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LDS bloggers tilt at 'cult' label, Mormon misperceptions

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney meets with Rev. Billy Graham, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Montreat, N.C.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney meets with Rev. Billy Graham, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Montreat, N.C.

In the wake of last week’s news that references classifying The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a “cult” have been removed from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s web, one LDS writer lightheartedly claims he’s “going to miss the cult lifestyle.”

And other writers, bloggers and missionaries are similarly engaged in responding to misperceptions about Mormonism.

“Now that I’m not in a cult, I’m going to have to get up at a reasonable hour on Sunday mornings,” wrote professor/author David Mason in a tongue-in-cheek blog posted on the Washington Post website.

“I’m going to have to comb my hair and put on the other airs of respectable society,” he continued. “I’ll have to be polite. That one’s going to be especially difficult. When I was a cultist, no one expected me to be polite. They rather expected me to be dark and gloomy, quick with a pessimistic or misanthropic word, and always ready to bite the head off a bat, because people in cults are, of course, wild-eyed sociopaths bent on undermining all that is good and true about a civilized society.”

Mason concluded that “by taking Mormons off his cult list, Graham has given me a priceless gift that I am determined not to squander.”

“I’ve already thrown out my pentagrams and broomsticks, and the goat head is coming down this weekend so that I can blend with the great, formless mass of the American mainstream,” Mason wrote. “I mean, I can always go back to biting the heads off things if Romney loses in a few weeks and Graham puts Mormons back on his cult list.”

Mason isn’t the only blogger who has been tilting — occasionally humorously — at Mormon misperceptions recently. Several Latter-day Saints spoke recently to a Chicago Tribune reporter to clarify “who are Mormons, and what do they believe?” In Texas, full-time LDS missionaries spoke to a campus news reporter about Mormon misperceptions and missionary work at Texas A&M University. And Mark Paredes, a member of the LDS Church Jewish Relations Committee for Southern California, tells readers of The Jewish Journal “five things every Jew should know about Mormonism” — especially when considering the presidential candidacy of an active, practicing member of the LDS Church.

Paredes says those five things are:

  • Devout Mormons can be found all across the political spectrum (“Mormons can be found on all sides of most issues,” he writes);
  • Mormonism is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition (“We consider ourselves to be covenant Israelites,” Paredes writes. “The Abrahamic covenant is central to our faith. Like Jews, the family is central to our faith, and our idea of heaven is to live with our spouses and families for eternity”);
  • A Mormon president would not take orders from Salt Lake City (“If Mitt Romney wins, he’ll undoubtedly have the same arrangement with top church leaders that other Mormons have with local leaders,” he said. “They don’t tell us how to do our jobs, and we don’t tell them how to run the church”);
  • On moral issues, Mormons are not extreme right-wingers (“Faithful Mormons,” Paredes writes, “are advocates for positions on all sides of (moral) issues”);
  • Mormons are philo-Semites and pro-Israel (“One of our basic Articles of Faith affirms: ‘We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes,’” Paredes says).