When disagreement is labeled hate

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When hundreds of thousands of DVDs comparing the teachings of Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders to the Bible appeared on the doors of people living in Utah and several other states, the Mormon Church went into one of its most hypocritical frenzies in modern times.

"Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith" was produced by an ex-Mormon businessman who financed the project by selling stock in his company. It includes the testimonies of several ex-Mormons, including several personal friends who have spent their lives reaching out to the LDS people with compassion and concern.

It began with a statement saying, "This video is produced out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ and love for our Mormon and Christian friends. We pray that it will touch the hearts of  all who watch through the grace and truth of Christ Jesus."

The plan was to hand-deliver the DVDs on March 25, one week prior to the LDS General Conference. Volunteers from all over the country joined in to help. Tens of thousands were mailed directly to homes in parts of Utah.

The Mormon Church pulled out all of the stops to paint the Christians involved in this project as nothing more than religious bigots. You have to understand that much of the media in Utah is either owned by the LDS Church or is sympathetic to it. I can't recall one report locally that did not include the derogatory term "anti-Mormon" in its coverage. Talk show hosts did their best to stir up their listeners against the "religious bigots" who dared come onto "our property" with their "message of hate." Callers were incredulous to think that Christians would try to convince Mormons to "leave their church."

What an irony given that few seemed to care how it must feel for non-Mormons who have to endure Mormon missionaries coming on to their property with the same purpose in mind. While I personally see this as a great opportunity to speak with the missionaries, there are many who who find this extremely annoying.

The contempt toward this Christian effort to share with others what they believe to be true was fueled by the LDS Church. Its official Web site carried a link to a statement by the Arizona regional office of the Anti-Defamation League denouncing the outreach. It stated in part, "Hate directed at any of us is hate directed at all of us."


Hate?
Such an accusation becomes especially confusing when Arizona regional director Bill Strauss conceded that, after viewing the DVD he did not find it to be hateful. The fact is, neither the Arizona office, nor the national office of the ADL in New York, has found any evidence to support the notion that the DVD contained hateful material. I have personally tried to get the LDS Church leadership to explain what in the DVD they consider "hate speech." As of this writing I have received no reply. Still, this charge continues to circulate among members of the LDS Church.

The Mormon Church's Web site argued, "When Latter-day Saint missionaries visit homes or engage others in conversation, they studiously avoid criticism of other faiths. They do not attack and they do not condemn. Not so. Mormon missionaries are clearly instructed on page seven of the "Preach My Gospel" manual to "help investigators to see the pattern of apostasy and restoration," so that they might "see the need to accept the restored gospel." In other words, the missionary is there to get you to leave your church and join theirs.

The manual spends almost three full pages discussing the "Great Apostasy" (35-37) and how "simple doctrines and ordinances of the Savior" were "changed to conform to worldly philosophies." Part of helping people understand this alleged "Great Apostasy "is the recitation of Joseph Smith's First Vision where he claims he was told by God that all the churches were wrong, their creeds were an abomination, and their professors were all corrupt. This isn't criticism?

Mormon General Authority B.H. Roberts insisted that if there was not a "complete apostasy of the Christian religion," there would be no need for the Mormon Church to exist. A common tenet held by all knowledgeable Mormons is that their church is the "only true church on the face of the earth." I have publicly defended the right of every Mormon to believe this and the many other unique aspects of their faith; however, I cannot defend any Latter-day Saint who wraps themselves in the cloak of victimhood because someone felt compelled to offer a rebuttal to their claims.


Bill McKeever is the founder/director of Mormonism Research Ministry (mrm.org), a Christian organization based in the Salt Lake City area. MRM has been comparing the teachings between Mormonism and Christianity since 1979. In 1983, McKeever became the founding publisher of the San Diego Christian Classifieds, the predecessor of the Christian Examiner.

Published, June 2007