By now, you may have heard about the violence at an alt-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia:
Now, I will admit to ambivalent feelings about taking down monuments to Confederate generals and leaders. Was slavery an evil? Yes. Absolutely. (Please, I hope nobody will use this post as a weapon with which to paint me as excusing slavery or justifying it.) Were those Confederate leaders and generals on the wrong side? Plainly, as regards slavery, they were. Utterly and completely. Unambiguously.
And yet, many of them were, that very large issue aside, personally quite good men. Some of them (e.g., Robert E. Lee) were arguably even great men. And I can sympathize with their local patriotism and their love of freedom (weirdly limited by slavery as it was) and limited government. They weren’t officers of the Nazi Gestapo or the SS. The Confederacy wasn’t the Third Reich.
Moreover, I really dislike political correctness, presentism, preening self-righteousness, and attempts to erase history, though obviously — in cases like the de-Nazification of Germany — there are times when the glorification of certain historical people and events desperately, urgently, needs to be erased and undone.
Quite a few years ago now, I was finally able to visit Braunau-am-Inn, the small town in Austria where Adolf Hitler was born and where his childhood home still stands. I was curious to know whether the town even officially recognized its connection to Hitler and, if so, how. When we reached the home, I was delighted at what I found: Standing in front of the small house is a memorial stone — taken from the quarry at the Mauthausen concentration camp where my father participated in the liberation as a sergeant in the Eleventh Armored Division, part of General Patton’s Third Army — on which there was no mention of Hitler whatsoever. Instead, this is how the inscription read: “For peace, freedom and democracy: Millions of the dead admonish us: Never again fascism.”
I thought that they had handled the situation extraordinarily well. History remains, but no encouragement was given to living neo-Nazis to venerate Hitlers Geburtshaus as a shrine.
I cannot tell you how revolted I am, however, by the renewed visibility of fascists and bigots and white supremacists in my own country now. (Check out the helmets worn by some of the alt-right demonstrators at Charlottesville in a photo at the link above. They’re right out of the World War Two German Wehrmacht.)
But what’s even worse — far worse — is to see evidences of such attitudes among a few Latter-day Saints.
A friend of mine has told me of his correspondence with certain alt-right members of the Church. The modified image of Joseph Smith, above, is part of that correspondence. Here are some other items:
“Why,” asks a person who uses that image of the Prophet as an avatar, “is it incorrect to question the validity of the holocaust? History is written by the (((winners))).”
That same person, who describes himself/herself as “Alt-Right, Traditionalist, Awaiting the Saviour of America” (for the last phrase, contrast such scriptural passages as 1 Nephi 10:4), also writes “(((They))) are not our allies; The Jew of old is not the Jew of today. The covenant has been utterly shattered and they are not our own.”
Laments another: “It’s perfectly fine to deny the historical foundations of the Christian religion, but punishable just to question the ‘Holocaust’.”
“I long for a world,” writes the first, “in which I can be me, a land that I can call my own, I am the way I am because I want to defend my future family.”
And not to be omitted is a graph charting Jewish involvement in Russia’s Bolshevik regime in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s.
It’s accompanied by another meme that urges us to “Learn from History: 109 Times and Counting that Jews have been EXPELLED in the past.” The text that goes under that title reads as follows:
“In 1290, King Edward I of England signed the edict expelling the Jews from England. Also in 1278, 269 Jews were hanged in Britain for stealing Gold through coin clipping. This is why our coins now have ridged edges on them. To prevent Jews from shaving the perimeter of the gold coins down with knifes, which made the coins smaller, while they secretly stole & stashed the Gold.
“The Jews have been a plague to the Nations that have hosted them for thousands of years. Eventually the Jews wear out their welcome, through rape, murder, and thievery, and thus end up getting EXPELLED from the nations which took them in. Obviously the time for present day explosions [expulsions?] is once again rapidly approaching.”
Words like contempt, nauseating, and repulsive come to mind. Unfortunately, they’re just not strong enough.
I don’t believe in making politics an issue at Church, nor in excommunicating otherwise faithful members over their political views. To me, however, neo-Nazism of the sort that seems to be on display in the comments and images above is deeply troubling. If I were the local leader of someone espousing such views, I would be very concerned. And, candidly, I would be at least thinking about an eventual disciplinary council.
Mormonism is the only faith of which I’m aware whose scriptural canon includes an explicit denunciation of anti-Semitism:
And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? (2 Nephi 10:3-6)