Why folks dislike Mormons

Flunking Sainthood has a nice post up on the recent finding in the book American Grace that Mormons are the third most disliked religious group in the United States. Jana makes some books points, and her call for a bit more Mormon humility is surely a good idea. Although the in-group identification that she cites is not really a proxy for smugness as much as social cohesion, there is no denying that Mormons can appear smug at times. One of the puzzles that Jana puzzles over is why Jews are so well regarded while Mormons are not. I suspect, however, that there isn’t much of a puzzle here. Let me offer a theory.

Jews do well among conservative Christians and among liberal secularists. The reason for this is that while there is an anti-semitic strand in Christianity, there is also a philo-semitic strand that continues to see Jews as God’s chosen people in some sense and gives Jews a starring role in various eschatological dramas. Among conservative Evangelicals, for example, this shows up as Zionism from afar in the form of support for the State of Israel. Hence, conservative Christians — or some significant chunk of them — have theological reasons for happy thoughts about Jews. Secular liberals like Jews because there are a lot of liberal Jews. Hence, Jews are in the odd position of getting love for theological reasons from the right and love for political reasons from the left.

Mormons are in precisely the opposite position. Among conservative Christians — especially Evangelicals — there are strong theological reasons for disliking Mormons. (The theological reasons are coupled here with demographic competition for converts.) Secular liberals, on the other hand, dislike Mormons because they are political conservatives. Hence, Mormons garner hostility on the left for political reasons. There is not off setting love from the religious right, however. Hence, Jews are in the odd social position of being loved on both sides, and Mormons are in the odd social position of being disliked on both sides.

74 comments for “Why folks dislike Mormons

  1. The solution: Mormons should move left, politically. Not because we wanna be liked, but because it’s the right thing to do. We only moved right politically to try to get Evangelicals to like us, and that didn’t work.

  2. Agreed to a large extent, but I think there are other pressing issues as well. I think from a secular perspective, Mormons are problematic because they have such a strong centralized authority; similar to the caricature of Catholics, the caricature of Mormonism is that all members take their marching orders from the religion’s headquarters, and the main body is just made up of blind followers being obedient. Judaism, on the other hand, don’t seem to have the same type of centralized authority that might predicate what they think. Unless you count tradition, I guess.

    And from both the secular left and evangelical right (though perhaps more from the former), there is always the critique that Mormon doctrine is just crazy and it’s inconceivable that a thoughtful, reflective person could subscribe to such beliefs. I don’t think people think of Judaism in the same way.

    But now that I look at these two points, I can see how they are just logical outgrowths of the reasons you already stated. Never mind.

  3. profsteed-

    I think that American exceptionalism runs deep in Mormonism (for right or wrong), preventing it from wholly embracing a left turn politically.

  4. I think one of the problems here is ignorance. I know quite a few people who didn’t know any Mormons before they met me. With the very heavy concentration of Mormons in Utah/Eastern Idaho, and very few Mormons in just about everywhere but the Western U.S.–it’s easy to dislike a group you’ve never had any real contact with.

  5. We only moved right politically to try to get Evangelicals to like us.


    Anyhow some Evangelicals and Catholics do like us because of our politics, not that we should care.

  6. Spot on Nate.

    Mormons occupy a unique place in the body politic of the US. Disliked theologically by our fellow conservative travelers and disliked politically by liberals is a recipe for widespread dislike.

    The idea that the LDS folks conservative nature is an attempt to cater favor with evangelicals is just flat out wrong. Its the natural outgrowth of our theology and our demographics. Its totally organic.

  7. @bbell #8: “Its the natural outgrowth of our theology and our demographics. Its totally organic” – agreed, which is why I’ve moved more ‘left’ from where I started.

  8. In addition, big families and membership growth tend to incite tribal fears. I think it is very human to feel threatened by growth of people on the other side, whether it is the other political party experiencing growth, the other country, or just your neighbor who you have pegged as not in your group. If we had smaller families than average and shrinking membership, the negativity would probably largely subside and people would exercise their fear/suspicion faculties on someone else.

  9. A comment to Ben Park for #9. I get looks because people find out that I am libertarian. I don’t belong to the party, but I find that even amongst conservatives, they’re not real clear on the constitution. When they hear I’m a libertarian, they conclude it means “liberal” or left leaning. Whatever.

    Ben, I’m not sure you’ve experienced this, but there is a difference between members of the church who have a deep understanding that first and foremost we are children of our Heavenly Father and that everyone else is too. Then you have those members who are so into the culture of Mormonism they mistake is as the church itself. They don’t quite differentiate between culture and doctrine. These people have a them and us attitude which repels people who are not member of the church. It’s scary. If you took the culture away I think they’d be lost. I say that as a convert to the church.

  10. Even in the Mountain West, there is intense dislike.

    Many non-Mormons perceive Mormons as cliquish. We spend lots of time with each other and limited time with outsiders.

    I had a discussion with neighbors a few months ago. They are non-LDS and indicated that many LDS families won’t let their children play with their kids. Ironically, we were having that discussion while my daughter was playing with their girl. But, they said they see Mormons as going to church together, socializing together, and, often, working together. They felt very excluded.

    My own sense is that we need to spend less time running a great ward and more time building a solid community.

  11. I doubt the time will ever come when people don’t view us with some suspicion or unease. We claim we have all truth, we have the strong central authority Ben mentions above, and we want to convert everybody and make them just like us. Heck, even some of us don’t want to be just like us.

  12. @steve #13 “My own sense is that we need to spend less time running a great ward and more time building a solid community.”

    Amen. I figure that if we spent more time building a stronger community then our wards would be greater.

    Maybe the end of the activities committee signals a move in that direction?

  13. Bryan (#12): I agree wholeheartedly with your second paragraph. I think various members can claim a wide diversity of political views as a “natural outgrowth” of Mormon theology, when in reality the gospel can encompass a myriad of opinions. My comment in #9 meant two things: on the one hand, those outside the Church sometimes understand conservative politics to be an outgrowth of Mormon theology and are thus repelled; on the other, many inside the church (narrowly and mistakingly) understand conservative politics to be an outgrowth of Mormon theology, thus repelling liberals both outside and inside the church.

  14. it could also be that we are disliked because we tend to believe all other faiths are “wrong.” It tends to dampen one’s feelings toward someone who thinks they’re going to hell, or at least, not going to make it to heaven. Personally I don’t hold Baptists in high regards specifically because of this, that they don’t think I’ll be saved. Not that it bugs me or anything, but that I really don’t think well of them for them thinking such ill thoughts of me.

  15. I’m on the left politically precisely because I see the left and NOT the right as the more organic outgrowth of my religious views — and historically Mormons were more to the left than to the right, at least until post-WWII. Cold-War anticommunism and post-1970s social issues — and an intense effort to “mainstream” ourselves with Christianity by aligning ourselves with the Religious Right — led most Mormons (along with many Americans in general) rightward, politically. But I study and think deeply about my religion and about political theory, politics and public policy on a daily basis, and I see no way around the fact that my Mormonism is better and more deeply expressed in the populist, egalitarian, cooperative communitarianism of the left, than in the authoritative, hierarchical, competitive individualism of the right.

  16. I think Mormon are triumphalists and exceptionalists on steroids. Non-Americans generally don’t like American exceptionalism or truimphalism, and I don’t think those outside our faith like ours.

    Mormons are clannish. For many practicing Mormons, the overwhelming portion of friends come from within the faith. As an experiment, for those on Facebook, check what portion of Facebook friends are from within the tribe and what portion without.

    Catholics also have a hierarchical structure, but, to the distress of Catholic leaders, many or most Catholics (including Catholic politicians) are not afraid publicly to disagree and not to follow with little fear of being driven out. (True, some Bishops have denied communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, but such Bishops only have jurisdiction to do so within their own territory. Other Bishops take a different view.)

    Practicing Mormons are not known for being independent thinkers, and our Mormon culture (as distinct from Catholicism’s) is not known for allowing difference of opinion from our leaders. Regretably, I think that perception is accurate. Just look at some of the comments on Jana’s blog when she respectfully disagreed with an earlier verson of President Packer’s talk (and also look at an indirect response on Meridian.com).

    Many non-Muslims fear (wrongfully) that Muslims owe their loyalty to something outside of America and American values. Given Mormons relatively “lockstep” voting politically, I think there remain some fear of whether Mormons are more loyal to our Church (and its leaders) than to our country.

    Mormon women are perceived as oppressed and as second class citizens. Notwithstanding the official Church position that birth control is a private matter, many outside the fold perceive that Mormons are pressured to have very large numbers of children.

  17. The Mormon orientation of being evenly split between the major national political parties in the US was still the rule when I was a political intern during the 1972 election campaign. But starting with that election, the people who were insurgents in the Democratic Party in 1968 became a major force in its national leadership, pulling the party leftward. It adopted an anti-military attitude, a suspicion toward traditional religious and sexual morality, and wholesale endorsement of unlimited abortion. It demonized the Republican opposition as more than political opponents but actually evil. With those policies, it made itself objectionable to many people who had been loyal labor union democrats. It transformed a balanced Utah electorate into one that is dominated by the Republican Party in its most conservative mode. Some of the more religiously conservative Mormons–people like the McConkies–found their century of leadership in the Democratic Party was becoming inconsistent with their moral principles.

    I have never seen the Church or its leaders adopting any kind of political stance in order to ingratiate themselves with Evangelicals per se. Rather, there has been an outreach in common cause on issues like Proposition 8 in California. In terms of formal cooperation, I would suggest it has been more significant with the Catholic Church in many venues, including disaster relief efforts.

    I think Nate has made an accurate observation on why Jews are more popular than Mormons in the modern USA.

    I would suggest a couple of other reasons:

    First, the Holocaust. Like guilt over slavery and then racial segregation, guilt over the Holocaust is a defining element in the attitude of the world toward the Jews, who are seen as survivors of a horrendous crime by Western Civilization (so called). It has indicted, for Americans and Europeans, the old notions of jealousy toward the Jews and replaced it with empathy for millions of innocent victims. In comparison, most Americans still feel that everything that was done to the Mormons in the 19th Century was justified, just like many Americans are either unaware of the crimes against Japanese Americans duirng World War II or think it was justified, still telling each other the “anti-Jap” propaganda of the time.

    Second, the 20th Century has seen Jews in America achieve a strong leadership role in opinion-forming elements of our culture, from universities to information media. Both the New York and Hollywood ends of the news and entertainment industry are heavily influenced by Jews. At a personal level, it has been noted many times how Jews are represented disproportionately as entertainers, including musicians, actors, and comedians. If there were dozens of Mormons doing standup on national TV getting laughs with shtick about the foibles of Mormon families and lifestyles, our popularity quotient would be a lot higher. Unfortunately, the first thing that happens when a Mormon has success in the performing arts is he or she is pulled into acting like a non-Mormon. If we had a few Mormon Mel Brooks, our image would be much less threatening to others.

    I think the underlying driver for negative feelings toward Mormons, already averted to above, is fear of Mormon’s growth and success. When we Mormons point to an achiever like Mitt Romney as a reason to like Mormons, the response of those who fear Mormons is negative, because a smart, rich, good looking Mormon who wants to be president is their idea of the scariest Mormon possible.

    So every story we Mormons regard as a success is just more fuel for the fear and jealousy of anti-Mormons. Some people need a scapegoat to blame their own bad luck on, and we Mormons have the bad luck of being one of the few minorities that can be targeted without overt condemnation in the society at large. Even many opinion leaders are sort of neutral, casually ignorant, willing to let Mormons be accused of all sorts of stuff on TV and in the newspapers, confusing the real Mormons of the Church with the people who reject the Church. When the normally aggressive Pat Buchanan could not step up and defend the Mormon Church that his sister Bay belongs to when Larry O’Donnell made outrageous attacks on Mormons on the McLaughlin Group, he was demonstrating the lack of sympathy that many people have towards us, people who would not attack us, but who would never defend us.

  18. For Aaron #14
    I love your response. Unfortunately, many in the church believe that we have “all” the truth when the truth is, we have what has been revealed. We have neighbors across the street that don’t have the attitude of “oh those Mormons”. We help them and they help us. I can understand when you say, “even some of us don’t want to be just like us.” I don’t believe the Lord wanted us to become an organization of drones. Isn’t that what Joseph Smith was afraid of?

  19. I figure that if we spent more time building a stronger community then our wards would be greater.

    You can’t really have your cake and eat it too. One might as well say that making our wards greater would strengthen our communities.

  20. #14- I’m afraid you’re wrong, and there are General Authority statements that can be marshaled against that idea. For example, President Hugh B. Brown of the FP-

    “We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly greater part of truth which we must yet discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers–that we in fact have a corner on truth. For we do not.”

    An Eternal Quest–Freedom of the Mind

  21. profsteed #2 said, “The solution: Mormons should move left, politically. Not because we wanna be liked, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

    Uh, don’t you mean “because it’s the LEFT ting to do”?

    bbell #8, said, “The idea that the LDS folks conservative nature is an attempt to cater favor with evangelicals is just flat out wrong. Its the natural outgrowth of our theology and our demographic.”

    My own understanding is that anarchism is the natural outgrowth of our theology.

    Paul #11 said, “In addition, big families and membership growth tend to incite tribal fears.” DavidH #19 said, “Mormons are clannish.”

    This, I believe, is the real reason why people don’t like us. We are perceived as a tribe, despite that fact that there are no tribal functions. The potential for activation of tribal functions is very real as polygamy WAS in our history, and this scares the pants off of people. Western society, for the most part, acts as individuals, not as tribes. A unified tribe may pose a very real potential threat to personal liberties if voting as a block.

    If the LDS did not get involved in politics, as a matter of religious principle (anarchy), people would breathe a little easier. It wouldn’t last long, though. As long as we act as a tribe, or at the very least are perceived as a tribe, we are going to continue to run into trouble with those around us.

  22. @Adam #22 – I guess it depends on our definitions of “greater.”

    I still think, however, that focusing on building a strong community would force us to be more ‘zion-like’ internally than being more ‘zion-like’ internally would focus us out. To second what everyone else has been saying about clannishness.

    Clearly, I don’t see the two sides of the coin as equivalent.

  23. Let me pose a couple questions . . .

    1) What should the LDS church do to improve the situation?

    2) What should individual members do?

  24. BL,
    I don’t see the mechanism where me showing up to City Council meetings makes me more in tune to the Holy Ghost, but doing my hometeaching doesn’t.

  25. #28:
    1. Tell wards and stakes to focus on community projects, especially interfaith projects.

    2. Participate in these projects, and, if applicable, consider moving out of the Mormon corridor.

  26. I recently read an article by Jewish Rabbi Gershon that mentions the general disliking of the LDS people. An outsider’s perspective was interesting, and draws some similar conclusions, but he mentions the Jews have similarities to us, AND reasons to like us. (Scroll down about half way to read his thoughts on the LDS people). http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/id34.html

    Thanks for the insight.
    Jodi B.
    http://www.lifeconstructionzone.com : Inspiration and Hope for Navigating the Detours of Life

  27. “Secular liberals, on the other hand, dislike Mormons because they are political conservatives.”

    Maybe I need someone to define “political conservative”, just to be sure.

  28. Jodi #31
    This is comforting from Rabbi Gershon “although he does not agree with the THEOLOGICAL teachings of the LDS Church, nor with the thought-controlling and cult-like practices of the LDS Church”. Geez man, he blew our cover…mind control.

  29. #29 Well, ‘showing up’ hardly counts in either situation. Also, I’ve felt the Spirit in community engagement and not in Home-Teaching, but that’s not what I’m arguing.

    In general, I still would say that genuinely helping outside ‘the flock’ naturally strengthens the flock and those outside it. But strengthening the flock does not necessarily help those outside it.

  30. “…..there are no tribal functions.”

    The closed, secretive temple is the sine qua non of a religious “tribe” that most certainly has tribal functions.

  31. Raymond,

    It demonized the Republican opposition as more than political opponents but actually evil.

    Riiiiight….because Cleon Skousen, Harold B. Lee, and Ezra Taft Benson were cuddly bears with their political opponents…no demonization at all of liberals during those days.

    When we Mormons point to an achiever like Mitt Romney as a reason to like Mormons, the response of those who fear Mormons is negative, because a smart, rich, good looking Mormon who wants to be president is their idea of the scariest Mormon possible.

    On Mitt Romney, most disgust of him comes from the fact that he changes his position as it works best for him politically. To try and get elected as the Senator from Massachusetts, he needed to position himself as “left of Ted Kennedy.” As governor, somewhere in the center, and as candidate for Republican president, hard right.

  32. #33 Bryan P,

    If our mind control tricks were any good, it seems we wouldn’t be discussing this issue. :) Some might claim these mind control issues work like “the Force” and only work on the weak minded, but we bloggers would be evidence to the contrary!

  33. Is it possible that we are making this more complicated than it truly is? Maybe people don’t like us because we are nice to the point of being irritating. After all, most negative statements about us these days seem to start something like, “I know a Mormon who is really nice, but…”

    Just a little disclaimer: I am basing the above idea on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

  34. Virtually every Sunday I hear someone over the pulpit or in a class talk about “the world” as an evil entity out to get us. When we talk constantly about how much we fear and hate “the world,” should it come as a surprise to us that “the world” hates us back?

  35. I think our abstention from alcoholic drinks and tobacco is another factor that makes us less likable than Jews. In my experience, this has been the thing that regularly causes me to stand out the most in social circles outside the church, but is something that Jews can easily navigate.

  36. @bryanp
    I had never heard somebody saying what you have. Thank you so much!!! it’s was like reading what has been on my mind for years!!! the day we stop the “us and them” type of thinking, people will accept our religion.

  37. Nice analysis in the OP.

    I guess part of the question is whether “we” care that we are not liked. And I suppose it depends if the dislike grows out of our doctrine or our culture. I suppose the most arrogant among us will assume the culture is a direct result of divinely revealed doctrine so they are one and the same (and therefore the “culture” is also “true”) while the most painfully self-aware of us might feel the opposite to be the case.

    It seems polls like this are talking about Mormons as a whole as seen by a group who may or may not know individual Mormons. I hope my neighbors who know me think differently about Mormons or at least this Mormon than they might otherwise.

  38. Raymond,
    The right’s vilification of the left, over the past 50 years, has FAR, FAR, FAR surpassed the left’s vilification of the right. Think of the whole Cold War; think of Nixon’s entire campaign & administration; think of Reagan’s & the GOP’s tarring of the word “liberal,” to the point that Democrats now avoid the label if at all possible. You claim the Democrats cast the Republicans as “evil” — this certainly occurred when Nixon was the primary target. But since then, you cannot deny that the Religious Right and the GOP have gone to much greater lengths to cast the left as “evil” — as ungodly, immoral atheists, etc. It is the right that talks more about “good vs. evil” — with everything opposed to the right playing the role of “evil.” As I said, I follow politics and public policy closely, on a daily basis, and I see far more hate and fear-mongering coming from the right than from the left — which is yet another reason I cannot in good conscience consider the right any kind of “extension” of my religious beliefs. It simply confounds me that any thoughtful Mormon can, for example, be a fan of Glenn Beck.

    LDS Anarchist,
    I agree with you that there is a strong libertarian/anarchist streak running through and extending from Mormonism. I think this is where some of the political confusion among Mormons originates. Libertarianism/anarchism can tilt either left or right — toward egalitarian, cooperative communitarianism (left) or hierarchical, competitive individualism (right). I think Mormonism naturally tilts to a kind of left-libertarianism. But post-WWII, libertarianism has found its strongest proponents among those on the right. And most Mormons have been swept up in the Republican-conservative movement that has co-opted libertarianism, beginning with Goldwater and Nixon and blossoming under Reagan — so that they tilt right-libertarian instead of left-. Personally, I think they’ve been misled.

  39. The goal of Zion – is to be of one heart and one mind (meaning a charitable heart and desires similar to the Savior’s). There was a reason why the city of Enoch could not remain upon the earth once it attained a “Zion” state: the “sons of man” (carnal) desires do not like to see their shadows when illuminated by such grand light… it makes them uncomfortable and they want to relieve the pain by destroying the light.
    This is not to say that the Mormons are anywhere near a Zion status. In fact, “pride” is probably the biggest obstacle to reach that state. I know plenty of Mormons who are not prideful and seek to enlighten others with additional ideas that explain the existence and purpose of mankind and where we came from, why we are here, and where we may go after we die. Some will listen and accept, others will listen and won’t accept, others won’t listen… and they are okay with that and will still treat all as friends and family. But a few Mormons may be prideful and have a difficult time relating to “others”, but that is not the Mormons’ goal.
    Politics aside, Mormons are conservatives by nature. Their 13th Article of Faith says:
    “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul— We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

  40. Yes, and no self-satisfied liberal could ever openly claim to agree with the 13th Article of Faith. They would never find character traits of honesty, chastity, benevolence, virtue or the idea of doing to good to all men to be something they could agree with. Virtue? Beauty? Worthy of praise? Can’t you just feel the liberals just cringeing at such concepts?


  41. johnnylingo,

    Politics aside, Mormons are conservatives by nature.

    No free will or choice in the matter, eh? Just like you were born with a penis you are therefore a man? No choice about it. You are born a Mormon you are therefore….wait, no one is born a Mormon…

    The total ironic part is that your comment derides Mormons who boast of their highness in regards to others, and then you end your comment by showing how only Mormons (as natural conservatives) hold to the principles of the Articles of Faith, as if Joseph Smith wrote them as a critique of today’s liberals? Well, your brightness, I’m going to run off, your sunlight is causing too great a shadow around me…

  42. Here’s my cynical explanation for the popularity of Jews vs. the unpopularity of Mormons: disliking Jews makes you a Nazi. Disliking Mormons makes you normal. Simple as that.

    I’m actually dead serious here. People have always been slaves to fashion, and antisemitism in the 21st century is is about as welcome in polite (American) society as nudity. Mormons, on the other hand, are fair game.

  43. I’m actually ok with the notion that Mormons (and Mormonism) are “conservative.” One of the great misconceptions in contemporary political discourse is that “conservative” and “the right” are synonymous. Not so. It is perfectly possible (though admittedly somewhat uncommon) to be a conservative leftist. Conservatism values tradition and a morality-based outlook, and favors cautious or incremental actions — as opposed to the opposite of “conservative,” which is NOT “liberal,” but rather “radical” — no care for history or tradition, little care or even scorn for traditional morality, and willingness to move swiftly for sweeping change, etc.

    If your traditions and morals are egalitarian, cooperative, and communitarian in nature, and you value those traditions and resist any change that might threaten them, then you’re a conservative leftist.

    I agree Mormonism encourages or leads to a certain kind of conservatism. But I totally disagree that it encourages or leads to a rightist ideology.

  44. I think Mormons love the idea of them being one of those large space ships huvering over the city, ready to beam down rightiness to the unwashed below. People don’t like that. I’ve seen it in movies.

  45. There is a difference between liking an abstract group and liking individual members of that group. It was said, rightly or wrongly, in segregationist days, that northern whites liked blacks as a group, but would have nothing to do with them personally, while, for southern whites, it was the opposite. They had friendly personal relations with their black associates, but disliked the race as a whole.

    Which is it for American views about Mormons, and Jews?

  46. Lots of interesting theories but I didn’t see one comment suggesting that Mormons are disliked “because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living Church on the Earth?” If it were so, and Satan is real and exerts influence upon mortals, then I would expect nothing less.

  47. Steve (#13) that’s been my experience too. I think there are a lot of myths that people ought to know better about. But people don’t like being the minority in places like Utah. So Mormons get the blame for everything they don’t like. It’s kind of silly. Not that Mormons don’t do things that annoy people. They do. But some of the claims are just silly. Mormons become a scapegoat for everything.

    On the other hand though Utah’s also one of the heaviest baptizing areas. So clearly some people like us so much as to join us.

    Steve (#53) I think hypersensitivity to anti-semitism in the past does make us “like” Jews more than other groups. That quote from Nixon and Kissenger from last week amazed me. That sort of thing used to be so acceptable. Of course it’s still acceptable to dislike Mormons in overt ways one can’t most other groups.

    profsteed (#47) Mormons have an odd relationship with libertarians. We espouse elements of it but in practice are pretty strong social conservatives unfortunately. Just look at all the restrictions in Utah. The Olympics and then Gov. Huntsman ended a lot of that. But I think among Mormons there’s still an instinct to make anything wrong illegal. Which is pretty opposed to libertarianism. On the other hand we have a strong theological sense of freedom (perhaps often pushed too far) So there’s an inherent tension here within Mormonism.

    My personal feeling is that most political movements can find support within Mormon theology and which movement Mormonism “favors” tends to be more a reflection of what Mormons at a given time and place are most worried about. I mean one could well argue Mormons ought be the strongest federalists and that’s most in opposition to liberalism (which tends to favor national policies over local ones – witness Obamacare rather than a push for Romneycare in more states)

  48. “The idea that the LDS folks conservative nature is an attempt to cater favor with evangelicals is just flat out wrong. Its the natural outgrowth of our theology and our demographics. Its totally organic.”

    I appreciate that the C-word and the L-word have different meanings to different people. But I can say that my decision to register as a Democrat (in a state with closed primaries where one must choose) came from my beliefs in the church and my experience in leadership.

    I am not shy about being my brother’s keeper. Christ told us to do so.

    It is astonishing how much time a USAmerican bishop or RS president can squander on helping folks find needed health care, because we don’t yet have a viable health care system in our country. My husband and I have wondered what it would be like to be serving in Taiwan, where they have such an excellent system. How much more time would be freed up for spiritual matters and ministering rather than trying (often in vain) to help folks meet their needs.

  49. Also, while most Mormons may be Republican, the geographic concentration of those folks means that most non-members who interact with Mormons are going to know a Mormon from outside the intermountain west.

    And in other areas, Mormons more closely reflect their neighbors, with a great diversity of “-ans.” When we moved East for graduate school in the early 1980s, most of the members in our ward were Democrats. Well, you couldn’t vote for school board if you weren’t since only Democratic candidates ever ran.

  50. I think Nate is mostly right. But there’s probably a big group of Americans who don’t base their views of other religious groups on theology *or* politics. For example, the group that likes Mormons most is Jews–who are on opposite ends of theological *and* political divides. Pew did a survey in 2007 where they asked people for a one-word descption of Mormons. The top five were polygamy, family, cult, different, and dedicated. Perhaps the Church’s recent political activities are creating new political impressions (negative, but positive, too), but if we’re looking for reasons for dislike, the same old combination of difference and unfamiliarity seem like the best suspects.

    I don’t think the post at Flunking Sainthood is shedding any light on the issue. It seems like a classic of a certain Mormon blog genre which goes like this: 1) Identify some area where the Saints are doing poorly, then 2) conclude that they would be doing a lot better in this area if they adopted the blogger’s favorite proposals for change. Reiss concludes that there’s some relationship between liking ourselves a lot and provoking the dislike of others. The data don’t give much support to that–the group that likes itself second-most is Jews–the group that’s *best-liked* by others (I’m picturing an imaginary Jewish blogger urging Jews to get over this “chosen people” stuff in order to defuse anti-semitism). Moreover, Reiss’s conclusion fails to account for how much Mormons like non-Mormons. The Campbell/ Putnam data show Mormons liking Muslims more than ten points higher than average, and liking *evangelicals*, Catholics, and Jews more than any other group likes them. Heck, we like the *non-religious* more than the non-religious like themselves. (American Grace, p. 508) This is a faith that is deservedly hated for its self-righteousness?

  51. I’m completely turned off by the authoritarian nature of the Mormon religion… Comparing yourselves to Jews, and saying you like Muslims a whole ten points higher than average doesn’t impress me one bit either.

  52. That’s a novel theory. Mormons are disliked because we’re Jew-comparing authoritarian Muslim-lovers.

    I imagine that the reasons why some people who hang around Mormon blogs don’t like Mormons are very different than the reasons why some large chunk of the American public doesn’t like Mormons. The latter scarcely think about Mormons at all; for the former it’s sort of a hobby.

  53. The biggest single reason for Mormon dislike is the influence of the people who have made their living going from church to church in the Protestant world with their “Godmakers” and “Kingdom of the Cults” distortions and attitude. It’s hard for Mormons to grasp that any of their protestant friends could believe or sympathize with the venom; but even in areas with a small but significant Mormon presence, the venom over the last 30 years has had a deep effect. Part of this is due to “the only true church” message of LDS missionaries, and a related attitude among rank and file Mormons. See the comments of Cathleen Falsani about 3/4 of the way down in the following fascinating discussion: http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Election/Mormonism-and-Politics-Are-They-Compatible.aspx.

    I have repeatedly met people in my area who attend evangelical congregations, and who eye me coldly when they find out I am Mormon. If we become better acquainted they warm up, but always seem to be undergoing a battle inside. Its as if they have trouble believing a real Mormon can be normal and nice, when they have this implanted picture inside of what a Mormon is, and a Mormon is not normal or nice.

  54. WJ #44 I would say that may be true in some areas, but you would be surprised at how many people chose not to drink and use tobacco. Lots.

  55. I’ve lived in both Utah and in…”the world” as many see it. I think the dislike is for different reasons in different geographical areas. For instance, for the 5 years that I lived in Utah and noticed that their was a difference between members who had generations of church membership and of those like myself who joined the church later in life. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why the outlook of those who have been members all their life will be different than those who joined the church later in life. Yes, there is a difference between worldly behavior and Christ like behavior, but again if we walk around judging those who are not familiar with or have never made the covenants we’ve made and we use it as a standard to judge them by, that creates a chasm. The reasons for not liking Mormons in Utah, can be totally different for not liking them in Ohio.

  56. I guess a libertarian Jew that happened to live in Utah, would be fairly novel and his particular reasons for being annoyed by Mormons from time to time really wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. but really, any group of people that claims to be “chosen” and has a pretty good set of rules and regs or qualifications to abide by if ya wanna join the club is going to breed some resentment. Polygamy, that’s probably the #2 reason why people don’t like you. Blacks not having the priesthood could be #3. For what it’s worth Mormons aren’t nearly as annoying as the southern baptist types though.

  57. I found this blog and article via Main Street Plaza.

    I’m not Mormon.

    I think one of the main reasons people can cite their dislike of Mormonism is the whole missionary thing. Knocking on a private residence to push a religion is seen by many as an incredibly rude personal boundary violation. It’s much easier to be vocal about one’s dislike for a group when that group has behaved in a manner most consider disrespectful.

  58. T-Rex, that’s a novel approach. Seeing what an actual non-mormon has to say on the matter. Answers will vary of course…

  59. profsteed: historically Mormons were more to the left than to the right, at least until post-WWII.

    This is a complex question. In Presidential elections, Utah tended to be an outlier, often one of the few states voting for a third party candidate. Before statehood, the Mormons had their own party “the People’s Party” in Utah, and avoided association with either Democrats or Republicans. Since statehood, there have been very health constituencies for both Republicans and Democrats in the state. It is hardly one sided.

    The balance didn’t really tip to the GOP in Utah until the early seventies, when the McGovernites took over the Democratic party. Democrat support for Roe v. Wade is probably far and away the number one factor driving away Utah moderates from the Democrats.

    Cold-War anticommunism and post-1970s social issues — and an intense effort to “mainstream” ourselves with Christianity by aligning ourselves with the Religious Right — led most Mormons (along with many Americans in general) rightward, politically.

    Without better evidence, that sounds like a conspiracy theory. Furthermore, it is unusually offensive to suggest that LDS teachings on such questions as church welfare, gambling, alcohol, immigration, religious freedom, abortion and so on have been adopted purely for opportunistic reasons.

    In general, LDS teaching on all those questions was firmly established a hundred and fifty years ago, far too early to swerve to meet the “Religious Right” to gain a handful of converts a few decades ago. If anything the few areas where Mormonism does not historically align with the religious right are areas where it is even more conservative – in ecclesiology more like the Catholic church, in polygamy a couple of millennia prior to that.

    How can any denomination based on the idea of restoring ancient religious truth not be fundamentally conservative in both the cultural and religious senses of the term? Politically, Mormonism is even more conservative, at times openly operating like a political theocracy. There is hardly anything more politically conservative than that. Much more conservative than any handful of American style conservatives are likely to be.

  60. Sorry to break into the Mormon-bashing festivities here, but I actually believe that there is a better explanation for Mormons’ unpopularity, which Jana mentioned in her original post but was not picked up by Nate. That is geographical isolation. Despite the Mormon diaspora, active Mormons remain disproportionately concentrated in Utah and Idaho. I have heard that there are surveys showing that people who personally know a Mormon have a higher opinion of Mormons than the generally low opinion indicated by the survey referenced in Jana’s original post. (Unfortunately I can’t locate the survey about the impact of personal familiarity now, or maybe it’s just rumor.) In any case, if that is the case it would suggest that geographical and social isolation is the significant source of low regard for Mormons.

    This would explain the discrepancy with the comparatively high regard for Jews. Although there is certainly geographical concentration of Jews, they are still not nearly as geographically concentrated as Mormons. Further, the urban areas where Jews are concentrated also put them in personal contact with far more non-Jews per Jew than would be the comparable case in the Rocky Mountain areas where Mormons are concentrated.

    The geographical isolation hypothesis also can explain Mormons’ poor showing among secularists. This data may appear in the book Amazing Grace which Jana referenced (which I have not read) but I am going to posit that secularists have a low opinion of all conservative religious groups. The question is not whether secularists dislike Mormons, but whether they dislike them more than they dislike other traditionalist religious groups like evangelicals and Catholics. I would suggest that if there is a difference, that it could be explained by the comparative absence of Mormons, in relation to their total numbers in the population, from institutions of higher education because they are either concentrated in the Mormon universities or public universities in the Rocky Mountains.

    One way to test whether geographical isolation is the primary explanation would be to do the same survey in areas where Mormons are more broadly dispersed but still sufficiently numerous that it is likely that a non-Mormon actually personally knows a Mormon. One locale where this might be possible would be Arizona.

    I will agree that there might be one explanation other than geographical isolation which is probably valid, which is evangelical hostility on theological grounds. However, even there, I would point out that the survey question was whether the respondents “liked” Mormons, not whether they “agreed with” or “approved” of Mormonism. Even with evangelicals, I will submit that more would say they “liked” Mormons (particularly in light of the similarity of Mormon and evangelical lifestyle values) if they actually knew any personally.

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