This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In an Aug. 21 opinion piece in The Tribune, "Five persistent myths about Mormonism," English professor/blogger Joanna Brooks claims that the presidential campaigns of two Mormons, as well as the popular "Book of Mormon" musical on Broadway, have created "common caricatures," leading to "confusion" within the general public about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By creating her list of "misunderstandings," Brooks unwittingly invents her own caricature of Mormonism.
The first myth she lists is that "Mormons practice polygamy." Of course, some may falsely perceive Mormonism as advocating plural marriage, possibly imagining it as a "Big Love" free-for-all. There are ignorant people in every part of this country. However, the faith's canonical Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132, as Brooks admits, permits sealing ceremonies for eternity between a widowed (or, in some cases, a divorced) man and more than one woman. Three current LDS apostles are sealed in such a way.
Though polygamy is no longer allowed between a man and more than one living wife, it most certainly is still taught, practiced and anticipated. When Brooks says that "some mainstream LDS Church members anticipate polygamy as part of eternity, while others reject it," she makes it sound like hers is a religion that allows individual members to create a doctrinal reality of their own. I have to assume that the three apostles mentioned above certainly look forward to their plural marriages in the next life.
Another myth she lists is that Mormons are not Christians. Because a word like "Christian" has a specific meaning, such a statement does nothing more than cloud the vast differences (she conveniently labels these "theological technicalities") between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.
For "some evangelicals who do not see us as Christians," their reasons are apparently "rooted in antiquated anti-Mormon prejudice." No, they are rooted in definitions and doctrine long held by Christians themselves. It is the worship of a God that has biblically supported attributes. To say that "technicalities" separate Mormonism from Christianity is akin to saying Buddhism is synonymous with Hinduism because both have common traits. When we call Buddhists "Hindus" (and vice versa), neither side is benefited.
Some unfortunately equate moralism with Christianity. For instance, the phrase "she's a good Christian" is sometimes used to describe a moral person. Nobody I know is denying that most Mormons can be (and usually are) moral. But this does not make Christianity and Mormonism synonymous.
Brooks' third misunderstanding is that "most Mormons are white, English-speaking conservatives." While the membership may not fit this description, the leadership certainly does. When was the last time a non-white male served in the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?
While the leadership is certainly staying away from supporting individual candidates for U.S. political offices, they continue to support issues that further their conservative ideals. Let's be serious. In Utah, Democratic politicians often appear more conservative than many California Republicans.
A fourth misconception is that "Mormon women are second-class citizens." She points out how Mormon females cannot hold leadership positions and says that wives must "answer to their husbands" to many feminists, these admissions would confirm the "myth." The LDS concept of God is "not exclusively male," she writes, because Mormons believe in a "Heavenly Mother." Yet Mormons are told specifically not to worship this female deity. So how, exactly, does pointing out a Heavenly Mother doctrine help support Brooks' case?
The final "myth" Brooks cites is that "a Mormon president would blur the line between church and state." I wonder, if a Mormon candidate truly believes he is guided by a living prophet, would he be quick to accept or reject that prophet's counsel, if it were offered? Perhaps this "myth" persists because many believe those lines really are blurred in Utah. After all, how many privately owned liquor stores are there? And in how many states is Independence Day celebrated on the 5th of July if it happens to land on a Sunday?
In addition, how many Utahns will vote for a Mormon candidate next year in the GOP primary because of his Mormonism? Romney didn't win his party's nomination, yet garnered an overwhelming 90 percent of the vote in Utah's 2008 Republican primary.
By combating what she feels are "persistent myths," Brooks needs to be careful about creating her own.
Eric Johnson lives in Sandy. He has taught high school and college classes for 17 years.