September 11. Osama Bin Laden. Suicide bombers. Taliban. Terrorism. Cult. Allah. Muslim. These are just a few of the many words that instinctively slip to the tip of the tongue as the average American is asked to verbalize his or her thoughts on the Middle East. Not only are these some of the first words and images that come to mind, they are oftentimes the only words and images that one might have in regards to this group of people.
Cult. Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon. Polygamy. Gold bible. These are some of the words that come to mind as an average American is asked about Mormons or the “Mormon Church.” And like the example of the Middle East, these are often not only the first, but the only things some may know about this group of people.
Unfortunately the stereotypes aren’t new, the prejudices aren’t isolated to one generation, and the fear of a different way of thinking and living than that of the so-called norm holds strong. Isn’t it interesting that these two religions- these two groups of people- which started at different times in history, in different parts of the world, and by different people, can have something so strongly in common? Isn’t it interesting that two philosophies that are so very different in certain points of doctrine and outward worship and lifestyle are both viewed in such a similar light by so many? Perhaps the peoples of the Middle East and the peoples of Mormonism aren’t very different at all. Perhaps no other two groups in the modern world could so well relate and understand the unique scrutiny and criticism faced by the other.
Bagley, Matt, "Mormons and Muslims: Living in an Intolerant World" (2011). Arrington Student Writing Award Winners. Paper 8.