With strange curiosity I recently heard someone describe Mormonism as Anti-American and Anti-Family. Not now of course, and that’s what made the statement so strange. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a collection of people who are not more pro-America and pro-Family than Mormons. But that was how the LDS culture was perceived in the latter decades of the 19th Century and I would say rightly so.
When Brigham Young moved the church to Utah, he was moving the it out of the United States. It was an act of rejection of the United States. The way the newly found settlement interacted with the United States over the years was frequently and intentionally antagonistic. It’s my understanding that some of the anti-American rhetoric found in Mormon culture even made it’s way into the temple endowment ceremony. Frankly, I think the Mormons felt they had a number of legitimate reasons to not be so friendly to the USA. To some degree Mormons were proud to be unAmerican.
Mormons were also perceived to be anti-Family because of the practice of polygamy. I think this perception was correct. I think polygamy destroys families. It warps the role of the father, pits women against their family and isolates children. There is no possible way that a husband or wife can experience the physical and emotional intimacy God intends for them in polygamy. They are stretched apart instead of joined together. A wife becomes part of a collection rather than a co-partner. There is something evil in the idea that a woman has to claw and clamor for family resources against others in her own family. It certainly produces a lot of children for one man, but a large family does not necessarily mean a good family. How can children view their father as close and loving when he is pulled to so many households? The ideas of what a family is like that are created out of polygamy are horrible. I can see why Emma Smith did everything she could to pull her children out of a polygamous society after Joseph was murdered. She lived it and knew she didn’t want anything more to do with it (perhaps she didn’t have a polygamy problem but a testimony problem).
Yes, polygamy is practiced in the Bible and every time it is mentioned it is followed by sad stories of families falling apart as a result. Look at the immediate results of polygamy in the Bible, you will never see a testimony of a healthy family. Righteous men practiced polygamy, but it was not polygamy that made them righteous (Hebrews says that it was their faith in God that made them righteous not the actions of their life).
I think Mitt Romney was on to something when he said that he couldn’t think of anything as terrible as polygamy. If the family is the most important and foundational unit in our society, then something that destroys families like polygamy does is terrible.
I’m glad that Mormonism is no longer anti-American nor anti-Family and amazed at how the culture was able to transform itself into the exact opposite on both accounts.