“Tell All the Truth, but Tell It Slant”: Part 2

Here is a discussion of the first article that was actually sent to me (thanks to Lois!).  It is entitled “12 Myths about Mormonism”, and it’s good to remember the source publication – the Salt Lake Tribune.

1.  Mormons Practice Polygamy – I think this is a carefully crafted statement of the myth, allowed to provide the best possible answer.  No, the LDS Church does not practice polygamy.  Now.  But it has in the past, and might in the future.  The pronouncements in 1894 and 1904 banning polygamy and making it an ex-communicable offense did not repudiate the practice theologically, but rather essentially stated that it was a right that was being set aside for the time being by divine provision.  The question only focuses on practice, so the author is answering truthfully.
2.  Mormons are not Christians – The author takes a curious tack here.  Ms. Stack acknowledges some of the core differences between LDS theology and historic Christian belief (as traditionally defined in terms of Scriptural authority and attestation in the Ecumenical Creeds of the Christian Church).  But she seems to dismiss these core differences (which she does not define clearly), and focus on the fact that since Mormons center their faith on Jesus and see him as the source of salvation, they are Christian.  Unfortunately, that is not the litmus test for Christian orthodoxy.  That test has been for at least 1700 years the confession of the Nicene Creed, and later the Athanasian Creed and Apostles’ Creed, which Mormons cannot in good faith agree to since they deny the Trinity.  Ms. Stack also decides not to take on the issue of Christianity being monotheistic – there is only one God even if that God has three persons – while in LDS theology there are any number of gods, and any good Mormon man who fulfills his duties faithfully to the Church and family can become a god someday as well, something that Christianity soundly rejects.
3.  Mormons Aren’t Supposed to Drink Caffeinated Beverages – This is an area of doctrine that I’m less familiar with.  My impression that caffeine was the target of the prohibition, though the Church in recent years has reiterated that caffeine is not the issue.  If it isn’t the issue, then I wonder why the specific injunctions against coffee and tea, and why the overwhelming appearance of avoiding all manner of caffeinated sodas and other beverages.  
4.  Mormons Don’t Dance – Another myth I’m less familiar with.  The author makes it unclear if dance is allowed in a formal, artistic sense, or in the hip-hop, pop-culture sense.  The implication is that it is all allowed.  My very limited experience on this topic is that very conservative Mormon kids are certainly less inclined to dance than not.  
5. All Mormons Live in Utah – Kind of a silly myth to pick up on.  Mormons are some of – if not the – most robust evangelizers of any religion or denomination in the world.  They have adherents across the globe.  While Utah may have a lot of Mormons in it, they certainly don’t all live there!
6.  Women Can’t Be Leaders or Speak in the LDS Church – Again, this is a matter of definition. Women are prohibited from the priesthood, just as they are in conservative, historical Christian denominations.  The writer seems to be trying to soften the impact of this reality – just as many conservative, historical Christian denominations attempt to.
7.  All Mormons Are Republicans – Really, is this the best you can do for myths?!?  Couldn’t we be investigating something a lot meatier than political affiliation?  Ugh.
8.  A Mormon U.S. President Would Be a Puppet of the LDS Prophet – This is not an accusation/myth peculiar to Mormonism.  Prior to John F. Kennedy’s successful bid for presidency, this was a common charge against Catholics in politics (though the puppet master was the Pope, not the LDS prophet, obviously).  It’s really an interesting question.  What does one mean by ‘puppet’?  I have no doubt that, similar to Catholic politicians, Mormon politicians are quick to appeal to individual conscience as a means of guiding their decisions, even when those decisions directly contradict the stance of their religious polity.  As with Catholic politicians that support abortion, I question how someone can consider themselves a faithful member of a religious organization if they reject core teachings of that organization.  But abiding by the decisions of a religious organization is hardly the same as being a puppet!
9.  Mormons Baptize Corpses – Again, a curiously phrased myth that allows the author to unequivocally answer ‘no’.  No, Mormons don’t perform baptism rituals on dead bodies.  However they do utilize live bodies to stand in for people who have died, seeking to baptize people – of other religions even! – into the LDS Church after their death.  The LDS church appears to have backed off this practice somewhat, but not out of theological changes.
10.  Mormons Can’t Use Birth Control – News to me.
11.  Mormons Get Naked in the Temple – Again, can we propose a serious allegation instead of a straw-man one that can be easily refuted?  Notice the author does not directly refute this as a myth.  Nor does she provide any actual details about why such a myth could have evolved.  
12.  Mormons Don’t Believe in the Bible – Yes, Mormons claim to believe in the Bible personally, and their doctrine and church make it an official stance.  But in my experience, their knowledge of the Bible is very, very limited.  Various missionaries I’ve sat down with over the years have been perplexed when confronted with passages such as Jesus’ teaching on marriage in Matthew 22:23-33, which directly contradicts the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage.  Also, if the Mormon church disagrees with Christian doctrine drawn from the Bible, such as the triune nature of God and the relationship between God the Son and God the Father, what does it mean to say that you ‘believe in the Bible’?  
Overall, this article seems aimed at trying to make the LDS church seem very similar to Christianity – something that the Mormons have been keen on for a long time, despite their claims that they are the only true and correct church on earth.  It seems odd to want to align yourself with a bunch of groups whom you deny the validity of!  Considering that this article was published November 1, just prior to the election, it’s not a surprising tack to take.  I
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