A Mormon Question

Around this time of year I think a lot about world religions. Lately I have been thinking a ton about the Mormon faith.

No, I am not converting. I am very happy being Jewish. Yet it is impossible not to notice Mormonism lately. The television has been flooded with commercials for the Mormon Faith.

The music is inspiring and the messages are positive. Then it tells you to check out the “Foundation for a better life.” I did not know what that was until somebody told me it was the Mormon Church. At that point my interest stopped only because while we could all use a better life, I had no interest in changing religions.

Yet different questions kept coming to me.

The first question came with regards to the Mormons themselves. Why are there so many people, especially fellow Christians, that are troubled by them?

The only things I know about Mormonism I learned from watching one episode of “South Park.” People may scoff, but the producer of the cartoon used to be a practicing Mormon. Also, the portrayal of Mormonism was even-handed and fair, and in the end, positive.

In fact, a young kid that is Mormon points out that while they may practice some strange things, they are happy and not bothering anybody else.

While no one family or person represents the faith, what little I have seen is impressive.

Look at Mitt Romney. He is happily married, and his children seem to be well adjusted. If they were living dishonorable lives, the media would be all over it.

Look at Harry Reid. I disagree with him politically, but he has been happily married for 50 years. His wife is Jewish, but he is Mormon.

Many Mormon families are very large, but things seem to turn out ok. In this sense they are very similar to Chasidic (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews, who also have large families.

The real first question comes with the notion of the commercials. Is it wrong for a religion to advertise on television?

I am perfectly fine with it. One does not have to join the faith to appreciate the beauty of the commercials.

In a world of crime, drugs, and war, I think we could use more positive messages. The world would be a better place if more people took time to love their neighbor. I don’t even know who my neighbors are. I live in a condo building, and have never met them.

People need to be taught positive as well as negative behavior when they are young. Kids need to give up their seat on the bus when an elderly person comes on the bus.

How many suicides could be avoided if people just reached out to troubled people and gave them a hug when needed?

How many children turn out to be terrible at sports, yet through positive reinforcements find out that they have other talents, such as singing?

Some will claim that all these commercials do is suck you in and then try to convert you to Mormonism when you click on the website?

This is ridiculous. I never clicked on the website. Even if I did, people either convert because they genuinely want to, or because they are weak in the mind. Nobody gets “tricked” into believing any religion.

I am amazed how many atheists and environmentalists and animal rights activists condemn religion with a fervor and zeal that religions supposedly possess.

One does not have to embrace the Mormon faith to give them credit for spreading messages that are right. Even if some Mormon families have problems that we all share, that does not make them hypocrites. It makes them human.

An ex-girlfriend of mine comes from a Mormon family. While we did not make it as a couple, her family was lovely. When it came time to meet them they welcomed me into their home and their hearts. They never tried to convert me. They just treated me with kindness.

When I had the first serious conversation with her father, I was expecting the usual questions about whether I could be a good provider, and all the other material issues. Instead he looked at me and said something poignant.

“As long as you make my daughter happy, you’re good with me.”

I know plenty of parents that are not this open-minded.

Every minute I was in their home, I felt cared about.

The relationship failed because I simply did not have what it took to make the woman happy on a long-term basis. For one thing, religious differences loomed very large.

Even her extended family consisted of people that on the surface seemed very happy and well adjusted.

Her grandmother was a matriarch that reminded me of Jane Wyman of Falcon Crest. She was a tough lady who was deeply protective of her family.  Yet she also welcomed me in.

Apparently these people seem to practice what they preach. So why criticize what they preach? In fact, why criticize preaching at all?

This leads me to the second issue, the notion of prosetylizing.

I have always asked why Jewish people do not prosetylize. The response is “we just don’t do that.”

Well maybe we should.

The world has 7 billion people. We have only 14 million. That’s it. We do so many positive things, and are so incredibly misunderstood.

Fancy commercials with inspiring music will not win over Islamofascists, but it very well could influence more people in America to look more favorably at Jews and Judaism.

More importantly, it might take many unaffiliated Jews to return back to their faith. Too many Jews are secular. We have a disproportionate share of atheists and agnostics. Too many of these people grow up under a stigma of being Jewish.

Yet Judaism has plenty of joy as well. It has beautiful traditions.

I think we should absolutely be doing television commercials. The only commercials we do are the depressing ones about homeless Holocaust survivors. Why would people want to join a  religion of perpetual victims? Is is that hard for Jewish people to discuss concepts such as success, victory, and triumph?

My Chabad friends run a drug treatment center that has cured hundreds of people. Outside of their annual telethon, this does not get mentioned. Jews simply do not advertise.

The choice to me seems to be to remain misunderstood or to stand up and say why we are good people.

Everything and everybody needs to be marketed. Coca-Cola is the most recognized name in the world. They don’t cut back on advertising. They advertise more.

Nobody should be forced to convert against their will, but forced conversions have not occurred in hundreds of years.

Rather than have concerns about what Mormons supposedly believe, why not just ask them? The ones I met, and I have met enough of them, are as normal and healthy as anybody else. In many cases, they are healthier.

Either way, keep those commercials coming. If it gets another human being to reach out to somebody, offer a handshake or a hug, it is money well spent.

We do not have to join the foundation to appreciate having a better life.

Love thy neighbor is one concept that everybody should preach…and practice.


7 Responses to “A Mormon Question”

  1. Well put. Although I’d beg to differ on the “forced conversions have not occurred in hundreds of years”. The horn of Africa and Southern Philippine islands are current examples of areas where conversion under intemidation exist today.

  2. Yeah, I don’t know where our good host gets some of this stuff sometimes. Forced conversion still goes on all over the world today, and in the West was commonplace right up until the Second World War. More subtly forced conversion happens in the West all the time today, as young people convert to appease each other’s families. Religion remains the same ol’ pain in the @$$ it’s always been.

    The modern-times demonization of Mormons came along with the latest Christian revival starting in the late-seventies/early-eighties. These new Religious Righ, Moral Majority types recruit with a divisive us vs. them theology. They claim they are being victimized by popular cultural, a rabidly secular government, and some kind of “politically correct”-driven preference for different faiths. This is all stupid and untrue, of course, but it works. People like being victims. It makes them feel justified in blaming and vicitimizing others for their own problems. When Mitt Romney’s father ran for preisident, no one cared that he was a Mormon. That’s because we as a people were more oprn-mened and liberal back them. Just like no one cared that Nixon was a Quaker or that Kennedy was a Catholic (well, not enough people cared to matter).

    The reason Jews don;t proselyze is because they are the “Chosen People.” proselyzing to the general public would sort of run counter to that whole concept. It would be like having an “exclusive club” that’s open to anyone who walks in. It’s a contradiction. This is one of the main reasons Christians broke off from Judaism. One of the fundamental tenets of Christianity is that the Jews broke the covenent with God by denying the Messiah, and that God was open to all people, not just Jews, because of that. That’s why I always warn conservative Jews to be careful of their “friends” on the religious right. They’re not really your friends, by any stretch. They want Israel to be at perpetual war until it is destroyed. It’s all part of their apocalyptic theology. And that’s why I think conservative Jews are being intensely moronic when they tow the line of religious right conservatives regarding Israel.


  3. thepoliticaltipster says:

    First, Happy New Year to Eric and everyone else on this forum.

    I agree that tolerance is important. However, I don’t think Mitt Romeny is a good exmaple to use. Although opposition to him at the was fuelled at the fringes by anti-Mormon bigotry, Romney’s brazen flip-flopping on social issues, combined with a lack of humility or honesty about his original positions were the real reason why Evangelicals didn’t like him.

    For my part, although he was better qualified than Palin (but who wasn’t?) and wouldn’t have been so openly disloyal as she ended up being to McCain, his declaration in the Summer of 2007 that he thought it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq revealed where his true priorities lay.

    Ten Predictions for 2010 (and 2 longer term prediction)

    1. AZ-SEN: Palin (reluctantly and very quietly) endorses McCain in the primary but (enthusiastically) endorses the Republican nominee, John Hayworth (or even Joe Arpaio) in the general.

    2. ELECTIONS: Republicans make substantial gains in the House and the Senate but fail to capture either.

    3. MIDDLE EAST: Israel finally realises that the mullahs won’t fall and that Obama isn’t serious about stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons. It therefore launches a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

    4. OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Hillary Clinton leaves the Obama administration and Lieberman leaves the Democratic caucus before December 31st, 2010. John Kerry is the new Secretary of State.

    5. STOCK MARKET: The Dow falls slightly from its value at the end of 2009 and House prices fall back slightly.

    6. ECONOMY: The economy moves out of recession into stagnation as consumers begin the process of deleveraging and paying down consumer debt.

    7. FEDERAL RESERVE: Bernanke falls out of favour as the Fed (and therefore the US taxpayer) is forced to book huge losses on the portfolio of MBS that was acquired this year (the real reason why TARP is superficially looking less of a disaster than most people anticipated).

    8. OSCARS: Avatar wins the Oscar for Best Picture. The next round of 3D films are flops (3D films only work during Christmas).

    9. MEXICO: Fuelled by California’s feckless “medical Marijuana” policies Mexico erupts into actual Civil War as the cartels succeed in toppling the government.

    10. IRAQ: Because of the SOFA and the end of patrol the situation in Iraq deteriorates further leading Obama to try to speed up the withdrawal.


    11. ELECTION 2012: A third party candidate will get at least five per cent of the vote in the 2012 election.

    12. PALIN-TOLOGY Before January 21st, 2012 Palin will have either Pat Buchanan or Ron Paul campaign and/or fundraise for her

  4. Dav Lev says:

    I like everybody, except people are have fatwas against me ( ie., much
    of the Arab-Muslims worlds).

    That said, I have worked with Mormons..over the years, and found them
    robotlike devoid of much emotion (but not sociopathic).

    Like everyone else, they (humans) are complex beings.

    I am reminded of a former classmate, (who I haven’t seen in decades) and with whom I correspond. Her son converted to Mormonism..years ago. She is so upset over this, she won’t go into it any further with me.

    The fact that Mitt or others seem to be pleasant people, is irrelevant, they are still Mormons.

    “Mormons consider Christians to be gentiles”, as one very bright
    acquaintence tells me. If anything, they are the chosen people.

    For one posters continuing knowledge, Jews chose to obey Gods
    commandents..thus they are “chosen”. But they do not consider
    themselves special in any way. In fact, they have suffered so much
    these 2,000 years, that religious people who try and convert us, use that
    as an argument, “Why be Jewish and suffer so much?”

    Any Jew who DOES in fact consider himself “Chosen” is simply
    uneducated and misguided.

    But for the real deal, people, go to any number of websites about
    Mormonism and Mormons. I have.

    Frankly, under no circumstances would I even think about converting,
    whether voluntarily or through some sort of tricky persuation (which
    THEIR sales effort seems to have been successful).

    I once listened politely, but was seething, years ago in a local
    restaurant, hearing a Mormon try to convert a Jew. The words,
    “we know you are still necked but..”, still remind me of that
    despicable conversation. I decided to stay out of it, allowing the
    poor hapless, obviously disturbed and confused victim be given
    a bunch of crap.

    And speaking of crap..please everyone, go to any website and
    take the time out to read what their religion is all about.

    I wont go into it..I have my 5,000 year old faith, with the “Law”,
    one G-d, commentaries by centuries of rabbis and others on the Torah (my bible), and the 10 commandments ( and 603 other laws).

    Frankly, I don’t believe in reincarnation nor do I believe that
    we evolved from a fish, which grew legs, walked onto dry land to
    evade the sea creatures, and eventually wound up as human beings.

    But who knows, maybe my ancestors were jelly fish?

    Think about it.

    Just because a family welcomes someone of another faith in their
    home, says nothing about them, except they are polite and courteous.
    German SS families celebrated Christmas, while millions were being
    slaughtered. So what!

  5. Only in the Middle East have I ever been expressly told that my religion is nether tolerated or accepted. And expressly told that prosetylizing is illegal. Now granted I’ve never been to Russia, but I think I’m OK there for now. I’ve pretty much cover the bases on the rest of the major global regions and only been overtly repressed in that single one. Well………… China wasn’t to cool with it but gave the foreigners a bit of slack.

  6. prying1 says:

    From previous comment: “Yeah, I don’t know where our good host gets some of this stuff sometimes.”

    And then same commenter says: “More subtly forced conversion happens in the West all the time today, as young people convert to appease each other’s families.”

    eric covered that in his post with the line:
    “people either convert because they genuinely want to, or because they are weak in the mind.” – Although I would add that some people convert because they see a ‘truth’ in another ‘religion’ that is lacking in their current one. – That additional point would still come under eric’s point, “they want to”.

    and then there is this GENERAL statement – – – “That’s why I always warn conservative Jews to be careful of their “friends” on the religious right. They’re not really your friends, by any stretch. They want Israel to be at perpetual war until it is destroyed.”

    What is that about? Divide and conquer? With the ubiquitous “THEY” as the demon standing between friends. Bible tells both Jews and Christians to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” – Psalm 122:6 – שַׁ֭אֲלוּ שְׁלֹ֣ום יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם יִ֝שְׁלָ֗יוּ אֹהֲבָֽיִךְ׃ – It is not a Jewish or Christian book that calls for Israel’s destruction.

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