#DezNat users say they stand up for the church; those they target say it’s not like Christ
#DezNat, short for Deseret Nationalism, is all the rage on Twitter. Many people who use the hashtag claim to be defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its teachings, and its scriptures. Others troll progressive Mormons, LGBTQ church members, allies and feminists, according to a leading expert on Mormon history. Some of their posts contain violent images and memes. A church spokesperson told 2News that the group “is not affiliated with or endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
One ProgMo message sparks internet ire
âMy intention is to make more people feel at home as members of the Church,â says Dr. Julie Hanks, owner of Wasatch Family Therapy and a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days.
âI push on cultural norms. “
She wants women’s voices to be valued in the Church as well, and advocates for LGBTQ inclusion, even wearing a rainbow pin in church.
But this progressive approach has drawn criticism on social media, especially on Twitter using #DezNat.
âI first learned about DezNat, I think last year, as my social media followers increased because they started posting negative things about me, or taking things out of context or out of context. pretend I was trying to get people away from the LDS church. “
In an interview with 2News, Dr Hanks admits that DezNat’s posts are free speech, but emphasizes, âI don’t think it’s nice, I don’t think it’s useful. I don’t think it’s helpful. be nice. I don’t think it’s like Christ, but they can think what they think and, and say what they want to say. ”
“Self-proclaimed Guardians of Orthodoxy”
Professor Patrick Mason is the Leonard J. Arrington Chair in Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University.
Mason says the online DezNat movement includes people who see themselves “as some sort of so-called guardian of orthodoxy” against what they see as the church’s dangerous opponents.
âThey really believe that they are standing up for the leaders of the church and, and that [the church] must be defended against what they see as a progressive assault, âhe explains.
Who does DezNat think are the opponents of the church? Mason lists people they consider too liberal, people who don’t support religious leaders enough, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies, and feminists.
2News Investigates spoke to several people who use the DezNat hashtag. They argued that some of the tweets are taken in context or are meant to be comedic.
A history of extremist factions
âThere has been a kind of militant tension within Mormonism from the very beginning,â Mason explains. “Of course, this is not unique to Mormonism or the latter days, as it is true in all religious traditions.”
âThey will attack people very strongly, they will use violent images. They’ll talk about unsheathed Bowie knives and other kinds of things.
“There were also posts that had anti-Semitic or racist content, which I think they borrow from white Christian nationalism and other sources as well,” he adds.
When #DezNat enters politics
In July, former North Ogden mayoral candidate Gregory Smith told 2News Investigates he had used #DezNat to defend the teachings of the church. A month later, he tweeted “It’s time to get our muskets,” in response to an LGBTQ-related article. He then deleted his account.
Last summer, the Guardian reported that Matthias Cicotte, then Deputy Attorney General of Alaska, was tweeting racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic messages under the nickname J Reuben Clark. It is not known whether Cicotte resigned or was fired from his job. He declined an interview for this story.
Anti-Defamation League: DezNat is not a hate group
ADL confirmed to 2News that it is following #DezNat, but does not consider it a hate group.
An ADL researcher called it a loose network.
âIt seems to me that one of the reasons that a lot of these people posting under DezNat are doing it anonymously is that at least somewhere in them, in their hearts, they know that they are actually not from. accord with the current position of the church. “said Mason.
Church spokesman Doug Andersen, in a statement to 2News, said:
This group is not affiliated with or endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church leaders reminded its members – of all political persuasions – to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ by treating others with respect, dignity, and love. Anything that encourages or incites violence is contrary to recent instructions given to church leaders.