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Kirby: Attention Mormons: Beware the persecution complex

Published April 9, 2012 9:37 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever tried to kill me because I'm Mormon. I'm not always paying attention, though. Maybe they have.

People have tried to kill me for other things, including/mainly just because I'm me, but never because of my religion. Pity. It's possible I'm missing an important faith-promoting experience: religious persecution.

This is not to say I haven't been badly treated because of my religion. To the best of my recollection, the three most notable incidents were these:

A girl who wouldn't date me because I was Mormon.

A boss who fired me because I was Mormon.

A fight I got into in the Army over whether the LDS prophet at the time could beat up televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

Granted, those things might not really count as religious persecution. A strong argument could also be made for self-respect in the first case, chronic tardiness in the second and youthful idiocy in the last.

I bring this up because I'm hearing fellow Mormons speculate that Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency could result in a major social backlash against the church. We might be persecuted again.

For proof that demonic forces are stirring again, they point to an increase in mean-spirited comments about Mormons in newspapers, online anti-LDS diatribes and people who say they'd sooner vote for a Martian than a Mormon.

"The persecution is going to get worse," a friend said. "We're in the last days. Won't be long before there's another extermination order."

Really? None of those things really counts as persecution. They're barely even discriminatory. This is America. People are perfectly entitled to not like us. Hell, I'm Mormon and I don't always like us either.

It's true we were once systematically persecuted — loss of life, property, deprivation of human rights and all that stuff. It was ugly and shouldn't be forgotten, if for no other reason than to keep it from happening again.

The concept of being persecuted is deeply ingrained in most faiths, sometimes to the point of a religious ordnance. Hey, you can't really be the "true" faith unless you've been made to suffer for God.

But there's a huge difference between being genuinely persecuted and simply being disliked.

Real persecution involves real suffering, not just a difference of opinion about what you believe and how you believe it. If you're being shot at and hunted with dogs because of your faith, that's persecution.

However, if someone doesn't want to date you, go into business with you or even hang around you, that's just biased choice. Rude, to be sure. Maybe even unfair. It could even be stupid, but it's also just an expression of preference.

Being snubbed is the uncomfortable price every religion has had to pay for being on the world stage. However, rude treatment isn't always about your faith. Maybe it's just you.

The trick is not to allow being snubbed or treated badly to grow into a persecution complex, a point where you see it in everything including the weather.

A persecution complex is dangerous. It's almost always the precursor to becoming the persecutor. If you believe in a loving God, that's the part that should scare you the most.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley.