September 21, 2010

What counts as "Anti-Mormon" today?

Continuing my guest posting, take comments to FPR.

I used to throw around the label "anti-Mormon" like it was going out of style (speaking of style, will this "style" colloquialism ever go out of style? Good grief, BHodges, the 7th grade called and it wants its simile back. [This analysis of my rhetorical style could start getting out of hand really fast. Notice my strange use of the third person? There are about three people left in the world who can get away with such bravado. Karl Malone, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Elmo]).
Anyway, I've found that the term "anti-Mormon" sets off alarm bells amongst folks I'm otherwise trying to converse with. I like to avoid allowing the cows to get out through the holes I leave in the rhetorical fence, so I've cut down on its usage in order to keep conversations corralled. I've seen people accused of invoking "anti-Mormon" like a voodoo chant to ward off critical thinking. I've also seen certain anti-Mormons claim the term isn't fair because, after all, it's Mormonism they're against, not Mormons. So for many reasons the term can stop, rather than facilitate discussion.

A while back I was impressed with a blog post containing useful "types" of anti-Mormonism. I think the types are great for helping people recognize that perhaps things aren't so black-and-white in terms of being pro or anti, but keeping the anti-Mormon label as part of the descriptor is still going to raise objections. Also, the term risks being watered down. Do I want to roll around McCarthy-esque with a label maker and a cigar, slapdashing my way through internet debates? Maybe next week. For now, not really.

I personally try to use the label carefully by restricting its referents to the counter-cult fulltime exposers of the evils of Mormonism (think Ed Decker). The sort of irrational polemic folk who are more interested in winning a battle than reaching an understanding. So time spent, quality of argument, motive for engagement, are some of the most important factors for me. Anti-Mormonism is something that is enacted more than espoused from this view.

But I just can't shake the idea that yes, Virginia, there really are anti-Mormons out there. "Anti," against, "Mormon," the religion, the doctrine, etc. I don't object to being called "anti-torture" or "anti-Linkin Park," I wear the labels with a certain pride. But that's just me. So how to deal with the fact that I really do believe in anti-Mormons? I explain it when I use it, and I use it for a specific end: not to end debate but to identify the type of debate I am experiencing at the time with the hope of shaming, er, convincing, the other person to consider changing their strategy, or at least to help them understand why I can't take them seriously from an intellectual standpoint. I hope I don't use it as an "insult," but sometimes hopes are just hopes.

I'll tell you how I use it right now and you can tell me how you use it (or why you object to it. Of course, we'll know you're anti-Mormon if you raise questions about what I am about to say, so play at your own risk).

I personally try to use the label carefully by restricting its referents to the counter-culting fulltime exposers of the evils of Mormonism (think Ed Decker). The sort of irrational polemic folk who are more interested in winning a battle or a soul than reaching an understanding with me. I can expect double-standards, irrationality, quote-mining, and a strange smell (if we're talking in person). Ok, not the smell. (Not every time, anyway.)

So for me I take into account the amount of time spent, the quality of argument, and the motive for engagement. In short: Anti-Mormonism for me is something that is enacted more than beliefs which are espoused.

Your turn, anti.


larryco_ said...

Indeed, what does constitute "Anti-Mormon"? Sometimes it seems to come down to tone. Twenty years ago, both Bushman's Rise of Mormonism and Quinn's Magic World View covered Joseph Smith's early years and reached some similar conclusions, particularly concerning the treasure-seeking years. Yet, Quinn's book is seen by some as anti, while Bushman is universally revered. Tone certainly played a part there.

Does a book become anti because it makes us uncomfortable, even when it appears to be accurate? Are books like "Emma Smith, Mormon Enigma", "In Sacred Loneliness" and the several books on the Mountain Meadows Massacre anti because we are called on to face events from the past that we would rather not? Or, because they give aid and comfort to "the enemy"?

BHodges said...

Well, forget the "some think this" and "some think this" and define "anti-Mormon" as you might apply it. (Also, the discussion is hopping at the FPR version, this is just for my blog record.)

Anonymous said...

I'm happy with the counter-cult being anti-Mormon. There is a sense that they truly are anti-Mormon or against people that are Mormon. I guess for me is if people who are against the Church were given the power of Hitler, would they gas us? If so, they are anti-Mormon

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