Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Young Guard Movement Wants To Kick Mormons Out Of Russia, But Their Attitude Is Based On Dated Or False Information

A pro-Kremlin youth organization in Russia has called for a ban on Mormons, whom it accused of pursuing questionable activities on behalf of anti-Russian interests. According to Radio Liberty, the Young Guard movement, which has been associated with the United Russia Party dominated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, says it will hold a demonstration on November 1st outside the Moscow headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), where they will present LDS representatives with a giant airplane ticket marked "Moscow-Washington" to show that Mormons and their organization should return home to where they came from. They plan similar protests outside LDS facilities in St. Petersburg, Samara, Novosibirsk, and Vladivostok. The Young Guard believes that the LDS Church is a totalitarian sect whose missionaries seek to gather Russian intelligence and genealogical records.

More details of Young Guard's objections to Mormonism are published on the Russian-language website; you can cut and paste the article into Google Translate to obtain a different language. However, many of Young Guard's objections are either based on dated or false information, or are not particularly relevant.

-- They claim that polygamy and pedophilia are a widespread practice in the LDS Church, but it appears they fail to distinguish between the mainstream LDS Church and the breakaway FLDS. The mainstream LDS Church officially suspended the solemnization of plural marriages in 1890, and has never sanctioned pedophilia. FLDS President Warren Jeffs has had carnal relations with underage girls.

-- They claim that LDS missionaries have had direct contact with the U.S. military while also pointing out that a certain proportion of young Mormons returning to the United States after missionary work enter the service of the CIA and FBI. Well, so what if Mormons gravitate towards the CIA and FBI? Means absolutely nothing. This is just conspiracy theorizing by the group.

-- They also state that Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857, and then threw John Lee under the bus years later as a symbolic atonement. This is patently false; in December 1859, Brigham Young wrote a letter in which he stated, in part, "Neither yourself, nor any one acquainted with me, will require my assurance that, had I been apprized of the intended onslaught at the Meadows, I should have used such efforts for its prevention as the time, distance, and my influence and facilities, would have permitted. The horrifying event transpired without my knowledge, except from after report, and the recurring thought of it ever causes a shudder in my feelings".

According to another account, Brigham Young somehow learned that the Fancher Party was in danger, and dispatched James Holt Haslam with a letter ordering that the emigrants not be harmed. However, by the time Haslam delivered Young's letter to Isaac Haight, who was the acting commander of the Iron County Brigade, the massacre had taken place. After the brief Utah War, when President James Buchanan implied that face-to-face communications with Brigham Young might have averted the Utah War, Brigham Young argued that a north-south telegraph line in Utah could have prevented the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Even though Young Russia is associated with Putin's party, President Putin himself is not known to have expressed any anti-Mormon sentiments; in fact, the LDS Church recently organized its first Russian stake in Moscow in June 2011. But on October 12th, 2012, Putin warned his fellow countrymen to be wary of the dangers posed by groups involved in totalitarian activities in Russia, explaining that such groups were now growing like mushrooms in the country. Furthermore, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Russia on grants from abroad could soon be officially branded as foreign agents; under a new bill submitted to the State Duma by deputies from the ruling United Russia party, the requirement would apply to foreign-funded NGOs deemed to be engaged in political activities.

Reaction: Elena Nechiporova, director of LDS public affairs for Eastern Europe, was quoted as saying that "the allegations that the Mormon missionaries are foreign agents is baseless", adding that "preaching the gospel is our main goal."

The LDS Church is obviously in no immediate danger, but the window of opportunity opened by Boris Yeltsin in 1993 is not exactly opening any wider.

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