Mormonism’s “9/11 Mosque Moment”

The Salt Lake Tribune has published a terrific article describing the federal inquisition of Utah Senator Reed Smoot in 1903 as Mormonism’s “9/11 Mosque Moment,” reminding us of a time when the mayor of New York City (no Bloomberg, he) banned Mormon missionaries and when Mormon elders were tarred and feathered in the South.

It’s a timely and necessary reminder. Because from the chatter around the Mormon blogosphere, I’m gathering that politically opportunistic anti-Muslim sentiment is simmering in the more conservative sectors of the LDS world.  

And whereas one usually hears valiant reports on the Mormon grapevine of LDS humanitarian responses to major natural disasters, I’m getting at this point only an eerie silence on flood-ravaged Pakistan, which is 98% Muslim.  

To make matters worse, a local Southern California LDS Church representative who had pledged to join seventy other religious leaders at Friday’s interfaith press conference against Islamaphobia failed to show.  

Certainly we can do better.  

Whatever one thinks of the Park51 Islamic community center (and the project is not without problems, as my RD colleague Hussein Rashid pointed out in this must-read piece), Mormons, the number two most disliked religion in America, have no business contributing to public rage against the number one most disliked religion in America.  

Nor in trafficking in falsehoods like “Islam is an ideology, not a religion,” a line I’ve been hearing from a few Mormons in recent days.  

Islam is in fact a religion for which Mormon leaders from the time of George A. Smith and Parley P. Pratt in 1855 have expressed respect.  

A religion with prophetic origins.  

A religious tradition whose outlying extremists are used to discredit and oppose its mainstream practitioners.  

Sound familiar?