THE INTERNET (ABC4 News) – “It’s just a hashtag.”
That’s what some Mormon Twitter users are saying about #DezNat, which stands for “Deseret Nation” – not an organized group – but users who identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are “unapologetic about our belief in the restored Gospel,” according to user Tanner Guzy.
Still, Twitter users who feel threatened by #DezNat classify its followers as “alt-right Mormons.” They are afraid of potential violent acts of religious extremism based on several recent posts bearing the tag #DezNat.
Those who claim to know better defended the hashtag Wednesday, arguing it does not represent anything but a call for members of the church to “follow the prophet.” The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, is considered by faithful members of the church to be a “prophet, seer and revelator.”
“Deznat is not a movement, it is not political, racial, national, or sexual,” Guzy wrote in a post on Medium. “We do not agitate for change within the church but anxiously seek to submit our wills to that of the Lord — as revealed through His proper channels and authorities.”
Twitter user @Matt__FL told ABC4 News #DezNat is “a hashtag where we can follow the prophet and doctrine of our church. It’s used to help uplift and bring us all closer to Christ.”
It’s possible that trolls have taken the “DezNat” hashtag and run with it, creating memes that suggest violence against “apostates” or others who oppose the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One user calls for others to “blood atone some apostates.” Still, such threats are concerning for users who openly oppose the church’s views on certain issues.
DezNat believers openly denounce calls for the church to change its policies on issues like same-sex marriage – which has arguably fueled derogatory postings about gays, lesbians, transgender individuals and other minorities within the church – many of which bear the #DezNat tag.
There was no evidence Wednesday that there is an organized group of militant Latter-day Saints associated with #DezNat- and so far no threats have been substantiated.
Still, one Twitter user- who goes by the name of “Brother Mike” and chose to keep his real identity secret – characterized some who use the tag as “alternate right extremists.” “Brother Mike” did tell ABC4 News that other users are more level-headed and simply want to share the church’s beliefs.
“Brother Mike,” who left the LDS Church a few years ago, said there is a worry among some – particularly LGBTQ members of the church on Twitter (mostly those who vocally oppose the faith’s stance on homosexuality) – that inflammatory posts could lead to violence against them.
One meme bearing the #DezNat tag shows a family holding an umbrella, shielding them from a cascading rainbow which features symbols for feminism, Islam, Communism, LGBTQ groups, liberals and government.
It was unclear Wednesday who was creating any – or all – of the memes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment on the hashtag or the conflicts associated with it, but has released statements in the past calling for understanding and compassion on issues of race, politics, freedom of religion, immigration and fairness for all.
None of the users who wrote to ABC4 regarding this story claimed to have created #DezNat.