I know that I’m going to get in trouble in some quarters for the following statement, but I’m going to say it anyway. I love Mormons, and I deeply appreciate the role played by the LDS church in our nation and our culture. I have returned from a lengthy absence from EFM (I was out of town working hard on my day job) to find a debate in these pages about whether Mormonism is a “cult,” flipped on the TV to see a two part special about Mormonism on PBS, and turned on my computer today to see this absurd column by Robert Novak demanding that Mitt Romney account for a massacre that occurred 150 years ago. Given these times, I thought I’d take a moment to write a post that is perhaps a bit outside the EFM (i.e. political) umbrella and share with you my own perspective on Mormonism.
We live in tough times. Faith is under attack — from within and without. I know there are some folks out there who deride such comments, but I ask those people who do to walk not a mile but a few feet in my shoes. In moments, you would hear from people of faith from across this country who are silenced, intimidated, and sometimes subjected to vile threats and abuse merely for standing for Biblical values and fundamental rights. Yes, Christians have political power in some quarters, but in others — such as the academy, the mainstream media, and in popular entertainment — we are relentlessly demonized. And this demonization has consequences. When “family values” are derided, families tend to falter. When families falter, poverty and violence follow like night follows day. When unborn children are viewed as a “clump of cells” that exists at the convenience of the mother rather than as a living person, they can be dismembered and slaughtered on a scale that staggers the imagination. When everything is relative and our culture is viewed as no better than any other, we lose the will to fight evil, and we abandon our friends abroad.
In the midst of this culture, our churches often look at millions of fractured families, millions of lost children, and waning resolve in the face of undeniable evil and say: “It’s our fault, really. If only we were more accepting of family arrrangements that lead to poverty. If only we were less ‘obsessed’ with murderous medical ‘procedures,’ and more ‘understanding’ of the people who seek to behead us, then perhaps we’d have influence in this culture.” And so we watch as denomination after denomination turns its back on morality and righteousness, denounces the most generous group of people in the United States (faithful churchgoers) as “uncaring” and seeks to emulate a secular-progressive society that talks about poverty but keeps its money, that talks about compassion but acts outraged when the legislature bans the practice of killing a half-delivered child with scissors, and that talks about ending genocide but says we need to “understand” world rulers who openly advocate the destruction of an entire nation (Israel). So we watch as the mainstream denominations (and even some evangelicals) slide into a meaningless and empty social religion that is utterly powerless to sustain the soul or to confront evil.
But not Mormons. The LDS church still stands proudly for the family, for human life, and with the moral resolve necessary to confront the challenges of our time. They give generously, serve enthusiastically, and stand shoulder to shoulder with evangelicals on the great moral and cultural issues of our time. In my own life, every single Mormon that I have come to know has been kind, generous, and utterly devoted to their family. Even more, they have stood with me and befriended me (whether it was in a hostile and intimidating law school environment or in the midst of the exhausting challenge of basic training) during key moments in my own life. I know that people are fallen — broken by sin and in desperate need of God’s grace — so I don’t have an overly-rosy view of human nature or of any particular group of people (I’m a Calvinist, for crying out loud). But I do deeply appreciate the genuine strengths and accomplishments of the LDS church.
On Tuesday night, a good friend (and EFM reader) asked my thoughts on the Frank Pastore column Nancy linked below. She asked me, “Is Mormonism a denomination, a religion, or a cult?” I think this question is ultimately unhelpful. Rather than decide on categories, I think we should simply try to understand the faith itself. Mormonism is not creedal, orthodox Christianity; that much I know. I don’t think Mormons want to be known as “creedal Christians.” As for what Mormonism is, I leave that definition members of the LDS church. They define their own beliefs and identity better than I ever could.
As for me, I’m proud to stand with Mormons as we confront the cultural rot that is destroying our country from within, and I’m proud to serve with Mormons as fellow soldiers facing a hideous evil overseas. I appreciate them more than they could know. I’m grateful for their presence in my life and in the life of this nation. So, I leave the question of “cult, denomination, or religion” to the Judge of all things. I’m content with a fourth category — one not on that list — the category of “friends.”