The Mormon Persecution Complex

According to a recently released Pew Forum poll, a whopping 46% of Mormon respondents said that Mormons face “a lot of discrimination” in modern America.  No surprise there, it is a favorite theme in LDS Church meetings at all levels.

Ken Jennings, “Jeopardy” superstar and Mormon, wrote the following in the NY Daily News (19 Jan 2012):

Even today, with Mormons more engaged in American public life than ever before, their sense of suspicion toward the outside world remains. When I attend my weekly church services, sermons and Sunday school lessons often come with anxious warnings about the dangers of “the World” — not the planet we all live on, but an evil place with a capital “W,” an unimaginably depraved Babylon that surrounds the righteous at all times. From 1995 to 2008, the LDS church was led by a sprightly old man named Gordon B. Hinkley, whose sermons were marked by an irrepressible joie de vivre. At the age of 84, he told a New York Times interviewer, “The world is good. Wonderful things are happening in this world. This is the greatest age in the history of the Earth.” But Hinckley’s sunny optimism never quite became his church’s.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that we need to stand firm against the evils of modern life, but this kind of gloomy siege mentality is counterproductive. Too often, the response is to disengage, like our pioneer forefathers. We stick to ourselves and overshelter our children. We develop thin skins, taking every late-night monologue joke about Romney’s teetotaling ways or “magic underwear” as a sign of rampant discrimination. (I take it this is what many Mormons mean when they tell pollsters they are half again as put-upon as blacks, a ridiculous notion.)

I must admit in my 66 years of being a Mormon (Jack), I’ve never felt persecuted or threatened.  I was raised in Illinois and Michigan, I served a mission in Belgium and France (just after the De Gaulle regime), I was in the service in North Carolina, I went to school in Logan UT, and I’m currently living in Orem UT.  I’ve traveled in over 40 countries spread over 5 continents.  I currently live part-time on the Navajo Nation and in the country of Uganda.  I have never felt persecuted, either by non-Mormons or active Mormons.  I’ve never felt that I’m surrounded by evil and that people are out to get me.

Let’s develop a positive attitude about the world and the future.  Even the usually stern President Boyd K. Packer was forced to admit that we are not living in the Last Days.

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