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Saturday, July 28, 2012

A response to Eliza Wood's "Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?"

This post is meant to serve as a response to a recent article published through the Huffington Post by Eliza Wood, entitled, “Are Mormons  Closer to Muslims or Christians?” While I am a Mormon, the views expressed here are my own and represent my personal understanding of various doctrines alluded to in Wood’s article

To begin, I am not familiar with Ms. Wood, so I don’t know if the vast number of inaccuracies in this article represents a lapse of journalistic integrity or if Wood has hard feelings toward the Mormon faith. Regardless of the motive or catalyst behind Wood’s article, I think it is important to address some of her false claims regarding Mormon beliefs.

  • First, I respectfully suggest Wood’s assertion that Mormons are not Christian is false, especially when considered in this particular context where there is liberal use of inaccuracies regarding Mormon beliefs.
  •  Second, I suggest that Wood failed in her attempt to warn voters about Mormon candidates. She appeared to believe Mormon candidates would try to ‘pull a snow job’ to cloud their personal character and manipulate votes. Rather than breaking down issues to educate her readers, Wood presents her readers over and over again with false statements surrounding Mormon beliefs. Ironically, I think Wood clouds the issues even further through her constant use of misinformation.

For the most part, this posting will address various statements made by Wood and either confirm a statement is correct or explain why a statement asserted as truth is not true.

While I find it disappointing to see a journalist twist the beliefs of my faith, the purpose of this response is not to attack Wood, but rather to respectfully and professionally explain the difference between her assertions and my understanding — as a Mormon — of the Mormon doctrines she distorts.

I believe I understand what she tried to demonstrate in this article and hope she will consult the numerous resources made available to journalists and rewrite her piece using factual assertions. While we would likely still disagree, a refashioned article would enable Wood to present her points of view in a professional manner where her conclusions stem from an analysis of truth. At a time when disagreements about matters of politics and religion are becoming increasingly uncivil, Wood can make a statement to her readers and the Huffington Post by producing a modified article that disagrees without being dishonest or disagreeable. Her points can be sharpened and produced in a more professional, honest, and civil manner.

Evaluation of Wood's assertions

(Excerpts from Wood's articles are listed below in bold. My personal responses immediately follow her quotations.)

“As the media shapes our understanding of the Mormon faith, now that we Americans consider electing our first Mormon presidential candidate (Mitt Romney), it might be wise for us to better understand the similarities and differences among Christianity and these two faiths.”

The best place to learn about a religion is not from the media, but from representatives of the religion itself. It is perfectly acceptable for the media to cover religion, but they have at least a twofold duty to (1) accurately present facts and (2) not to twist facts out of context.

Unfortunately, in this piece, Wood fails to meet either of these criteria for the Mormon faith, lslam, or the umbrella of Christianity which encompasses numerous denominations.

* * * * * * *
“[Mormons] had prophets after Jesus that they believe to be more authentic and current than Jesus.”

We believe in living prophets. I think this is the issue Wood is trying to get at, but I’m not completely sure. Her use of the adjective “authentic” is ambiguous and confusing, whereas referring to a “current” prophet fails to explain why a prophet living today is any more important than prophets called by Christ before His birth or those called after His resurrection — let alone the Savior Himself.

We believe the Savior of the World to be far more than a prophet, but the actual Son of God. The reality of living prophets who teach us of God’s will does nothing to decrease the stature of the Savior, but rather teaches us how to more fully worship Him. We revere prophets living today, just as those living in the days of Abraham or Moses looked to those men as prophets. But we do not worship them.

Is Wood suggesting Mormons worship prophets or view them as somehow more important than the Savior? If so, her mind can be set at ease in this particular matter as such is not the case. If not, Wood does not state clearly to what else she might be referring.

* * * * * * *
“Mormonism teaches that a line of prophets extended from Joseph Smith all the way to the present with Thomas S. Monson, who is currently considered their prophet.”

This is true.

We believe that God restored His church through the prophet Joseph Smith and that God continues to speak to us today through living prophets. I should also note that prophets teach us how to more fully receive revelation for ourselves. 

* * * * * * *

“While in some ways neither Islam nor Mormonism is very much like Christianity, the two faiths actually have a lot of similarities.”

What are these ways? I think Wood is attempting to define Christianity and then compare Mormons and Muslims to her definition, except no definition for a comparison is given in this regard.

Because Wood does not put forth a definition of Christianity, her claim that “in some ways neither Islam nor Mormonism is very much like Christianity” requires more clarification.

Personally, I think it is inappropriate for me to judge whether anyone is a Christian, and conversely, for anyone to judge whether I am a Christian. To me, this is a very personal and intimate matter best determined between an individual and God. However, notwithstanding the personal nature of our relationships with God, we recognize a great deal of meaning is associated with and conveyed by the label of "Christian." As such, we proclaim that Mormons are Christian.

By any number of standards, I consider myself as a Mormon to be a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe that He suffered for my sins so that through repentance I can obtain His grace and live in His presence in the world to come. I believe Jesus Christ died for all mankind that we can be resurrected, having bodies and spirits that will never again be separated. 

* * * * * * *

“[Mormons] consider the family unit as the foundation for religious life.”

This is true. The first paragraph of “The Family: AProclamation to the World,” states, “We… solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

* * * * * * *

“[Mormons] have an insistence that religion is their complete way of life.”

I am not entirely sure what Wood means by this statement. The word “insistence” suggests an overt action or teaching, “religion” suggests a denomination is the vehicle, but “complete way of life” confuses me as to precisely what it means.

What I can say is that we seek to live so that the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ govern everything we do. We seek to emulate the Savior and to keep His commandments. As we do so, we experience a joy that permeates so deeply we desire and seek to share it with others. We seek to pray always, as counseled by the Savior, and try to be examples of the believers in our families, in our employment, in our schooling, in our recreation — in every aspect of our lives. 

* * * * * * *
“[Mormonism requires] fasting and ritual cleansings.”

This is true. On the first Sunday of each month, we fast for two meals and donate the cost of the skipped meals to care for the poor and needy. The reasons for our fasts vary, though a general theme of coming closer to God is probably associated in one way or another with all of our fasts. We view fasting both as a commandment and an opportunity.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, one of the Savior's Apostles (now deceased), taught, “Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful. It can fill our minds with the revelations of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation.” It is a way for us to come closer to God.

* * * * * * *
“[Mormons] believe theirs is the original religion of Adam.”

This is true. We believe that all mankind belong to the family of God and descend from Adam and Eve. We believe we lived before we were born and that we will yet live after death. The state of our eternal nature, however, is dependent upon the degree to which we partake of the Savior’s atonement and keep covenants designed to enable our return to a heavenly home. 

We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ was given to Adam for this purpose, that it was taught by the Savior upon His mortal arrival, that it has been restored again in our times through the prophet Joseph Smith, and that it is taught today by a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson

* * * * * * *
“[Mormons] allowed four wives but… forbid  homosexuality and bisexuality.”

While the church no longer practices polygamy, there was a period in our history where polygamy was lived by some members of the church, though there was no specific number of wives (e.g., “four”) associated with the practice. Those who participate in polygamous relationships today are excommunicated. 

We love all people and believe engaging in homosexual or bisexual acts is a moral sin. From a personal standpoint, I also refrain from referring to individuals with homosexual tendencies as "homosexual" because I think it is debasing and insulting to assume an individual wants to be identified first and foremost by their sexual orientations. For example, I would hope that I live in such a way as to be identified by those labels most important to me, such as a father, a disciple of Christ, a true friend, etc. This is also the case with all of my friends who have sexual orientations that are not heterosexual, although I recognize that not everybody may feel this way.

In a sensitive summary of our views towards morally illicit sexual behavior, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated,
People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.
* * * * * * *

“This may be alarming to some, but both Islam and Mormonism teach that marriage can extend into the afterlife.”

Far from being alarming, the knowledge that family relationships can continue beyond the veil of death is one of our most joyous doctrines.

However, for those in bad marriages, the thought of an eternal marriage could very well be alarming. That is one reason we place so much emphasis on the family – so that husbands and wives can sacrifice for each other in the course of righteous living.

Elder F. Burton Howard has taught, “If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently…. It becomes special because you have made it so.”  For those who shudder at the thought of sharing eternity together as husband and wife, the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the power to eradicate feelings of alarm and replace them with feelings of joyous fulfillment and  anticipation.

Aside from the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ, few doctrines provide us with more joy than the related knowledge that marriage does not have to last only 'until death do ye part.' 

* * * * * * *

“Oddly enough, [Mormons] had a split after their prophet's death with one side believing that the faith should continue though the prophet's descendents [sp] and the other side rejecting that…. For Mormons, this caused the divide between the Later Day Saints, which make up about 99 percent of Mormons, and others.”

This statement is partially true.

After the prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, certain individuals jockeyed for positions of power, although the prophet’s children were too young for leadership roles at the time. It is at this time in our Church’s history that Brigham Young and other apostles taught that authority to lead God’s people came from God in the form of priesthood. In this case, Young stated that once Joseph died, the authority to lead the church was collectively held by the Twelve Apostles. The majority of the membership accepted Young’s teachings and soon left for the deserts of Utah when they were forced to leave Nauvoo, Illinois.
 
The term “Mormon” is a nickname for the full name of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The name of the church teaches that it is Christ’s church, comprised of those who live in the latter-days. I am assuming Wood simply had a typo in her text when speaking of “Later Day Saints”. However, if the text as posted on her blog is accurate in reference to the name of our church, it is worrisome, for if one cannot accurately portray the name of a church, the accuracy of the author’s portrayal of the religion’s doctrines is also likely to be lacking. Indeed, such is the case with a great deal of Wood’s claims.


* * * * * * *

“Joseph Smith [was] taunted for [his[ work and driven out by locals…. Joseph Smith had to move from Illinois to Missouri…. Joseph Smith established [his] own city-[state], with… Joseph Smith ruling Nauvoo, Ill.”

As the leader of our church in its early days, Joseph Smith was persecuted — along with other members.

While persecution is not enjoyable, the Savior nonetheless teaches us that it is a blessing to be persecuted for Him, because that has been the reward of His prophets and followers throughout the ages. In the case of Joseph Smith, he was persecuted from his early teens in New York as he spoke of a vision of God, translated another testament of Jesus Christ to go hand-in-hand with the bible, and taught truths of God long-forgotten and often adulterated. Our pioneer ancestors were drive from state to state to state because of the persecution of others.

Wood is correct in identifying this persecution, though her chronology is reversed and incomplete. Rather than being forced to move in sequence from Illinois to Missouri, the Mormons were driven from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois — and finally to Utah after the murder of Joseph Smith.

Of persecution, Joseph wrote in 1833,
 “This one thing is sure, that they who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution; and before their robes are made white in the blood of the Lamb, it is to be expected, according to John the Revelator, they will pass through great tribulation.”
As to Joseph Smith’s status in Nauvoo, Wood's comments that he ruled over a city-state are misleading. Nauvoo was built from the swampy ground up by the Mormons and was a legally chartered city of Illinois. While Joseph Smith maintained a great degree of influence, it was in Nauvoo that he answered a question posed to him about what power he used to govern his people.

He (tellingly) replied, “I do not govern them, I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” Joseph taught that we should lead as God leads, through the exertion of love while concurrently respect the agency of others to follow or not.

* * * * * * *

“[Mormons] have Scripture that can justify violence and murder, as does the Bible. While Mormons have not acted violently in the U.S. for quite some time, there was an incident back in 1857 called the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which happened on Sept. 11. The massacre was led by prominent Mormon leader John D. Lee, who was trying to exact revenge on some emigrants but when the emigrants surrendered, the militia killed men, women and children in cold blood, and then tried to cover it up.”

The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a tragic stain on the history of our church. There is no possible excuse for the leadership and participation of Mormons in the murder of emigrants traveling through Utah from (mostly) Arkansas on their way to California. It was a deed performed in cold blood, though Wood inaccurately states the tragedy was the result of “trying to exact revenge” and uses an exaggerated adjective in describing John D. Lee as a “prominent Mormon leader.” Lee was a prominent religious leader in his local community, but his authority fell far outside of the central hierarchy of the church (Brigham Young was the prophet at the time of the massacre, but did not instigate the massacre).

It should be noted here that various details associated with the massacre are debated. As stated previously, what cannot be debated is that the deed was inexcusable and evil. The latest scholarship on the topic is Massacre at Mountain Meadows by three historians who had unprecedented access to documents surrounding the events. 

A portion of the review from the Oxford Press states, “The Mountain Meadows Massacre stands as one of the darkest events in Mormon history. Neither a whitewash nor an exposé, Massacre at Mountain Meadows provides the clearest and most accurate account of a key event in American religious history.”

* * * * * * *
“We don't need to be experts on either religion to see these similarities.”

As it relates to the purposes of Wood’s article, it would have been especially prudent to have consulted “experts” who could have helped her distinguish fact from fiction. In this particular article, Wood fails to characterize the nuanced Christianity to which she constantly refers. At the same time, she falsely portrays very significant doctrines of the Mormon faith.It is not necessary to confer with experts to understand the basic tenets of various religions, but that does not excuse journalists from the responsibility to fact-check their assertions before going to press. 

Wood could have disabused herself from her false understanding of Mormons and Muslims with a small amount of research from Mormons and Muslims. Her failure in this regard is a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

It can be both appropriate and acceptable to write opinion pieces that explain why one disagrees with the tenets of a particular religion. However, it is a serious breach of integrity to do so while falsely portraying the religion in question. 

I think every journalist has made mistakes at one time or another. When those mistakes are made, the proper course of action is to publish a correction or retraction. What makes Wood's failures especially grievous is both the number of mistakes and the fact that she is writing not about tangential beliefs, but rather doctrines central to the understanding of Mormons and Muslims. In other words, her article doesn't contain one small error, but exceedingly numerous and serious errors.

My understanding of the Islamic faith leads me to believe she mischaracterizes Muslim beliefs as well. A scholar of Islam at BYU identifies several inaccuracies in Wood’s article from the Islamic perspective in this blog posting at Patheos.com. 

* * * * * * *
“They both have common ground with Christianity, and much of it. But both Islam and Mormonism are at best very distant cousins of Christianity with some of the same overarching guidance.”

Again, Mormons consider ourselves to be Christian, whereas Muslims make no such assertion. To identify common ground or differences in supporting her thesis, Wood needed to describe her nuanced definition of Christianity. Her failure to do so leaves the door open to claim that any sect is Christian or not Christian.

I wrote earlier that we consider ourselves as Mormons to be Christian — and also that I personally feel the label of “Christian” is intimately personal and best determined between each individual and God. However, there are certain doctrines of our faith which set us apart from some traditional Christian doctrines. For example, I have written previously that we believe the Godhead is comprised of three individuals united in purpose, but separate in person, whereas traditional Christianity worships a trinity in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one not merely in purpose, but also in person.

Another doctrine which sets us apart from traditional Christianity is our belief in continuing revelation. From this belief stems the continuous stream of living prophets to which Wood referred, as well as the Book of Mormon — a book translated by Joseph Smith as another testament of Jesus Christ to be used in conjunction with the Old and New Testaments. 

In these areas we disagree with certain Christian traditions, but these claims in no way detract from our belief in Christ. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has testified,
Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well. I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal. I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world. In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New. I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace can we gain eternal life.

My additional testimony regarding this resplendent doctrine is that in preparation for His millennial latter-day reign, Jesus has already come, more than once, in embodied majestic glory. In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy, confused by many of these very doctrines that still confuse much of Christendom, went into a grove of trees to pray. In answer to that earnest prayer offered at such a tender age, the Father and the Son appeared as embodied, glorified beings to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. That day marked the beginning of the return of the true, New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of other prophetic truths offered from Adam down to the present day.

I testify that my witness of these things is true and that the heavens are open to all who seek the same confirmation. Through the Holy Spirit of Truth, may we all know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.” Then may we live Their teachings and be true Christians in deed, as well as in word, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

* * * * * * *

“If a Christian of any denomination inadvertently walked into a Mormon tabernacle…, which would be fairly difficult since both allow only members of their faith to enter, there is no way the service could be recognized as a Christian devotion to Christ.”

I assume in making this assertion that Wood has not been to a Mormon worship service and that by tabernacles, she means chapels — in which Mormon and non-Mormon alike are welcome. 

As individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we desire, and are constantly admonished to make Christ the center of our lives. We seek to do all that we do in the name of the Savior, while yet recognizing we are subject to mortal weaknesses and need the grace of Christ to truly speak and act as He would were He in our places.
 
While varying definitions of Christianity may include or exclude any number of religious denominations depending upon the criteria being used, it would be very difficult to attend a Mormon worship service and fail to recognize the central role of Christ in our worship — and in our daily lives outside of church.

I disagree with Wood’s declaration. However, I would feel more comfortable with her deductions if she first presented an accurate depiction of our beliefs and then explained why she feels our worship of the Savior differs from her understanding of what characterizes a Christian. In this particular article, she fails to identify her form of Christianity (presumably the tenets of a specific Christian denomination), while concurrently misrepresenting why Mormons consider ourselves to be Christian and why Muslims do not.

Wood has done a disservice in this article not only to the religions discussed, but also to her readers. In decrying the need for experts to explain Mormon and Muslim beliefs and admonishing her readers to “put on [their] critical thinking cap[s]”, the author misleads her readers in a failed attempt to prove her thesis.

While I am not completely sure of the point Wood is trying to convey, I think I can safely say she is attempting to educate her readers by comparing the beliefs of various religious communities. If such is the case, Wood would have done well to have adopted Stendahl’s three rules of religious understanding, the first principle of which states that in comparing one religion with another, you should consult the believers of the faith in question and not their enemies.
 
Although I do not know if Wood obtained her understanding of my faith from those who hold different beliefs and consider themselves enemies of Mormonism, I can safely say she did not consult an ample supply of resources our church makes available to those with questions — including journalists. We do not ask that everyone agree with us, but do feel it is appropriate that our beliefs should be accurately portrayed by the media.

I don’t know why Wood failed to research this topic before writing her article, but I believe her failure has unnecessarily damaged her reputation. I wrote earlier that her portrayal of our doctrines should be approached with skepticism if the name of our church isn’t accurate. By the same token, the sheer gravity and number of mistakes in this particular article shakes my faith in the accuracy of future articles in which Wood may seek to educate me, as a reader, about topics with which I may be unfamiliar. That is unfortunate.


Concluding thoughts

As a Mormon, I believe in Christ and consider myself to be  a Christian. The Mormon doctrines of which Wood writes are completely unfamiliar to me as a Mormon, and in many cases, are factually incorrect.

This is such an unfortunate article. Politics and religion invite disagreement and contention, but it’s not necessary. Whether out of a temporary lapse of journalistic integrity or something more consciously vindictive, Eliza Wood has published an article littered with untruths that damages her reputation while misleading her readers about the Muslim faith and the Mormon faith.

I hope Wood will rewrite her article. There is a world of difference between laying out the facts and saying, “I see that differently than you,” and what Wood did. It would be challenging to acknowledge such severe shortcomings and do a rewrite, but it would also set an example of civil discourse that could influence discussions elsewhere.

7 comments:

  1. In your mind can the words Mormon and Christian be interchanged? If a Mormon is a Christian can a Christian be a Mormon?

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  2. That's a good question, Ryan. From my perspective, I don't think the terms are completely interchangeable. For example, just as a square is a rectangle, a rectangle is not necessarily a square.

    There are probably two main reasons for my thought process.

    First, there is no formal and universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a "Christian." Notwithstanding the lack of a formal criteria, the label of Christianity generally stems from a belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. As Mormons, we accept Christ and seek to learn about Him, emulate Him, and share our knowledge of Him with others. We are proud of our Christian beliefs and heritage.

    Second, there is a rather formal and universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a "Mormon." In particular, admission into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follows baptism by immersion and the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the authority of the priesthood as exercised through divinely authorized representatives.

    In other words, the Mormon belief in Christ places us under the umbrella of general Christianity, but admission into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stems from accepting doctrines peculiar to the Mormon faith and formally entering the church through the covenant of baptism as performed through the authority of God's priesthood restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.

    Doctrines accepted prior to baptism include:

    * Belief that God is our Eternal Father
    * Belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world
    * Belief that the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith
    * Belief in living prophets and that the current prophet (2012) is Thomas S. Monson

    I hope this answers your question.

    I might add that while it is possible to ascribe labels such as “Christian” by evaluating theological doctrines, I personally believe this title is best determined between each individual and God.

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  3. Thank you, this was masterfully written. Now if only Ms. Wood has the courage and integrity to rewrite her story. What are the chances?

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  4. Just....excellent....well done! Thank you!

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  5. Very thorough research, Kurt, and made more readable by your respectful tone throughout-- even in the face of an article by Ms. Wood that goes beyond ignorance and borders on insulting. You have probably read the response by Dr. Peterson. I know he's a professor, but your analysis stands up well next to his.

    My question, as a non-Mormon, is whether you or Dr. Peterson are capable of getting past the factual inaccuracies of this woman's piece and asking whether she is giving voice to an honest concern that many of her readers have, however inartfully she went about it?

    The simple truth is that many, many Americans view the members of your faith as somehow alien and not to be trusted. Scolding a reporter for poor fact-checking is unlikely to dissuade them.

    Here's a true story: my friend travelled to attend her college roommate's (LDS) wedding last year. Her only familiarity with Latter-day Saints was that, in her mind, they were the reason her sister had had to cancel her own wedding in 2008, because Mormons had spearheaded a ballot measure (Prop 8) that made the marriage illegal.

    My friend returned with reports that she and about half the other guests had been banned from the church and could not even see the marriage ceremony. I tried to explain that it wasn't a church but a temple, that it was called a sealing and that sealings are considered private for very specific reasons. My friend did not care about those facts. All she took away from the incident was that these were a weird bunch of secretive cultists who wouldn't even let the bride's own mother attend her wedding. In other words, she already harbored a prejudice and her experience merely reinforced it.

    You have already succeeded in showing that the Huffington Post reporter did shoddy work and have coherently and respectfully countered her errors one by one. My question is whether you have heard what she was saying in the first place. Mormons and Muslims are seen as "other" by many, many Americans who honestly question whether members of these faiths would strive to subvert our principles of religious freedom if their leaders ordered them to do so.

    Many Americans would like to know, as would I, if there is any real difference between a Muslim in Afghanistan who would beat a woman to force her to wear a hijab, and a Mormon in America who would pay money for a new law that forces other citizens and other churches to obey LDS marriage doctrine.

    Despite all the facts you've offered in your blog post, I see nothing there that allows me to answer this very basic question.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your question. I have a few thoughts that might give you some insight from my perspective as a Mormon. However, I want to try and answer your question as fully as I can and I’m running into some trouble with word limits for comments.

      So, I’m going to explain in this particular comment the purposes behind my original response (i.e., why I didn’t address the question you raise) and then post the rest of the response in a blog post:

      http://www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-mormon-president-and-gay-marriage.html

      First, the purpose behind my response was to provide readers with a sense of what Mormons believe. I focused the response on those issues raised by Eliza Wood in her article. As you've seen, some of her points were accurate, but many were seriously flawed - yet portrayed as matter-of-fact truths.

      Second, the purpose wasn't necessarily to dissuade Wood of her beliefs, but rather encourage accurate reporting. When it comes to my religious beliefs, I am an advocate of teaching others what I believe and then letting them choose for themselves what they believe. That becomes infinitely more difficult when things I don't believe in - sometimes even things I find offensive - are represented as mainstream Mormon beliefs. As far as Wood is concerned, my response focused on her responsibilities as a journalist to accurately portray facts rather than trying to dissuade her from her conclusions.

      Third, I think Wood's article lacked a sense of cohesiveness that enables all of her readers to come away with the same understanding of what her purposes or conclusions were. You raise the issue that her main point may have been to say that Mormons and Muslims are viewed by others with suspicion. This isn't something that I came away thinking, but I could have been blinded by my concern with her portrayal of facts to the degree that I couldn't pick up on more subtle points she was trying to convey. For this reason and those listed above in this comment, I didn't address the issue that you bring up - but I would be happy to try and speak to your question here.

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  6. I appreciate your perspective, eloquence and TRUTH behind all the remarks made to the statements made in Wood's article. Unfortunately, it is articles like hers that make it difficult to clear up confusion and misplaced judgements. Especially made by those who are not educated on the specific subject. I know as I have studied other religions and cultures, my eyes are opened and my perspective and understanding broadened. Wherein I am more tolerant and appreciative for others beliefs and experiences. I have always felt strongly that if you want an answer to something, go to the source. Misdirection and misunderstanding lead to false opinions, fear, prejudice, and hate. I hope that this blog post will be distributed to many, and hopefully back to Eliza Wood.

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