Mormons are {not} Victims or Enemies

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When you think of the term victim being used – what comes to mind? For me, it presents a notion that someone is suffering some form of abuse. Maybe someone who experienced some form of crime against them. Others may have experienced the devastation of fraud. However, would it ever occur to you that someone within a religious group be considered a victim? Maybe of spiritual, physical, and/or emotional abuse. In that context and understanding, I’d agree that a person is a victim. What if being a member of a faith-based community really is what it takes to be a victim?

According to Truth in Love’s Ministry approach to ministering and witnessing to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – we are not considered enemies of the Christian Faith. We are merely victims because of our faith in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, a video was posted on Truth in Love’s Ministry YouTube channel on September 15, 2021 where the presenter discusses Top 5 principles for witnessing to Mormons. And the primary de facto principle is to see Mormons as victims and not enemies.

A False Premise and Perception Established

The opening portion of this 3:45 minute video presentation begins with the idea that Latter-day Saint Christians are to be considered victims.

There are everyday examples of people who see someone in need and then step into action, often without even thinking. Someone jumps into the water to rescue another who’s drowning. Someone rushes into the road and pushes a child out of the way of oncoming traffic. If we see someone in danger, even complete strangers, we will rise up. We have compassion and help those in need. But sometimes a persons need is less dramatic. The danger they may be in, it seems subtle. Perhaps the victim can’t articulate or maybe even doesn’t realize it. Their need is still very real and it is as important as ever to help them. This is why our first witnessing principle is see Mormons as victims, not enemies. Mormons really are victims, yet most don’t realize it.

While I do credit the acknowledgement that there has appeared to be this perception that Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were (and still are in some Evangelical and Christian circles) considered enemies of the Christian faith. This statement of Latter-day Saints being victims appears to be subtle deception. It is one thing for someone to comment, speak, or share that they believe that what many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach and hold dear is false, wrong, erroneous, anathema to the Bible, et. al. However, it is another to shift gears and teach people that Mormons really are victims and many may not be aware of it.

The question is – what are Latter-day Saints supposedly victims of? Well, the video continues:

Let me give you a couple of examples. Mormonism teaches conditional grace so any blessing from God is contingent on their obedience. They’re taught the best are blessed and you may feel pretty good when things are going well. Inevitably, we all face times of trouble, and in those moments, Mormons question their relationship with God. The question of what they did wrong. In those moments, it can feel like the worst are cursed. This mindset leads Mormons to chase after blessings as the demonstration that, well, they must have God’s love. As a result, Mormons are victimized by a culture of success. They want to project the image of God is pleased with them and this is never never ending and exhausting.

Yet because they’re surrounded by others who also must demonstrate they have God’s blessing, there’s very little room for weakness. So many describe suffering silently behind a mask. Most Mormons fear sharing their struggles with another Mormon. Their culture doesn’t allow them to open up and be authentic. Mormonism creates pressure, but there’s no release valve.

In essence, what I believe the presenter is saying, is that Latter-day Saints feel the desire and need to chase after blessings because they are experiencing struggles in life? That we hold to the idea that there is a contingency of receiving blessings by our mere obedience to God?

Yet any person who reads the Old and New Testament scriptures are amazed at the insurmountable times God has placed contingencies on blessings with obedience. In some instances, there is not only the blessings attached with obedience, there is also an attached curse as part of that contingency.

Take for example the following statement that Jesus Christ himself made:

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:21, KJV

In another translation, we read:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants.

Matthew 7:21, CJB (Complete Jewish Study Bible)

And we read this same passage in another translation:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 7:21, English Standard Version

What we do know is that Christ spent time instructing the disciples, and those gathered around him (including the religious leaders of the day) to teach them and instruct them on the way to live life. Matthew 5 contains the beautitudes, exhortations, and parables. Matthew 6 continues with more exortations and parables. Matthew 7 concludes with exhortations, responses to the religious leaders, and then a parable of the wise man and the foolish man. The question is – what did Christ mean by those who do the will of the Father? Certainly we consider that Eternal life and Salvation are the epitome of all blessings granted upon humanity. To be allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ explains himself in Matthew 7:24 by likening those who hears and does those instructions he provided in Matthew 5-7 are liken unto the wise man building his house on a sure foundation of solid rock. The foolish man are those who do not hear and do what Christ taught and subsequently build their house on sandy and unstable foundations.

Another contingency we find in the teachings of the Savior relates to the following:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16;24-26, ESV

Notice that Christ says that if any person is willing to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him, they will receive blessings. Those who are not willing, shall lose their very own lives. This is a contingency statement. A very deep and enriching one. There are many other scriptures that speak to how blessings are tied to obedience to God’s will and desire. There are also those contingencies attached that if we do not walk in obedience to God’s will and desire, we will experience suffering, despair, and even judgment. Furthermore, scripture does teach that God will chide and chastise those who are following Him.

So, I am not sure how this presenter is teaching that Latter-day Saints are victims because of the idea that when we are following God, when we are devoted to Christ, and when we are walking in accordance to God’s will and desire, that we will experience blessing as a “contingency” that frustrates and disappoints us.

The other observation is that the presenter appears to focus mainly on Latter-day Saints when it comes to suffering through adversity. There are plenty of Christian believers who suffer and experience adversity in their own lives. Many who question their faith. Some have even abandoned their faith and now are atheists. This form of argument appears to be a grandiose special pleading fallacy.

Latter-day Saint Christians do hold to and understand that we will experience suffering in this life. That we will experience those circumstances where our faith and testimony will be challenged. This does not make us “victims” in the sense the presenter appears to claim. We may be a victim of natural disasters, victim of crimes committed against us? In fact, many Latter-day Saints were victimized by Evangelical Christians in the early days of the Church growth.

This form of victimization involved families being driven from their homes, men accosted and assaulted, tarred and feathered, all because they held to their belief and testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for today – Latter-day Saints being victims – only from misinformation, false teachings, and deceptive insinuations promoted and published to discourage anyone from honestly investigating our faith. Or to challenge and get people to question their faith in a manner to abandon their testimony. That is the only time Mormons succumb to being victims (outside of any form of abuse perpetrated by others).

Touching on the false perception (for that is exactly what it is) where Latter-day Saints are isolated, closed off, and unable to be transparent about their suffering? This is further from the truth. Many members of the LDS Faith utilize their ward families, bishopric, local leaders, and even close friends to share and discuss their struggles and issues with. This is the heart and soul of the ministering aspect of the LDS Faith, to reach out to those struggling. Whether it is with temporal needs, or spiritual issues and concerns. For temporal issues a person is struggling with, the LDS Faith has the following:

  1. Addiction Recovery Program to help those suffering with pornography and/or substance abuse related issues
  2. Family Services for those needing mental health services, counseling, and other resources
  3. Welfare Services – Well know program to help those who are impoverished receive needed food, and other resources
  4. Programs to develop self-sufficiency
  5. Employment Counseling and Ministry to help those not only find employment, gain ways to access other resources – to include education

Much of this is accomplished because many members of the LDS Faith are faithful in obeying the law of tithing, and the giving of fast offerings once a month. The LDS Faith is also actively involved in providing humanitarian aid to those areas devastated by natural disasters and needing relief.

Again, there is no real credible merit or evidence to suggest that Latter-day Saints suffer alone, isolated, and in silence without the spiritual guidance of leaders, family, and friends within the ward.

Finally, Latter-day Saints are not victimized by a culture of success. If anything, Latter-day Saints are counseled and directed toward ways to improve overall quality of life. Seek out education, maintain an active savings account, live where one is self-sufficient, develop and create a healthy home environment for family. Follow wise counsel given by leaders of the Church. If anyone feels victimized by a culture of success, it is not really because of the LDS faith, it may be because of the persons own inadequacy and lack of awareness. It is quite easy to blame a group of people or a individuals because of own’s own inadequacy.

Unverified and False Assertions Being Presented

The presenter moves on and presents some interesting statistics:

Utah, majority Mormons, consistently ranks among the highest for depression and suicide to cope with these impossible expectations. It also has some of the highest use of pornography, anti-depressants, and plastic surgery. Those stats can be startling to Christians. Mormons are some of the nicest folks you’ll encounter, yet many suffer silently. Their continued attempts to win God’s love and acceptance indicate that they don’t feel they have it.

If you are familiar with some of the things that are perpetuated against the LDS Faith, this is one of them.

First, regarding the statement: Utah has the highest use of pornography. This is false as evidenced by a major publisher and contributor of Porn where Utah ranked 40th Nationwide for consumption of porn. In fact, the statement itself is based on a single and unverifiable study, or any potential study that may be biased in some fashion. (See, Question: Why does Utah lead the United States in subscriptions to online adult entertainment?).

What is interesting to note is that, according to Ministry Magazine’s article on pornography consumption, is that about 65% Christian men and about 15% Christian women view pornography at least once a month. This is compared to 65% of non-Christian men and 30% non-Christian women:

“Sixty-four percent of self-identified Christian men and 15 percent of self-identified Christian women view pornography at least once a month (compared to 65 percent of non-Christian men and 30 percent of non-Christian women).

“Thirty-three percent of clergy say they have visited a sexually explicit Web site. Of those who have visited sexually explicit websites, 53 percent say they have visited the sites a few times in the past year, and 18 percent said they visited explicit Web sites between ‘a couple times a month’ and ‘more than once a week.’

“Twenty-one percent of youth pastors and 14 percent of pastors admit they currently struggle with pornography.”

Dangerous kissing cousins: Pornography and intimate partner violence, Ministry Magazine

And regarding whether or not one may find sexual fulfillment through online pornography consumption: Christianity Today writes this:

Survey results showed that one in four American men (25.9%) and about one in six women (16.7%) say it is either very or somewhat likely they can find sexual fulfillment online. Nearly one in five Christians (18.68%) gives the same response.

We’ve Got Porn: Online smut is taking its toll on Christians. What is the Church doing about it? – A Christianity Today Editorial; June 12, 2000

The editorial published online and in their print magazine goes on and further states this:

Focus on the Family has launched a Web-based effort to help those addicted to online pornography ( www.pureintimacy.org). The site offers a self-test to help users determine whether they have become addicted. It offers a variety of essays ranging from singer Clay Crosse’s testimony about his struggle with pornography to a help page for struggling Christian leaders. (According to the site, one out of seven calls to the ministry’s Pastoral Care Line concerns pornography.) There is even a page to connect spouses of porn abusers with needed resources.

Ibid.

1 out of every 7 calls Focus on the Family receives concerns pornography? That is a lot of people within the Evangelical Christian community struggling with sexual integrity issues.

I do not want to be dismissive about the issue regarding pornography. It is a billion dollar business. It is substantially proven to be associated with human trafficking. This is no light issue. However, to make a claim that Utah leads highest in porn consumption obfuscates the real fact that even within the Evangelical Christian community, many men and women struggle with pornography themselves.

Anybody, whether Protestant, Evangelical, or Latter-day Saint Christian is struggling with pornography, there are really good resources. Get connected with your local Bishop, clergy, pastor, and get connected with ministries like New Life, Focus on the Family, Celebrate Recovery, or Addiction Recovery Program of the LDS Faith. A person struggling with pornography is struggling with deep rooted spiritual issues as well and is something that ought not to be used as a means to throw out a victim card.

Second, regarding the statement as to Utah being the highest in plastic surgery please take a moment and thoughtfully review this response: Question: Is the fact that Salt Lake City has many plastic surgeons indicative of Mormon vanity and concern with appearance? Again, we see a statement being presented as an attempt to lead viewers to believe information without any serious credible validation or source.

Third, as to the more important statement being presented to Truth in Love Ministry’s viewers: Does Utah lead the highest in depression, suicide, and anti-depressant medications?

  • Question: Is the suicide rate in Utah higher than the national average?
    • It is unfortunate that critics wish to trivialize a serious problem such as suicide—a leading cause of death in the United States—by using it as a club to beat a specific religion. They do this without any data implicating the Church, and much data which argues against the patients’ religion as a causative factor.”
    • Critics should avoid concluding that Utah data = Mormon data. This is often not true, and in this case the Mormon influence may be lowering Utah’s suicide rates below those of its neighboring states.
    • If we follow the flawed logic of the critics, one is better off as an American by not being a Southern Baptist, since states in which they are the most common religion almost always have worse suicide rates than the nation as a whole. Clearly this logic is specious and ought to be rejected.
  • Question: Is the rate of antidepressant use in Utah much higher among Mormons than the general population?
    • While Utah does have the highest rate of antidepressant use in the United States, there is no evidence that this is because of stress from the LDS lifestyle and culture. Credible research has shown that LDS women are actually more likely to identify themselves as “happy” than non-Mormon women. Religion generally (and the LDS religion specifically) has been repeatedly shown to be either beneficial or neutral for mental health and well-being.
    • Latter-day Saint Social life: Social Research on the LDS Church and Its Members

As we see, such statements being made, well regurgitated statements without supporting reasonable evidence that merits any credible validation and acknowledgement, is quite deceptive, manipulative, and intellectually dishonest. Such misleading tactics begins to unmask the subtle attitude and behavior of the presenter, Truth in Love Ministry as nothing more than a welcoming wolf in sheep’s clothing that continues to perpetuate lies and slander. This per the evidence presented and accessible to review in light of their so-called perception that Mormons are victims.

The real victims are those who view this YouTube video and are not aware of such subtle and deceptive tactics being employed. That is the sad and unfortunate reality.

Finally, the very last statement is a false dilemma based on a false premise. This is summed up in the last statement: [Mormons] continued attempts to win God’s love and acceptance indicate that they don’t feel they have it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides insights and wisdom from the leaders on ways to live a life that is fulfilling and enriching through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ. The stress is placed on individual and family devotion to studying and applying the scriptures. Listening to messages from the Leaders, prayerfully seek our Heavenly Father’s will continually, and strive to serve within our families, communities, and live out the principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is no direction, encouragement, or teaching that may lead one to conclude that Latter-day Saints are victims because they are being taught that they have to walk in obedience as a means to win our Heavenly Father’s Love and acceptance. On the contrary, many who feel that they may not deserve or are worthy of our Heavenly Father’s love and acceptance are guided to seek Him, prayerfully meditate upon the scriptures, and seek out and discuss their concerns with their teachers, family, friends and Bishop. If anything, there are just as many Evangelical and Protestant Christians who I have spoken with that have shared the same perception – that they feel they have had to win God’s love and acceptance because they don’t feel it. Does not mean that I consider them a victim and need rescuing. If anything, they need love, compassion, and empathy.

Misapplication of Scripture to Support False Assertions

Inevitably, counter-cult ministries bring up some scripture, or event in the ministry of Jesus Christ as a means to substantiate their claims, perception, and assertions. In the concluding remarks of the video, the presenter focuses on Christ and the harvest field:

Friends, before sending his disciples out into the harvest fields Jesus shared the lens through which he sees the lost. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them. Because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus’ heart aches for every blood-bought soul who doesn’t yet know his love.

Christ’s love also compels us to see Mormons through his eyes. Remember that the next time you have a conversation with a Mormon. Picture someone who’s drowning in exhaustion. Picture someone whose soul is in danger on their current path. Picture someone who is desperate to be loved by God. With that mindset, you will be positioned to then share the truth in love.

From what one may gather, Latter-day Saint Christians are to be seen as:

  • Victims and not enemies
  • Living up to unrealistic expectations as evidenced by so-called statistics
  • Striving to seek God’s love and approval and unable to attain it through a false sense of contingencies of walking in obedience for blessings
  • Lost sheep who are exhausted, weakened, and in need of rescuing due to being victims of the teachings of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • So much so to see “Mormons” as Christ sees them – as victims

What is quite sad and disappointing is how the presenter in the video appears to misapply Christ, his ministry, and the calling of the Twelve to go out and preach.

Yes, I do agree that Christ called his disciples to go out and preach. Not only did he call them to go out and preach, he called them to call all men unto repentance. To teach them all that He [Christ] commanded them, and to make them disciples. Such instruction is quite clear in the Great Commission. And there is nothing wrong with evangelism or missionary work.

What is appalling is attributing such a calling under the guise and premise of saying that Christ apparently views members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as victims who need rescuing. In fact, no where in the Gospel accounts of Christ’s ministry do we find that Christ viewed those whom he ministered to as victims. He viewed them as needing compassion, love, healing, and service. No where does one read where Christ may have inferred or hinted at the religious leaders as being victims either. What we do read is that the religious leaders were mislead, hypocritical, proudful, arrogant, boastful, and lacking understanding of scripture and teachings. Yet nothing that may lead, even a casual observer, to conclude that such individuals were victims.

Reality of scripture is that Christ sees us as one of two ways: Lost, despondent, broken, suffering, and in need of healing, restoration, forgiveness, guidance, and restoration; or, growing spiritually, maturing, faithfully facing our challenges with courage, being of good cheer, and resilient in enduring to the end. Nothing involving a sense of being a victim.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not victims of a false religion or gospel. Neither are we an enemy to evangelical and protestant Christians. Much like many members of any faith based community, we are striving to live according to the teachings and principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Striving to bring a message of hope to individuals struggling, facing uncertainty, questioning, and experiencing a crisis of faith.

Any real and true victim are those who are being mislead by false information, misleading statements, and unsubstantiated claims that lack any credible authority and truth when examined fully.

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