CNN has published an interview with a woman named Tricia Erickson, who has spoken out on why Mitt Romney is not qualified to be president of the United States. Instead of criticizing Romney for his political platforms, which is what one would expect in a discussion surrounding a political election, she instead has focused on (surprise!) his religion. She has made some rather pernicious swipes at Mormonism that are true to form amongst zealous Evangelical counter-cultists.
I intended to publish some remarks on the comments section of the CNN webpage, but my verbosity got the better of me and my reply was too long. Thankfully I have another avenues in which I can express my thoughts. What follows are my thoughts as they were intended on being published on the CNN webpage, with minor changes in formatting.
I usually don’t comment on blogs or websites such as this, but I feel compelled to relate some of my thoughts regarding Ms. Erickson’s unfortunate remarks directed against Mormonism.
For full disclosure I am a faithful Latter-day Saint. I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and made a conscious commitment to my religion as a young teenager when I began to seriously investigate not only my faith but other religions. I recently returned from my LDS mission in New England, where happily most people are not as unpleasant towards my faith as Ms. Erickson is. I have participated in the ordinances of the temple repeatedly. I attend my Church services weekly. And I have extensively studied not only the history and doctrine of my faith from both Mormon and non-Mormon perspectives but also other religious traditions such as Judaism and Islam. I am a student at Brigham Young University and am majoring in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, with an emphasis in Hebrew and the Old Testament. I thought I would get all of this out of the way so that nobody wonders about my background.
First, despite her denial to the contrary, Ms. Erickson’s attitude towards Mormonism is thoroughly anti-Mormon. She is egregiously twisting many tenets of Mormon doctrine, most noticeably the Mormon doctrine of deification (which, incidentally, finds remarkable harmony with the early Christian doctrine of theosis) to suit her polemical agenda. Her description of the ordinances of the temple is not only disrespectful towards Mormons, who hold these ordinances in the highest sanctity, but also is saturated with lurid sensationalism that is only appropriate for yellow journalism or a trashy tabloid. As Professor Bushman noted in his response, Ms. Erickson has stripped the Mormon temple ceremony out of its sacred context and warped it into a frightful, but inaccurate, caricature.
Second, her citing of Ed Decker as an authority on Mormonism is quite astonishing. It is not an exaggeration to say that her citing Decker to explain Mormonism is just as misguided as going to a neo-Nazi to seek out reliable information on Judaism or a member of the KKK to get an objective portrayal of blacks. In fact, Ed Decker’s outrageous distortion of Mormonism is so repellent that nobody less than career anti-Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry (certainly no friends of the Mormon Church) condemned Decker for his irresponsibility and unfounded, repugnant, and salacious attacks against the LDS Church. Decker has zero credibility, and his pseudo-scholarly miasmal book “The God Makers” has been debunked by Mormon apologists. For Ms. Erickson to rely on Decker as an authority on Mormonism is shocking, not to mention unfortunate, and betrays her anti-Mormon tendencies.
Third, Ms. Erickson’s disdain for other American religious minorities, particularly Muslims, is rank with bigotry.
Fourth, her continual spewing of words such as “cult”, “indoctrinate”, “dogma”, and characterizing Mormonism as “a complete lie” compromises her objectivity and her qualification to be a commentator on religious matters.
Someone else here has drawn attention to Dr. Hugh Nibley’s wonderful essay “How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book (A Handbook for Beginners)”. Those curious to see whether Ms. Erickson’s denial of being an anti-Mormon is legitimate should compare her remarks here with what Dr. Nibley has written. You can read it online for free here:
Finally, may I express a word to the editors of CNN? Please be more selective with whom you decide to give airtime on your otherwise wonderful and informative website. Ms. Erickson, I am afraid, has no real contribution to the discussion of the relationship between religion and politics in our modern society. Her polemical ranting is below CNN’s standards of journalism.