Scott Gordon explained that the idea grew out of the volumes of misinformation about the church that circulated in 2008 when Mitt Romney sought the GOP presidential nomination. "What we've seen is that as the church becomes more and more in the limelight, people say and report things that are often bigoted or false," Gordon said. "We wanted to provide an organization that could assist journalists and others get the story right and offer some gentle correction when they didn't."
The Mormon Defense League is similar in concept to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, except the MDL does not promote supremacism. In contrast, the ADL tends to promote Jewish supremacism, occasionally maximizing the Jewish Holocaust while minimizing genocide against other peoples, while CAIR has often been equivocal about Islamofascist terrorism in the past.
An example of MDL's output is on their August 2nd post on homosexuality, where they highlight the four critical attributes of the Church's position on this issue:
-- Sex outside of marriage is inconsistent with Church membership, and marriage is defined as strictly between one man and one woman.
-- People who are denied the ability to marry in this life, even if it's because of same-sex attraction, will be offered the opportunity in the next world.
-- The Church does not take an official position on whether same-sex attraction is the result of nature, or nurture, or both, although individual apostles such as Boyd K. Packer have sometimes expressed their personal opinions even during Conference.
-- The Church has emphasized that same-sex attraction, by itself, is in no way a sin or a source of unworthiness.
One non-Mormon posted a defense of the new outreach on KSL:
LostinSLC posted 43 minutes ago:
I am not Mormon but I find myself having to defend them when I travel the world. It seems people think they are a satanical cult or something. So dang far from the truth and the world needs to learn they are Christian like everyone else.
Many more comments posted on the Deseret News; here's a sampling:
Admiring Gentile | 8:23 a.m. Aug. 4, 2011 Salt Lake City, UT:
One of the "problems" of the Mormon Church is that it's had such a dramatic history. And drama begets drama from the other side (critics of Mormonism). It's so easy to take potshots at a colorful target, instead of trying to engage in a dialogue.
I don't consider Quakerism traditionally Christian either. But when was the last time outsiders took jabs at it? Even Hollywood showed the difference: "Brigham Young" (action-packed) vs. "Friendly Persuasion" (primarily quiet and gentle).
I think the Mormon Church is exactly right in treating this in its usual way: reasoned and firm, but without ever raising its voice. Its response to "The Book of Mormon: the Musical"--an event which would have had many other religions screaming--was praiseworthy. Here's wishing the Mormon approach continued success.
The Rock | 9:03 a.m. Aug. 4, 2011 Federal Way, WA:
This is certainly an idea whose time has come. Earlier this week I received an email stating that Mormons are not Christians, members of a cult and part of a false religion. I personally refuse to just let this pass. I challenged the person who made these remarks and demanded that they either provide evidence or apologize.
It was quite amusing to take what he thought were unassailable arguments and completely turn the tables on him. The hard part is remembering to be nice and act like a Christian.
For those who are most ravenous in their hatred for all things LDS, I give them an experience that they are not likely to forget and will make them think twice about attacking the LDS faith again.
For the more reasonable crowd, I am as nice as I can be. I do not find fault with their religion. I do defend the LDS position strongly but gently and I always try not to offend so they might be comfortable learning more about the church.
Mormon Defense League: I love it!
Idaho Coug | 9:48 a.m. Aug. 4, 2011 Meridian, Idaho:
In my experience this can become a slippery slope. But it is something all members, whether part of a defense league or not, have to deal with.
It is very simple to correct overtly wrong beliefs about Mormonism like - Mormons have horns, don't dance, can't drink soda, etc. But what about things that were clearly taught by former Prophets and Apostles that we no longer emphasize or even accept and yet critics can point to the talk in General Conference in which the comments were made? Brigham Young fills volumes with such comments. We can lose credibility when we say something was just a Prophet's opinion in one instance but defend something else because it was stated by a Prophet in another.
Another tricky one is polygamy. Sure it is easy to say we no longer practice polygamy. But how do we respond to the knowledgeable person who asks whether our current sealing practices for men who may have lost a spouse or divorced is based on the doctrine of plural marraige? Hint - it absolutely is.
The reality is that Mormonism has some wonderful beliefs AND some very tricky things within it's history and past/current teachings.
Alex 1 | 10:05 a.m. Aug. 4, 2011 Tucson, AZ:
I applaud what they are doing, but I would add a word of caution. Try not to hyperventilate over every misrepresentation you find. Pick your battles carefully. Realize that allowing a little misunderstanding or controversy to remain on the table is what allows a healthy discussion to continue, and more serious questions to be asked. If you try to quash all controversy, you may stop people from having to seek and find.
What they should focus on is misunderstandings and misrepresentations that give rise to straw men, half truths that distort, and sometimes flat out lies. Don't touch items of controversy over what we DO believe.
Flashback | 10:08 a.m. Aug. 4, 2011 Kearns, UT:
It's about time that someone went on the offensive. To all of you having a cow about Prop 8, get over it. It isn't a civil rights issue, it is a moral issue and just because you don't have any morals, isn't the church's problem. It is yours.
And of course, the anti-Mormon lobby has already weighed in with their typical hysterical B.S. Most of them are morbidly obsessed with Church history.