Thursday, 29 July 2010

Are Mormons Persecuted?

One of the things I find irritating is the way people assume my opinions are informed entirely by my religion. If I don’t do something, like smoke, or drink, or if I subscribe to particular ideas people tend to say, “Oh, is that against your religion?” Of course, my faith informs my worldview enormously and that, in turn feeds into my view on any single issue, but there are things I consider important, things I support, things I object to and that I otherwise hold strong opinions about for all sorts of reasons. I like to think, for instance, that I am an honest Christian but I was raised to be honest in a non-Christian home by parents old-fashioned enough to place a high premium on honest dealing. I haven’t always lived up to their expectations, especially as a youth, but honesty was drummed into me such that I have felt sufficiently remorseful on those occasions when I have failed. Being a Christian gives me motivation and strength to better live as I was raised.

I also believe in the institution of marriage and, yes, it fits comfortably with my Christian faith. However, I have a number of other reasons for my views on the subject, including age (in my day that piece of paper was not just a piece of paper and promises meant something), experience (I am happily married and recommend it), statistical (children raised in stable homes with a mother and father, married parents, are seven times more likely to succeed and less likely to be trouble) and societal (traditional, male/female marriage partnerships create a more stable society).

It Just isn’t a Fact

In the same way, my views on Mormonism are certainly informed by my Christian faith and my experience of the Mormon Church. However, there are many times when I challenge Mormonism on grounds other than simply theological (although there are plenty of those to go around)

One issue that arises time and again is the Mormon claim that "more Mormons live outside the United States than within it" and on that basis the suggestion that "Mormon Christians" face the same persecution as "other Christians." This came up in a discussion again recently and it got my hackles up, not because I am somehow jealous of the status of Christians across the world as a persecuted group and don’t want Mormons included, but because, factually this claim cannot be sustained on two counts.

First, while it is true that "more Mormons live outside the United States than within it" ask yourself where do these other Mormons live? Out of some 13.5 million Mormons more than ten million live in the Americas. That is the USA, Canada and Central and South America. Now where are Christians being persecuted; Downtown New York or Ontario, Canada? I don't think so. That leaves fewer than four million to go around the rest of the world being persecuted. You can cut that number - indeed all numbers pertaining to Mormon demographics - by two-thirds because the average activity level across the Mormon Church is one third. That leaves just a little over 1 million Mormons outside the Americas. That is fewer than the 1.6 million living in Utah alone and that puts paid to any claim to not being "an American religion.”

Freeloading Mormonism?

Secondly, where are these 1.3 million Mormons? Well, Mormons are squeamish about taking any real risks in mission and turn their missionary timidity into a virtue by claiming "we always go in through the front door." It seems Mormons avoid situations where they are more likely to be persecuted since they don't go where they are not wanted and welcomed. They usually turn up places where there is already a strong Christian presence, such as Ghana where generations of local Christians have toiled and suffered persecution to prepare the ground on which Mormons now build.

Mormonism goes where the grass is greenest and that is where the blood of previous generations of Christians has been spilled to establish the gospel. That is why I get angry when Mormons bleat about persecution when, not only are they not persecuted, but neither do they have the grace to recognise the debt they owe Christian martyrs in preparing the way to a better established Christian presence on the back of which Mormonism can freeload. When they entered Ghana they had the temerity to talk about “the light of the gospel going into a dark place.” But the light of the Christian gospel has shone brightly in Ghana for longer than the Mormon Church has existed.

To return to the point with which I started, you really don’t have to be a Christian to object to the disingenuous way Mormons present their stats and try to identify themselves as a persecuted people. You just have be, like me someone who was brought up to be a bit fussy about the truth. You just have to know when you are being sold a pup and have enough self-respect to object when someone thinks they can take you for a fool. When all is said and done, if you believe folk should be honest and should treat others with respect then you can’t, Christian or not, stand by while people are being misled by a rather shameful sleight of hand, now can you?

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree Mike. I am really disturbed by the mormon use of the persecution card when really, they are no more persecuted than you're average vegetarian or scientologist. Not that I'm particularly persecuted as a middle-class white Catholic girl living in the Midwest, but there are real Christian heroes out there working for real justice and peace.

    I don't believe the truth of one of your intro claims though. The most recent studies (also being some of the first, since the right to raise a family in peace hasn't always been available to LGBT couples) say kids raised by gay and lesbian couples are just as socially well-adjusted as kids raised by opposite-sex couples, and even tend to be more tolerant. Something that does have a negative effect is being raised by a single parent, far more than being raised by gay or lesbian parents.

    not to say you can't think what you want, but to say that LGBT families threaten societal stability is just not true, not any more than interracial marriage threatens social stability.