Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Joseph Smith manual on persecution.

As usual the most damning writings about the church come from the official sources. The lesson manual talks about Liberty Jail and other “persecutions” coming because of the saints’ religious beliefs and ignores some of their own acts and statements, like Sidney Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon”, that contributed to their being attacked.

For example, a quote from Joseph Smith himself:

“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies [false charges] and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”

But, what about polygamy, which was practiced in secret until the 1850s, what about the attacks on non-Mormon settlers, etc? The thing that actually precipitated the Saints being run out of Far West is that in the Battle of Crooked River, where David Patten was killed, they actually engaged a unit of the Missouri State militia:

Regardless of what the facts might have been, the Missourians perceived the Mormons as a threat and reacted accordingly, for reasons having nothing to do with their religious beliefs.

These things in no way justify what was done to the Saints in Far West, but the actual history is not as black/white as the lesson manual says it is. And why do we need to devote an entire chapter to persecution? In what circumstances are members actually persecuted in this day and age, and why would we encourage people to view things that happen to them in this way, as black/white attacks on them because of their religion, as opposed to a more thoughtful analysis of the situation? Mormons are often singled out, but it has more to do with our strange and exclusive behavior than it does our religious beliefs. For example, I was told a story by a member who was invited out to a bar with co-workers and declined, but offered to bring his family to the inviter’s home instead. There is nothing in our religious beliefs that would prohibit going to a work function in a bar. Replying to a fairly non-threatening social engagement with an offer to bring your entire family to someone’s home, where you have to clean up, entertain, maybe have one on one conversation about subjects that are more personal than a work event, have the person’s large family ranging through a possibly childless home, etc, is just unusual.


Anonymous said...

I think much of the persecution had to do with a large group of people "moving in" on others. For a more modern version of this see what is happening in Boise, ID. Californians are moving in by the drove. Many, flush with cash from the sale of their home in a very expensive area, move to Boise and buy up land and homes. This creates sprawl, traffic congestion, political change, school building pressures, pollution, and increases home prices due to supply and demand. Go to City Data Forum and see if there are many good words said about Californians on the Idaho forum.

As for the bar thing, I hate them myself and my co-workers know that if they invite me to a bar I won't go. My boss knows the same. The are smokey in my area. I hate the smell of smoke on my clothes. I am a bit fortunate because there are few other LDS in my department. They feel the same way. There is enough synergy that they will never schedule anything in a bar. Also, they would not do it due to liability issues. Get drunk, get killed, and a lawsuit will happen.

Chris Wignall said...

I think that a lot of mormons think that "persecution" is part of their religious heritage.

Many of my friends were vocal and active in support of Proposition 8 in CA. When the backlash began, many of these people began to cry foul - "don't pick on us for our religious beliefs!"

I don't think that the church is being persecuted for its stance on gay marriage. The institutional church and the individual members engaged in a public discussion on a moral and legal issue. Some people vocally disagree and criticize the church's stance. That's not persecution, that's public discourse.

ChristFollower said...

I don't think the church is being persecuted for its religious beliefs regarding Proposition 8. I don't unequivocally support gay marriage, but I think the church used its organizational muscle and resources in a way that's inappropriate for a tax-exempt religious organization. If the church is being persecuted, it's a reaction to its behavior and not its beliefs.

From a less practical perspective, the church is supposed to be about bringing people to Christ. Now it's press is on its institutional behavior, and people are talking about that instead of talking about anything Jesus ever expressed an opinion on. How is this spreading the gospel again? We're just getting in bed with conservative Christian groups who think we're theological poison already.

Anonymous said...

The church uses the us against them ploy as a method of controling its members. Hence the need for an extended lesson enforcing this position. The closer you look, the less true the church is.