“Mormon Bias Still Part of Politics” by Dennis Wagner is an article in USA Today that came out Nov. 24, 2011. Dennis writes both for USA Today and the Arizona Republic. I was surprised to be quoted since I know that I was just one of numerous people the reporter interviewed, plus I’ve had lengthy interviews with other reporters that didn’t get used. I find the article to be fair and reasonable, though I think anyone who is quoted in an interview feels some disappointment in how it all turns out. However, I think Dennis went out of his way to be fair and to understand the topic.
The quotes from me came in a portion of the interview when the reporter wanted to know if it’s appropriate to use the term “anti-Mormon” in describing the people pushing the Mormon issue in their opposition of Romney. Discussing the merits of that label was one of the least interesting and least important parts of the conversation to me personally, but that part got used. Also used was the point I made about LDS politicians like Mitt Romney and Harry Reid clearly demonstrating that they will do things their way and not simply rely on the prophet or LDS teachings to determine their stance. So here’s the passage where I’m quoted, but do read the whole article:
Richard Packham, the 78-year-old president of the Ex-Mormon Foundation, writes that the church’s “ultimate goal” is “to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America and to govern the world as God’s appointed representatives.”
“I love the Mormons and hate Mormonism,” Packham told The Arizona Republic. “To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect.”
Tricia Erickson, a bishop’s daughter who left the faith, just published a book titled, “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?” Erickson casts the church as a sexist, racist leviathan striving to gain power through politics. And she contends that Romney or Huntsman, as members, would have a duty to “follow the prophet — no matter what,” giving allegiance to religion over country.
Jeff Lindsay, a Mormon scholar who prolifically defends his church on the Internet, says Packham, Erickson and other critics convey an “awful distortion” of LDS doctrine and practices.
“It’s paranoia. It’s not based on any example,” Lindsay said. “There is plenty of room for decent people to disagree with us. But when someone strives to stir up anger toward the church and relies on misinformation or half-truths, then I’m inclined to apply the anti-Mormon label — especially when they do it for a living.”
Church defenders point out that thousands of LDS members serve in public office without acting as church puppets, and critics are unable to identify Romney gubernatorial decisions that his religion dictated.
As Lindsay puts it, “The prophet has not been coming in and telling him how to vote.”
When I discussed “anti-Mormons,” I was speaking in general terms without Richard Packham in mind. I don’t think he’s one of the professionals who makes his living off spooking people about the Church. But I was really floored by his comment. Did he really say that, or has he been victimized by some sort of anti-anti-Mormon bias at USA Today? We’re out to control the world? And a Mormon President raises the prospect of Mormonism controlling America? [Update: I questioned whether he really said that, but have been assured that he did–I just don’t think he could have seriously meant it in the extreme way it reads in the article. But that extreme fear is what’s fueling a lot of the controversy the USA Today article addresses. People, get real.]
“Brothers and sisters, today’s sacrament meeting will be dedicated to the Mormon conquest of Planet Earth. Sunday school will focus on taking over America once we get the Prophet’s agent in the White House. Also, home teachers, please begin working with your families this week to help them develop plans to subjugate their neighbors and take over the neighborhood.”
The goal of anti-Mormonism is to frighten people away from the Church and stir up anger and fear. Spook them. Create anger so that people hate Mormonism and refuse to consider it even for a moment. I don’t think it’s healthy, personally.