Friday, December 29, 2006

All About Mormonism

While looking through a directory about Provo, Utah, I stumbled onto a site called Since I make directories for towns in the Mountain West, I decided to look and see if the site was a fit from the Provo, Utah dot US. I could not find a contact page, and the Domain Registry information indicates that the site is from Washington. Since the site did not have contact or registration information supporting the claim that it is from Provo, I decided against listing the site in the directory.

This decision was troublesome because the site made the accusation that Mormon sites get the shaft from folks like me (I am not LDS). On the Anti-Mormons page, the site put forward the complaint that anti-Mormon web sites rarely have a link pasted prominently on the masthead of the site. The complaint is that a web site is not objective unless it cites the LDS church as the primary authority on Mormonism, as if there really are any organizations that hold objective views of themselves.

On the issue of linking, the LDS Church sued anti-mormon sites for deep linking (Note despite having been sued, the Utah Lighthouse Ministry seems to have a link to

Quite frankly, very few people link to sites with opposing views. For that matter, it is rare for people to link to sites that try to present multiple sides of any issue. People want to link to resources that confirm their world view. Sadly, people often want to misrepresent the views of their enemies.

A second accusation from is that non-Mormon sites rarely objective and fail to report the whole story. Interestingly, the Anti-Mormon quotes page takes many quotes out of context to try in an attempt to make it appear as if Mormonism is the subject of unjust persecution. Predictably, the list leads off with the "extermination order" issued by Missouri Governor Boggs. When you look at the history of the LDS in Missouri, you find a very complex situation: Gov. Boggs wanted Missouri to be a slave state and was worried that groups sympathetic to abolition would settle in the state and disrupt the plan. Meanwhile, Joseph Smith wanted the Mormons to settle in lands that were being claimed by other people. In this climate of sharp divide over slavery and of massive land grabbing, things got tense.

In this tense climate, Sidney Rigdon, the leader of the Missouri colony, called the Mormons to enter into a War of Extermination against others with claims on the area Joseph Smith claimed was Eden. Boggs' "Extermination Order" came in response to the call for an "Extermination War".

I do not like the slave owning bastard named Lucien Boggs. However, I think the massive effort thrown into reporting the "extermination order" came after calls for an "extermination war", provides an incomplete, subjective view of the times.

Pro-LDS sites love to point out that 60 Mormons were killed as the result of this exchange of an Extermination War and Order. There were also gentiles killed in the war. No-one gives a crap about them. On May 6, 1842, Governor Boggs was shot by an unknown assailant. It is romored that the assailant was Porter Rockwell under order from Joseph Smith. Of course this is just a rumor. A bit like the rumor that OJ killed Nicole.

The harsh divisional rhetoric employed by both the Mormons and the slave owners of Missouri during the pioneer land grab of the 1830s led to horrible incidences of people killing each other. Really bad stuff. It seems to me that an "objective" look at the extermination war / extermination order and assassination attempt would find the situation complex. The fact that the one-sided view pops up left and right tells me something is not quite right.

That something that is not quite right leads into the second reason for today's post. It seems to me that Mormonism is one of the most intense religions of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Letters From A Broad makes an insightful comment. She states:

My LDS friend and I talked about what we had heard, and we agreed without hesitation that if the church were not true, the most logical alternative would be atheism.

This quote creates a itch that needs scratching. I keep coming across exmos with stories of bad things happening to them while in the LDS Church. When reality shatters their belief that LDS church is absolutely right, they then jump to the other extreme in believing that it and all religions are absolutely wrong.

It seems to me that exmormons have a tendency to jump from the extreme of absolute certainty in their beliefs to atheism.

This is interesting in contrast to an observation made by sociologist Rodney Stark. Stark's work on the growth of Mormonism indicates that Mormon Missionaries have their greatest success in converting people who grew up in a non-religious environment.

What seems to happen is that people who are in an extremely intense religion jump to atheism when they start questioning the actions of their church. People from non-religious backgrounds jump to the most intense religion they can find when they decide that their non-religious life was unfulfilling.

Anyway, reading the site aLetterFromABroad and AllAboutMormons has me thinking of the forces that tear societies apart. First is seems that when you have groups promoting extreme belief systems, you create a society where people start toggling between the extremes. In such environments, rhetoric and intentional misquoting of one's opponents often leads to escalation of the extremes. The challenge for a civil society is in finding ways to temper the extremes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most mormon exit stories that I have read are of those who switched to another christian religion. I was surprised at this. I personally left and joined no church. I consider myself agnostic not atheist.