Speaking at its annual conference held in Detroit in July 2007, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond called on the American public and the entertainment industry to stop using the “N-Word.” Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick added, “Today we’re not just burying the N-word, we’re taking it out of our spirit.” I applaud this effort, and with it I offer my own challenge to Mormons everywhere to bury their own infamous “N-word,” that being the word “anti-Mormon.”
As with the word “nigger,” the word “anti-Mormon” is meant to be nothing more than an ugly pejorative. It is usually slapped on anyone who questions or disagrees with the teachings of the LDS faith and implies that the perceived critic is somehow “against” (anti) Mormons (as individuals). I’m certainly not against Mormons; in fact, I personally feel I have something better to offer them than what they already claim to have. Technically, that makes me “pro-Mormon,” though I admit I am against Mormonism.
Far too many Mormons automatically assume that Christians who wish to challenge LDS presuppositions are somehow motivated by hate. Such an assumption seems to be borne more out of laziness on the part of the accuser rather than the result of critical thinking skills. It is easy to accuse someone of hatred; after all, that word gets a lot of mileage in our dumbed-down culture. The intellectually indolent person somehow feels no need to evaluate what has been said once he has successfully assassinated a person’s character. However, when Mormons flippantly throw down the hate card, they certainly run the risk of bearing false witness.
I would be the first to admit that this disparaging label had some real meaning during the early and mid-1800’s, but it certainly does not fit the great majority of people Mormon apologists have attached it to in modern days. Articles from LDS apologetic groups such as FAIR and FARMS (now the Neal Maxwell Institute) are peppered with this word, sometimes to the point of monotony. The irony is that while such organizations desperately want to be recognized for their “scholarship,” they fail to realize that true scholarly material tends to refrain from such ad hominem. This behavior has not gone unnoticed by those known for their thoughtful contributions to this subject. In their book Mormon America, Richard and Joan Ostling note, “The FARMS team is particularly shrill in its rhetoric, an odd pose for an organization that seeks to win intellectual respectability for the church. All too often Saints use the label ‘anti-Mormon’ as a tactic to forestall serious discussion” (p. 376).
Modern Mormons who equate questions and disagreement with persecution need to do some serious rethinking. In my opinion, Mormons who lump those who challenge the truth claims of Mormonism with the persecutions of the past actually bring dishonor to the Mormon pioneers who truly suffered. Considering what some of the early Mormons went through, I am sure they would view with contempt a modern Mormon who whines about being “persecuted” simply because someone challenged their faith.
Thankfully, some Mormon thinkers disagree with fellow members and have chosen to refrain from using this unnecessary language. They recognize that even though some folks have sharp theological disagreements with Mormonism, their purpose is not at all to bring harm to the LDS people. “Anti-Mormon” is an overused moniker that needed to be jettisoned long ago, and I call on every Mormon to bury their own “N-word,” once and for all.