Let's Open Up the Anti-Mormon Mailbag


It was three weeks ago that I made the (I thought) obvious point that opposing a Mormon candidate for president because he is Mormon is as backward and bigoted as opposing a Jewish candidate because he is Jewish, a female candidate because she is female, a black candidate because he is black, a lesbian candidate because she is lesbian, and so on. (And, yes, I am aware of the difference between inborn traits, like race and gender, and chosen identities or affiliations like religion. More on that later.) Here is Jeff Goldberg's recent entry on the topic. Wikipedia image of Joseph Smith at left.

I received a flood of email, which I've been storing up and will start selecting from soon. Some of it was from LDS members and was unsurprisingly affable. But most of it took me aback. The great majority of messages came from people who said: You're wrong, Mormons are an outright menace, and that's because they are Mormon. What they believe is either (a) dangerous in its essence, or (b) an indication of  deeper intellectual or character flaws in the candidate, because no sane person could believe the elements of the Mormon faith. Or (c) both.

Here's an sample that arrived just now, from a man I won't identify but who appends the honorific "M.A." to his name. I offer it as an illustration of what I am talking about. I'll save response (plus some other messages) for the next installment, including the tangled issues of what is a "cult," what is a "religious test" for office, etc.

The only thing I'll add for now is that while I am no fan of Mitt Romney's, I don't envy him having to deal with this sort of thing -- which of course is stronger in the Republican primary electorate than in the population as a whole. Most white people have an idea of what anti-black (or Latino or Asian) prejudice sounds like. Most goyim have an idea of what an anti-Semitic rant sounds like. But even having grown up in an area with lots of Mormons and had LDS friends all my life, I hadn't been fully exposed to the intensity of anti-Mormon views. Here's the latest sample.

Dear James Fallows:

With your recent article calling those who tell the truth about Momonism "bigots," you are dreadfully uninformed on Mormonism. You have done a lot of harm to our country with your extreme ignorance.

With two Mormons as candidates for the presidency, it is one's duty to be informed about Mormonism. According to all mainstream Christian religions, Mormonism is a cult. (A cult claims to be Christian, but it is not Christian.)

There is no reason not to be reasonably informed on Mormonism, since there are various quality, highly documented sources easily available.

Chapter and verse, plus more about my own failings, after the jump. Plus an illustration of the media doing the right job in covering the Mormon threat: a quote from the NY Times 99 years ago!

For instance, read this article: 

Among other things, the article quotes a dozen Ph.D. Egyptologists on Joe Smith's completely false translation of Egyptian papyri for the Book of Abraham, Mormon scripture. In fact, Mormons do not have even one Ph.D. Egyptologist who agrees with Smith's "translation." Using Mormons' own documents, which Mormons cannot refute, the article also reveals the gods Mormons worship: The Egyptian sun god Ra and the ithyphallic (with erect penis) pagan Egyptian god Menu-ka-mut-f. The Mormon Holy Ghost is Nehebkau, an ithyphallic snake god.

Mostly the major media is shamefully uninformed and cowardly concerning Mormonism, but sometimes the media does its job. For instance, on December 29, 1912 [!!], the New York Times headlines about Joe Smith's Book of Abraham blared, "Sacred Books Claimed to Have Been Given Divinely to the First Prophet Are Shown to be Taken from Old Egyptian Originals, Their Translation Being a Work of Imagination."

The headlines were based on the book Joseph Smith, Jr., As a Translator by F. S. Spalding (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Arrow Press, 1912). In the book, eight experts on Egyptian antiquities found Smith's explanations of the Facsimiles in the Book of Abraham false.

All universally respected Egyptologists who have since examined the matter have pronounced Smith's translation of papyri and explanation of Facsimiles completely incorrect.

A Mormon is somebody who wants to believe a lie. For those who argue that one's religion does not matter, do you think that wanting to believe a lie is a good character trait for the presidency? Do you think that having a tendency to be profoundly deceived is an acceptable quality for a president?

Do you not agree with reasonable people that one would have to be mentally ill to worship the Egyptian sun god or a penis god in this day and age? Do you think that a person such as Mitt Romney, who has insane beliefs as a Mormon, would be good for this country? Is not this country in enough trouble already? If you have even a smidgeon of patriotism, you will want to get up to speed on Mormonism and read the article.

Sincerely, Mark Xxxx, M.A.

More to come.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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