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Living With Mormons and the Informed Not Inflamed Bias or My Big Love About LDS

by John on 05/25/2012

Let’s put the “Mormon”, “LDS thing” into perspective.

This is an Informed Not Inflamed examination, but it is also a personal one.

First, religion is fair game for jokes.  Here’s one of my favorites.

Mrs. O’Brien has a quiz for her fourth-graders.  The right answer gets a candy bar.  Who was the most influential religious leader in the world?  The Mormon boy raises his hand and says Joseph Smith.  Mrs. O’Brien says that’s a real good answer, but it is wrong.  The Muslim boy says Muhammad.  Mrs. O’Brien says another good answer, but it is also wrong.  The Jewish boy raises his hand and says, “St. Patrick.”  Mrs. O’Brien says, “That’s right.”  The Jewish boy is eating his candy bar at recess when the Mormon and Muslim boy asked him, “How did you know it was St. Patrick?”  The Jewish boy replies, “It’s not.  It’s Moses.  But business is business.”

Does it paint a stereotype?  Sure.  Could you switch the boys and their responses and still have a funny joke?  I would say yes.

Here’s more on where I am coming from on religion.

  1. Religion is personal.  I don’t knock anyone’s religion unless it hurts people or denies people their choice in religion and life.
  2. Religion is double-edged: it has created order in society; but it has created war and uneven wealth and power.
  3. My belief in God has grown stronger since He/She sent us a dog.  My wife and I have laughed more, enjoyed the little things in life, and better understood unconditional love.  Some friends would say there is a God since I didn’t procreate.
  4. Jokes about religion are OK as long as the audience hearing the joke is ok with it.  Like the joke above, I tend to make self-deprecating jokes.  I hope I didn’t offend.  Taken further, I actually agree with Bill Maher’s approach.  Sure, he’s an atheist, but he jabs at all religions equally.
  5. Religion is also cultural.  I attended Providence College, a Catholic school that offered me more insight and spurred more curiosity about religious faith.  Understanding someone’s religion is also like learning about their language, customs, and cuisine.
  6. The greatest literature on religion and metaphysic is T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets.  I first read it in 1976.  I still read it today.
  7. My family tree has three priests: two uncles; and a great uncle; all great men.  Like Mitt Romney, they never wore their religion on their sleeves; they were comfortable with their faith and their role in the institution.  They also embraced other people from other faiths.  That might have had more with our upbringings in the Hartford, Connecticut area which was very ecumenical and in the 1960s which allowed all of us to become more secular and accepting of other faiths.  My best friends back then and today are Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic.

Then in 1990, I moved to Las Vegas with its large Mormon population.  Here’s what I take away from my years there.

  • LDS is like any other religion.  They have their overly righteous/intolerant and their tolerant and accepting of all people.  Some Mormons I didn’t care for; others I consider very close friends, like my accountant Matt Swan who is one of the kindest, passionate people I have ever known and someone I consider a brother.
  • Mormons, like other faiths, take advantage of their religion for wealth and power.  A number of my Mormon friends say they will not do business with other Mormons because they have to offer a less profitable “Mormon deal” because they’re Mormon.  I heard one person call Mormons “Rocky Mountain Jews.”
  • Mormons are more community oriented and generous to their members.  I have seen their church out-reach programs and attended Mormon services that catered to the less fortunate.  My take: Mormons take care of their own better than most religions.
  • Mormons are not monolithic.  U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the so-called liberal whacko, according to most in the GOP, is a Mormon.   There are Latino Mormons who won’t vote for Romney.
  • Mormons are pragmatic.  Despite their stand against gambling, a number of executives work for casino companies.  Sure, some would say that’s hypocritical.  I say it’s caring for your family.  Mormons once shunned blacks.  Did they change their ways because they would lose the religious exemption?  Probably, but didn’t the South grudgingly accept blacks to stay in the Union and to stop scrutiny from federal government?  Is there a big difference?
  • Mormons fall off the wagon.  In Vegas, we have a term called Jack Mormons.  In essence, “Jack Mormon” means those who are or were Mormon but have strayed from the practices of no pre-marital or out of marriage sex, no liquor, and no coffee.  Come on, if you live in Vegas you can’t stay away from … the coffee. 
  • The previous practice of polygamy could be as much a sexual proclivity as well as a need to grow the flock at time when Mormon men were dying off or being killed and women and children were more in abundance.  After watching seasons of Big Love, I don’t think polygamy is such a bad idea — for women.  My wife would love to have another woman around to commiserate with – about me.
  • Secret underwear is no different than the silly hats or unattractive beards in other religions.
  • Mormons have their scandals too.  Google “Mormon Scandals” and it will read like the Catholic pedophile crisis and episodes of The Borgias.
  • Mormons, like all religions, have their contradictions and hypocrisies.  For instance, if you’re so against abortion, why wouldn’t you embrace the two things that would stop abortions — contraception and same-sex marriage?  Also, Mormons who were persecuted for their religious beliefs are too quick to deny gays theirs.  I think the Catholic Church is the same.  Jesus hung with 11 other guys who didn’t have sex and renounced their families.  To quote Rand Paul, “It doesn’t get any gayer.”  As we discussed here, Jonathan Haidt shows us how organizations, both religious and political, become immoral and lose their founding principles as they try to maintain themselves.      

The Informed Not Inflamed take on whether the Mormon card will be played during the upcoming campaign?

It’s hard to say.  President Obama will not use it directly.  Will his surrogates?  Maybe.  Most of the myopic opposition to LDS comes from the the Evangelical South, the strength of the Republican Party, and Democratic political hacks could use the Mormon card to discourage evangelicals from voting at all.

We’ll see.

OK, let’s start talking issues.

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