The media seem to be more curious about Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) than ever before. Perhaps it’s because the 2012 US presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has piqued their interest in his faith, or because of blatantly misleading TV and Broadway entertainment. Whatever the reason, public perception about Mormonism may have increased. But is it correct?
I appreciate inquiring, respectful reporting, but as a Mormon, I must admit that as I read or watch reports, my stomach tightens and I sit at the edge of my seat, fearful that the gospel of Jesus Christ– which I love with my whole being–will be maligned.
The problem stems from an attempt to be “objective.” Reporters try to present different perspectives to get the whole picture. They will usually interview a church authority and a few active members of the church. But invariably, they give at least equal weight (and often more) to those who are either on the periphery or separated from the Church. It’s like asking the value of the police department to a driver who has received a lot of speeding tickets. The perspective is likely to be skewed.
For example, a recent program asked questions about the Mormon temple to a woman who was no longer affiliated with the Church, and who had not been through the temple. Though she tried to answer honestly, her response could not reflect the significance of the temple in the lives of those who regard it as sacred.
In truth, the deeper theology—the “meat” of the religion is often missing. Of course in an hour, it would be impossible to cover the full gospel. But it would be simple to always report what people need to know most: Mormons are striving to be one with Christ—to follow him, to be like him and to worship him through service to all men. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins … [and] may look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26, 27).
One program “kindly” hinted that the church is emerging out of some obscure darkness into the light of the modern world as it deals with the issues of today. It cited greater acceptance of homosexuality and the freedom to state opinions about the so called inequality of women. This is a false impression. People do become aware of different social situations as those are publicized, and Mormons become aware with the rest of the world, but Mormonism has not emerged from some unenlightened state to a more enlightened state. It has always been enlightened.
In fact, it would be hard to find a more “equal” religion. Mormons have been encouraged from the beginning to hate the sin but love the “sinner,” just as Christ taught. That includes everyone—each man, woman and child despite their tendencies and imperfections. What may have changed over the years is that devoted church members are trying harder to adhere to Christ’s teachings of tolerance. But the Church doctrine remains the same as it has since Moses–sex outside of marriage is a sin.
As for freedom of thought, Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ stated, “I teach them true principles and they govern themselves.” Members of the Church have always been encouraged to become educated. Women in Utah were the first to get the vote—before it was a state. But because men are church leaders and have priesthood authority some view them as having a superior role. Rarely, a woman may take issue with being denied the priesthood without acknowledging the equal significance of womanhood. But it’s her voice the media want to hear and make heard.
The roles of men and women were defined by God in the Garden of Eden. They are not in competition–one does not function without the other. It is not a matter of inequality; it is a matter of balance, order, and necessity. A man can NEVER bear a child nor fulfill the same nurturing role of a mother as assigned by God.
Most women in the church do not find this an issue because the two roles are different but not competing. They are two halves of a whole. Women greatly influence the decisions and direction of church and family matters and men administer them. While the world undermines manhood and womanhood, the LDS Church allows men to step up and be strong fathers, to preside over their families and the church. They are good men. Women are revered, and the role of motherhood is divine. Their desire is to raise successful children to be productive citizens of church and community, and the world. The family unit is sacred and must have both roles for the greatest result.
As the media examines Mormonism, it would be more honest to examine the lives of those who live it day by day. Until then, reports will be inaccurate and the real story will not be revealed.
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.