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Corroding the Container

Good heavens.

The amount of traffic this blog has received since my last post is five times the average I usually get when I put up something new. And the comments and pingbacks are startling – and most of them not fit for a family blog, if you know what I mean. The kindest ones were merely insulting and rude. A relative few had the vocabulary to express anything but bile.

The message I’m getting is that, by and large, the people who hate my faith are just not very nice.

And nice matters, people.

In any field of persuasion, whether it be religion, politics, or just trying to get the kids to decide what the family should eat for dinner, the tone of the message is at least as important as the message itself. Politicians who lose their cool end up losing elections, regardless of whether they’re right on the facts. Any married person will tell you that once one spouse raises their voice, it doesn’t matter what the disagreement is about anymore – the hard feelings come from the yelling, not from what spurred the yelling.

Hatred, even if it’s justified, is always ugly. Belittling. Squalid. It makes the hater appear small and petty. As Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming once told me, “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

I’ve gotten a chance to see that firsthand these past couple of days.

Look, I get it. Some people think what my church teaches is so vile, so wicked, so purely evil that extreme measures are called for in order to bring it down. But it never occurs to the people on a mission against the Mormons that their hatred is hurting their cause. People compare the kind-hearted Latter-day Saint to the street preacher on Temple Square screaming at the top of their lungs and damning everyone to hell, and they assume the one headed for Hades is the one who seems to have already been there in order to provide a firsthand report. If you want to pry me loose from the clutches of Satan, you probably shouldn’t be brandishing a pitchfork to do it.

No, if you want to influence someone, that can be accomplished, but only “by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, [b]y kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” That’s D&C 121. Say what you will about Joseph Smith – he sure got that part right.

I’m convinced, too, that the Mormons have to be on to something to inspire such white-hot loathing among our detractors. If what we taught didn’t matter, then haters wouldn’t get so worked up about it. Nobody gets this hot and bothered after they drop out of the Rotary Club.

That’s all. I know this comes as no great surprise to most people, who are turned off by snarling zealots. And I know snarling zealots will probably just snarl harder. But if you wrote a comment telling me what a blankety-blank I am, and you’re wondering why it never got posted, here’s your answer.

A Conversation with Mike Norton
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