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Are Mormons like zombies?

Sunday afternoon session of the 181st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011.
Sunday afternoon session of the 181st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Is being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the religious equivalent of being a zombie?

Matthew Johnson, pastor of the First Baptist Church Smithton in Bellhaven, N.C., seems to think so. In a column in the Associated Baptist Press, Johnson points out that "the most frightening scene of any zombie movie is when the hero is confronted with a loved one who has been turned into a zombie. The zombie might look like the hero's mother . . . But it isn't his mother anymore. It is now a mindless monster that wants to eat him alive."

That's the part that reminds Johnson of Latter-day Saints.

"From the viewpoint of many Southern Baptists, Mormons are Southern Baptist zombies," Johnson wrote. "Mormons hold the same family values as Southern Baptists. They talk about Jesus like Southern Baptists. They send out missionaries like Southern Baptists. They baptize people like Southern Baptists. But they believe the wrong things about Jesus, God and the Bible. For many members of the (Southern Baptist Convention), Mormons' foreign/familiarity leaves them with the same creepy feeling that we all get when we watch a George Romero movie."

Johnson said that "Mormons out-Southern Baptist the Southern Baptists by almost any measure," noting the missionary service of young Latter-day Saints and the reputation of Mormons for being nice people with good values. "What's more," Johnson says, "many Mormon converts were previously Southern Baptist."

"Isn't this simply a version of the basic plot of any zombie movie?" he asks. "They are trying to turn us into them."

The most frightening thing for Southern Baptists, Johnson notes, is that "Mormons make a lie out of one of the most basic SBC denominational principles: correct doctrinal belief leads to spiritual success. And that scares Southern Baptists to death."

Johnson, it should be noted, is a former Southern Baptist. In a comment associated with the article he says that his point was not to criticize Mormonism, but to point out "the animosity that some Southern Baptists hold toward members of the LDS Church." So when he says Mormons are like zombies he means it, you know, in a nice way.

Zombies or not, David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer doesn't think Mormons are particularly scary, especially when it comes to presidential politics.

"(Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney's Mormon faith should not concern anyone (is anybody worried that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is a Mormon convert?)," said the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist in the commentary that was associated with an editorial cartoon he drew on the subject. "Thomas Jefferson's ideas about Jesus would be more upsetting to today's evangelicals and, somehow, the American republic survived our third president.

"What we should be scared of," Horsey continued, "is any candidate who clings to religion a little too strongly, who believes that his or her policies are the revealed intent of the Almighty. Give me a flip-flopper like Romney any day over a president who believes his political ideas arrived from heaven on plates of gold."