Matt Bowman, LDS historian and emerging public intellectual, has a piece in the Washington Post: “An obscene anti-Mormon chant marks a grim irony in the church’s history.” Let’s talk about it. It’s not like we look to the student section of college sports crowds for any great insights into life, but it is a public event and it does mean something. Last week, a visiting player at a BYU volleyball game (possibly) hears ugly comments directed at her and the national media runs with the story for days. This week, the crowd at a college football game in Oregon chants “F*** the Mormons!” at the visiting BYU team and, well, whatever, no big deal.
Let’s see a few quotes from Bowman’s article.
[H]ow did we get to the point where the BYU graduate who captured the chant on video could tell a reporter that she was disappointed, though not necessarily surprised because “you don’t make fun of a lot of religions, but Mormons are free game”?
Why are Mormons “free game”? Do we deserve it? The earlier volleyball story had credibility because for a lot of people the idea that a fan or fans at a Utah sporting event would direct ugly racist heckling at a visiting player is not surprising. It has happened before. Utah sports fans apparently have a very bad reputation. I doubt that Oregon fans were thinking what goes around comes around. But I doubt a similar chant would be directed at Catholics in general if Notre Dame were Oregon’s opponent. What’s going on here? Bowman comments:
The arc of the church’s history, from an object of fear and confusion in the 19th century, to hard-won respectability by the mid-20th century, to “free game” today, tells us a great deal about the church itself, but also about the place of religion in the United States.
No, I don’t think it’s a commentary on “the place of religion in the United States.” I think it’s a commentary on the place of the *LDS* religion in the United States. My sense is that after a pretty good PR run during the Hinckley years, with an improving public image, the public image of the LDS Church has turned in the other direction during the four years of President Nelson’s tenure. [Is it only four years? Seems like ten or twenty.] It seems like the current LDS leadership’s retrenchment campaign is more concerned with internal issues and not at all concerned with the PR consequences. Which is odd for a church that puts tens of thousands of young proselyting missionaries in the field hoping to garner converts.
By the 1990s, this parodic version of the church [The God Makers, etc.] entered mainstream U.S. culture in the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the television show “South Park” and the Broadway musical the “Book of Mormon,” both of which lampoon LDS church members as ostensibly nice, but also terminally stupid and ridiculous.
It’s not the idea that Mormons are stupid and ridiculous that’s the problem at the moment, it’s the idea that Mormons are bigoted and racist. That’s what’s part of both the volleyball story and (fairly or unfairly) the BYU football game story. Here’s a last quote from the article.
Put bluntly, the LDS church has found itself, willingly or not, on the side of cultural issues decidedly not favored by most young people in the United States.
I think he’s understating his conclusion. It’s not just young people, it’s people in general who are troubled. It’s not just “cultural issues,” it’s political issues and moral issues. No doubt the LDS leadership sees these developments as just another religious freedom story where the Church is always an innocent victim that has done nothing, nothing at all, to deserve such treatment. We don’t offer apologies. Everyone should be nice to us because … religious freedom.
It’s tough to think clearly and objectively on this issue (namely, whether the public image of the Church and its members is in decline, and if so why). The Church is an easy target. And the Church does a lot of good things. But it sure seems like the Church and its members have a gift for generating bad news stories lately.
Here are two questions to ponder in the comments. First, is Bowman right that the public image of Mormons and the Church is bad right now and trending worse? And why?
Second, let’s think about this in terms of next week’s General Conference. What is more likely, that we hear two or three GA talks directing the membership to be good neighbors, good Christians, and to avoid any hint of racism or ugliness in conversation and behavior? Or that we hear two or three GA talks about religious freedom giving the Church and its members a free pass when it comes to public accountability?
I simply keep praying for the church to take more clear steps towards following Jesus Christ as an institution. To me that means being clearly and directly accountable about racism problems and our involvement as a church. This would be a first step.
A second step would be towards accepting people’s differences, as differences that they cannot necessarily control. The church has approached many differences as sinful things that a person could repent of or change about themselves when it just isn’t necessarily accurate. I could list several, but top of the list is LGBTQ issues.
As you said, for younger members today, it just doesn’t make sense. Compassion and caring about the marginalized used to be considered Christ like. Compassionate people today wonder if the church is really their organization. It’s set up for the people who fit a certain mold, and isn’t really accommodating of people with differences. This is a problem. And I don’t care how often you try to divide and prioritize the first and 2nd commandments. Really, so we prioritize God by making sure our neighbors don’t feel comfortable at church if they are different? That isn’t the purpose and focus of the church. It undermines missionary work and unity in the church. I believe the GAs know this, if they take time to ponder it.
I wait to see the Spirit soften their hearts, in how they approach these issues. But I am not holding my breath. Those talks planned for next week we’re probably written 6 months ago
Bigotry is wrong and Mormons are often victims of bigotry. It is wrong. With that said…
There is only one serious racial problem the church faces…. no institutional apology. Without it, we cannot improve relations with Blacks in the United States and we can’t jettison the latent racial baggage from our theology. That is why the BYU story gained traction. We cannot give wiggle room for racists in the Church, we cannot quietly preserve racist teachings without taking hits, again, again and again. Honestly, will the Church collapse if leaders says “Look, we were wrong?”
Other social issues simply lack the moral clarity we need to have a constructive dialogue with the world at large. For example, we claim we love LGBTQ people. But the Prop 8 battle, the limitations placed upon recognizing marriages and various handbook policies do not signal that. I’m not so sure that what the public at-large sees is religion. The religious aspect is irrelevant. I think they see duplicitous hypocrisy. It is not a hatred of religion they feel. No one, regardless of their religious perspective, likes inconsistency, pretense, blame or complacency.
If we really love LGBTQ folks and are simply torn by the dichotomy of our love of people and our love of God as exemplified by loyalty to temple covenants and teachings on the family… well, that is understandable. But our words and actions do not measure up to that standard. The Utah Compromise should have laid the basis for greater understanding. We should be out there vocalizing how unfair treatment of LGBTQ people in housing, employment, education, etc. is morally wrong. We should be slamming the politicization of immigration and the poor treatment of immigrants. We should be placing the Golden Rule at the center of our politics and policies. If there is a conference talk about that, I think many would be more inclined to recognize that verbal attacks on Mormons are unacceptable. We would be recognized again as those lovable religious eccentrics like Gordon B. Hinckley. But right now, not many groups see us as lovable.
I totally agree with “old man”. Why do I find that at times the church goes directly against the teachings of Jesus? Jesus counseled that before you bring your sacrifice to the alter, (temple), if you know that someone has something against you, go to him and make it right”’ and imo, there’s no greater healing balm than a true humble apology to make something right.
I agree that Matt is understating, or dealing with half of the problem. In my terms, the Church and it’s members are suffering the Mitt Romney effect. Too conservative and even regressive on every 21st century social issue, and too much not-of-the-fold for the Evangelical Christian / Trumpist world. Nobody likes us.
Jesus did teach to turn the other cheek and my personal preference is to let things go. Haters gonna hate. Let’s do better ourselves.
As to why we are so unpopular… It all goes back to same-sex-marriage and our history of racism and sexism. Seems like we are stuck with all of it.
Your post immediately recalls McKay Coppins’ December 2020 The Atlantic article on the Church, “The Most American of Religions.” Among other things, Coppins talks about the Church’s response to The Book of Mormon musical in placing good natured advertisements in the playbill. Said Coppins:
“I remember being delighted by the Church’s response. Such savvy PR! Such a good-natured gesture! See, everyone? We can take a joke! But then I met a theater critic in New York who had recently seen the musical. He marveled at how the show got away with being so ruthless toward a minority religion without any meaningful backlash. I tried to cast this as a testament to Mormon niceness. But the critic was unconvinced. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘It’s because your people have absolutely no cultural cachet.’
“Somehow, it wasn’t until that moment that I understood the source of all our inexhaustible niceness. It was a coping mechanism, born of a pulsing, sweaty desperation to be liked that I suddenly found humiliating.”
I think the theater critic hit the nail on the head. We have lots of money and a fairly large (if concentrated) membership that includes many powerful people (in the United States at least and to some degree in Canada) and yet we’re largely irrelevant on the public scene. We’re not a hip or even particularly sympathetic minority. We’re a minority that essentially chooses to be a minority and yet the membership (in the United States and Canada at least) is largely made up of individuals who are also part of the white majority (and the conservative part of that majority to boot).
Misstated the title of the article. It’s “The Most American Religion.” Sorry!
My wife’s dad converted to Mormonism when he was at UCLA. No one else in his family joined. When my wife and I stepped away, one time at a family dinner I asked what they really thought when my wife’s dad joined Mormonism and in turn what they thought about us when we were Mormon (my wife’s parents are deceased and my wife’s two siblings stopped attending church in high school so it’s really just us). They were at first hesitant but when I made it clear it was a safe space and I was genuinely curious, they were willing to say that most Mormons they know are nice people but it’s just really hard to see intelligent, college educated people still cling to a magical faith tradition and such a narrow view of all the current social issues. My work colleagues have shared the same thing, going so far as saying they could never understand how I managed my faith with my position on social issues since I was always striving to welcome the marginalized. So I think most people are very kind to Mormons even if they find the entire thing rather odd and/or silly. There are of course outliers to this like the Oregon students.
To the story at hand, this story was covered on CNN for about 24 hours, whereas the BYU-Duke story was shared for several days. So it did get air time. I know my take is very prejudiced, but here goes: Firstly, in the article I read they interviewed a female BYU student at the game who was crying about how hard it was to deal with and a part of me wasn’t really buying it. I suppose it would be hard to hear “F**k the Mormons” being chanted at a football game, but I’m not sure it’s the same thing as being a person of color and having a white person tell you to watch your back. I really tire of Mormon victimhood. Secondly, I think this is a response to the sports community not really wanting to engage with a school that is bigoted. It feels like the 1970’s all over but now (which I didn’t experience firsthand being an 80’s child) it’s multifaceted now since it’s about the queer community as well as race.
My overall take is that I don’t condone what happened at all. I also feel that if the Mormon community wants to be accepted, they should start by being accepting. In other words, this is a problem with a solution. The ball is in the church member’s court.
Yes, the church needs to clearly and directly apologize for our history of racism. We need to discuss racism at church because we really don’t have a clear understanding of the issues involved and how they hurt minorities. This should be an out part of church curriculum, with full discussions of the topic encouraged.
This issue, and the LGBT issue is standing in the way of missionary work and church unity, and retaining our youth. I pray daily that our leaders can see this and make necessary changes, and become more welcoming and Christ like. I can do little to be heard on these issues as a woman in my church community, but I am not giving up.
Conference talks are written 6 months in advance I hear. It seems changes that would help the church follow Christ better, will take a long long time. I choose not to give up on it.
I’m glad nobody likes us. May it ever be so, and may we ever give of ourselves to the poor and suffering for reasons apart from engendering positive regard in the american mind.
When Golden State Warriors coach and former Bulls guard Steve Kerr was playing for the University of Arizona, the student section at archrival Arizona State chanted, “Where’s your dad, Steve?” Steve Kerr’s dad, Professor Malcolm Kerr, was murdered in 1984 while serving as the president of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. It’s a pretty ghastly episode in the annals of college sport and is, I would argue, worse than chanting “f*** the Mormons.” That said, neither incident speaks well of college students, and I guess that’s the point. The student section at most power 5 schools gets somewhat drunk and a bit out of hand on most weekends, and part of that is looking for anything distinguishing about the opponent to mock. Personally, I prefer the students that dress up as Mormon missionaries right down to the bike helmet–it shows more creativity.
Bowman’s entire essay, in my opinion, mistakenly takes the behavior of drunk college students and translates it into a broader cultural statement about how Mormons are disliked and religiosity has lost respect. To the extent that the church has made decisions that reflected poorly on the organization, they will have to own it and live with some periodic ridicule. As for whether or not one weekend in Eugene says so much about where Mormonism and religion stand at this juncture of the American experience, I don’t buy it.
Instead of obsessing over issues that don’t resonate with members like temple construction, work for the dead, gay discrimination, prosperity gospel, over adulation of the Prez and Q15, underutilization of female members, possible liberalism at BYU, etc., why not further develop the recently added 4th mission and refugee assistance?
Half of Church members live in developing countries, many in poverty. Let’s help feed and clothes those in need, let’s further educate our members, particularly those with little education (and I’m not talking about BofM 101). Let’s redirect our missionary activities toward service. Let’s part with some of our $100B. Let’s support the humanitarian efforts of our members. Let’s have more classes at the BYUs on humanitarian activities.
I think the worst PR response was when the Salt Lake Temple murals were removed. The announcement showed no tact, remorse, or sympathy for those mourning the loss. Instead, they stressed numbers, convenience, and efficiency. It’s baffling to me that the PR department of the Church was so oblivious to how much backlash the announcement would get. These murals, painted by art missionaries trained in France, were discarded like yesterday’s leftovers………….and the PR department honestly didn’t care.
The response from other members was worse. When I expressed concerns about the Church’s efforts with historic preservation, the reaction that I got from some members was, “this is the Lord’s will. Who are you to counsel the Lord?” When the Church reversed its plans for the Manti Temple and decided to preserve it fully, those same members said that the plans changed because less than faithful members “murmured too much” and that God would judge them harshly for “idolizing” art. They said preservation was the “lesser law” because we weren’t ready for the “greater law.”
Never mind that the First Presidency ASKED for letters from artistically inclined Latter-day Saints to understand their concerns regarding the Manti Temple. Holier than thou Saints will recontextualize any action/policy to stroke their pride 😑.
I agree with Not a Cougar, Chadwick, and Roger. My family and my husband’s family converted in days before internet. I remember the 90s where we were an odd church but not overly problematic (because we swept history/equity issues under the rug). Family, isn’t it about… time?
Yes, public image is bad and trending worse. Since Prop 8 and losing Pres Monson’s push for Christlike love and caring, it’s been continually down hill. A church lead by prophets ought to be at the forefront of being Christlike.
I think we are seeing more than one problem. One is the problem Not a Cougar above pointed out with his discussion with the theater critic, Mormons have no cachet. We are one group, along with fat people, that it is socially acceptable to mock and laugh at. Do you think South Park could have done a show about Jews with background music singing “Dumb, dumb, dumb.” They mocked our beliefs, our history, and the intelligence of members. And there was no social outcry that it was making a joke about one religion.
The other problem is that people don’t like us, sometimes for good reason. It has nothing to do with lack of respect for religion in general, but is lack of respect specifically for Mormons. We are seen as racist, homophobic, and misogynist by younger people. And while evangelicals and Christian Nationalists may be worse than we are, they are not one organized group, so it makes it harder to hate them. Outsiders do not hear our general authorities say how much then love LGBT folk, but they do see the political opposition to gay rights. We are seen as not socializing outside our group. We are seen as fake friends because when we do socialize outside of our group, we try to convert people, and then if they are not interested in our religion, we are not interested in continuing friendship. So, while we are “nice” we are not genuine or sincere. Our Word of Wisdom is not respected because people see it as silly to avoid things like coffee and tea, when there is nothing wrong with them, then we have the arrogance to look down our noses at people who do drink those perfectly normal things, as if our silly dietary restrictions make us more righteous.
HobieKate and Anna, thanks for the support. It also makes me think of a bit comedian Eugene Mirman did about religion. Speaking of Mormonism, he said, “You’re not even old enough to be plausible.” It landed very well with the audience (and I laughed pretty hard too if I’m being honest).
//Do you think South Park could have done a show about Jews with background music singing “Dumb, dumb, dumb.” They mocked our beliefs, our history, and the intelligence of members.//
Could anti-intellectualism that is often found throughout the church contribute to perceptions of members as being unintelligent? It is unfortunate that anti-intellectualism persists in a church that proclaims that the glory of God is intelligence and encourages members to learn out of the best books. It is heartbreaking to see the church go down this pathway.
There are many comments here I agree with; although, I can’t say it better than Old Man, Christian, Chadwick, Not a Cougar, Roger, Anna, Anon and others have.
There are many reasons I think Mormons continue to be seen with suspicion, not given the benefit of the doubt and even despised.
We come off as anti-intellectual / anti-education because we are–it’s codified in our history and is playing out at BYU right now. Mormons seem more like opportunists to non-member neighbors and coworkers than people interested in true friendship because many are, and this compounds our problems. Despite having entered the mainstream of society (especially in government and private sector professional roles), we are still insular and are often seen as being morally arrogant. The trouble here is we generally don’t display a well developed sense of morality, and this makes Mormons seem small-minded.
We haven’t been able to transcend this notion that we are little more than self-obsessed with our own well-being and our own self-interests. Maybe this is why our biggest problem (IMO) at present is the church’s duplicity. I can’t think of a better example of this (and yes this is about the fifth time I have brought this up) than Elder Holland’s talk to BYU faculty and staff a year ago where he calls out Matt Easton, shames him publicly, essentially says the gay community at BYU needs to be silent and then musters emotion at the end and declares his love…talk about a jaw dropping level of gaslighting. Not to be outdone, Elder Oaks’ assertion that loving God somehow calls for a qualified love of population segments the church is uncomfortable with shows how badly the church talks out of both sides of its mouth instead of displaying more serious efforts to work through theologically difficult questions. I think all of this seems superficial and lands with a huge thud with not only Gen Zers, but Millennials and many Gen Xers. And while these events are happening reasonably deep inside of Mormonism, Holland and Oaks’ messages are not lost on those I know in the non-Mormon community, at least in Utah. My non-member friends express confusion and classify the church as not having fully turned the corner on its racist past. They have told me it just doesn’t feel quite right, and categorize the church as being hostile to the LGBTQ community in the final analysis. So when the church tries to play the victim card, it’s doesn’t work for these reasons and more, in my view.
It seems no matter what the church says or does, it is still perceived as a racist and homophobic institution, even if it is soft racism. I don’t see the church demonstrating the institutional vision or fortitude needed to take the steps necessary to unroot these notions once and for all, like offering a sincere apology for the church’s past racist doctrines backed by real action to become a category leader in anti-racism. And the church can’t buy its way out of this with more charitable donations.
The church continues to want to eat its cake and have it.
Mormons love their victimhood status. It provides fodder for GC talks and encourages retrenchment in all its negative forms. There is a perverse sense of unity among victims. I believe there are many among us who enjoy even faux persecution – it is a great motivator for all forms of Mormon passive-aggressive behavior. Too bad the Book of Mormon Musical playbill approach did not endure.
In that vein, I can’t help but compare the actions of the Iran Religious Police with those of the BYU Honor Code Office and Strengthening Church Members Committee. Both religions encourage spying on members and apply inconsistent punishments. While serving as a bishop, I had a group of ward members who scoured social media for any tidbits they could use as criticism of ward members and their families. When I refused to entertain their abhorrent behavior, they sent their findings directly to the SCMC. Unfortunately it was out of my hands at that point and some ward members had to justify their commentary. One ward member even had to write a letter of apology for discussing an ‘R’ rated movie on Facebook. Talk about the thought police. I am surprised this issue hasn’t received more traction.
De novo, more details please. Who forced someone to pen an apology for talking about an R-rated movie, and why wasn’t “go pound sand” an acceptable response?
Lots of good comments here. I don’t have much to add other than a word of caution.
Mormons should avoid comparing their treatment with the ways the Jewish community have been and continue to be treated. I see it hints of this here, and I have seen it discussed much more openly elsewhere on social media. I understand this line of thinking; in fact during the Romney campaign, I would have said similar things in response to the at times unfair treatment Romney received from the left and from the media.
Mormons and Jews are not the same. Both are religions. One is an ethnic and cultural identity. Some see Mormons as as a cultural group. Perhaps there is an argument to be made for a Mormon cultural identity particularly in the American West. But it’s not true for the global church. Mormons can opt out of the church and develop a new cultural identity. A Jewish person can be completely secular and assimilated into a society while remaining ethnically Jewish. Mormons have faced discrimination but they have never experienced a systemic state effort to exterminate them on the basis of their genealogy and ethnicity.
Agree with OP and so many of the commenters here. It’s sad because as Anna, Chadwick, NaC, and so many others have said or implied–it doesn’t have to be this way.
We love the persecuted people narrative as DeNovo points out, and yet we’ve collectively forgotten what *actual* persecution looks like. (We also conveniently forget that we perpetrated some of the violence in our past.) Name-calling is wrong and upsetting, and profanity is usually in bad taste; I’m embarrassed for those U of O fans–but I’m sure there’s more than one person at 50 North Temple rubbing their hands with ill-disguised glee. We like it when they like us; but we -love- it when they cast shade.
We need to stop. it., remember what persecution -actually- is, quit persecuting people ourselves, and see how far that takes us.
S, I am the one who said the people would not put up with the kind of bad mouthing that Mormons get, if it was done to Jews. I used the comparison, not to say that the persecution has been anywhere close to the same, but that our society does not tolerate persecution of Jews like it tolerates insulting Mormons. My point was that our society tolerates disrespect of Mormons.
I totally agree it is not the same. I lived in Germany and we visited the Concentration Camp, walked into the gas chamber, all now saved as a reminder. So, I totally agree that we should not tolerate the least bit of persecution of Jews. Our society should smack it down, and people like Trump who make antisemitic jokes make me sick.
Mormons are NOT persecuted. Sure, we get no respect, but it is more like society’s weird uncle Ralph. People roll their eyes, they wish we would go away, we are made fun of, affectionately disrespected, the butt of jokes, but we are not hated. We are not important enough to hate. There is a huge difference. Jews have been hated.
Most non-Mormons know three things about us: we hate the blacks, we hate the gays, and we have a lot of wives. Changing the logo and running away from the name “Mormon” isn’t going to change any of that. At least they haven’t caught on that we have started to teach the Prosperity Gospel yet.
“Last week, a visiting player at a BYU volleyball game (possibly) hears ugly comments directed at her and the national media runs with the story for days. This week, the crowd at a college football game in Oregon chants “F*** the Mormons!” at the visiting BYU team and, well, whatever, no big deal.”
I keep reading variations on this comment, which from my exposure is simply wrong. I regularly check many news website from a wide variety of viewpoints. Most, if not all, of them covered the event with multiple stories on more than one day. I’m not sure where the idea that the story was ignored came from, because I saw lots of coverage. And everything I read clearly supported the idea that the offending chants were completely in the wrong.
Ignoring the support we receive probably does not encourage future support from those we bad mouth.
Anna, that makes a lot of sense. Intolerance is intolerance, and no person or group should be the target of hateful actions or words.
When it comes to humor and satire, Mormons are fair game in society. Honestly I don’t know where the line is between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
As a total aside, your response is part of what makes W&T great. Written word, especially when we are typing ideas out on our phone, is imperfect. I enjoy seeing the back and forth here, and I learn from the civil way commenters clarify their posts and positions.
“What is more likely, that we hear two or three GA talks directing the membership to be good neighbors, good Christians, and to avoid any hint of racism or ugliness in conversation and behavior? Or that we hear two or three GA talks about religious freedom giving the Church and its members a free pass when it comes to public accountability? ”
I’m guessing we’ll hear at least a couple of talks that (obliquely) explain how the Church’s response to abuse is perfect and just as God would want. But I guess that’s a different issue from what’s being discussed on this thread.
I love Anna’s comment, especially this point: “Outsiders do not hear our general authorities say how much then love LGBT folk, but they do see the political opposition to gay rights.” I think this is spot on. No non-Mormons are watching conference to hear GAs mouth some nice things about loving even (horrors!) our LGBT neighbors. But lots of non-Mormons see the Church filing briefs and moaning in the press about how it needs to have the religious freedom (to discriminate).
I wonder if in some sense, the ending of the priesthood/temple ban in 1978 could be seen as the Church dipping its toe in the water of becoming more mainstream. And although lots of good clearly came from that, starting in a big way with the Prop 8 campaign 30 years later, they’ve kind of given up on that approach. I agree with Matt’s point that the Church’s image is trending negative. I think it has been for over a decade, and with men like President Oaks at the top, for whom this trend is evidence of *success*, I doubt it will reverse any time soon.
Growing up Mormon in UT I had the sense there existed an inferiority complex among UT Mormons.
I hated whenever we traveled out of state if someone asked “where are you from?” when I would respond “UT,” the next question would always be “are you Mormon?”
No wonder we aren’t “ popular.”
The COJCOLDS goal is to convert everyone including Catholics, Protestants, etc to our church. We have an army of young people knocking on doors.
We also claim to have the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
We paint non-Mormons as “others”, “the world”—fallen and sinful.
Never mind some of the most Christ-like people in the world aren’t Mormon. And some of the more selfish etc are Mormon. Mormons don’t have the corner on goodness.
I wish the COJCOLDS would get back to actually teaching Christ’s message and stop acting like a multi level marketing system where we focus on selling the church. Stop the judging. Stop applying a cookie cutter to everyone.
Enlarge the tent.
One more thing…
At a work function—a dinner— many years ago, a guy sitting across the long table (about 8-10 people sitting on each side), said to my husband, “is it true that Mormons believe they will inherit their own planet?”
In addition to all the take-aways already mentioned above regarding the BYU volleyball incident and the U of O football incident, one scary thing that is demonstrated to me by all of this is the power of the media, both mainstream media and social media, to influence “the mob”. After some investigation, it sounds like the BYU volleyball incident did not actually happen, yet the initial claims that were made spread like wildfire. It’s hard to determine if the U of O football incident was somehow linked to the BYU volleyball incident, but if it were, it is concerning to me that a falsehood is so quickly disseminated and easily believed. Then this false belief leads to some form of retaliation.
Did you immediately believe the BYU volleyball story when you first heard it? I’ll admit, I’m pro-BYU and I did. I should question things a little more before just automatically believing them. I thought I was pretty careful, but it looks like I can do better.
You can’t feel sorry for an institution worth $100,000,000,000.00
I work for the U of O and up until recently I was active in the Mormon church. My colleagues, interns, and students asked me about my thoughts on the U of O game and the chant. I told them that I have two different responses depending on the audience. To U of O folks, an apology and condemnation was absolutely necessary because as a U of O community we don’t want any confusion that religious oppression is acceptable. We condemn it. If an other religious group’s name was replaced with Mormon, that would be deeply problematic and wrong. My response to the leadership of the Mormon church is this, we are not a minority religion and we are not marginalized. There is a difference in this context from being smalland being a minority. We are a small religion worth 100 billion dollars that has entered the political arena to use it’s power to marginalize other vulnerable communities. When we opted to wield political power, we entered the conversation. We should expect a response. The chant was not about our temples, our rituals, or even our community. It was about who the church has routinely and cruelly excluded from our temples, our rituals, and our community. There is a big difference.
S, about the question of where is the line between humor or satire about people who deserve it and persecution of people who don’t deserve it. My mother used to quote Bennet Cerf, (yeah look him up because I don’t remember him either and I am 70.) He was a comedian on TV back before we even owned a TV as well as a long list of other accomplishments. But once he was asked the difference between comedy and tragedy. He replied that comedy is the fat man falling down the stairs, and tragedy is when he is dead at the bottom. I have always been horrified and fascinated by this. Tragedy is when he is dead at the bottom. So, Satire is writing about Mormons and that is humor, and still socially acceptable. But because of Germany, the same thing if said about Jews is horrible persecution. The Jews ended up dead at the bottom of the stairs.
This is why we have to be careful of our humor because there has to be truth in humor, or it isn’t funny. But often that truth hurts, or worse often it is a stereotype that is not even true. But there is a very fine line to avoid crossing in keeping it from becoming hurtful. In WWII one of the forms of humor that was supper common among the troops was men dressing up badly as women then dancing or something. Another was putting on blackface. Well, men are still dressing badly as women and dancing and that is still considered funny, the other can destroy a career if old pictures surface of someone with blackface. And, there may come a time when trance women find it very insulting to have men dressing badly as women and dancing, or maybe it will just be all women who find it insulting instead of funny. I don’t have a working crystal ball. I know that I just don’t see it as funny, just stupid.
I do think the chant at Oregon crossed the line. That was not acceptable. But there is still a part of me, with my lesbian daughter, that part of me still wants to say, “yeah, but Mormons deserved it.”
See what I mean about where the line is? It shifts depending on so many things. And it isn’t just humor, but any criticism.
I am shocked–shocked!–to hear that football hooligans have behaved rudely!
Jen: ” The chant was not about our temples, our rituals, or even our community. It was about who the church has routinely and cruelly excluded from our temples, our rituals, and our community. ”
Or maybe about football? Mixed with some vague sense of contrast between group identities?
OP: “Why are Mormons ‘free game’? Do we deserve it? ”
(a) It’s like telling Polish jokes–it seems harmless, and nobody seriously thinks Pollacks are stupid.
(b) It’s payback for all those times you knocked on our doors!
(c) You know, there was this one time when my university played football against a Baptist university, and some of the fans started chanting “Beat the Baptists!” Some of the ones chanting were Baptists themselves.
(d) As the Scottish national anthem is sung before football games (other kind), there occurs a space in the music, during which it is customary to shout a popular invective against England.
Lois’s husband’s interlocutor: ““is it true that Mormons believe they will inherit their own planet?”
A natural question, since that was a line from the “Book of Mormon” musical. I didn’t realize it was even controversial.
(The next time I see missionaries, I plan to stump them by asking questions based on that *other* Mormon musical–“Saturday’s Warrior..)
CSEric: ” Changing the logo and running away from the name “Mormon” isn’t going to change any of that.”
Somewhere out there, there are football fans chanting “Fie on the Community of Christ!”
Somebody quoted by Anon : “Do you think South Park could have done a show about Jews with background music singing “Dumb, dumb, dumb.” They mocked our beliefs, our history, and the intelligence of members.”
The implication of South Park’s “Dumb Dumb Dumb” song is that Joseph Smith’s claims are risible. This is a reasonable conclusion to draw, and probably represents the majority reaction. The joke would not work against Jews, because whatever else people may say about Judaism, nobody thinks it’s dumb. Anyway, neither this episode, nor “Orgazmo,” nor the “Book of Mormon” musical were mean-spirited or anti-Mormon. One of the South Park creators dated a Mormon girl in high school, and had a positive impression of the religion–he once called the musical a love letter from atheism to religion. Here is the final dialogue from “All About Mormons,” in which Gary–a Mormon newcomer who has been polite and pleasant throughout the episode, even while the boys were mocking him–finally speaks his mind:
Gary: Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. S*** my b***s. [turns around and walks off. All four boys just look at him in wonder.]
Cartman: Damn, that kid is cool, huh?
An anti-Mormon couldn’t have written this. And remember–the South Park guys have mocked a number of religions, both in a whimsical way (the Jesus, Satan, and Muhammad characters) and more pointedly, with episodes lampooning Scientology or contemporary Christian music. If somebody goes looking for the voice of prophecy in our time, they could do a lot worse than South Park.
When I think of my ward I think of the lovely people I know and I see the collective good that happens. Cute kids and great youth. My son in law is a bishop and I know how much time and effort he and other ward leaders give for the common good. But there is rot at the top and the glaring issues that make us a target aren’t going away. I’m kind of done but I stick around on the margins because family. I don’t understand why everyone else isn’t seeing the rot?
It’s not difficult to do the most simple research to discover that there is so much that is problematic with our history and some of our quirky practices are just out to lunch and frankly embarrassing – and yet I once believed it all too.
As for GC I’m sure there will be talks on both – religious persecution and love everyone – but I won’t be tuning in to find out. I’m sure I’ll hear all I need to know afterwards.
Both the CA Prop 8 political effort by the church and the November policy happened under President Monson. I sometimes wonder if either of those changes would have happened under President Hinckley. Besides their perhaps different temperaments to go in that direction, there’s also the issue of mental capacity in their last years.
“It seems like the current LDS leadership’s retrenchment campaign is more concerned with internal issues and not at all concerned with the PR consequences”
Hooray for President Nelson. Steer the ship, avoid the rocks, don’t worry about “PR”. Trying to be woke fails to appease whatever is behind that force, and you lose the foundation.
Many good points on this thread. The two best are (1) not to take the drunken rants of beered-up frat rats at a football game, obnoxious as they were, too seriously and (2) Don’t bother to appease others, ESPECIALLY the “woke”, just pilot the boat where it needs to go. In the words of ANOTHER “Nelson” (the late Ricky), “Well, it’s alright now, I learned my lesson well. You can’t please everyone, so, you’ve got to please yourself.”