Top LDS news stories of 2010

Continuing its largely successful attempt to hijack the search results for “Mormon” on Google, the Mormon times has put out an article entitled “Top LDS news stories of 2010: Humanitarian aid, temples, missionary work lead the list”.

Har, har, har.

According to the Ministry of Truth Mormon Times, the most notable LDS incidents of 2010 were a few pennies tossed to the poor from a large fat purse, more pay-per-salvation venues, opening two new nations populated by victims of the Curse of Cain so their homes can be trespassed by smug blondes from Idaho, initiation of what will be endless discussion without action with Chinese bureaucrats, and a new FamilySearch Library in Riverton, Utah.

In the words of Mr. Molly, whoopty-shite. Here’s what I think really makes headlines in terms of the long-term prominence and health of LDS, inc.

1. US Crackdowns on polygamists have become regularised; Canada is considering legalising the practise

For too long the abuses within the FLDS community have received a blind eye from American authorities from Utah and Arizona too embarrassed to deal with the embarrassing reality that the “plygs” are their theological and literal cousins, and that polygamy is a part of LDS history, like it or not. Texas, however, doesn’t seem concerned with this. Arrests have become more routine, less high profile, and will hopefully continue the erosion of this highly toxic form of fundamentalism. If Canada legalises polygamy, watch for an exodus of the FLDS north of the border.

2. Boyd K. Packer’s homophobic talk at Conference

We can also add in Keith McMullin’s un-scientific and horrifying keynote given at Evergreen International’s annual conference. Nothing has changed; the church is still homophobic, although it seems to have learnt that it must be less strident if it doesn’t want any more PR headaches of the sort caused by its involvement in Proposition 8.

3. The editing of Boyd K. Packer’s talk, and the Internet calling the church out on it

Nine Moons reported it first, and the bloggernacle went mad after that. MiniTru can no longer send things down the Memory Hole. The digital world moves too quickly.

4. The resounding silence after the defeat of Proposition 8

I’ve long had a theory that most LDS people didn’t actually care on a personal level about whether or not gay marriage was legal; their prophet told them to spring into action against California’s Proposition 8 and so they jumped. The relative silence and lack of involvement by Mormon people in the aftermath of Judge Walker’s strong ruling striking it down shows, to me at least, that most Mormons who campaigned for the initiative did so unthinkingly. This is both reassuring and frightening, the more I think about it.

5. The whitewashing of the Book of Mormon by sending racist chapter headings down the memory hole.

This is notable not only because it continues the church’s established trend of silent edits with no explanation, but it makes it clear that there will never, ever be any kind of apology for past racist teachings. Like Mormonism’s anti-woman and anti-gay teachings, historically inconvenient facts are “vaporised” and the faithful doublethink their way past them. However, I believe 2010 has become a landmark year in terms of the documentation of these sorts of changes.

My Relatives Don’t Understand Why I Don’t Like Glenn Beck

Even when I believed, I had a problem with a common fallacy in LDS Cultural thinking. It’s an equation that doesn’t add up, but I hear it all the time: If X = Mormon, then X = Good. The logic makes sense . . . sort of. In theory if the Mormon church is The True Church(TM) and Mormons are following God’s Plan of Happiness(TM), then yes, it follows that observant Mormons would be both correct and good at all times. I also understand that people within a religious or cultural community frequently support one another and do business with one another. That’s just fine, too. It makes sense to work with people you know and trust, and whose values you share. But sometimes this mentality goes too far.

During the Olympics, I saw friends cheer on “the Mormon from Australia” in a snowboard event. They did not begrudge her beating two Americans for the gold, because she was Mormon, and they said that a Mormon winning was better. I bit my tongue when I thought to myself that the athlete deserved to win because she performed the best. Her religious affiliation shouldn’t be the motivating factor for how they felt her victory. But since Mormons think of their religion as a religious, cultural, and even quasi-ethnic or national identity, it kind of makes sense.

Usually the X=Mormon therefore X=Good theorem is harmless enough. If you support a business because it is Mormon-owned, it’s possible you’re missing out on a non-Mormon company that might be marginally better, then who cares? Where it becomes harmful is when a bad person who happens to be Mormon is endorsed by LDS culture just because of the religious connection. I believe Glenn Beck’s popularity among Mormons is due not just to his right-wing politics, which most mainline Mormons share, but the fact that he is one of us. And since Mormon = Good and Glenn Beck = Mormon, Glenn Beck = Good and any rejection of Glenn Beck = Bad.

I have never cared much to get my news or political insights from entertainers on the radio or on television. TV can’t provide truly in-depth coverage, and the quest for ratings compromises neutrality. Even then, some journalists still do their best to behave with professional decorum. Glenn Beck is a terrible example not only of a journalist, but he’s also a bad example of what it means to be a Mormon. When my Beck-worshipping relatives put him on the TV, I see a man who:

  • Touts his lack of expertise on everything as a sign that he is right
  • Is so emotionally unstable that he makes teenagers look mature
  • Traded in his alcoholism for an addiction to hating those who are different from him
  • Engages in hyperbole and stretches of logic that make me wonder if he is, after all, just parody
  • Uses hysterics and melodrama to scare people, rather than using facts and logic to convince them
  • Screams at people so loudly that his vocal cords give out
  • Frequently mentions that he’d like to kill people with a shovel

Don’t believe me? Listen to him for yourself.

I don’t care how you feel about Mormonism. I don’t want anything to do with someone like that. And the idea that rejecting Glenn Beck is some kind of betrayal of Mormonism based on the “If X = Mormon then X = Good” equation scares me. I have seen signs of backlash against Beck building among Mormons who disapprove of screaming, crying, and talking about murdering people in public. But it’s going to take a bit more than that to overcome the Beck = Mormon = Good logical train wreck.