Last Friday, I emailed the Guardian's readers' editor about a correction they'd run about Mormonism (here). I received no reply. Today's Guardian had enough mistakes in it to allow me to email again and, at the same time, to chase up the Mormon question. This is what I wrote:
Dear Readers' Editor
1. In today's paper, page 4, report by Patrick Wintour, first line. Practitioners of astrology are astrologers, not astrologists. On a related matter, and contrary to the belief of George Monbiot and some of your sub-editors, practitioners of theology are theologians, not theologists.
2. Today, page 6, under heading, Brown cabinet, by MacAskill and Wintour. It reads:
"The list below is an educated guess based on who Mr Brown rates, who he will need to promote, who he will want to show support for, who will retire and who might be fired."
Each 'who' should be a 'whom'. The word 'educated' is surely ironic. [*]
3. I wrote last week complaining about misinformation printed in your column about Mormonism. I've yet to receive a reply, and no correction has yet been published. I hope the delay is due to you checking your facts with non-aligned experts in Mormonism, because, if so, we can look forward to you retracting your misinformed and misleading correction soon.
[*] Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, I know that only the first three should have been 'whom'. I was careless.
Amazingly, I got a reply back.
thanks for your email. Sorry if you didn't get a reply to you email re the Mormon correction. I have no intention of withdrawing or amending that. Best wishes
He gave no explanation for his decision so I sent the following email (below) this evening, which I think is reasonably strong. I wonder how he will respond, if, indeed, he does, or whether he will pass it on to his assistant, and she will write to say it's a matter of interpretation and so my complaint is rejected. Sigh.
> thanks for your email. Sorry if you didn't get a reply to you email re the
> Mormon correction. I have no intention of withdrawing or amending that.
Thanks for replying. But your current intention re Mormonism is
inexplicable and unexplained. Your correction was more misleading than
the original headline and could have been written by - was, in fact, cribbed
from, with added typo - the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. You have been
misinformed if you believe that Warren Jeffs and his followers do not belong
within the Mormon/LDS family; that there is only one Mormon church; and that
there are no Mormon fundamentalists.
Every newspaper office should have a copy of J G Melton's Encyclopedia of
American Religions. He writes this, about current Mormon divisions (5th
ed., 1996; p125) [my transcription]:
"Most Mormons may be divided into Utah Mormons and Missouri Mormons, names that often refer to their history more than to their current headquarters. The churches known as 'Utah Mormons' either have their headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, or were established by a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The churches known as "Missouri Mormons" rejected the direction of Brigham Young, who led a large group, but by no means all, of the Saints to Salt Lake City. The early leaders of this church gathered the Saints who had dwelled across the Mid-west into a new reorganized church body with headquarters eventually established in Missouri. The Missouri Mormons have strongly emphasized Joseph Smith Jr.'s prophecy (D.C. 51) that the temple was to be built in Independence, Missouri".
On Mormon fundamentalism, he writes:
"Among the polygamists are Mormons called fundamentalists. They are
distinguished from other polygamy-practicing (sic) groups in that they claim
only to possess the presidency of the holy priesthood. Other
polygamy-practicing groups claim to possess both the presidency of the high
priesthood and the presidency of the church..."
"The polygamists are living outside the laws of both the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United States, and most have retreated
into the desert and mountainous regions to escape legal and social pressure.
They are somewhat of an embarrassment to the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, which wishes to ignore them".
In the main listings section (p561ff.), he divides "the Latter-day Saints
Family" into four groups. He lists 18 'Utah Mormon' sects (11 of which are
defunct), 13 'polygamy-practising' (2 defunct), 26 'Missouri Mormons' (8),
and 11 'other Mormons' (4). That means there are reportedly at least 45
existing Mormon/Latter-day Saints sects. No, make that 46, because,
somehow, Warren Jeffs' FLDS escaped Melton's radar. (More recent editions
probably list it under 'polygamy-praticising, fundamentalist'.)
See also: Wikipedia's listing of 32 'Latter Day Saint denominations'
which includes Jeffs' group.
Note too that Melton uses the term 'Mormons' to signify members of the
various churches within the Latter-Day Saints family, not just the members
My complaint was informed by a passing awareness of the scholarship on
Mormonism. Your correction appeared to be informed by the Church of Jesus
Christ of LDS, which is a much more subjective source. Those readers who
are less well-informed than I, could, I suspect, have been somewhat misled
by the correction.
If you did do further research on Mormonism, or consulted non-aligned
scholars, I believe it would cause you, if you do value accuracy above
political expediency, to reconsider the wording of the Mormon correction.
But if you do choose to maintain your current position, please could you a)
tell me, and b) even if it's in only one word, explain why.
Yours, as ever,