Is prejudice against Mormons acceptable?

Published: Wednesday, May 30 2012 10:08 a.m. MDT

Writing on Inside Higher Ed, an Idaho State University professor who is not LDS explored why some people he has interacted with seem to think prejudice against Mormons is "an acceptable prejudice."

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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Writing on Inside Higher Ed, a website dedicated to news and opinion in the world of higher education, an Idaho State University professor who is not LDS explored why some people he has interacted with seem to think prejudice against Mormons is "an acceptable prejudice."

"I've attended numerous scholarly conferences … where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics," wrote Thomas C. Terry, as associate professor of mass communication who identified himself as Episcopalian. "And it seems perfectly acceptable to express this bias."

Terry shared several examples of academic prejudice against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked: "So what, exactly, is so awful about being Mormon?"

He cited a number of social statistics and surveys suggesting that the stereotypical traits of Mormons "seem like good things to be." He described moving to Pocatello, where seven of his nine neighbors in a cul-de-sac are LDS.

"Nobody tried to convert me," he wrote. "They invited me to church picnics – no pressure. My next-door neighbor spent nearly two hours one weekday morning (he was late to work) helping me restore my snow blower to life after five years in the humid South. Another helped flush and fix my sprinkler system. A third returned my dogs after they'd escaped. Several just showed up with family members to help me move in. A fourth one tossed me the keys to his Cadillac after the transmission in my Suburban disassembled on my driveway. 'Bring it back when you don't need it anymore,' he said.

"These are not the faces of intolerance and prejudice," Terry continued. "No. Those faces are in the academic mirror."

Such prejudice, added reporter Gregory J. Kreig of ABC News, is born of ignorance.

"Ignorance creates a vacuum and vacuums, especially in politics, abhor decency," Kreig said. So he put together an article for the ABC News website titled "Mormons! The Least You Should know," in which he attempted to create a basic primer on the teachings and doctrines of the LDS Church.

For the most part, his outline is concise and accurate. He provided both a short answer ("Yes") and a longer answer to the question, "Are Mormons Christians?" His information on polygamy, the Word of Wisdom and Mitt Romney's connection to Mexico is pretty good. But he missed the mark when he suggested that the church used more than $8 million of tithing money to "boost California's Prop 8." (In fact, the LDS Church encouraged its membership to get involved in the Prop 8 battle and many of them contributed significant sums in support of the proposition, but the LDS Church itself did not make any cash contributions to the effort and reported in-kind contributions of $189,903.58.)

Similarly, Kreig says that the sacred temple garments worn by many members of the LDS Church "symbolize a holy covenant with the church …" which is true, "… along with protection from evil spirits" … which is not. And his intimation that the LDS Church's policy banning blacks from holding the priesthood began with Brigham Young is not supported by factual evidence. (In an official statement on race issued by the LDS Church earlier this year, it said that the origins of the policy "are not entirely clear.")

To his credit, Kreig recommended that those interested in learning the truth about what Mormons believe "check out the user-friendly mormon.org."

"Or go to the library or a bookstore," he added. "Open a book. Talk to a person. Just don't believe everything you read on the Internet."

Good advice.

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