Indecent Ignorance (Part 1)

Posted: June 4, 2012 in Fred Anson, Mormon Studies

(A response to “Mormons! The Least You Should Know” by By Gregory J. Krieg)
by Fred W. Anson 

I’m not one to complain about so-called “media bias and manipulation”. After all, I live in a county where the natives regularly state that Fox News is ‘the only fair and balanced news source’ and I work in yet another county where Fox News is derisively mocked while they explain that only CNN and MSNBC can be trusted to tell the truth about “what’s really goin’ on!” So candidly, I tend to take all such claims with a grain of salt. However, recently I experienced what I can only describe as “media bias and manipulation” and found it both unsettling and infuriating.

Now first, please understand that unlike a lot of Evangelical Christians I have absolutely no problem with the fact that Mitt Romney is a Latter-day Saint. My stance has always been that, barring complicating factors, if someone is qualified for public office and can competently serve all their constituents fairly and justly then their religion really isn’t all that relevant. And as well known Mormon Studies Scholars Sandra Tanner and Bill McKeever (both residents of Utah and known critics of the LdS Church) have pointed out if it’s wrong for Christians to vote for Mormons then the Christians in Utah wouldn’t be able to vote at all because that’s all that’s on the ballots in their state.

So let’s table the politics shall we – this article ain’t about politics folks!

Now, if the media is reporting on a religion – be it mine, yours, or someone else’s – they should get their facts straight, agreed? And what if they’re publishing is presented as a fact/reality check, or a trustworthy primer on the religion for the public this is doubly true, agreed again?

And ABC News reporter Gregory J. Krieg seems to agree too, for in his May 25th  article entitled, “Mormons! The Least You Should Know” he boldly states, “Ignorance creates a vacuum and vacuums, especially in politics, abhor decency. So, in the interest of adding some factual bits to the nonsensical debates sure to follow, here is the least you should know about Mormonism.”  Wow! Awesome! Finally a reporter from mainstream media who “gets it!”

50 E North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah: The LdS Church Office Building

However, speaking as someone who is actively engaged in Mormon Studies, what followed was factual only if you’re willing to accept the “outsider” or “public” version of Mormonism espoused by the LdS Church’s public relations department and ignore what it actually teaches, practices, and believes.  As someone  said well in the comments section, ‘“I find it ironic that you title your article, ‘Mormons! The Least You Should Know,’ end the article with, a edict to do thorough research, yet fail to answer your own question correctly. Perhaps you did not follow your own advice and you believed the first source you checked. Regardless of what your first source was, it is in error at best and dishonest at worst.”   Those words echo my feelings on the article precisely!

Simply put this article, despite it’s noble purpose and grand claims, in the end appears to have been written by someone whose sole source was the LdS Church.  Now that wouldn’t be a bad thing were it not for Mormonism’s well documented practice of “Lying for the Lord”:

“Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith’s denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by “anti-Mormons” and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley’s dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism’s history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light. This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. “Lying for the lord” is part of Mormonism’s larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.”
(source )

Given this dynamic it’s stunning that the author – or his editors for that matter – didn’t seem to find it necessary to cross check and verify the “facts” given to him by, it seems to me, the very institution that he was investigating.  And he seems to confirm this suspicion with a stock, “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet”  sweep of his journalist hand after directing his readers  to as a “user-friendly” website that can be trusted. This is telling  because those of us engaged in Mormon Studies and culture know that website is nothing more than a proselytizing tool for the Mormon Church that presents the public with a scrubbed and polished “for public consumption” version of Mormonism rather than a true, honest, and forthright view of the institution.

And while readily acknowledging that the Internet can be filled with misinformation this cavalier dismissal of opposing points of view by a implied “voice of reason” is especially troubling. That’s because there are some remarkably reliable and  objective Mormon Studies websites out there that just lay it out for all to see and let the pieces fall where they will.  For example,  please consider – a website whose home page purpose statement speaks volumes:

“ is a site produced largely by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are interested in the historical accuracy of our church and how it is being taught to its members and portrayed in the media.

We invite scholarly debate by critics, true-believers and anyone interested in Mormon history.

There is a lot of misinformation on the LDS church that is presented by both critics and defenders of the faith – particularly on the Internet. We present both sides fairly and let the reader decide.”
(source bolding and underlining added for emphasis)

So knowledgeable members of the LdS Church know that their institution “lies for the Lord” – former members and Mormon Studies scholars know it too. Perhaps if Mr. Krieg had done a better job of vetting  (or if his editors had cross and fact checked his article before publishing it) he would have realized that he was being “played” by the LdS church.  Personally, I would preferred that he had reported on that rather than willingly or unknowingly playing the role of pawn publisher and “patsy” in regurgitating institutional propaganda via a known, established, and respected, mainstream media source like ABC News – it’s, frankly, a better, more interesting, and more honest story!

– Go to Part 2 –

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