Why scholar thinks Mormons should support Ground Zero Mosque

Published: Monday, March 14 2011 9:30 a.m. MDT

"I thought he might remember how the founder of his religion, Joseph Smith, had been murdered by an anti-Mormon mob. I thought he might recall how the U.S government brought down so much of its coercive power against the LDS Church in the last decades of the 19th century. But unfortunately he did not," Prothero said.

Instead, a Romney spokesperson issued a statement saying that Romney opposed the construction of the mosque.

"Members of minority religions grow complacent," Prothero said.

They think "them" rather than "us." Catholics forget the mobs that burned their convents in the 1800s.

Mormons see Sept. 11 and see the acts of Muslims instead of remembering the acts of Mormons on Sept. 11, 1857, when some members of the LDS Church massacred a wagon train at Mountain Meadows.

"Perhaps I am wrong for holding Mormons to a higher standard, but I do," Prothero said. "I believe that members of a religious group that has been persecuted almost to extinction should stand up and speak out."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met stiff opposition to the building of a temple in the Boston area about a decade ago, Prothero remembers. "But the Mormons and Constitution won, and the temple was dedicated for use in 2000."

Romney knew this when thinking about the Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero, Prothero said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, however, did support the Muslim community center project.

Why aren't more Mormons speaking out?

"I think these Mormon Republican people in power are more Republicans than they are Mormons," Prothero said. "If they took the time to see themselves as at least as Mormon as they are Republican they would do the right thing. They are more faithful to their Republican politics than they are to their Mormon faith."

Eventually, after years of hearings before Congress, Reed Smoot was allowed to take his position and served for decades. Prothero sees the current congressional hearings about Muslim extremism and the public debate about the mosque near Ground Zero as a similar move against an unpopular religious minority.

"Religious groups that have been persecuted in the United States, but have managed to negotiate their way into some measure of legitimization and establishment — and I would add power — bear a special burden to denounce the persecution of other religious minorities in the United States. Call it paying it forward if you will, but it is time for American Mormons to step up, just as Japanese-American Buddhists did after 9-11, and speak out against efforts by officials of the U.S. government to do to Muslims what the government once did to Mormons not so very long ago."

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com 

Twitter: twitter.com/degroote

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