the McLean children and take them to Utah. After finding no help in this situation from the legal system, McLean and some of his misguided friends took matters into their own hands — tracking, attacking, and brutally killing Parley Pratt, the Mormon Apostle.

Was this the “spark” that gave rise to the “perception that Mormons were coming to steal women”? Could be; it makes sense. But any discussion regarding escalating concerns among non-Mormons toward Mormonism in 1857 should certainly include the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Reference to this particular “spark” was absent from Dr. Mason’s remarks.

In the interview with Dr. Mason “violent anti-Mormonism” is never defined, and no examples are given which would allow the reader to understand the nature or scope of this violence. But how can there be a credible discussion of “violent anti-Mormonism” beginning in 1857 without including the fact of violent Mormonism?

I would like to suggest that the Mormon massacre of 120 non-Mormon men, women and children who were passing through Utah Territory significantly contributed to nineteenth-century “anti-Mormonism.” The reports of the Mormon doctrine of blood atonement, the fearful treatment Mormons visited upon non-Mormon government officials, and the Mormon civil war (Utah War) against the United States must also be considered serious factors framing the non-Mormon view of Mormonism and its impact on the American way of life.

Joanna Brooks asked, “Why Do Southerners Call Mormonism a Cult?” There are many factors to be considered. Parley Pratt’s marriage to another man’s wife is but one of them.

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.
This entry was posted in Early Mormonism, Mormon History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Why are non-Mormons uncomfortable with Mormonism?

  1. Ralph says:


    Here is something I found on my mission when studying. I did it for an investigator but it came in handy during the rest of my mission. I am at work so I don’t have the full scripture references with me, but this is the basics –

    We will start with the statement – Jesus is a God – we both agree with that.

    We are heirs of God and Joint-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7), meaning that we inherit the same as Jesus did.

    Jesus inherited ‘all power … in heaven and earth’ (Matt 28:18) AFTER the resurrection. There is another scripture somewhere that I have in the full version that gives us more on what Jesus inherited but I can’t remember where it is. But it states that Jesus inherited ALL THINGS from Heavenly Father.

    Those who ‘overcome’ will sit on the Father’s throne with Jesus (Revelations 3:21)

    So if we overcome this world and truly believe, then we will inherit ALL POWER AND ALL THINGS that the Father has, which is what Jesus inherited. Thus we will have the power and dominion of a God. We know from the scriptures that God does not do things in vain, so why would we gain all of that if we aren’t going to be allowed to use it?

    So I have my ‘evidence’ from the Bible that the ultimate goal that Heavenly Father has for me is to become a ‘grown up’ like He, my Father, is. He wants to give me ALL POWER AND ALL THINGS that He has, so why should I shy away from it?

  2. Mike R says:

    Ralph, you sure have a creative mind ! What you’ve done is like putting chocolate frosting
    on a moldy cake . You’ve made a terrible doctrine look good. It’s hard to believe that you
    can read the New Testament and come up with “evidence ” that you are going to be worshiped
    one day as an Almighty God. Your faulty logic lends support to how your Heavenly Father was
    once a sinner, since you are merely following in His tracks . ( I think Aaron was probably right
    about this ) . Let me quickly comment on your misuse of the scriptures that you cited :
    You said, ” Jesus is a God—we both agree with that “. Really ? He’s one God among many ,
    who had to become a God ? This is what you mean by “God” , I can’t agree . You next tried to
    use the term “heir/ joint heir ” to prove that you will inherit ALL that God has . That’s silly .
    God will never give any creature His Almighty power and right to be worshiped, now matter
    how worthy you manage to become. This terrible doctrine has spawned related ones such as
    if you get ALL God has then that includes His wives ! No wonder Mormon prophets promised
    their followers eternal sex and eternal power as Gods if they were embraced their “gospel “.
    One faithful Mormon ( B.Y.’s secretary ) learned that Adam’s oldest son, Jesus , the heir of
    the family was Father Adam’s first begotten in the spirit world . WHAT? Jesus did’nt inherit
    Godhood, He was already Jehovah. Sitting with Him on His throne ? but He’s worshiped.

  3. Kate says:

    No I didn’t misunderstand you, I just don’t agree with you. How do you know what Brigham Young meant by that statement? I see it as Brigham Young saying he (as God’s mouthpiece) took a little revenge. Brigham Young made a comment and you turned it into a short story. You didn’t address me with the first part of your comment, only the Brigham Young quote. You did however say:

    “This indicates that BY was just changing the statement that was on the cross to an LDS view point – ie that we are God’s church and that now God has taken a little revenge for what had transpired up to that point at the hands of the non-LDS mobs.”
    This is mostly where my comments came from. Mormons are quick to point out Haun’s Mill and the extermination order and mobs, but are clueless about what the Mormons were doing at the time. They were giving just as good as they were getting.

  4. Mike R says:

    Ralph , I was waiting for a reply since I had I few more comments on this doctrine of yours
    of being worshiped as an Almighty God one day . You’re probably busy and I understand
    that . I think you can see the errors of your reasoning on this issue , especially on how you
    attempt to use terms like ” heir” etc. As I mentioned before this idea of yours of inheriting ALL
    that God has could lead to some foolish conclusions ( like inheriting God’s wives ! ) . I know this
    sure is’nt what you believe , but see how convoluted things could get if we don’t interpret
    scriptures in context ? You also stated that you’ll grow up to be like God . Ralph, God did’nt
    “grow up ” like you are doing ! He has always been God . Can you please consider rejecting
    this terrible doctrine and humble yourself before the One True Almighty Creator ? Please
    don’t put this off . Embracing this belief can be lethal spiritually . I know you can do the right
    thing . Take care .

  5. grindael says:

    I’ve been extremely busy lately, (writing my book on Adam-god), but I just can’t help commenting on
    BS’s comments. Having been a Mormon for many years I can kinda relate to what he is saying, but it is like trying to relate now to something from when I was in high school… Young enough to still be oh so naïve, but acting like I knew more than I really did. But Mormonism takes it a step beyond this, for I find many Mormons deliberately ignorant, and prone to making remarks that have little to do with reality. They just make stuff up, and then love to tell those that really know what they are talking about, that they are wrong.

    I find this statement incredulous. Here it is:

    “The exact details of PPP and his choices and his character are unknowable in my opinion. The historical record on both sides is incomplete and biased, like all historical records. I don’t feel I’m in a position to completely judge the character any man, least of all one I’ve never met. Even if everything bad ever said about PPP or JS or anyone else were true, this does not change my deep, personal experience with God and LDS theology. Thus the point of this blog post becomes moot to most LDS. I’m not converted to or by the character of my leaders, past or present. I’m am drawn to God by his Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit.”

    I repeat it here, because just looking at it makes me embarrassed for him. I guess some just never bother to do any research before they put their foots down their throats so deep that they might just need a surgeon to remove it.

    First, Pratt wrote an autobiography, based on his journals.

  6. grindael says:

    Second he wrote many letters. Third, others wrote letters to him. Fourth, there were many contemporaries that did so. Fifth, Pratt was an avid writer (of fiction mostly – like his false prophecies). All this material is readily available. (Even that his own brother Orson, called him a liar and a womanizer in a letter to Brigham Young)

    There is a wealth of material available to determine a whole lot about Parley. A little investigation would make anyone aware of this, but we have Mormon know it alls here, who are positive that we have it all wrong, and they, who say things like “The historical record on both sides is incomplete and biased,” Take a little time off from putting down others for their many hours of historical research and find out for yourself. It will keep you from (hopefully) in the future, from making a further jack— out of yourself.

    “Our” (LOL) “version of the truth” is not “presumptuous” at all. It is you who are that, and more, for allowing yourself to make such statments. Let’s take one example of a well known Critic of Mormonism, niece of David O. McKay, who was ex-communicated by the church for her book on Joe Smith, “No Man Knows My History”. I know when I was a Mormon (shudder) I was warned off that book by everyone in authority over me. Trash, they said. Nothing true at all. Yet, we have esteemed Mormon scholar Richard Bushman, who wrote his own book on Joe (Rough Stone Rolling) make this comment about Brodie’s book:

    “I have always applauded Fawn Brodie for creating a Joseph Smith who was a credible human being and not a caricature of religious fanaticism as earlier works had presented him. She made him a pious fraud, but intelligible

  7. grindael says:

    and sympathetic, a believable person. I wanted to portray a believable Joseph Smith too, but one who was sincere, a man who thought he was a prophet and carried that conviction through his life. On the basis of the evidence alone, I am not sure that you can choose between the two, but I wanted readers to have a choice.” https://dialoguejournal.com/2011/bushman-on-friendship/

    This doesn’t mean that the evidence wasn’t there, it is just that Bushman saw it from a believer’s perspective. And Brodie was a believer when she wrote it. But Bushman is from another Mormon era, an era that chooses to ignore their own authorities statements, has redefined the roles of prophets and apostles, and can just about accept anything these men do, by just saying, “they were human,” and “it doesn’t really matter” if they lied, committed adultery, treason, or anything else. To have such incredible cognitive dissonance, is a MUST for all believing Mormons. They can’t face up to the truth. And they vilify anyone who can, and who dares to tell others what they have learned.

    I see them come, get a dose of the truth, and run like the devil all the time, all the while proclaiming that we have it all wrong, we are making it all up, and that we are wasting our time. Well, get over yourself, because ***YAWN***, we’re used to it, and I have had many who have left the church thank me (from this forum also) for helping them to do just that. And I am perfectly happy to keep posting my tidbits on Church History and the consistent blunders of Mormonism’s self-styled “prophets, seers, and revelators” to give anyone who needs it, more ammo in the fight against Joe Smith’s gospel.

    People that come here,

  8. grindael says:

    only to post their generalized fictions about Mormonism, (and then say why don’t you ask us we’re MORMONS for cryin out loud) and then turn tail and run when asked to have a factual conversation, I have little regard for. Especially those who so ignorantly say that past history simply doesn’t matter. That is bred ignorance, greedily lapped up by those who accept everything they are told, and then delude themselves into believing the Mormon gospel is the “real thing.” BS, please go back to your make-believe world, and do keep sulking as you dream of what you think Mormon Coffee should be. But chew on this, It’s out of your power, out of your league, and frankly, you won’t be missed.

    I’ve had enough good, productive conversations with a few Mormon Scholars to know what many of them really think, and that they are at least up on the facts about Mormon History, and can have a conversation about History without all the drama. Too bad they are so few and far between. _johnny

  9. Kate says:

    It’s interesting to me how the LDS can not let Brigham Young ever speak for himself. It’s always, “Well what he meant was” or ” That’s not what he was saying” or “That is being taken out of context.” Funny how the LDS have to “clarify” it all, yet the young FLDS man Aaron interviewed came right out and said they still believe Adam is God and Blacks can not hold the priesthood. They stand behind Brigham Young and his doctrines and teachings because to them he was a prophet of God. What does that say about the LDS? Twisting, spinning, jumping through hoops to try and clarify or explain why everything he taught is taken out of context or not what he meant or just his opinion. Please, let the man speak for himself!

  10. Mike R says:

    Kate, as always you call our attention to why we cannot trust Mormon leaders to be consistent
    and trustworthy in the doctrines they reveal . Because of this the Mormon people have had
    to develop a rationale of denying or down-playing some of the important teachings that have
    come through God’s “authorized channel of communication ” to mankind. This scenario is
    not unique to Mormonism. It usually accompanies the religions that have a prophet at the top
    type of arrangement , these prophets are constantly maneuvering to keep their authority from
    being challenged by creating excuses for either their failed prophecies or for significant
    doctrinal flip flops . Usually reminding their followers , by subtle hints , that to doubt the prophet
    is akin to questioning God, these prophets can manage to keep their people in submission.
    When the Mormon people have been convinced by their leaders that they are the true christians
    in the only true church because all other churches have apostasized since they’ve changed
    or corrupted the simple doctrines of the gospel, altered ordinances and church organization ,
    by mixing in their man-made ideas. YET this is what Mormon leaders have done themselves !
    Their claim to be representing Jesus’ original gospel that His original apostles spread through
    their missionary travels , rings hollow . May the Mormon people , who are sincerely striving
    to serve God , be freed from the detour that their prophets and apostles have directed them to
    travel . May the Mormon people dismiss these spiritual guides from their lives . May they then
    turn and bring their moral lifestyle and love of God over completely to Jesus and see Him for
    who He really is. Heb 7:25

  11. I know I’ve said this before, but I think we’ve just seen a real life example of my point that this newer generation of Mormons is definitely different from those preceding them. If they see or hear things they don’t like about their church, it’s “irrelevant”. The majority haven’t heard about most of the issues discussed here. And foundational doctrines are ignored in order to be more mainstream. To say that apostates can still go to heaven would have JS and BY rolling in their graves. They’ve built statues and have images plastered everywhere of their founding prophets, yet they ignore what was clearly supposed to be prophecies from them. Honestly, I think I prefer the ones that actually know and back up what their prophets taught. At least they stand by their religion’s belief system. This new generation seems to believe in some sort of mix between traditional Christianity and Mormonism. They “worship” Jesus (even though the older generations would frown at the notion), they read other Bible translations and trust the language (I see grandpa raising an eyebrow over there…), and they believe “Christ died on the cross for my sins” (no mention of a garden atonement?). The plus side? They’re getting closer to discovering the real Jesus of the Bible. They’re just a tiny bit more open to hearing other points of view… you just have to watch how far you push the envelope. So while part of me thinks it’s even more frustrating, the other side is that maybe (??!) there’s a little wiggle room in their hearts that’s open for receiving the One and only God of the Bible.

  12. ps. Seriously, Ralph, glad to hear you’re okay! Sounds scary!

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