One nice thing about blogging here is that I can talk about topics I don’t get to on my blog – specifically politics. However what I find interesting is what Mormonism can bring to the political arena. One thing that has long been on my mind are the lessons of our past. The example of Mormon history was often discussed back in the days following Waco and the tragedy there. However what has been little discussed is how the problem of Mormonism and pluralism in places like Illinois, Ohio, or Missouri can help us learn how to deal with the problem of assimilation of Islamic people in many places – especially Europe.
I bring this up due to the events surrounding Theo van Gogh who was murdered in the Netherlands last week. Yesterday, on the Diane Rehm Show they had a discussion of the situation there. One thing I noted as I listened to the analysis on the raido was just how closely the situation seemed to parallel early Mormon history. For instance they were shocked that something like 1/3 of all surveyed Muslims in Europe said that eventually all countries would have to join Islam. That sounds scary, until you think back to the rhetoric of the ball from Daniel, rolling and taking over the world. That sort of imagery of how the gospel would fill the world, bringing everyone to Mormonism was very common early in the church. Further it wasn’t exactly proclaimed with caution or consideration to how the neighbors of the Mormons would view it. The whole salt that lost its savor speech helped inflame passions as well.
I’ll not go through all the details. I think many here have read many of the histories of the period and are familiar with at least the basic rhetoric of the Saints. Add to this the various secret militant organizations, like the Danites, and you start to see many more parallels. Even if you think Joseph unresponsibile for many of the actions of these groups, you must admit that passions were quite inflamed among the people themselves.
Now it is dangerous to push the parallels too far. Mormons were often the victims of rather strong violence and persecution to a degree that I don’t think we see in Europe with Muslims. (Although there reportedly is far more persecution of Muslims there than here in America or Canada) Likewise our ancestors didn’t target innocent civilians to the same degree that Islamic terrorists have, Mountain Meadows Massacre not withstanding. There is a huge degree of differences due to the different settings. Most importantly Mormons were extremely pro-American and had a dream of what America could be. Yes we sought to establish a theocracy, but a theocracy far more limited and open to alternative voices than I think we find among most Islamic movements. Even in the Utah period, for all the excesses, you never had Brigham Young attempting to attack Washington because of the attacks by the US military on the Saints here in Utah. In a certain way, despite some attrocities such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre and a few of the killings rumored to have been done by Hickcock and Rockwell, Brigham Young was remarkably restrained. When you consider that one of the generals brought by the Federal government from California talked publicly of genocide against Mormons and the native Americans of the region, that retraint is even more amazing.
What I wish to ask, however, isn’t just about the parallels or non-parallels. Rather it is what we can learn from our experiences that would be of aid to decide what to do with Muslim assimiliation into the expanding west. In a way, Mormons tried to remain a unique people, with a clear divide between us and the rest of America. It didn’t work. Under threat of violence we were forced to give up our different views of familiy, of economics, and most of our local government. If Muslims in Europe are unique in trying not to assimilate, and if many of the political-religious views parallel early Mormons, will Muslims in Europe face a repeat of what Mormons faced from 1838 – 1894?