On Monday, The Atlantic published a story written by Kurt Andersen, an author who admits to being a long-time satirizer of Mormonism. And his latest piece, “One Blasphemer’s New Admiration for Mormons,” is no exception.
The article applauds Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, Evan McMullin and Mike Lee for their opposition to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican. Andersen also refers to LDS beliefs as "extreme and strange."
“As ridiculous as I find their supernatural beliefs, they are in this instance an outpost of true, real-world righteousness in a party in the grip of a terrible Faustian bargain,” Andersen wrote in the conclusion of his piece.
On Wednesday, Deseret News Opinion editor Hal Boyd’s response to Andersen was published by The Atlantic.
After a brief overview of public figures throughout history who have “poked fun” at Mormons, including Charles Dickens and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Boyd writes of a conversation he recently had with a federal judge who told him of an Ivy League law professor who sent a letter of recommendation for a Mormon student. The professor observed that “in general Mormons are solid workers but tend to lack ‘intellectual imagination.’ The professor did not know that the judge on the receiving end was himself a Mormon. The same professor sent a similar letter sometime later on behalf of a different Latter-day Saint student. The letter again contained the same caution about the Latter-day Saint’s lack of ‘intellectual imagination.’”
Boyd builds off of a statement made by The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, who responded to Andersen’s article by writing: “I’m not so sure those ‘ridiculous supernatural beliefs’ can be so easily separated from the values/principles/’righteousness’ showcased in Mormon life.”
“Not unlike The Book of Mormon musical, Andersen’s musings aim to initiate rather than alienate, to praise rather than punish,” Boyd writes. “But what Andersen fails to appreciate is that it’s precisely the pro-social beliefs of Mormons — the eternal nature of families, obligations to the poor and oppressed, accountability to God, the importance of clean living, and the value of self-reliance and personal agency — that result in specific shared behaviors and actions by the likes of Flake and Romney.”
In conclusion, Boyd offers a suggestion for Andersen: “If Andersen honestly wants more politicians like Flake and Romney, it might help to be a bit less dismissive of religious belief, and a bit more curious in understanding why it seems to work.”