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Episcopal bishop takes a stand against anti-Mormon humor

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11 2013 3:30 p.m. MDT

So Bishop Hayashi decided to put something on his Facebook post to say, “This should be off limits. Regardless of any philosophical or doctrinal differences we may have with the LDS Church, making hateful statements about these good people — even if it is couched in humor — should stop.”

That feeling was echoed last week by Bryn Terfel, the world-renowned bass-baritone who has recently released an album called "Homeward Bound," which features a number of songs he recorded with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. After spending some time in Salt Lake City with Tabernacle Choir leaders and members, Terfel told The Independent that he rejects the mocking portrayal of Mormons that is usually seen in the media.

"They're good people and they welcomed me with open arms," Terfel said. "If you're not moved in a spiritual way when that choir sings the hymn, 'God Be With You Till We Meet Again,' there's something wrong."

Although both Terfel and Bishop Hayashi acknowledge the value of some types of humor in religious conversation, the bishop says there is a limit to how far that humor should go.

“As an Episcopal bishop, I feel entitled to tell jokes about Episcopalians, and I tell them all the time,” he said. “And if an LDS person wants to tell jokes about being LDS, that’s fine with me. But for anyone else, it’s off base — especially when those jokes become hateful and make light of that which is held to be sacred by Mormons.”

And that’s exactly what happens far too often these days, he said. For example, while doing Internet research he has noticed a disproportionate number of offerings featuring anti-Mormon jokes, T-shirts, bumper stickers and websites.

“What bothers me is that anti-Mormonism seems to be condoned for some reason, like it’s OK in people’s minds,” Bishop Hayashi said. “They say things about Mormons that they would never say about Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists. Maybe because the LDS Church is so predominant in Utah it feels like it’s more acceptable here somehow. And unless someone says it’s not OK it will continue to be OK.”

Hence, his Facebook post.

“I’m not trying to lead a crusade or any great movement,” he said. “I just hope that people will read my post and say, ‘Here is a leader of a religious community here in Utah who is simply saying that it is not right to behave badly toward LDS people just because they are LDS. And you know something? He’s right.’”

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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