Once More, on the Conflict in Cody

Once More, on the Conflict in Cody August 12, 2023

 

anti-Semitic economics
“Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews!”
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

It seems that construction of the proposed Cody Wyoming Temple will go forward on the site that had been selected for it, and very possibly even with the tall tower of the original architectural plan:  “Surprise: Gigantic 77-Foot Steeple For Mormon Temple In Cody Gets Approved After All: By not specifically rejecting the 77-foot steeple that’s caused months of controversy, the Cody Planning and Zoning Board apparently has OK’d the initial Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple plan.”

I’ve commented here on two prior occasions about the controversy.  My blog entry for 18 July 2023 (“A small tempest about a small temple in Cody”) was substantially devoted to it, and, just this past Thursday, I also posted a relatively substantial observation concerning it.  (See “In the world after the fall”).

I note, however, that I’m now being accused — at an online site (let’s call it the “POB”) where seriously misrepresenting me has, for years, been both a passion and a mission — of engaging in “extreme rhetoric” with regard to the Cody controversy, of trying to inflame “mutual hostility” rather than to foster “sober conversation.”  Feel free to read my two linked blog entries and decide for yourself.  To me, they seem pretty calm and irenic.

The specifically offending passage is to be found in the Thursday entry.  In it, I mention the fact that one or two people have called for a list to be created of businesses in Cody that are owned by Latter-day Saints, so that they can be subjected to a boycott.  I commented, obviously sardonically, as follows:

Perhaps such businesses might be required to display a yellow star, say, so that they will be more easily identifiable?

The allusion, clearly, is to the treatment of Jewish shops and other businesses under the Third Reich in the 1930s.  In response, one poster on the POB helpfully points out that no Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in Cody have been burned to the ground and that there are no laws in Cody prohibiting intermarriage between Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints.

Wonderful!  But, of course, I never suggested in any way that Cody is on the road toward a cowboy-style Kristallnacht or that anti-miscegenation laws targeting Latter-day Saints are just over the horizon.  I don’t by any means imagine that the environment for members of the Church in Cody is even remotely as bad as the plight of the Jews under Nazi rule.  I’ve been to the former concentration camps at Mauthausen (multiple times) and Dachau and Buchenwald — I know full well what they were like — and, many times, to the Holocaust museums in Washington DC and Jerusalem.  I’ve read fairly extensively on the ideology and the crimes of the Hitler regime.

It’s also being suggested, as I understand the comments, that I’m trying to insinuate that most residents of Cody hate the Church, and that opposition to the proposed temple is motivated entirely by religious bigotry, that I’m cherry-picking a selection of extreme comments in order to paint all of those who’ve expressed concern about the temple as haters.  But I have expressly said otherwise.  And, yet again, I invite readers to look for themselves at what I’ve posted on this subject.

I’m said to be intransigent and refusing to back down.  However, this is clearly false.  In my first blog entry on the topic, I suggested several areas of possible compromise (including the easy one of dimming the exterior lights after a certain hour in the evening, which is already done at many temples elsewhere and which was probably always planned for Cody).

And I’m said to be trying to portray the ultra-wealthy Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — they had to get that in, of course — as a “victim.”  Once again, though, I’m not.  I said nothing of the kind,

So what was I getting at with that remark about the idea of marking LDS-owned businesses in Cody with yellow stars?  Just this:  I can hardly imagine an idea more calculated than that one to sow lasting acrimony and discord in a community, and I hate and, yes, I fear religious bigotry.  My comment was a warning:  Don’t even come close to so noxious a move.  Think of those who have done it in the past, and be warned.

My comment about those yellow stars wasn’t to portray the institutional church as a victim, but to speak out on behalf of ordinary Latter-day Saints, ordinary Cody families, who don’t deserve to lose their savings or their livelihoods or even to be financially harmed because of a controversy about the siting of a temple.  They didn’t choose the site and they didn’t design the building.  Yet they would be the victims of an economic boycott aimed at their shops and businesses.

It also wasn’t to brand anybody and everybody who might have reservations about the proposed new temple as a hateful Nazi.  What I wrote cannot reasonably be construed that way.  Not even close.  I doubt that very many folks in Cody are likely to sign on for a religiously-defined boycott against their neighbors and friends, perhaps against their dentist or their doctor.  I certainly hope not.  But such an idea shouldn’t even be floated, and, if it’s raised, it should be immediately shot down.

 

Life was hell for Jews
Jewish shops in Germany under Nazi rule. In each shop window the word “Jude” (German for “Jew”) has been painted, in order to warn non-Jews off.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image).

 

I care deeply about religious tolerance and religious liberty.  And I’m consistent on the matter.  That’s why I spoke out very publicly in favor of the right of Muslims to build the so-called “ground zero mosque” in Manhattan many years ago.  That’s why I was among the nineteen signers of an Amici Curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (on which, see this from the Washington Post: “‘We have to take a stand’: Mormon history scholars file brief against Trump travel ban“; the actual text of the brief, along with the complete list of signatories, is available here.)

I am in complete accord with the position of the Prophet Joseph Smith on religious liberty and religious toleration:

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city.  (Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1, 1841)

If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.  (Joseph Smith, 1843)

For one historian’s interesting perspective, see “Joseph Smith’s Quest to Secure Religious Freedom for All: Through his own experiences and his empathy for others, Joseph Smith became a strong advocate for religious freedom.”

 

 

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