On June 11th, 2012, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article entitled "Are Mormons primed for persecution in this election season?", which explores the seeming love-hate relationship that many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have with the idea of persecution. Max Mueller, a Boston-based scholar who spent the last year studying Mormonism and race, noted the dichotomy. "Persecution has long been understood in Mormon history as a sign of chosenness," Mueller said in an email. "So Mormons both loathe persecution as a sign that they are not fully integrated into the American sacred community, and also love it, because it’s a sign of their peculiarity."
But also of interest is a reference to a speech delivered by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve at Dixie State College in February 2012. According to the Tribune, Elder Bednar said that if Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee, the LDS Church would face persecution "more intense than any yet experienced in our lifetime." Apparently this remark generated enough of a buzz that in April, LDS Church education officials felt compelled to issue a disavowal, saying it was "distorted and inaccurate and should not be used, repeated, or passed on to others", although at Patheos, Max Mueller disclosed in April that in private, LDS staffers working in Temple Square have told him that the Church is preparing for a period of scrutiny not experienced since the Reed Smoot hearings a century ago
But was it distorted and inaccurate? While I could not find an exact transcript of Elder Bednar's remarks, one individual named Jen was there, and she documented her experience on her blog. Jen notes that Elder Bednar appeared there on February 5th, and despite the fact that it was Super Bowl Sunday, the venue was packed. Elder Bednar decided not to share a traditional fireside message, but allowed the students to ask him questions. And during the course of the fireside, Elder Bednar did address the persecution issue in two separate phrases. Here's what Jen wrote about it:
He prophesied [emphasis mine] that if Mitt Romney is elected the Presidential Candidate, the things of God will be made to look foolish in the media, specifically the temple He said, those that are not strong in the faith, may be shaken by the opposition that will arise in the near future. He said, the heat is being turned on and we need to be prepared.
In closing Elder Bednar shared a story of President Hinckley teaching him that this is the greatest season in the History of the restored church. He said, I won’t get to see it, but you will. E. Bednar testified this is the Greatest Season of the History of the Church and the heat is being turned on. He said the greatest wickedness will oppose truth and righteousness.
He said, “Save your fork, the best is yet to come. Go forward with faith, exercise faith, walk into the darkness!”
Perhaps it is the use of the term "prophesied" that generated the buzz. This term may have made it appear as if Elder Bednar was speaking officially for the Church. However, while every word out of the mouth of an Apostle is treated as counsel, not every word should be considered either formal policy or official canon. Mormons are always invited to seek an independent witness through the Holy Spirit as to the applicability of an Apostle's counsel in their personal lives.
However, Elder Bednar is not wrong. The election of Mitt Romney could increase persecution of the LDS Church, although it's a persecution that has already begun. The LDS Church, along with other churches which promote traditional marriage as being only between one man and one woman and oppose the mainstreaming of homosexuality, is already being persecuted by gay rights activists and political progressives. Some of that persecution actually comes from within LDS ranks, where on the LDS Bloggernacle, progressive Mormon bloggers demean and abuse traditional LDS bloggers such as No Death Before The Fall and A Well Behaved Mormon Woman for defending traditional values and standards. The Left frequently accuses the Right of intolerance to disguise their own intolerance.
On the other hand, as persecution from the political Left increases, persecution from those on the political Right who believe Mormonism to be a cult seems to be subsiding. Even Pastor Robert Jeffress has now come out and endorsed Mitt Romney. But as Sarah Palin once said, when you're taking flak, it merely means you're over the target.