- Boyd K. Packer
This past Saturday, The New York Times published an article titled "Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt." The article is about Hans Mattsson who was an Area Authority in the LDS church, and it discusses his crisis of faith. I admire his courage in speaking out about his issues with the church, and I think it is further evidence that doubts affect all types of members. I encourage everyone to read the article and watch the video.
There has been a lot of discussion online in response to this article, and not surprisingly, the issue of anti-Mormons and anti-Mormon material keeps coming up. As a Mormon I was aware of the fact that there were a lot of anti-Mormons in the world, and that many of them wrote books, articles, websites and blogs dedicated to telling lies about the church. Now that I have left the church, my perspective of this label has changed completely, and I can see just how harmful it is.
"The word "anti-Mormon" is meant to be nothing more than an ugly pejorative. It is usually slapped on anyone who questions or disagrees with the teachings of the LDS faith and implies that the perceived critic is somehow "against" (anti) Mormons (as individuals)." - Bill McKeeverWhat makes something qualify as anti-Mormon? The general idea within the LDS church, and one that is frequently perpetuated by its leaders, is that anyone or anything that teaches something that contradicts the church's teachings, or paints the church in a negative light, is anti-Mormon. Read the following list and see if you can pick out which are anti-Mormon statements:
1. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a special rock called a peep stone. He placed it in a hat, then put his face in the hat to block out the light, and then text was revealed to him on the surface of the stone. Joseph also sometimes received revelations through the stone.Of all the issues on this list, how many of them have you heard discussed in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, General Conference, or other church meetings? How many of them are addressed in lesson manuals, Ensign articles and other church publications? How many of them seem to contradict things you have been taught in church? How many of them are you inclined to disregard as anti-Mormon statements?
2. Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, and had as many as 33 wives or more. Some of these marriages were polyandrous, meaning that Joseph married women who were already married to other men. Some of Joseph's wives were teenage girls. Joseph was secretive about his various marriages. In fact, at one point he married two sisters (who had been brought into their home as maids) and neither knew that the other was married to Joseph.
3. There are varying accounts of the First Vision, including differences in who visited Joseph, what he had been praying about, what was said to him, and even when the vision took place.
4. Joseph Smith and the others with him drank wine while in Carthage Jail.
5. The Book of Abraham does not match the contents of the papyri it was supposedly translated from. In fact, not only is the text nothing more than ordinary funerary papers, but the papyri have also been found to have originated much later than Abraham's time.
6. Oliver Cowdery used a diving rod to receive revelation and translate.
7. Joseph Smith was a treasure seeker or money digger, who was often involved in efforts to search for buried treasure by means of folk magic (including the use of diving rods and peep stones).
8. Many changes were made to revelations in the Book of Commandments before they were reprinted as the Doctrine and Covenants.
9. Joseph Smith claimed to have translated a portion of the Kinderhook Plates which were later discovered to be a hoax.
10. Mormon settlers massacred over 100 unarmed men, women and children in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in southern Utah, in 1857.
11. There was a group of men in the early church known as the "Danites," who were known for attacking non-Mormons.
12. Changes have been made to the text of the Book of Mormon over the years. One of the most significant changes involved altering references that referred to Jesus as "God" into "the Son of God."
The fact is that all of these statements can be verified in church approved resources. Every single one of them. (See notes below.) But these things aren't being taught in church, and many of them do contradict current church teachings. So by the generally accepted definition of "anti-Mormon," these statements qualify, and they come from the church itself!
I think it's time for the church and its members to abandon use of the term "anti-Mormon" for a few reasons. First of all, it is disingenuous and manipulative of the church leaders to encourage members to discover truth for themselves while also teaching that members should only trust "approved" resources. The truth should be evident, regardless of what sources are used. It is also misleading to categorize things as anti-Mormon when so much of what is discussed is verifiable in church resources.
Another reason the term "anti-Mormon" is harmful is because it is associated with a feeling of persecution among the members. They often feel like they are being attacked when someone presents information to them that is contrary to what they've been taught. An awful lot of feelings get hurt needlessly simply because of a misconception. If you can discuss differing views about politics without taking it personally when someone disagrees with you, then the same should be true of discussing religious beliefs. Disagreeing with an idea or a belief is not the same as hating the person who espouses those beliefs.
I think the worst thing about the term "anti-Mormon" is that it's so divisive. It polarizes people, and it shuts down discussion that is desperately needed. The world is not black and white. Not everything can be neatly categorized as pro-Mormon and anti-Mormon. The LDS religion is nuanced and complex. There are a variety of perspectives about different facets of it. It is a shame when dialogue is curtailed because of accusations that someone is anti-Mormon, or their source is anti-Mormon. It causes hard feelings on both sides of the fence, and it is often a factor in damaged relationships between people who leave the church and their friends and family who are still believing members.
Ultimately, the term "anti-Mormon" is not only damaging and counterproductive, but it is also inaccurate. The simple truth is that most people who are labeled as anti-Mormon have nothing against Mormons. In fact, many of them were once Mormons themselves. Many have countless friends and family members who are still in the church. These are people who love Mormons, not hate them. Love is what motivates many of them.
It's time to drop the term "anti-Mormon" from our vocabulary so it can stop detracting from the important issues, like open and honest discussions in the never-ending search for truth.
Note: The list above is by no means comprehensive, and is only a sampling of what can be found in the church's own resources. I will provide links to verify each statement, however please be aware that many of the statements can be confirmed in multiple places, and it would be too time consuming for me to provide links to every reference.
4. http://byustudies.byu.edu/hc/hcpgs/hc.aspx?HC=/hc/6/1.html&A=616 (Vol. 7, Ch. 9, Pg. 101)
7. http://byustudies.byu.edu/hc/hcpgs/hc.aspx?HC=/hc/6/1.html&A=616 (Vol. 3, Ch. 3, Pg. 29)