Why is it OK to to be prejudiced against Mormons?
You can’t be openly racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic in America. But anti-Mormon? Go for it. Maybe a White House run by Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman will shine enough light on actual Mormons to make us put aside the fears and fantasies about them.
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The conservative brand of anti-Mormonism often takes an openly theological form. Consider Southern Baptist minister Robert Jeffress, who recently introduced his friend Rick Perry to the conservative Values Voter Summit as “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.” The comment was a backhanded swipe at Mr. Romney’s religion, implying that Mormons aren’t really Christians at all.Skip to next paragraph
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And later that day, in a discussion with reporters, Mr. Jeffress made it explicit. Mormonism, he said, was a “cult.” And come election time, Jeffress added, every born-again Christian “ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian” – that is, a Perry over a Romney. Never mind that the Constitution – which conservatives like Jeffress also revere – explicitly bars any “religious test” for public office.
Gleeful at the prospect of a GOP civil war, liberal commentators were quick to condemn the obvious bigotry in Jeffress’s remarks. But as my Utah friend’s experience at a resolutely liberal university illustrates, the left harbors its own deep prejudices and double standards about Mormons as well.
Consider the award-winning Broadway show “The Book of Mormon,” which depicts Mormon missionaries as naïve and sexually repressed interlopers in Africa. Again, try to imagine a hit play that portrayed Jews or Muslims in such an unflattering light, or that satirized their sacred texts in its title. A Broadway hit called “The Talmud” or “The Koran,” embraced by New York’s liberal glitterati? Not going to happen.
Or take Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” which focused upon polygamy and murder in a breakaway Mormon sect. Can we really believe that the book’s success – especially among liberals – has nothing to do with their anti-Mormon prejudice?
And the prejudice goes way back, to the founding of Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint itself. After publishing the real “Book of Mormon,” based on the revelations inscribed on golden plates that he allegedly unearthed in Western New York, Joseph Smith was forced to flee to Ohio. After a mob tarred and feathered him, Smith took his flock to Missouri.