Anti-Mormonism is discrimination, persecution, hostility or prejudice directed at members of the Latter Day Saint movement, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The term is often used to describe persons or literature that are critical of their adherents, institutions, or beliefs, or physical attacks against specific Mormons or the LDS Church as a whole.
Opposition to Mormonism began before the first Latter Day Saint church was established in 1830 and continues to the present day. The most vocal and strident opposition occurred during the 19th century, particularly during the Utah War of the 1850s, and in the second half of the century when the practice of polygamy in Utah Territory was widely considered by the U.S. Republican Party as one of the "twin relics of barbarism" along with slavery.
Modern-day opposition generally takes the form of websites offering alternative views about Mormonism or non-violent protest at large Latter-day Saint gatherings such as the church's biannual General Conference, outside of Latter-day Saint pageants, or at events surrounding the construction of new LDS temples. Opponents generally allege that the church's claims to divine origin are false, or that it is non-Christian, or that it is a religion based on fraud or deceit on the part of its past and present leaders.
|Freedom of religion|
The term "anti-Mormon" first appears in the historical record in 1833 by the Louisville (Kentucky) Daily Herald in an article, "The Mormons and the Anti-Mormons" (the article was also the first known to label believers in the Book of Mormon as "Mormons"). In 1841, it was revealed that an Anti-Mormon Almanac would be published. On August 16 of that year, the Latter Day Saint Times and Seasons reported the Mormons' confidence that although the Anti-Mormon Almanac was designed by "Satan and his emissaries" to flood the world with "lies and evil reports", still "we are assured that in the providence of God they will ultimately tend to the glory of God—the spread of truth and the good of the church".
The anti-Mormon newspaper certainly was not the first of its kind; Mormonism had been criticized strongly by dozens of publications since its inception, most notably by Eber D. Howe's 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. The Latter Day Saints initially labeled such publications "anti-Christian", but the publication of the Almanac and the subsequent formation of an "Anti-Mormon Party" in Illinois heralded a shift in terminology. "Anti-Mormon" became, on the lips of the church's critics, a proud and politically charged self-designation.
Today, the term is primarily used as a descriptor for persons and publications that oppose the LDS Church, although its precise scope has been the subject of some debate. It is used by some to describe anything perceived as critical of the LDS Church.
Siding with the latter, less-inclusive understanding of the term, Latter-day Saint scholar William O. Nelson suggests in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism that the term includes "any hostile or polemic opposition to Mormonism or to the Latter-day Saints, such as maligning the founding prophet, his successors, or the doctrines or practices of the Church. Though sometimes well intended, anti-Mormon publications have often taken the form of invective, falsehood, demeaning caricature, prejudice, and legal harassment, leading to both verbal and physical assault."
Many of those who have been labeled "anti-Mormon" object to the designation, arguing that the term implies that disagreement or criticism of Mormonism stems from some inherent "anti-Mormon" prejudice, rather than being part of a legitimate factual or religious debate. Eric Johnson, for example, makes a distinction between "personal animosity and intellectual dialogue". Johnson insists that he is motivated by "love and compassion for Mormons", and that while he "[might] plead guilty to being against Mormonism", he finds the suggestion that he is anti-Mormon "both offensive and inaccurate." Stephen Cannon elaborates,
It is also helpful to know that Mormons are a group of people united around a belief system. Therefore, to be "anti-Mormon" is to be against people. Christians who desire to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Mormons are never to come against people of any stripe. Yes, evangelical Christians do have strong disagreements with Mormonism, but the argument is with a belief system and not a people. The LDS people are no better or no worse than any other group of people. Any dispute is to be a disagreement with the "ism", not the "Mormon".
James White, meanwhile, rejects the term because of a lack of reciprocal terminology. He wrote to one LDS apologist, "If you will identify yourself as an anti-Baptist, I'll let you call me an anti-Mormon."
Even some members of the church who write negatively about it, especially those who call into question its divine nature, have had their writings labeled anti-Mormon. Ex-Mormons who write about the church are likewise frequently labeled anti-Mormon, even when their writings are not inflammatory in nature. The debate on who is "anti-Mormon" frequently arises in Mormon discussions of authors and sources.
Stephen Cannon has argued that use of the label is a "campaign by Latter-day Saints to disavow the facts presented by simply labeling the source as 'anti-Mormon'". Critics of the term also claim that the LDS Church frames the context of persecution in order to cultivate a persecution complex, or that Mormon authors promote the ideal of a promised heavenly reward for enduring persecution for one's beliefs.
Mormons often respond to these accusations by questioning whether critics like Johnson and Cannon really have Mormons' best interests at heart. For Brigham Young University's 100 Hour Board, the "anti-Mormon" label serves the purpose of warning Latter-day Saints away from individuals who espouse "hatred and bigotry". It is better, says the Board, for a confused Saint to "talk to someone... that (1) has your best interests at heart, and (2) actually understands what the Church teaches."
Those individuals and groups who challenge Mormonism, particularly those who approach the challenge from an evangelical Christian perspective, would generally sustain that they do, in fact, have the best interest of the Mormon at heart; and for the most part can legitimately claim to understand what the church teaches, since many challengers of Mormonism come from an LDS background. In addition, they often declare that highly-charged words such as "hatred" and "bigotry" are employed to an excessive degree to describe any challenge to a truth claim, and often cite this reactionary response as part of the so-called Mormon "persecution complex."
Mormonism, or the Latter Day Saint movement, arose in western New York, the area where its founder, Joseph Smith, was raised, during a period of religious revival in the early 19th century. Smith claimed to have several visions involving God, Jesus and angelic Native American prophets. These claims were often not received well by those in the community, as evident in the following excerpt from Smith's account of LDS Church history:
[...] one of the Methodist preachers [...] treated my communication [...] with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them. I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
While the claims of a divine call often received a cold shoulder, the eventual publication of the Book of Mormon, and the official organization of the Church of Christ in 1830 were met with increased opposition on various fronts.
In New York and Pennsylvania, anti-Mormon behavior dealt mainly with issues including whether or not Smith actually had the gold plates, if those plates belonged to the people, rather than Smith, if Smith ever really had (theological) visions, Smith's treasure-digging episodes, and accusations of occult practices.
In Missouri, once the gathering place of the Latter Day Saints, Mormons tended to vote as a bloc, wielding "considerable political and economic influence," often unseating local political leadership and earning long-lasting enmity in the sometimes hard-drinking, hard-living frontier communities. These differences culminated in hostilities and the eventual issuing of an executive order (since called the Extermination Order) by Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs declaring "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State." Three days later, a renegade militia unit attacked a Mormon settlement at Haun's Mill, resulting in the death of 18 Mormons and no militiamen. The Extermination Order was not formally rescinded until 1976.
In Nauvoo, Illinois, persecutions were often based on the tendency of Mormons to "dominate community, economic, and political life wherever they resided." The city of Nauvoo had become the largest in Illinois, the city council was predominantly Mormon, and the Nauvoo Legion (the Mormon militia) had grown to a quarter of the size of the U.S. Army. Other issues of contention included polygamy, freedom of speech, anti-slavery views during Smith’s presidential campaign, and the deification of man. After the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor and institution of martial law, Joseph Smith, Jr. was arrested on charges of treason against the state of Illinois and incarcerated in Carthage Jail where he was killed by a mob on June 27, 1844. The persecution in Illinois became so severe that most of the residents of Nauvoo fled across the Mississippi River in February 1846.
In 1847 Mormons established a community hundreds of miles away in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Beginning in 1849, every Federally appointed official left Utah under duress. In 1857 President Buchanan concluded that the Mormons in the territory were rebelling against the United States. In response, President Buchanan sent one-third of the USA's standing army to Utah in 1857 in what is known as the Utah War.
In 2007, the movie September Dawn portrayed Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders ordering the massacre of non-Mormon travelers passing through Utah, fearing they were the first in a wave of settlers to the territory. Though the LDS Church issued no comment on the film, Latter-day Saint members and several historical scholars protested these depictions, arguing that the film makers took "great leaps of historical revisionism." Approximately 120 immigrants from Arkansas were murdered at Mountain Meadows in Southwestern Utah on 11 September 1857, after having surrendered to a body of Nauvoo Legion militiamen.
Much of this anti-Mormon sentiment was expressed in publications during the early part of LDS Church history. In his 2005 biography of Joseph Smith, Richard Lyman Bushman cites four 1838 pamphlets as anti-Mormon: Mormonism Exposed by Sunderland, Mormonism Exposed by Bacheler, Antidote to Mormonism by M'Chesney, and Exposure of Mormonism by Livesey.
The first was the work of Origen Bacheler, who had no direct contact with the body of Mormons, and contained the contents of a debate between the author and Parley Pratt, with Pratt's side omitted. Bushman describes the author's rhetoric as indistinguishable from that uttered by "scores of other polemicists of his time," providing a glimpse into the kind of material considered anti-Mormon. The pamphlet described Joseph Smith as a "blockhead," a "juggling, money-digging, fortune-telling impostor" and, along with the Book of Mormon witnesses, as "perhaps the most infamous liars and impostors that ever breathed. ... By their deception and lies, they swindle them out of their property, disturb social order and the public peace, excite a spirit of ferocity and murder, and lead multitudes astray on the subject in which, of all others, they have the deepest interest." He voiced outrage at "the miscreants who are battening on the ignorance and credulity of those upon whom they can successfully play off this imposture." He described the Book of Mormon as, "the most gross, the most ridiculous, the most imbecile, the most contemptible concern, that was ever attempted to be palmed off upon society as a revelation." He believed the religion "can be viewed in no other light than that of monstrous public nuisances, that ought forthwith to be abated" and that the Mormons were "the most vile, the most impudent, the most impious, knot of charlatans and cheat with which any community was ever disgraced and cursed." Antidote to Mormonism describes Mormons as "miserable enemies of both God and man—engines of death and hell." He described combat with them as being "desperate, the battle is one of extermination." Bushman describes the characteristics of these anti-Mormon materials as sensationalizing actuality:
The critics' writings largely controlled the reading public's image of [Joseph Smith] for the next century, with unfortunate results for biographers. The sharp caricature of "Joe Smith" as fraud and con man blotted out the actual person. He was a combination of knave and blockhead. No one had to explain what motives drove him. He was a fixed type, the confidence man, well known in the literature of antebellum America. Americans knew all about these insidious scoundrels who undermined social order and ruined the lives of their unsuspecting victims. Joseph Smith became the worst of the type—a religious fraud who preyed upon the sacred yearnings of the human soul.
Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1889), the novel in which the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance, includes a very negative depiction of the early Mormon community in Utah after its migration westwards and the foundation of Salt Lake City. Mormons are presented as violent, rigidly intolerant and corrupt, systematically terrorizing members of the church and forcing polygamous marriage on Mormon girls against their will (comparing Mormon practices to the well-known theme of European girls being forcibly taken to Muslim harems).
Later in his career, Conan Doyle apologized to the Mormons for his lurid account of them as being steeped in kidnapping, murder and enslavement. During a 1923 tour of the United States, Doyle was invited to speak at the LDS Church's Salt Lake Tabernacle; while some individual Mormons expressed their bitterness, in general the atmosphere was warm and friendly far beyond the famous author's best expectations, and in later writings he presented Mormons in a very positive light.
The most vehement opposition to the LDS Church comes from individuals or groups associated with the Christian countercult movement, which is mostly an Evangelical Christian phenomenon. Daniel C. Peterson and Massimo Introvigne have identified two major streams of modern anti-Mormon thought. The first is "traditional anti-Mormonism", typified by Rev. Wesley Walters, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and (to a certain extent) self-proclaimed "Bible Answer Man" and "cult expert" Walter Martin. Anti-Mormons in this category, "anxious to be taken seriously by at least a portion of the scholarly community," generally try to explain Mormonism in naturalistic terms. They appeal to "Joseph Smith's environment and his (wicked or pathological) character, perhaps assisted by a co-conspirator or two", as a sufficient explanation for Mormon origins. Of the second category Introvigne tells us,
"New Age anti-Mormonism", according to Peterson, "is quite different. It admits the presence of supernatural events in the founding events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is quite willing to acknowledge continuous supernatural influence in the life of the Church today." However, "unlike faithful Latter-day Saints, New Age anti-Mormons see the supernatural agents involved in the founding and progress of the Church as demonic, occultic, diabolical, luciferian."
This "New Age anti-Mormon" grouping includes Ed Decker, Loftes Tryk, James R. Spencer and many others. According to Introvigne, New Age anti-Mormonism emerged in the 1980s largely as a result of the rise of Third-wave Pentecostalism and its emphasis on spiritual warfare.
Traditional anti-Mormons, according to Peterson, are those who "are content to argue that Mormonism is untrue" and "incompatible with the Bible." While some may believe that Satan was indirectly involved in the founding of the LDS Church, they place little emphasis on his role. For them, naturalistic and historical explanations are always preferable to supernatural ones.
Among the most prominent of the traditional anti-Mormons are Jerald and Sandra Tanner. Both former members of the LDS Church, the Tanners converted to evangelical Protestantism and in 1964 founded the Modern Microfilm Company to "document problems with the claims of Mormonism and to compare LDS doctrines with Christianity." In 1983 they turned their company into a non-profit organization and renamed it the Utah Lighthouse Ministry. The Tanners' work has included "publishing [reprints of] many hard-to-find Mormon historical documents" and "[debating] virtually every significant topic in Mormonism". During their prolific career they have published more than two hundred items on a variety of social, doctrinal, and historical issues. Despite the high caliber of some of their work, the Tanners have been criticized on a number of points: notably for the vitrolic tone of some of their more polemical pieces, their resistance to change, and their unauthorized publication of several copyrighted documents. In recent years, the apologists' wrath toward the Tanners has somewhat subsided. In their study of anti-Mormon "word games", for example, Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks have nothing negative to say about them. Instead, they enlist them as allies against New Age anti-Mormons like Ed Decker, whose fabrications the Tanners have denounced on more than one occasion.
Perhaps the most controversial of the traditional anti-Mormons, however, was Walter Martin. Martin saw Mormons as deceivers who "pose as Christians". He called them "anti-Christian" and "a cult infiltration" and said they secretly harbor a "deep contempt for Christians". He further accused them of being egomaniacs and "cultists". Martin left as his legacy the Christian Research Institute, which has taken a slightly more moderate position.
New Age anti-Mormons have generated considerably more controversy than the previous category. The most prominent of their number, Ed Decker, is the producer of The God Makers and The God Makers II, as well as being the author of the books by the same name. The God Makers has attracted criticism not only from Latter-day Saints, but from traditional anti-Mormons as well. The film is generally considered acerbic and misleading, and has even provoked bomb threats against LDS meetinghouses and death threats against members. In other publications Decker has asserted that the source of Mormonism is Satan and that the spires on the LDS temple "represent an upside down nail, pointing defiantly toward heaven—as if to impale the Lord Jesus anew when he comes in the clouds of glory!" Furthermore, Decker sees Mormonism as a Satanic political conspiracy with roots in Hinduism and Baal worship.
When Decker was denounced by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, he went so far as to accuse them of being in the pay of the LDS Church and even of being "demonized" themselves. Decker and his associates offered to exorcise the Tanners' demons, and expressed great sadness when they refused.
The Christian writer William Schnoebelen asserted that "the marks on the Mormon Temple garments 'are held together by a subtle occult web of sexual energy which is activated by pressure from the two highest grips in the LDS Temple endowment.'" Tom Kellie similarly insisted that "the wives of Mormon apostles were compelled to submit to a special sexual type of operation." Other New Age anti-Mormons have called Mormons "pagans" and Mormonism "a fountain of slime".
Protesters have been visible as "street preachers" at LDS General Conferences, outside of LDS pageants, and temples. At the recently constructed Sacramento temple, for example, protesters dispersed pamphlets to visitors who came to take a guided tour. They also held up signs directing people to websites critical of the LDS Church. Notably, protesters also made an appearance at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. One group that actively organizes peaceful protests, a non-profit organization called Mormonism Research Ministry, insists that its activities are not "anti-Mormon".
Our goal at MRM is not to be antagonistic. In fact, whenever a representative of MRM speaks publicly on this subject, we often emphasize how Christians should reflect a Christ-like attitude when sharing their faith. We must be firm in our convictions but compassionate and patient as well. ...It is true that, just as some Mormons want nothing more than to ridicule and insult those with whom they disagree, some Christians have done the same. This is wrong and always will be wrong.
Some other individuals have been seen throwing copies of the Book of Mormon on the ground, stepping on them, and portray using temple garments, which LDS hold sacred, as toilet tissue, and other similarly offensive actions. However, nearly every evangelical ministry, including those that actively challenge truth claims of Mormonism, vehemently condemns this sort of offensive and belligerent behavior, and further object to being placed in the same category as those few who engage in such behavior.
As a result of organized protests at Mormon events, a number of Latter-day Saints, and even non-Mormons, have begun to counter-demonstrate at events (by singing hymns, for example).
Tangible acts of violence against Latter-day Saints are considerably less common in the United States today than they were in the 19th century. The first significant violent persecution occurred in the early 1830s in Missouri. Mormons tended to vote as a bloc there, wielding "considerable political and economic influence," often unseating local political leadership and earning long-lasting enmity in the frontier communities. These differences culminated in the Missouri Mormon War and the eventual issuing of an executive order (since called the extermination order within the LDS community) by Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs, which declared that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State." Three days later, a renegade militia unit attacked a Mormon settlement at Haun's Mill, resulting in the death of 18 Mormons and no militiamen. The extermination order was not formally rescinded until 1976.
After the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith was arrested and incarcerated in Carthage Jail where he was killed by a mob on June 27, 1844. The persecution in Illinois became so severe that most of the residents of Nauvoo fled across the Mississippi River in February 1846.
Even after Mormons established a community hundreds of miles away in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, anti-Mormon activists in Utah Territory convinced U.S. President James Buchanan that the Mormons in the territory were rebelling against the United States; critics pointed to the Mountain Meadows massacre and plural marriage as signs of the rebellion. In response, President Buchanan sent one-third of the American standing army in 1857 to Utah in what is known as the Utah War.
More recent persecution against Mormons in the U.S. has occasionally taken the shape of acts of vandalism against church property (see Protests against Proposition 8 supporters). At an LDS Church building in Orangevale, Sacramento County, vandals spray painted "No on 8" and "No on Prop 8" on the front sign and sidewalk. An affiliate group of the radical Trans/Queer organization Bash Back!, claims credit for pouring glue into the locks of an LDS Church building and spray painting on its walls. An internet posting signed by Bash Back!’s Olympia chapter said: “The Mormon church ... needs to be confronted, attacked, subverted and destroyed.” According to the Chicago Tribune, the acts of vandalism against the LDS Church appear to be in retaliation for support of Proposition 8. Police reported that nine church buildings were also damaged in Utah that month. The Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the "defacement and destruction of property."
In November 2008, the United States Postal Service delivered envelopes containing white powder to two LDS Church temples—the Los Angeles California Temple and the Salt Lake Temple—and to the Knights of Columbus' national headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, prompting a hazardous materials response and a federal domestic terrorism investigation. The LDS Church blamed opponents of the marriage ban for sending the hoax mailings, while a group that also supported the measure condemned "acts of domestic terrorism against our supporters." LGBT rights groups, such as Equality Utah and Equality California, have spoken out against the use of violence in protests, and note that the source of the "white powder" mailings has not been determined.
In Latin America, however, hatred of Mormons has often taken on a much deadlier form. In May 1989, members of a terrorist organization called the Zarate Willka Armed Forces of Liberation murdered two Mormon missionaries in La Paz, Bolivia. Another Bolivian terrorist group, the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, claimed responsibility for two attacks against Mormon chapels. The Latauro Youth Movement in Chile conducted 27 small-scale bombings against LDS meetinghouses in 1992. The MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base lists 149 individual attacks that have been carried out against Mormon targets in Latin America since 1983. It also lists a 2001 chapel-bombing in Croatia.
Although a position on anti-Mormonism is not part of the official doctrine of the LDS Church, it has been mentioned specifically in a number of general conference talks made by church general authorities.
Marvin J. Ashton, speaking as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, began a fall 1982 conference by relating an experience he had with a protester outside of Temple Square. He went on to declare "[t]o the world, and especially to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" that "there is no time for contention." He then quoted Robert Frost in his prescribed response to anti-Mormonism:
The poet Robert Frost once defined education as "the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." Probably we will never be free of those who are openly anti-Mormon. Therefore, we encourage all our members to refuse to become anti-anti-Mormon. In the wise words of old, can we "live and let live"?
Carlos E. Asay of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy spoke in the fall 1981 conference concerning opposition to the LDS Church. He describes "Lucifer" as the source of at least some anti-Mormon and apostate groups, relates an experience of a Mormon convert being excommunicated and encourages the avoidance of "those who would tear down your faith":
Since the spring of 1820, Lucifer has led a relentless attack against the Latter-day Saints and their leaders. A parade of anti-Christs, anti-Mormons, and apostate groups have appeared on the scene. Many are still among us and have released new floods of lies and false accusations. These faith-killers and testimony-thieves use personal contacts, the printed word, electronic media, and other means of communication to sow doubts and to disturb the peace of true believers.
... Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit.
Two months ago we received a tender letter from a bishop. He informed us that he had been involved in an excommunication of a recent convert. The new convert had fallen under the influence of a very dedicated apostate who was successful in destroying the convert’s testimony. It seems that, to discredit Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, the apostate cited changes made in Church publications over the years.
The approach used by the apostate is common among those who are more interested in shadows than in light. Their logic, if followed, would have them burning the New Testament because Luke’s account of the gospel is not exactly like Matthew’s or because the book of Acts reports two differing versions of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus. (See Acts 9:1–9 and Acts 22:4–11.) Belief in modern prophets and continuous revelation is absent in the lives of many apostates. They would pin their hopes for salvation upon things other than those related to living prophets and living faith.
Gordon B. Hinckley, the then–president of the LDS Church, related a story in the fall 1997 conference in which he read from the letter of an ex-Mormon who left the church at the urging of his fiancée, whom the letter-writer indicates is anti-Mormon. Hinckley describes the situation in the letter as a "terrible tragedy" and states that he "believe[s] the writer still has a testimony of this work. That testimony has been with him since the time he was baptized, but he has felt neglected and of no consequence to anyone."
A passage from an early Mormon epistle addresses a claimed tendency of ex-Mormons to criticize the church of which they are no longer a part:
[A]postates after turning from the faith of Christ ... have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions ... "When once that light which was in them is taken from them, they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth," and they, Judas like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors.
In 1985, Vaughn J Featherstone, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of the LDS Church addressed students at the church-owned Brigham Young University, calling anti-Mormon material "theological pornography that is damaging to the spirit," stating that "none of it is worth casting an eye upon. Do not read the anti-Mormon materials. That is not the way you resolve questions about the truthfulness of the restored gospel."
Mormon apologetics and members vary both in their perception of criticism and opposition, as well as what they see as falling under the umbrella of anti-Mormonism. Hugh Nibley, the author of voluminous works in response to books deemed anti-Mormon, including a chapter on how to write an anti-Mormon book, explained why he thinks ex-Mormons criticize the church:
Apostates usually become sometimes feverishly active, determined to prove to the world and themselves that it is a fraud after all. What is that to them? Apparently it is everything—it will not let them alone. At the other end of the scale are those who hold no rancor and even retain a sentimental affection for the Church—they just don't believe the gospel. I know quite a few of them. But how many of them can leave it alone? It haunts them all the days of their life. No one who has ever had a testimony ever forgets or denies that he once did have it—that it was something that really happened to him. Even for such people who do not have it anymore, a testimony cannot be reduced to an illusion.
Davis Bitton presented criteria on how to identify anti-Mormon material in a 2004 paper published for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) entitled, "Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book." He specifies inaccuracy, telling Mormons what they believe, strong preference for negative information, always showing "the church, its leaders, its people, and its beliefs in the worst possible light," participating in anti-Mormon activities, denouncing the church, engaging in "behavior defiantly contrary to church standards," unjustly claiming to be a Latter-day Saint, and indulging in "snide, disrespectful, cruel comments about the Saints and those they sustain as prophets" as characteristics of anti-Mormon books and authors. Additionally, he singles out publishers such as the Utah Gospel Mission and the Utah Lighthouse Ministry as being "anti-Mormon, at least in intent."
In another FARMS review, this time of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe, Bitton reveals more of his thoughts on the subject:
I am not entirely comfortable with labeling this an anti-Mormon work, for I don't see hatred of the Church and a determination to destroy as the prime motive behind it. On the other hand, whatever the intention of individual authors, the label is not entirely misapplied either. In any case, one thing is sure: the compilation will be exploited by the Mormon-haters.
Others consider the definition of anti-Mormonism rather fundamentally: those in opposition to or against the LDS Church. While not including those who simply believe differently, it includes those who are actively engaged in opposing the LDS Church. Thus, a person's intelligence, honesty, qualification or accreditation do not make them anti-Mormon. Anti-Mormon arguments are those in opposition to the claims and institutional aims of the LDS Church, and anti-Mormons are those who spend a significant amount of time opposing the church via such arguments or otherwise.
Many members of the LDS Church believe that since the church is sanctioned by God, Satan and his followers will seek to destroy it, with some even seeing this opposition as evidence that the LDS Church has divine origins. Some avoid anti-Mormon material, while others analyze and criticize it, such as William J. Hamblin, who addresses anti-Mormon attacks on the geography and archeology of the Book of Mormon in "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon."
Other prominent LDS Church members note that the opposition from anti-Mormonism can actually be beneficial. As Hugh Nibley expressed it, "We need more anti-Mormon books. They keep us on our toes." Michael R. Ash of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) dissected this viewpoint in "The Impact of Mormon Critics on LDS Scholarship," concluding that the accusations of critics are helpful in encouraging and stimulating further research. Orson Pratt also seemed to invite criticism when he said:
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.
I am now convinced that we... have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you. We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe...Indeed, we have even on occasion demonized you, weaving conspiracy theories about what the LDS community is 'really' trying to accomplish in the world.
Mouw is not the only Christian calling for moderation. Similar pleas have been issued by David Rowe, Carl Mosser, Francis J. Beckwith, Paul Owen, Craig Blomberg, and others. Some church and parachurch groups have also made efforts to repair relations with the Mormons. In the 1980s, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority "took some small steps toward Evangelical-Mormon cooperation for a shared social, political, and ethical agenda". More recently, a Pentecostal congregation in Provo, Utah held a public ceremony of repentance for its negative attitudes and actions toward the Latter-day Saint community. In 2001 the organization Standing Together, based in Lehi, UT, was founded by a Baptist minister for the purpose of "building bridges of relationship and dialogue with... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Standing Together hosts public seminars in which Evangelical scholar Greg Johnson and LDS scholar Robert Millet "communicate how they have maintained their friendship and at the same time discussed candidly their theological differences and concerns for one another." However, Standing Together is most recognized for their activities at General Conference, where they literally stand together, taking up space to deny its use by those who come to be disruptive influences.
Some traditional Christian churches and ministries, however, have expressed varying degrees of concern about the movement to abandon what they consider to be valid and cogent challenges to Mormon doctrine and teaching for the sake of "peaceful co-existence," and yet at the same time do not wish to be categorized with the fringe Christian elements that seek to be openly disruptive and antagonistic toward the LDS community.
"I hope not." He continued, "I hope that people will look at the qualities of candidates and look at what they believe and what they're for and look [at] their records and then make a decision."
Joe Biden said;
"I find it preposterous that in 2011 we're debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion ... is a disqualifying provision," Biden told an audience at the University of Pittsburgh. "It is not. It is embarrassing and we should be ashamed, anyone who thinks that way," he said in a long response to a student's question about how his own religious faith affected his philosophy of government.
- "1856 Republican Platform". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-15. "Resolve: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism—Polygamy, and Slavery."
- Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "Mormon".
- Times and Seasons, vol. 2 no. 20, August 16, 1841, p. 513.
- cf. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, vol. 3, no. 1, October 1836, p. 319.
- A similar party would arise in Utah in 1883, professing to be "'anti-Mormon' ... to the heart's core." Cf. Jennifer Hansen, Letters of Catharine Cottam Romney, p. 76. See also Liberal Party (Utah).
- Some examples of Mormons expressing this sort of sentiment are as follows: "Are You an Anti-Mormon?", AntiMormon.KeepRight.net, accessed June 2006. "Correspondence between James White and Dr. Louis Midgley", SHIELDS-Research.org, accessed June 2006. & "How I define an Anti-Mormon", FAIR Message Boards, accessed June 2006.
- Nelson, William O. (1992). "Anti-Mormon Publications". Encyclopedia of Mormonism (5 ed.). Macmillan USA. ISBN 0-02-904040-X. Retrieved June 2006.
- McKeever, Bill, "Anti-Mormon: The Mormon N-Word", MRM.org (Mormonism Research Ministry), retrieved 2013-01-17
- Johnson, Eric, "Is Mormonism Research Ministry "Anti-Mormon"?", MRM.org (Mormonism Research Ministry), archived from the original on 2009-04-02, retrieved 2006-09-24
- Cannon, Stephen F. (2000), "Games Mormon People Play: The Strategies and Diversions of Latter-day Saint Apologists", PFO.org (Personal Freedom Outreach), archived from the original on 2012-03-08, retrieved 2013-01-17
- "Correspondence between James White and Dr. Louis Midgley". Shields-Research.org. Archived from the original on 15 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Kempton, William (2006). "Why I'm no longer a Mormon". Geocities.com. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2006-06-01.[unreliable source?]
- E.g.: Wenger, Kaimi (November 16, 2004), "Is Signature Books an Anti-Mormon Press?", Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog, retrieved 2012-12-11; Bitton, Davis (2004), "Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book", FARMS Review 16 (1): 355–360; Midgley, Louis (2004), Anti-Mormonism, "The Signature Books Saga", FARMS Review 16 (1): 361–406
- "The Mormon Persecution Complex—the give and take of Mormon persecution". lds-mormon.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- Hawkins, Lisa Bolin. "Persecution". lightplanet.com. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- BYU's 100 Hour Board (2005). "Do you think it is wrong to go to websites that openly challenge LDS beliefs?" (PHP). theboard.byu.edu. Archived from the original on 10 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- "An Open Letter to Mormons". livinghopeutah.org. Living Hope Christian Fellowship.
- Latter-day Saints consider the Book of Mormon, which Smith stated that he translated from gold plates, to be a work of scripture of similar importance to the Bible.
- Quinn, D. Michael (1998). Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. ISBN 1-56085-089-2.
- Monroe, R.D., Ph.D. "Congress and the Mexican War, 1844–1849". lincoln.lib.niu.edu. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- VandeCreek, Drew E., Ph.D. "Religion and Culture". lincoln.lib.niu.edu. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- Rast, Ben. "The Illinois Apology – The Rest of the Story" (PHP). ContenderMinistries.org. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Bushman, pp. 398–402.
- Origen Bacheler (1838). Mormonism Exposed: Internally and Externally. New York: n.p.
- James M'Chesney. Antidote to Mormonism.[specify]
- Bushman, p. 401.
- Schindler, Hal (04/10/1994). "The Case Of The Repentant Writer: Sherlock Holmes' Creator Raises The Wrath Of Mormons". The Salt Lake Tribune. Page D1. Reprinted at historytogo.utah.gov by the Utah State Historical Society.
- Introvigne, pp. 154,158. Cf. also Peterson, pp. 231–260.
- Introvigne, p. 154.
- Introvigne, pp. 159–161. Cf. fn. on p. 158 for a few exceptions to the 1980s date.
- Peterson, pp. 231–260.
- Introvigne, p. 158.
- "Utah Lighthouse Ministry". UTLM.org. Archived from the original on 10 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Foster, Lawrence (1984) "Career Apostates: Reflections on the Works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 17 (2), 35,39.
- "Jerald is a brilliant analyst of detail, with an almost uncanny ability to spot textual inconsistencies which call for explanation. His analysis showing that a pamphlet attributed to Oliver Cowdery was, in fact, a clever forgery, is only one example of research and analysis that would do credit to any professional historian." Foster, Lawrence (1984) "Career Apostates: Reflections on the Works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 17 (2), 47.
- Ibid. See also McCann, Sheila (1999-10-15). "Web Site Prompts Mormon Church to Sue Critics". The Salt Lake Tribune. Article ID: 100F32C9AB6058A3. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suing longtime critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner, accusing them of violating copyright laws by posting information from an internal church handbook on the Internet.. The Tanners run Utah Lighthouse Ministry in Salt Lake City, a nonprofit organization offering books, a newsletter and a Web site disputing LDS Church teachings and practices.. Until this week, their Web site at www.utlm.org included pages...", Oberbeck, Steven (1999-11-11). "Ministry's Restraint Order Expanded". The Salt Lake Tribune. Article ID: 100F340A1C121F6C. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was given a temporary victory over its longtime critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell expanded a temporary restraining order that bars the couple from distributing copyright materials on their Web site that describe church disciplinary procedures.. The expanded order addressed the church's concerns that the Tanners were contributing to additional infringement of the copyrighted Church...", "Church Settles Copyright Suit". The Salt Lake Tribune. 2000-12-14. Article ID: 100EA2D2B500CB8B. "The LDS Church has formally settled a federal copyright lawsuit against Jerald and Sandra Tanner, longtime critics who posted part of the Church Handbook of Instruction, a handbook for Mormon clergy, on the Internet. The Tanners, who run Salt Lake-based Utah Lighthouse Ministry, agreed to a settlement offer from church attorneys November 30. But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not sign until last Friday, after a slight language change was made to the order by U.S. District...", Rivera, Ray (2000-12-01). "LDS Suit Nearing Settlement". The Salt Lake Tribune. Article ID: 100EA47F5A073615. "Two longtime LDS Church critics who posted part of a handbook for Mormon clergy on the Internet agreed to a settlement offer Thursday in a federal copyright lawsuit filed against them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, appeared hesitant to sign off on the deal, even though church attorneys drafted the offer.. "The church has not yet signed an agreement, but we are hopeful that a settlement is at hand," church spokesman Dale Bills..."
- Peterson and Ricks, 13 fn. 39, 14 fn. 42.
- Cited in Peterson and Ricks, pp. 5, 9–11. See also Millet, Robert (2005). A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 178–179.
- "Mormons-Can They Be Considered Christians?". equip.org. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- According to Michael Griffith, "Even as anti-Mormon books go, THE GODMAKERS is one of the worst, most inaccurate attacks on Mormonism ever written." Michael T. Griffith. "Another Look at The Godmakers". ourworld.cs.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-24.. Says Introvigne, "the second book and film are worse than the first: they include an explicit call to hatred and intolerance that has been denounced as such by a number of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish organizations." Introvigne, p. 154.
- His writings were described by Carl Mosser in Saints Alive in Jesus: Ed Decker – The Godmakers as follows:
"Decker is infamous for the mistakes he makes describing Mormon doctrine, the sensationalist claims he has made about Mormon rituals and leaders, and the generally uncharitable attitude with which he conducts his ministry. Most Mormons are inoculated against anything with Decker's name on it. I think it is foolish to give Decker's materials to Mormons and unwise to give them to Christians to read. The Mormon will be repulsed and hardened, the Christian misinformed." "Saints Alive in Jesus: Ed Decker – The Godmakers". ApologeticsIndex.org. Archived from the original on 30 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Peterson and Ricks, pp. 4–5 fn. 6.
- Introvigne, pp. 158, 164.
- Peterson and Ricks, pp. 13–14.
- Introvigne, pp. 166–167.
- Introvigne, p. 162. Decker later decided that Kellie was "either a deceiver or not working with a full deck."
- Garza, Jennifer (2006-06-29). "Mission Accomplished: Today, Mormon temple opens its doors to the public". dwb.sacbee.com (The Sacramento Bee). pp. K1. Retrieved 2006-09-25.[dead link]
- "Anti-Mormon Efforts at the 2002 Winter Olympics". FairLDS.org. 2006. Archived from the original on 7 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- "Neighborly Christian Love or Hate Speech? Anti-Mormon Protesters". FairLDS.org. Archived from the original on 26 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Wilde, Tiffany (2003). "Without the Walls of Temple Square". FairLDS.org. Retrieved 2006-06-01. Despite the disrespect evinced by some protesters, at least one Latter-day Saint scholar has called on his fellow Mormons to "love the street preachers". Starr, Lance (2003). "Why We Should Love the Street Preachers". FairLDS.org. Archived from the original on 4 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- Monroe, R.D., Ph.D. "Congress and the Mexican War, 1844–1849". lincoln.lib.niu.edu. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-03
- Cf. Churchill, Marlowe (2000). "Judge Orders Vandals Of LDS Chapels To Write Book Of Mormon Essay" (SHTML). mormonstoday.com. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- "Prop 8 Protesting Turns Ugly". 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Radical Gay Activist Group Plans More Disruptions". Chicago Tribune. November 20, 2008.
- Gehrke, Steve (November 24, 2008). "More than mischief: Are recent acts of church vandalism tied to bigotry?". THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
- Gehrke, Steve (November 21, 2008). "Wall tagged outside Farmington LDS building". THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
- "ADL Condemns Criminal Activity Targeting Religious Institutions That Supported Proposition 8". Anti-Defamation League. 2008-11-10.
- Garza, Jennifer (2008-11-14). "Feds investigate vandalism at Mormon sites". The Sacramento Bee.
- Winslow, Ben (2008-12-10). "FBI to run more tests on mystery substance mailed to LDS Church". Deseret News.
- Winslow, Ben (2009-11-17). "FBI sending suspicious powder to headquarters". Deseret News.
- "Mormon church blames powder hoax on gays: Leaders say opponents of marriage ban are behind the mailings". Associated Press. 2008-12-24.
- Ziegler, Elizabeth (2008-11-14). "GLBT Advocates Condemn Attacks on LDS Church". KCPW.
- Office of the Secretary of State (1993). "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1992 – Latin American Overview". fas.org. Archived from the original on 3 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Search for: Mormon" (JSP). tkb.org. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base (2001). "Unknown Group attacked Religious Figures/Institutions target (September 15, 2001, Croatia)". tkb.org. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- Marvin J. Ashton (November 1982). "Pure Religion". Ensign: 63.
- Carlos E. Asay (November 1981). "Opposition to the Work of God". Ensign: 67.
- Gordon B. Hinckley (November 1997). "Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service". Ensign: 49.
- Smith, Joseph F. (1834-7). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. p. 66. Although sometimes mistaken for a direct quote from Joseph Smith, this passage occurs in the book as part of "Excerpts from an Epistle of the Elders of the Church in Kirtland to Their Brethren Abroad", edited by Oliver Cowdery and F. G. Williams as published in The Evening and the Morning Star.
- Featherstone, Vaughn J. (1985). "The Last Drop in the Chalice" (PHP). Speeches.BYU.edu. Archived from the original on 26 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
- Nibley, Hugh (August 1991). "Part 3: How To Write An anti-Mormon Book (A Handbook for Beginners)". In David J. Whittaker. Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol 11). Deseret Book Company. pp. 474–580. ISBN 0-87579-516-1.
- Nibley, Hugh (1989). "6". In Don E. Norton. Approaching Zion (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 9). Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co. p. 155. ISBN 0-87579-252-9.
- Bitton, Davis (2004). "Spotting an Anti-Mormon Book" (PHP). FARMS.byu.edu. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- Bitton, Davis (1994). "Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology by Brent Lee Metcalfe". FARMS.BYU.edu. Archived from the original on 6 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
- "How I define an anti-Mormon". FAIR message boards. Retrieved 2006-06-07.[dead link]
- William J. Hamblin (Spring 1993). "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon". Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: 161–197.
- Nibley, Hugh (1978). Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless. Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center. Xii.
- Ash, Michael R. (2002). "The Impact of Mormon Critics on LDS Scholarship". FAIRLDS.org. Retrieved 2006-06-07.
- Orson Pratt (January 1853). "The Seer". UCLA Law Review 1:1: 15–16.
- Mouw, Richard (2005-01-15). "'We Have Sinned Against You'". jmm.aaa.net.au. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25., Moore, Carrie A. (2004-11-15). "Evangelical preaches at Salt Lake Tabernacle". Deseret Morning News. Retrieved 2006-08-13. Mouw's remarks generated mixed reactions from members of the evangelical community, ranging from heartfelt agreement to biting criticism. Moore, Carrie A. (2005-01-15). "Speaker's apology to LDS stirs up fuss". Deseret Morning News. Retrieved 2006-09-25., Huggins, Ronald V. (2004). "An Appeal for Authentic Evangelical-Mormon Dialogue". irr.org. Archived from the original on 5 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- Rowe, David L. (2005). I Love Mormons: A New Way to Share Christ with Latter-day Saints. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
- Mosser, Carl, Francis J. Beckwith, Paul Owen (2002). The New Mormon Challenge. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Blomberg, Craig and Stephen E. Robinson (1997). How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 31–32.
- Blomberg, Craig and Stephen E. Robinson (1997). How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 25.
- Dean Merrill, "A Peacemaker in Provo," Christianity Today, February 2000.
- Johnson, Greg. "About Us". standingtogether.org. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- "Faith Dialogue". standingtogether.org. Archived from the original on 10 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
- Rick Santorum Hopes Christian Voters Will Look Beyond Mormon Faith of Romney, Huntsman
- Biden defends Romney's Mormon faith
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- Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005). Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 1-4000-4270-4.
- Introvigne, Massimo (1994). "The Devil Makers: Contemporary Evangelical Fundamentalist Anti-Mormonism". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (1): 153–169. Retrieved 2007-06-19.
- Peterson, Daniel C. (1991). "A Modern Malleus magnificarum". FARMS Review 3 (1): 231–60. Retrieved 2007-06-19.
- Peterson, Daniel C.; Stephen Ricks (1992). Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints. FARMS. ISBN 0-934893-35-7.
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