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Praying for Those Who Hate Us - The Back Bench

Praying for Those Who Hate Us
By Aaron Johnston March 24, 2005

Why do people write anti-Mormon literature?

What motivates them to set aside so much of their valuable personal time and exhaust so much of their energy to write books or pamphlets that attack and vilify the LDS Church?

Do they really find us that threatening?

NOTE: I'm not talking about books that disagree with our doctrine. There are plenty of those and their authors mean us no harm. They have every right to interpret the scriptures differently than we do. And while we may not always agree with them, we respect them for their faith.

But anti-Mormons are a different breed. They're malicious. If they had their way, the Church would crumble and all the members with it.

And so they write, warning the world of the great evil that is the LDS Church.

Wouldn't all that paper be put to better use if the authors were to concern themselves with a legitimate social issue? Think about it. These people could write about anything: world hunger, nuclear arms proliferation, AIDS, domestic violence, drug control, welfare.

But the Mormon church? Come on. We're not that bad, are we?

I mean, if we were really really mean and pushed down the elderly or something, then, yes, people have every right to be mad at us and should write a book about it.

Or if we destroyed rain forests to make room for all of our meeting houses, then go for it, write your book.

Or if we taught doctrine that degraded people or if we pinched little babies or if we wore a lot of mink or if we never ate free-range beef, then by golly you have every right to be spitting mad.

But on the whole, the LDS people are good people. My opinion is biased, of course, but I think we're nice human beings.

And I think most people would agree with me.

And yet, walk into any decent-sized bookstore in this country and you'll likely find books that openly attack the Church for any number of ludicrous reasons.

You won't find Anti-Lutheran books or Anti-Seventh-Day-Adventist books or Anti-Presbyterian books.

But you will find one or two books attacking us, calling us a cult, calling us an oppressive patriarchal institution, calling us brain washed. You name it.

It's a sad truth.

So the question is, what do we do about it?

Free Speech

Personal freedom is a pretty darn important thing. And freedom of speech is as important to us as is the freedom that allows us to worship how and where we choose.

So we acknowledge that anyone who writes degradingly against us has every right to do so. And we shouldn't hinder that person's rights to express himself or herself.

It just saddens us that what they write is so often not true.

Plenty has been written about past and current leaders of the church, for example, that is completely false. The easiest way to target an organization, I suppose, is to target its leaders.

But the Church isn't in the business of suing people. Even if what they print is libel, the Church typically ignores it. To give it attention is to give it credibility, something those authors do not deserve.

So the Church ignores it. We should do the same.


Many of you have probably heard about a recently published book by Martha Beck entitled Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.

From the title you can probably guess that this isn't a book you'll find at Church Distribution. I haven't read it, nor do I have any desire to do so, but I think it's safe to assume that it says some fairly negative things about the Church.

Publisher's Weekly says that the book has a "hard, angry edge" to it and is "marred by shallow, formulaic anti-Mormon criticisms and an exaggerated description of the LDS Church."

I'll take their word for it.

The author, Martha Beck, is the daughter of the recently deceased LDS scholar Hugh Nibley, and much of the book is dedicated to Beck's claims that as a child she was sexually abused by her father, a claim that all immediate members of the Nibley family vehemently deny.

It's worth mentioning that Beck was unaware of this abuse until well into her adult life when, for whatever reason, she suddenly began to recall all the horrific things her father did to her.

In a written statement, the Nibley family had this to say:

Knowing our sister and the circumstances of our home, we agree that Martha Beck's portrayal of our family in Leaving the Saints is false. We are saddened by the book's countless errors, falsehoods, contradictions, and gross distortions. She misrepresents our family history, the basic facts of our lives, our family culture, the works of our father Hugh Nibley, and the basic principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She also omits critical facts including her own previous writings, her and her husband's search for their sexual identities, and the tortuous process -- including self-hypnosis -- by which she achieved her "recovered memories."

Martha's most egregious accusation - that our father molested her over several years and the family covered up the crime - is not true. While salacious accusations sell books, the reader should know that in this case it simply did not happen.

. . .While Martha claims to have been shut out by her family, our doors and our hearts have always been open to her and remain so. We love our sister and are very concerned for her at this time. We fear this is another instance of the self-destructive behavior that has haunted Martha throughout her life.

Breaks your heart, doesn't it? Here is a women who, according to her own flesh and blood, has some serious personal issues. And now she's (allegedly) lying to make a profit and spread religious prejudice.

Someone once said (I thought it was President Hinckley, but since I couldn't find the actual citation, don't quote me on that) that a lot of people leave the church but can't leave the church alone. They have to attack it. They have to tear down the organization they so recently embraced.

I feel sorry those people. It's too bad that their perception of the Church is so negative.

We should pray for them, really, pray that they're able to resolve whatever it is in their lives that makes them so angry.

We need not pray that they become members of the Church or that they become converted to our way of thinking. Chances are that won't happen. We simply need to hope that they find some peace in their lives.

Anti-Mormon literature will always exist. And I'm guessing it will become even more prevalent in years to come.

In the meantime, we should consider its source. Do we really want to read what these people have to say about us? Or should we rely instead upon our own experiences?

The last thing we should do is allow anti-Mormon literature to upset us. It shouldn't. It's not worth an ounce of our emotion or a minute of our time.

Of course, maybe the real issue is that these authors simply don't know how best to use their talent. They obviously have a gift for writing; it's not easy to get published. So maybe we should suggest to them more meaningful ways to use their writing abilities.

Here goes.

Dear Authors of Anti-Mormon Literature,

Wassup? How you doing? Oh wait. I need not ask that. I know how you're doing. You're angry.

Let me start again.

Dear Authors of Anti-Mormon Literature,

The purpose of my letter is to offer you a few suggestions on other ways to use your literary talent. I know you've got a bone to pick with us, but we're actually not that bad. In fact, our friends think we're pretty cool.

So before you sit down at your keyboard and spew forth all that aggression, consider the following:

1. Hollywood

Hollywood is plagued with silly, frivolous films. Dumb plot lines. Embarrassing dialogue. Pointless perversities. It's enough to make you stay home from the theater and watch Judge Judy.

So I say, why not use all that literary talent of yours to write a cool movie script? It's easy. All you need is some screenplay-writing software and a story.

PLEASE NOTE: movies about why you hate Mormons or movies about evil Mormons or movies about Mormons with horns will never fly with studio executives. I thought I'd just throw that out there.

2. Yard sale signs

This is a serious problem. Yard sale signs are everywhere: nailed to our telephone poles, stapled to our trees, taped to our garage doors. And not only do the authors of these signs have poor penmanship, but also they lack literary spunk.

I suggest that instead of writing a lengthy memoir on all the demons you knew in the LDS Church, you write some intriguing yard sale signs.

I mean, there's a lot of room for improvement: Yard Sale This Saturday. Boring boring boring.

Why not something like: Previously Owned Personal Items Will Be Available for Your Purchase This Coming Sabbath Eve.

Now that's a sign! And I'm sure you can come up with better ones.

3. Gravestones

Yes, it's a little morbid, but have you been to a cemetery lately? All the gravestones are identical. No diversity. No charm. Just the same old same old.

John Doe, beloved father and husband. Boring boring boring.

Why not something like: John Doe, He had a bad ticker but the man could make some great chili.

Now that's a eulogy. That says something about John. It makes him unique. When his ancestors come generations later to his grave site, they'll say, "Wow. Look Ma, Great great great grandpa John really knew what to do with beans."

4. Rock Concert Tee Shirts

You know what I'm talking about here. When you go to a concert, you have the option of spending a ridiculous portion of your monthly salary on a tee shirt celebrating the event.

Typically the band's name is on the front and the cities of the tour are on the back. Boring boring boring.

Why not spruce these shirts up a bit? Why not use your mastery of the English language to give these shirts some zing?

Rather than list the cities in sequential order by tour date: Chicago, Austin, Spokane, Des Moines? Why not list them in alphabetical order instead: Austin, Chicago, Des Moines, Spokane?

Cool, huh? There are so many other possibilities.

And if that doesn't sell you on the idea, this will: As far as I know there are NO Mormon rock bands. KISS, not Mormon. Rolling Stones, not Mormon. Ozzy Osborne, not Mormon. So the chances of you having to work for the enemy are nil. Righteous! (And of course by righteous I mean the exclamation, not the dutiful adherence to God's commandments. Relax).

And in truth, there are countless ways you Mormon bashers could better use your writing talent. Don't limit yourself to my ideas. Be creative. Try greeting cards, dog tags, grocery store receipts. The possibilities are endless.

I wish you all my best.

Your friend (still),

Aaron Johnston

Addendum:   The quote: "They leave the church, but they cannot leave the Church alone" was actually said by Elder Neal A. Maxwell in his talk entitled "Becometh As A Child" (Ensign, May 1996, p. 68) in which he quoted himself from "The Net Gathers of Every Kind" (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 14). Special thanks to Dianne Anderson for the correction.

Copyright © 2005 by Aaron Johnston

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