Latter-Day Acceptance

Mitt Romney may inspire anti-Mormon paranoia, but it's nothing compared to the fears his forefathers faced.


For many Americans Mormons are scary, or weird, or at least not the sort of folk you'd want marrying your first lady. Last year a Gallup poll found that 22 percent of the country would not support a Mormon candidate for president. MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell claimed in early April that Mormonism "was created by a guy in upstate New York in 1830 when he got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it." Jacob Weisberg, generally a reliable barometer of center-left conventional wisdom, wrote during the run-up to the last presidential campaign that he "wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism."

Anti-Mormonism haunted this cycle's Republican primaries. Newt Gingrich had to fire his Iowa political director for describing rival candidate Mitt Romney's religion as "the cult of Mormon." Texas Gov. Rick Perry had to do some public squirming when a prominent Baptist backer, the Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, announced that Romney is "not a Christian" and that Mormonism "has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity." My inbox overflows with press releases from the ex-Mormon activist Tricia Erickson, who warns that electing "this horrendous Romney Manchurian Candidate" would mean the Elders Near Zion "will most assuredly be pulling the strings behind the scenes." Bill Keller, the self-proclaimed "world's leading Internet Evangelist," manages to outdo Erickson with mass emails carrying headlines like "Why Would Christians Vote for Romney and Listen to [Glenn] Beck, Both Cult Members?"

All of which obscures something important: By historical standards, Mormonism enjoys an amazing level of acceptance in America today. The Republican Party, an organization whose first presidential platform denounced Mormon polygamy as a "relic of barbarism" comparable to slavery, is about to nominate a Mormon bishop as its presidential candidate. Mitt Romney's chances of prevailing in November have very little to do with his religious beliefs and almost everything to do with how the unemployment numbers look come fall.

That shift reflects some substantial changes in Mormonism itself, which has given up the polygamist and separatist ways that alienated so many Americans in the church's early decades. But it also reflects the fact that non-Mormon Americans—gentiles, as the Latter-day Saints sometimes call us—have gotten used to having Mormons around. You can still hear strange conspiracy theories about the church today, but we are a long way from the 19th century, when the popular perception of Joseph Smith's faith featured a wild mélange of mind control, assassinations, secret sexual lodges, and plots to subvert the republic.

'To Yield Themselves Entirely'

Our story starts in the early 19th century, a spiritually rambunctious period now known the Second Great Awakening. Big camp meetings drew thousands of Americans to multiday festivals of prayer, with worshippers falling into trances and speaking in tongues. Traditional religious leaders were often alarmed at the delirious varieties of worship on display. Some of them denounced the revival preachers as puppet masters engaged in a sort of mass hypnosis. On the outskirts of the excitement, unusual creeds attracted new followers: Shakers, Adventists, Oneida Perfectionists.

It was in this atmosphere that Joseph Smith reported a series of religious visions in the 1820s and founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. The new faith, contra Lawrence O'Donnell, had nothing to do with the family maid. (Polygamy would not become a Mormon doctrine until several years later.) Smith, a part-time treasure hunter, claimed to have found a holy book engraved on golden plates. The plates contained a host of revelations, he reported, including the old idea that the American Indians were descended from the Israelites and the new idea that Christ had visited their ancient American civilization.

As Smith attracted followers, he moved his church's base from upstate New York to Ohio and then to the Missouri frontier, where its adherents faced heavy harassment from their neighbors. The church tried to establish a town of its own in Illinois, and it was in that state that an angry mob killed Smith while the prophet was confined to a jail. Control of the movement shifted to a Vermont-born tradesman named Brigham Young, who led the Mormons west to establish a kingdom in the desert.

The opponents of Mormonism, like the opponents of other new religions, took old anti-Catholic themes and updated them for a younger faith: Smith and then Young were imagined as the all-powerful popes of a cult, their followers as docile sheep. Those followers' allegiance, furthermore, was allegedly achieved through a sort of mind control, not unlike the mass hypnosis purportedly on display at revivals.

The latter idea lies at the core of the best-selling Female Life Among the Mormons (1855), which presents itself as the memoir of a woman hypnotized into marrying a church elder. (A more accurate description was offered by the historian David Brion Davis, who called the book a "ridiculous fantasy.") At one point in the narrative the author asks another ex-Mormon how Joseph Smith managed to master Franz Mesmer's mind-control method—Mesmerism—before "its general circulation throughout the country." Her informant replies that "Smith obtained his information, and learned all the strokes, and passes, and manipulations, from a German peddler, who, notwithstanding his reduced circumstances, was a man of distinguished intellect and extensive erudition. Smith paid him handsomely, and the German promised to keep the secret." What's more, "You, madam, were subjected to its influence. So have ten thousand others been, who never dreamed of it. Those most expert in it, are generally sent out to preach among unbelievers."

The church started promoting polygamy privately in 1843, and it acknowledged the practice to the outside world in 1852. This heightened the sexual dimension of stories like Female Life Among the Mormons: In the popular imagination, Mormon men were out to add gentile women to their harems, by hypnotic seduction if possible and by force if necessary. Plural marriage was perceived as a threat to the traditional family, and the anxieties it inspired unleashed a flood of fantasies about other sorts of sexual nonconformity that the Latter-day Saints might be up to.

The excommunicated Mormon John C. Bennett spread stories of a "secret lodge of women" who serviced church officials, going into great detail about the orders found within the lodge and the duties and depravations identified with each. The Consecrates of the Cloister, for example, were a degree "composed of females, whether married or unmarried, who, by an express grant and gift of God, through his Prophet the Holy Joe, are set apart and consecrated to the use and benefit of particular individuals, as secret, spiritual wives," Bennett wrote in 1842. "They are the Saints of the Black Veil, and are accounted the special favorites of Heaven."

A lot of projection was at work here. In Davis' words, readers "took pleasure in imagining the variety of sexual experiences supposedly available to their enemies. By picturing themselves exposed to similar temptations, they assumed they could know how priests and Mormons actually sinned." Bennett, he adds, had been "expelled from the Church as a result of his flagrant sexual immorality."

'Grim, Hidden, Secret Power'

When Mormons clustered in a single location, the fear that they might steal Christian bodies and souls through kidnapping and conversion was joined by another anxiety: the fear that they would steal American institutions by voting en masse, installing a government that would replace the republic with a theocracy. And since you couldn't expect such a subversive menace to limit its efforts to the ballot box, another story began to take hold as well: that the church commanded an army of assassins, dubbed the Danites, to inflict its will by force.

The historical Danites were a vigilante group created in 1838 to compel dissenting Mormons to exit the area and, subsequently, to protect Missouri Mormons from their neighbors' attacks. It has never been proven that the organization lasted longer than a year, but it became a central part of anti-Mormon rhetoric for decades afterward, its reputation growing ever more fearsome with time. When Brigham Young set up a group of minutemen in Utah, saying that they were to battle rustlers and hostile Indians and the like, the group was quickly nicknamed the Destroying Angels, conflated with the old Danites, and feared as a secret squad of hit men. In 1859 the frontiersman John Young Nelson could casually (and inaccurately) assume, upon meeting a Mormon painted like an Indian, that the latter was one of the church's "fanatical renegade-destroying angels, whose mission was to kill every white man not belonging to the sect, and particularly those who were apostates."

Those whose fears of the Danites were grounded in more than mere rumors could point to a memoir written by the outlaw Wild Bill Hickman after he was arrested for murder in 1871. Hickman, who had been excommunicated from the Latter-day Saints a few years earlier, claimed to have carried out several murders on Young's orders. There's no consensus on how much of what he wrote was accurate and how much was blame-shifting or braggadocio, but all of it was incorporated into anti-Mormon lore.

To see the hold that lore had on the American imagination, read Mark Twain's 1872 account of an evening supposedly spent with a Mormon assassin, a tale calculated to puncture the minutemen's image as a sinister elite. "'Destroying Angels,' as I understand it, are Latter-day Saints who are set apart by the Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious citizens," Twain wrote in Roughing It. "I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying Angels and the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and when I entered this one's house I had my shudder all ready. But alas for all our romances, he was nothing but a loud, profane, offensive old blackguard! He was murderous enough, possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel in an unclean shirt and no suspenders?"

By this time Mormon conspiracies were a staple of popular culture. Dozens of lurid novels depicted Danite assassinations, church-sanctioned white slavery, and other alleged LDS crimes. On the other side of the Atlantic, the first Sherlock Holmes story, Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1887), featured a Danite plot to force a woman into an unwanted marriage. The most famous American yarn about Mormon conspirators is probably Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), a book often credited with setting the mold of the formula western.

Grey's story is set in the wild country of Utah in 1871. Jane Withersteen, one of the book's protagonists, has been enmeshed in Mormon society since birth. In theory, she occupies a high place in the community: Her father founded the settlement, and she is one of the town's wealthiest citizens. But she refuses to marry an elder who wants her, and the consequences of that decision demonstrate just how little autonomy she has. "Above her," Grey writes, "hovered the shadow of grim, hidden, secret power."

The conspiracy, we soon learn, doesn't just lurk above her. Withersteen finds traces of the secret power at every level of the social hierarchy; it isn't an authority bearing down on her so much as an all-enveloping system that is almost impossible to escape. Her friends inform on her, and her ranch is haunted by spies and assassins. Anyone is a potential betrayer. Withersteen's servant women "spied and listened; they received and sent secret messengers; and they stole Jane's books and records, and finally the papers that were deeds of her possessions. Through it all they were silent, rapt in a kind of trance." Even apparently empty spaces are haunted. "There's no single move of yours, except when you're hid in your house, that ain't seen by sharp eyes," a gentile friend warns Withersteen. "The cottonwood grove's full of creepin', crawlin' men. Like Indians in the grass. When you rode…the sage was full of sneakin' men. At night they crawl under your windows into the court, an' I reckon into the house."

'Jesus Isn't on the Ballot This Year'

In some places a fear took hold that Mormon ideas—and Mormon weapons—might find their way to the local Indians. Meanwhile, in the face of constant harassment, the Mormons had started to identify with the Native Americans themselves. This had its limits, though, as one group of natives learned on September 11, 1857.

It was the middle of the conflict called the Utah War. The federal government thought the Latter-day Saints were plotting a rebellion. The Mormons thought the feds, who had dispatched more than 2,500 troops to the region, were plotting to eliminate them. In that tense atmosphere of mutual distrust, a group of Mormons—it is not known whether they were following Brigham Young's wishes or acting on their own—combined forces with a group of Paiute Indians and slaughtered around 120 unarmed migrants passing through Mountain Meadows, Utah, including about 50 children. Afterward the Mormon hierarchy tried to scapegoat the natives, claiming the assault had been committed by the Paiute acting alone. Evidently, a church that identified with the persecuted red man wasn't above appealing to anti-Indian prejudice.

It was an awful act, and it shows that some Mormons deserved a portion of the outrage and fear that they inspired. But most of the conspiring in Mormon country was open and basically benign: a concerted effort to construct a community from the ground up. Mormons built schools, temples, courts of arbitration, an elaborate private welfare system, and a network of cooperatives. These were the sort of voluntary organizations that Americans often celebrate, but they appeared to be entwined with civil government in predominantly Mormon areas out west, with the same figures dominating both church and state. Sometimes they were more influential than the formal government.

This situation stoked still more fears of subversion, and it led to some stunning restrictions on the Saints' civil liberties. In 1884 the Idaho territory made it illegal for Latter-day Saints to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury. Legislators invoked the standard anti-Mormon conspiracy theories, but lurking behind those exotic charges were more ordinary resentments: opposition to plural marriage, jealousy of the Mormon co-ops' economic clout, and, above all, Republicans' eagerness to disenfranchise a group that in Idaho voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats.

The church's road to respectability began in 1890, when it renounced polygamy. During the next couple of years its leaders dissolved the People's Party, a specifically Mormon political group in Utah, and they pledged not to vote as a unit in Idaho, which helped persuade the authorities there to restore Mormon liberties. Conventional Christians continued to regard the church with suspicion, but in the culture wars of the late 20th century they often found themselves fighting alongside the Latter-day Saints. "These people had never been in the same room before," the anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly told Richard Viguerie and David Franke in their 2004 book America's Right Turn. "I'd say, 'Now, the person sitting next to you might not be "saved," but we're all going to work together to stop [the Equal Rights Amendment].' Getting the Baptists and the Catholics to work together, and getting them all to work with the Mormons—this was something!" But work together they did, because a socially conservative Catholic or Protestant ultimately had more in common with a socially conservative Mormon than either did with the secular world or with the religious left.

Today, 128 years after Idaho barred Mormons from holding office, a Mormon bishop has a substantial chance of becoming the next president of the United States. And while his candidacy has dragged the anti-Mormons out of the woodwork, their angry rhetoric may be a sign of frustrated impotence, not power.

Just look at Robert Jeffress, who in April endorsed the Romney campaign. The pastor explained his decision by quoting a friend: "Jesus isn't on the ballot this year, so we have to make choices." That's the same Robert Jeffress who embarrassed Rick Perry last year by describing Romney's faith as a "cult." Evidently he can overlook a little cultism when the alternative is another four years of Barack Obama.

Senior Editor Jesse Walker is writing a history of American political paranoia for HarperCollins.

NEXT: Reason.tv: How the Government Makes You Fat - Gary Taubes on Obesity, Carbs, and Bad Science

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Anyone who professes a belief in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam really really shouldn't talk about how weird Mormon beliefs and practices are.

      1. Episiarch's moon-worshiping vegan voodoo sex cult, on the other hand, may cast the first stone at will.

        1. It's a lesbian coven! Get your facts straight!

          1. Into the coven

            Man, I love '80s cheese.

          2. So you're saying the V-8 you ritually drink at every meeting represents...

            You know what? Never mind. I don't want to know.

            1. It's not V8 per se, it's clamatto.

              1. I should have said Strawberry Yoohoo anyway.

          3. Sounds fun. Do you let men join?

        2. K as a Mormon and a Libertarian let me answer some of this
          1-underwear not magic a reminder of our believes think of them like the hats the Jews where or the beads that Catholics have yes there are those stories out there where someone say s hay they saved my life but its just like those stories of the guy who gets shot and the bible in his pocket stops it but not magic
          2-the Indian thing its not the north American Indians but the Aztecs you know south Americans not that it changes much but the study I read had to do with the north American Indians but I could be wrong so please be kind.
          3 -the whole mason thing k the masons say they come from the people who helped build Abrahams temple in the bible but there is not proof of this so you could say that Joseph smith stole the idea or he restored it cuz we have temples to so its up to you I cant prove it I call it a leap of faith
          4-drinking smoking and drinking soda is bad for you enough said you can do as you wish does not change the logic of that
          If there is any more questions please ask I can check back and try to answer them for you forgive my bad grammar I suck at typing.

      2. The funniest part for me is that I still find this the most-succinct description of the "Story of Mormon" in existence.

        "OK, kids - if you can look past the snark, this is the basic story. If you CAN'T look past the snark, well, it's even more enjoyable..."

    1. I prefer Raelism, mostly for the free women.

    2. No, sorry, there's an important y significant difference between those religions y Mormonism. Those other religions are from th olden days, a time when records were not easily corroborated, and therefore it was easier to believe claims of religious revelations. Mormonism, like Scientology, stems from a modern time when you have to make up an outrageous story for it not to be easily disprovable. In other words, Mormonism is transparently fake in a way those older Jehovistic religions are not.

  2. the popular perception of Joseph Smith's faith featured a wild m?lange of mind control, assassinations, secret sexual lodges, and plots to subvert the republic.

    Wait, you mean Mormons aren't doing all of that stuff anymore?

    I suddenly have far less respect for Mitt Romney that I did before this article. I didn't think that was possible.

    1. Obama should give out free copies of "A Study in Scarlet." It's public domain, after all. If challenged because of its anti-Mormonism, he could just plead innocence and talk about how much he loved Sherlock Holmes growing up.

      1. If he gave out "Tales of Terror and Mystery", people could see what was really happening on "Lost".

    2. a wild m?lange of mind control, assassinations, secret sexual lodges, and plots to subvert the republic.

      I won't become a Mormon unless I can have a nice glass of red wine go with all of that.

      1. sounds like a good Saturday night to me.

      2. There's actually a considerably valid scientific hypothesis that the reasoning for banning alcohol was because the genetic diaspora that constituted the Mormon congregation early on was prone to raging and violent alcoholism.

        In my experience with lapsed Mormons who trace their faith back to the original Utah settlers, this rings highly true.

        1. Oh, bullshit. Mormons are a cross-section of people with poor ancestors from all over.

          1. If you read the history, the alcohol banning occurred because Joseph Smith's first wife got pissy about all the drinking and smoking, and then Joseph made that into church doctrine, and everyone went along with it because he was The Prophet.

          2. Only since 1978.

          3. "Mormons are a cross-section of people with poor stupid ancestors from all over."


            Just like Christians.

        2. "In my experience with lapsed Mormons who trace their faith back to the original Utah settlers, this rings highly true."

          So... um... regarding your scientific hypothesis - what's your experience with the control groups - a) non-lapsed Mormons who trace their faith back to the orginal Utah settlers, and b) lasped Mormons who DON'T trace their faith back to the original Mormon settlers?

          Curious as well as to your study population - exactly how many lapsed Moromons who trace their faith back to the original Utah settlers do you have experience with?

          1. Carnal experience, or just more casual?

  3. I had a Mormon roommate for a semester in college. He was weird. Whether he was representative, I cannot say.

    1. More anecdotal evidence of weird. In HS the Mormon brother and sister went to prom together. Perhaps this was a subtle fuck you and your prejudices, but I don't think so.

      1. I knew a Mormon guy in high school who was probably the smartest kid I ever met. I hear he might have had a nervous breakdown at some point, but I don't know if that was the genius or the long underwear.

        1. Actually, You don't get the magic underwear til you've been through the temple and you have to be an adult for that.

    2. I have a couple of cousins who converted to Mormonism. They're not weird at all. They're a bit "churchy", but that's hardly unique to Mormonism. All of the weird stuff people point to have their counterparts in other mainstream religions and organizations. Mormons don't drink Coca Cola and Vegans don't eat cheese. They go to church more frequently than once a week, but so do many Baptists. They have a big ass temple in Salt Lake City, and Catholics have a big ass Basilica in the Vatican. They wear special undergarments for some events, but Masons wear mystical aprons to theirs.

      They believe that Jesus came to America and preached to the Indians. Okay, that IS weird. But is it any weirder than the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation? Or the evangelicals' depiction of the rapture?

      1. The weirdness comes from taking a well-known story - the life and work of Jesus - and reusing it in a radically different place, one that doesn't fit into the rest of the story. It's like making an episode of Law Order from the Food Fight episodes of 80s sitcoms.

        1. Oh yes... taking mythology and changing it into a new form is SO much less respectable than making up that nonsense in the first place.

          All you're really talking about is that the current cult du jour is Christianity, and its adherents don't want to consider anything else, perfectly normal behavior for the brainwashed. No more than that.

      2. Catholics believe the same as Protestants re transubstantiation, they just pretend otherwise to each other. And as to rapture, it hasn't happened yet so you can't disprove it.

        Mormonism, not so much. So this space man showed you these gold tablets, huh? Where are they? Oh yeah, they...disappeared. But you made a copy on the spot. But you lost it. It's so evasive, it's funny. It's clear he made it up as he went along, because if he'd thought it out just a little in advance, he'd've gotten it like Edgar Cayce.

    3. Weird...meaning you could probably trust him with your wallet?

      1. No. Weird as in fucking bizarre. I'm not anti-Mormon and have only known a few. But he was strange. It might have had nothing to do with his religion, though he did talk about it a lot.

        1. Come on, details man! Did he walk everywhere backwards, wear his undies on the outside, fecophilia, what!?! Inquiring minds want to know.

          1. He had ProLib as a roommate.

            Isn't that weird enough?

    4. Weirdness is by no means resticted to those of the Mormon faith. I think we are just more familiar with the weirdness of the more common Christian faiths so we tend to overlook them.

      1. This, indeed.

  4. ...a wild m?lange of mind control, assassinations, secret sexual lodges, and plots to subvert the republic.

    Admit it, you grabbed that quote from of one of Alex Jones' diatribes against Bohemian Grove.

  5. I hear Mormons suck the blood out of newborn infants. I also hear they only drive Oldsmobiles with steering-wheel covers.

    1. That'd be just like a Mormon to drive an obsolete auto brand.

      PS: RIP, Olds

      1. Fuck Olds
        I blame the government,UAW, and current GM management for killing Pontiac.

        If AMERICANS had any say they would have killed Buick instead but your average crony communist capitalist chinaman likes his fucking Buick.

        1. but your average crony communist capitalist chinaman likes his fucking Buick.

          I think they dropped the endorsement deal with Tiger Woods following his philandering fiasco.

        2. Pontiwrecks.

          1. Poor Old....

        3. I can live without Pontiac: the maker of the Grand Am and Grand Prix. I hate those cars.

        4. Pontiacs were the most unreliable crap GM turned out. Terrible.

  6. But seriously, I've had Mormons work for me and as neighbors, I find them a trifle dull but great folks nonetheless.

    1. Did they make you into a zombie?

      1. No, and the only drank seltzer or orange juice when they visited, not the massive amounts of beer and wine my Catholic neighbors hoover up.

  7. the fear that they would steal American institutions by voting en masse, installing a government that would replace the republic with a theocracy

    And no self-respecting Christian would let some other cult do that.

    1. nah, that's the cult of the progressive, worshipers of all powerful state and masturbators of FDR's ghost.

      1. ^^ this

        Everyone is religious. Progressives hate religion because they hate the competition.

        1. Me neither. Unless you consider the NYSE a church.

  8. i have a lot of mormon friends.

    i think the one thing that does legitimately give people pause about mormonism is the secret ceromonial shit

    i'm not aware of any other "mainstream religion" that engages in such secret ceremonies, etc.

    heck, i was in a frat in college. we had secret, frankly pretty banal, ceremonies as well.

    one of my friend's got married, and since i am not LDS i couldn't attend the "temple wedding".

    i found that grossly offensive, and i didn't attend the "public " one either.

    when you have secret (literally) temples and secret ceremonies, you up your chances of people thinking of you as a cult.

    1. I can only imagine the hijinks at the annual Fraternal Order of Police.

      1. well, i do know two officers who were suspended for drunken debauchery (off duty) at a cop convention, although it wasn't FOP.

        i actually know NOTHING about the FOP , so i wiki'd it. it's bigger than i thought, they seem to have (mostly) reasonable policy advocacy positions, and they also have an apparently fake latin motto


        1. i actually know NOTHING about the FOP

          Aren't you supposed to leave the room when the subject is brought up instead of just disavowing any knowledge?

    2. One day it will come out that Mormonism is the religion of Masons, and their Temples are financed by the Bilderbergers through scientific advances sold for profit to global Kochporashuns by the Illuminati.


      1. um... res ipsa loquitur?


      2. I smell a blockbuster.

        1. First a novel, then a movie starring Tom Hanks.

        2. Chili for lunch. Sorry.

      3. It is well known that Joseph Smith was a Mason.

    3. While not a religion, Masonry has a lot of weird shit going on behind closed doors. Some people think that makes them satanic or something, but my grandpa was a 32nd degree mason and definitely was NOT a cultist. His will stated he had to be buried in his Masonic apron, which was definitely weird. But not so weird that our first president was also buried in his Masonic apron. So there!

      1. yea. masonry isn't as open as mormonism either.

        you don't see ads on billboards with pictures of people and the line "i'm a mormon", and they don't cruise around wearing short sleeve shirts and ties (again, something that to me is the height of awful fashion), and try to convert people

        masons are secretive, but they don't put themselves out there like mormons do with their "we're your neighbors and we're just like you. come join us" campaign

        i go along with the matt and trey idea, which is that they have wacky ideas (who doesn't), but on the whole they seem to be nice people and make good neighbors

        1. My neighbor is a mason, and the Mormons paid him to do stuff for them. Mainly, the nefarious activities consisted of covering a building with marble tiles. But he never tried to keep any secrets about being a mason, nor being on the Mormon payroll.

      2. Actually, Joe Smith stole a lot of stuff from the Masons, just as he did from the Methodists, Baptists, Quakers and almost every other non-conformist religion in contemporary America.

        He was, in fact, a Mason himself.

    4. The ceremonies aren't particularly secret to anyone who knows how to google shit.

      I've participated in the LDS ceremonies, and the descriptions on the internet I've read are spot on.

      The Church line is that the ceremonies are sacred, not secret, and anyone in the world can participate in them if they are willing to jump through the hoops it requires to become a Temple Recommend holding Mormon.

      1. i'm aware of that, but the mormons have tried to keep them secret and they consider them secret.

        and like i said, you can't get into a temple without a temple recommend.

        i think the mormons are full of shit, if they use the sacred, not secret distinction

        if one cannot even GO TO a temple wedding unless one is a mormon, that says a lot

        i like most of the mormons i've met, and i think they have some positive strategies to deter social pathologies and from what i understand mormons are pretty successful on average.

        but the secrecy stuff leaves me cold and certainly is going to increase people's tendency to view them as a cult. and rightly so

        sunshine - disinfectant and all that

  9. Mormonism can't be that bad, or they'd be working to stop Romney. I can't see Scientology, for instance, exposing itself to that level of scrutiny.

  10. I'm sorry, but just about everyone who posts on this site can be described as 'weird', some more so than others.

    Libertarianism is all about saying "You do your weird thing, I'll do mine."

    I really don't care if Mormons are weird. I just wish they'd stop sending pairs of very sincere people out to knock on my door. [Is there some secret symbol I can put on my door to stop this?]

    1. Roman catholicism drives them off. Tell them you're Catholic and they disappear. I don't know how one marks the door to indicate papistry, though.

      1. A mezzuzah, perhaps?

      2. As a papist, I think I can help. I find a big green Irish welcome mat is a good first line of defense. You can also put a statue of St. Francis in your front yard -- the one with the birds is very nice. If you have a Gothic streak, you can always hang a large crucifix near your front door, guaranteed to run off not just Mormons, but JWs, Southern Baptists and vampires.

        1. We're packing to move. As the wife is both catholic and goth, I think I packed about 2 or 3 dozen crosses and crucifixes of various varieties. We'll have to get one for the front walk of the new house.

        2. Also, a tiny statue of Mary on the dash, and a rosary hanging from the rear view of your car.

          Though those are both pretty retro.

        3. "As a papist, I think I can help."

          Pape me
          Pape me my friend
          Pape me
          Pape me again

          I'm not the only one
          I'm not the only one
          I'm not the only one
          I'm not the only one

      3. Giant 3' x 5' paintings of the Sacred Heart and the Ascension seemed to work on the Southern Baptists. (My then roomate's father had been a Catholic missionary and we had random Catholic art.) Although the same guy thought our 2' tall Buddha statue was an idol and wanted to know if my roommate prayed to it.

        1. I only pray to Aqua-Buddha.

        1. I thought that would work, so I hung a Big Mouth Billy Bass on the door. Nope.

        2. Maybe the Darwin Fish.

          1. FSM symbol?

    2. A goat head and pentacle on the door works, but also tends to drive down property values.

      1. Ha! Property values. That's where I got these wannabe millionaires that live around me by the balls.

      2. Not if the residents of the house are gay. If they are, then the result is a wash.

    3. I really don't care if Mormons are weird. I just wish they'd stop sending pairs of very sincere people out to knock on my door. [Is there some secret symbol I can put on my door to stop this?

      A sign saying "No Fucking Mormon missionaries allowed" would probably do the trick.

      Or just answer the door and say something like, "I'm busy ass-raping my boyfriend now. Would you like to join in?"

      1. My girlfriend said, "Just answer the door butt nekkid ... works for anything, not just Mormons."

        1. If a cop doesn't shoot you when you answer the door, that is.

          1. troll-o-meter: .01

            btw, i have had a few people answer the door nekkid on me in my career

            we had one 220 woman who would either be nekkid, partially nekkid, or clad in neglige.


            and she would always call in bogus complaints

            at one point, some officer pissed her off (he basically told her to stop wasting our fucking time with her bullshit)

            she promptly called in a rape complaint

            our lt., eager to fuck over an officer (a sure path to promotion) responded and apparently pissed her off to.

            because after she left, she called a complaint in that HE raped her

            i always audiotaped my encounters with her.

            cya and all

            1. It's really unfair that people call you guys pigs.

              Pigs are smart. It's defamation, is what it is.

              Punctuation, Dunphy. Spelling. Grammar. These are the components from which you may (once educated) assemble cogent commentary in written form.

              1. Yeah, if I were a pig (meaning the kind with tusks and curly tails), I'd be pretty pissed off.

  11. There are not a ton of Mormons in Kentucky. [waits for you to recover from your shock] But I got to know one in high school because he was dating a friend of mine. Friendly, sweet guy, helpful as all get out... just pleasant to be around. They dated for a year or so. When they broke up, all the stories started pouring out of her. The magic underwear. The sex/guilt/sex merry-go-round. The constant pressure for her to convert. Some truly loopy conversations she had with his parents that boiled down to "We know you had sex with our son, so you have to convert and marry him right now."

    He stayed in our circle of friends and started dating around within it. (He was really good-looking, so he made the rounds easily.) After the break up, the same story. This happened again and again. He eventually got on to convert and they got married when he was 19 or so. They divorced within a year and he went back on the prowl.

    1. The magic underwear is odd, but the merry-go-round and have-to-get-married schtick is routine among fundamentalist and evangelical Christian churches.

      1. It's just ancedata. Don't get your non-magical underwear in a twist.

      2. Studmuffinish is a definite Mormon trait with few counterparts in other evangelical creeds. It's why Waco had to happen. It's why Smith had to be killed.

        1. Smith reminded me: I didn't tell you the ironic part...

          My friend was older than him when they dated.

        2. "Frustrated rock musician, trying to fuck everything that moves, heavily armed, holed up in a remote compound in Texas... I'm not sure this is going to be an isolated incident."

          1. i don't think the underwear is any odder than stuff like yarmulkes, or other religious garb

  12. For some reason I really like the South PArk attitude towards the religion:

    1) Joseph Smith was a con artist who preyed on unbelievably credulous people.

    2) Only Mormons can go to heaven - despite the fact that God is a Buddhist.

  13. I grew up around Mormons, there are a surprising number of them in my town. The most famous of which being Orson Scott Card.

    The one thing that will stay with me was when I was in the eleventh grade on an extended two week funk one Mormon friend we called Ken Doll, came up without saying a word placed The Power of Positive Thinking in front of me. Interesting book and quite a contrast to The Fountainhead which I was reading at the time as well. I didn't absorb its narrative as my own, but still touched by what he did.

  14. I had some neighbors in Killen, TX that were Mormans. They were pretty weird. But whatever.

    I've got some business associates that apparently are Mormans, too. They are pretty fun. I don't think they are "practicing" Mormans. So who cares which kind Mitt is?

  15. Every mormon I've known was friendly and not at all preachy or judgmental unlike many baptists I've met but that could be because here in Texas mormons are rare and therefore can't be as pushy.

    1. I grew up in a town in suburban Denver with a sizable Mormon population, and for the most part they wouldn't talk about their religion unless someone asked them about it. The one exception was a woman who actually filed a complaint with the school district when we were going to be shown a PG-13 movie, but I think that had more to do with her socon personal beliefs than her religion, specifically. A lot of the Mormons in town were actually embarrassed about her because she made them look bad by association.

      In all honesty, I'd rather live in a neighborhood of Mormons than any other demographic. At least I know they won't be drinking all my beer when they visit.

    2. I'm reminded of the old joke: if you ever go fishing with a Baptist, be sure to bring two. If you only take one, they'll drink all your beer.

      1. Jews don't recognize the divinity of Jesus, Methodists don't recognize the authority of the Pope, and Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store.

      2. Baptists are against fornicating because it could lead to dancing.

  16. Given that Mormons, Catholics, Baptists and others clearly state that their religion informs their politics and their churches spend millions for lobbying, looking at their religion is fair game as far as I'm concerned. Mormons have the additional problem that their holy book isn't just odd (the Bible is that too), but directly contradicts historical, linguistic, and DNA evidence.

    But just because some candidates channel irrational beliefs through religion doesn't mean that their opponents are any more rational, and voting for president always seems to come down to the lesser of two evils. So, I'll keep an open mind.

  17. It's not the weird stuff that I find off-putting, it's the dullness and earnestness. I just don't get along with folks like that.

    1. ^^this^^

      Not too many Mormons around here, but there is a healthy population of Jevohah Witnesses. Now they are weird.

      1. Jevohah Witnesses

        Meh. They just mean theres more blood for me.

    2. I know Mormons who are neither. Get along just fine with them.

    3. For me, the dullness and earnestness is a plus. Boring neighbors tends to equal drama-free neighborhoods, and I prefer peace and quiet.

      1. This is true. I like my friends fun, loud and irresponsible, but my neighbors dull and earnest. Funny, that.

        1. Yeah, I have to agree with that sentiment.

  18. one big negative. i had thanksgiving dinner with some mormon in-laws (no, my wife is not mormon) and one of them brings in (the remains) of the turkey. it's already cut up. imo, that's gauche. you carve the turkey at the table. but that's a minor thing

    what AMAZED ME and i am STILL PISSED OFF AT is that he ***

    wait for it..


    turkey skin is tasty. heck, it's one of the, if not THE best part of the turkey.

    in general, having attended dinners with several different mormon families, their food SUCKS.

    i mean TERRIBLE

    first of all, it's often extremely carb (especially processed carb heavy) but they almost universally seem to have a fear of fat.


    they have no problem chomping down 6 white dinner rolls (pure sugar), but god forbid you eat some dietary fat

    they also own ... OWN blandness when it comes to food

    i actually love jello. but who the fuck makes TACOS and not only doesn't put salsa on the table, but doesn't even have any IN THE HOUSE

    not a single chili in the house, jalapeno , etc. either

    the best they had was tabasco sauce, a "milder" version i had never seen before and that clearly hadn't been used in years

    i mean when i think tacos, the primary elements are meat (which was present), onions (nope), chilis (nope), cilantro (nope). otoh, they did have homemade tortillas.

    but every time i have had mormon food, it has been crap.

    1. carve the turkey at the table. but that's a minor thing

      We've always carved the turkey in the kitchen, then brought the meat out on two platters: one each for dark and white meat. I guess each family has its traditions.


      That's just sick. I'd have tossed my napkin on the table and walked out without a word. Some things just go without saying.

    2. Skinless turkey? Turkey doesn't even have a prominent fatty tela layer as other fowl do, and after cooking.... That's taking low fat to a silly extreme.

  19. Mormons aren't Christians, though. Unlike others who say things like that, I am just stating that as a fact, not as judgment.

    1. it's an entirely semantical wank based on what you consider teh litmus tests for christianity to be

      i've heard claims quakers aren't christians either.

      they have very different views from the classic protestant/catholics on a lot of shit regarding the essence of god(s), but otoh, they believe in the whole jesus is divine/son of god thang, which to many is the litmus test for christian or not christian.

      ultimately, it either becomes a definitional wank (who decides which definition), or some sort of appeal to some authoritah

      frankly, labels aren't that interesting. i mean one can know what mormons believe and then you... know what they believe.

      whether you choose to include that in the camp of christianity or not, it doesn't change the totality of beliefs that define and distinguish mormonism from, for example, protestantism.

      i've heard some dems say you can't be a dem if you are prolife btw. for them, that's a litmus test.

      but for others, it isn't


      again, it's just a label.

    2. "Mormons aren't Christians"

      Please. The only people who repeat this, OR EVEN CARE, are pathetic christian fundamentalists anyway.

      1. Yes a guy named Randian is a fundie. Were you born retarded or did you grow into it?

        1. do you believe in Jesus as a supernatural being and all that hogwash? Then you are a fundie to me. And only people like you care about who is really "christian" or not.

          1. Well, I'm a super-duper atheist but I think it's bizarre and ridiculous to say Mormons are Christian when their entire cosmology is so dramatically different from that of other Christians. Their idea of an afterlife is about as different from that of Catholics as mine is.

            1. again, it's a semantical wank, but they believe jesus was a divine being, the son of god, etc.

              imo, that's pretty much the fundamental element of christianity and a large part of what distinguishes it from other abrahamic religions

              i mean christianity branched off from judaism, and the main difference remains that "pesky jesus thing"

              they do have some rather different cosmology, though. absolutely. their idea of the trinity is also quite different from how catholics view it

              1. again, it's a semantical wank, but they believe jesus was a divine being, the son of god, etc.

                Except "divine" means something completely different to a mormon than to a christian. As Christian uses the term, Mormons do not think Jesus is divine--they don't even think God is divine.

                1. When you say "As Christian uses the term..." are you referring to Catholics? Protestants? Evangelicals? I don't want to get into a slap fest, but I find it a bit odd that you seem to know what the exact 'Christian' definition of 'devine' is. Christian are by no means a homogeneous group.

                  1. Yes, but there must be some common features that apply to the entire group. Otherwise, "Christian" becomes a meaningless word.

      2. I've found that only Journolister types repeat it, mainly to try and scare off the evangelicals.

      3. I'm an agnostic and I think Mormons aren't Christians. It's like claiming that Christians are all really Jews. There may be an evolutionary link between the two, but it's obvious they've deviate enough that they can't be considered the same religion anymore.

    3. I'm not sure how Mormons are not Christians.

      Jesus Christ as Savior and as part of a Trinity is central to their belief system.

      1. Because the rest of their Trinity consists of Satan and Jack Kerouac?

        1. 😮

          Actually, IIANM, they do not generally use the word Trinity as a rule.

          Nevertheless they believe in a three-in-one Godhead consisting of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

          And they end the prayers "in the name of Jesus Christ...".

          I don't really understand why non-Christians would do that.

          1. You have a point.

            I mean, what would I know? I await the return of John Frum.

      2. The same way that Christians aren't Jewish?

        1. You do realize that many evangelicals don't consider catholic to Christian. Is that "the same way that Christians aren't Jewish"?

        2. What Christians claim to be Jewish? Or are there Christians that others claim to be Jewish? I know of none.

          The Mormons state right upfront that they are Christians; in fact, they believe that theirs is the only true Christian Church.

      3. In Mormon theology, God is still a physical being that exists within the universe, merely an incredibly advanced one. This is opposed to the Christian view that God exists independently and outside of the universe.

        1. There are wide variations of thought as to the nature God across all sects.

          Whether someone is a Christian or not does no depend on their view of the nature of God, it's whether believe that Jesus is his Son who came to earth and died for their sins and was resurrected etc.

          Mormons believe all that.

    4. Having friends and family who are Mormon, I find the whole debate to be an exercise in shear mental masturbation. It's also somewhat bizarre for an atheist and libertarian to throw their weight behind either of the arguments of such a subjective question. Are Catholics Christian? It depends on who you ask. The same thing with Mormons.

      Also, what dumphy said.

  20. Nothing about how Romney just said "I feel that we're all Catholic today?" In the context of the contraceptive mandate which just got challenged by a Protestant university?


  21. "wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism"

    That is a legitimate position to hold, IMO.

    1. Yeah, but what if the other guy believes in the founding whoppers of Communism?

      1. Wasn't talking about the other guy of course. I dont' vote for any of these freakin morons.

  22. Sounds like one heck of a plan to me dude. Wow.


  23. If there had been no Nicene Creed or Emperor Constantine, Catholic and Protestant theology would be quite similar to Mitt Romney's In fact, there would likely be no need for the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) to restore Jesus Christ's church. Mormons' theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ are closer to Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormon teenagers have been judged to "top the charts" in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:


    According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion. They volunteer 7 times as many hours as does the general population, according to a 2012 University of Pennsylvania study. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:


    11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians, as is Mitt Romney, who is as faithful as the most devout Founder.

    1. So your butt hurts. Thanks for the edumacation anyway.

      Although the Evangelicals are gonna argue with you big time about whether or not "based on" New Testament really gets it. That's why we don't discuss religion or politics in polite company. (IOW "that's why we discuss it at HR among impolite company")

      But you knew that.

    2. If there had been no Nicene Creed or Emperor Constantine, Catholic and Protestant theology would be quite similar to Mitt Romney's

      And the Muslims might have won the Battle of Tours, conquered Europe, and we'd all be debating about Mohamed al-Romniyah's version of Islam.

      Mormons' theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds.

      Plus that whole Book of Mormon thing, which apparently gets omitted from discussion whenever convenient.

      For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ are closer to Early Christianity than any other denomination.

      Which one? No seriously, which form of "early Christianity" are you claiming to be close to? The whole reason for the ecumenical councils, including the Council of Nicaea, was because Christianity in its early days was wildly divergent and chaotic.

      Much of that diversity has returned, to be sure, but the fact of its existence seems to indicate that basing your form of Christianity on the "New Testament" actually leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Just as Joseph Smith claimed to have some of those answers, so too did the ecumenical councils.

  24. And Mormon teenagers have been judged to "top the charts" in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study.

    All the fun kids stay away from Mormonism.

    According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

    So 98 percent of your Church believes in the doctrines of your Church? You might want to have a talk with the other 2 percent.

    and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion

    Straight from the horse's mouth!

    They volunteer 7 times as many hours as does the general population, according to a 2012 University of Pennsylvania study.

    Good for them?

    Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll

    Know thine enemy?

    11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians

    Yet none of them were Mormons...

    Mitt Romney, who is as faithful as the most devout Founder

    For certain definitions of faith, anyway.

    Do try harder next time.

    1. Damn the squirrels! Damn them all to hell!

      1. Also, only two signers of the Declaration went on to become Presidents (Adams and Jefferson), not "several".

        1. Not to mention that, of those two, one was a Unitarian (blasphemous to Mormons and most other Christians alike) and the other was a Deist (not Christian at all).

          Jeez, did you bother do do any thinking before you posted this nonsense?

  25. y is "not a Christian" and that http://www.maillotfr.com/ Mormonism "has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity

  26. nice job, another great example of how simplicity makes things prettier. this post is absolutely good.
    womens sunglasses
    oakley sunglasses

  27. nice job, another great example of how simplicity makes things prettier. this post is absolutely good.womens sunglasses
    oakley sunglasses

  28. Elections are coming and now blames are on each others both parties are doing it.

  29. Lawrence O'Donnell made reference to Smith having sex with a maid. The maid in question is Fanny Alger. Smith's relationship with her was a bit later than the 1830 founding of the Mormon church, but it did happen. Smith later married up to 43 women, 11 of whom were previously married to other men. Some of the women were young, 14, 16, and 17 years old at the time. Many times stuff gets said about Mormons that is not true, but usually there is truth to it somewhere, fyi. I am a Mormon since 8 years of age and have spent quite a bit of time researching Mormon history that is not taught in Sunday School!

    1. Scott, I am a "Mormon" too. I am just wondering if all this researching has strengthened your testimony of the Church or has your faith been weakened?

  30. One other historical tib-bit, to add to the idea that NOT all the comments made in a tone of "anti-Mormon" are factually incorrect. When Smith was killed on June 27, 1844 at the Carthage Illinois jail, he was in the jail on a legitimate charge. He was head of the Navuoo town council and had ordered the destruction of a local newspaper (The "Navuoo Expositor") because it was going to run stories of his polygamous (and polyandrous) liasons. The material to be printed survived and was later found to be largely factual, but Smith viewed the material as dangerous to his position of power among the Mormon faithful. His murder (not martrydom...he fired a pistol into the mob killing several during the raid that got him killed)was due to hysteria concerning Mormon political power and abuse of the legal system (practising polygamy). It was not right he was killed but it ended up actually saving the young church as he became a martry in the eyes of his followers, though not in actuality.

  31. Jesse, I am a "Mormon" and I like your article. Although you dwelt on the usual anti-Mormon themes (polygamy, Danites, and Mountain Meadows) your treatment was pretty good, since it is also obvious that you are not a "Mormon." This is the first time I have been on this web-site. I intend to come again. Something you may find interesting is that "Mormons" regard their religion as the most reasonable one and we invite everyone to study it with the scientific method.

  32. I can't help but notice that the author glosses over the fine points. For example, what revelations did Joseph Smith claim to have? It all began when he prayed to know which church to join. Also, The LDS Church always has been and always will be dedicated to teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the core and all else is peripheral (if it's true at all). Please visit mormon.org and mormonnewsroom.org for more complete and accurate information.
    For my part, I'm glad that some journalist felt obligated to look up some answers to past false accusations against Mormon, however cursory.
    Thanks for listening.

  33. The gays protested Catholic Chruch bigotry in St Patty's Cathedral. Will the peaceniks protest war in the Mormon Temples should a Prez. Romney start a 10 trillion dollar war vs. Iran for the good of Israel? And hopefully protest outside the Synagogues that have the biggest SUPPORT ISRAEL... assuming anyone likely to protest isn't already in the CAMPS...

    Who KNOWS what someone who believes gold plates written by God or Jesus or whoever were discovered in America only 180 years ago will do when president. At least the other religions are so damned old that just barely believers can hide in some innocuous faction. Do Mormons have innocuous factions??

  34. really nice blog, very informative. thanks dude for wonderful posting. keep it up in the future as well.
    cheap supreme snapback
    snapbacks for cheap

  35. Thanks for the additional information

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.