As I mention in the sidebar, I happen to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons. You may have seen some coverage about us in the news lately. If you’re a church-going person you may have heard your pastor or people you know at church mention us in passing. Or maybe you’ve seen those nice young men in clean white shirts with their bikes, or are a fan of Broadway musicals. A few thoughts…
First, I’ve heard it said that Mormons are strange. That we’re different. And I’d like to say, yes. Yes we are. But we don’t consider that a bug, we consider it a feature.
In Deuteronomy, and again in 2 Peter, God refers to his people as being “peculiar”. Titus 2:14 uses the term as well. Back in the day, it meant something more like unique, and it probably didn’t have the eye-raising “weird” vibe it does today.
Don’t get me wrong – Mormons ARE like other people. We have families. A number of us enjoy things like video games and the occasional action movie. We have a wide diversity in our appreciation of things like music (Brandon Flowers of The Killers is LDS, and so is Gladys Knight. The Pips, not so much, as far as I know, but we also have opera singers, composers, etc., but then again, I know people who only listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, so…) We have actors, engineers, farmers, architects, lawyers, and writers. The current leadership of our church consists of people who prior to their call have been: lawyers, newspaper men, judges, surgeons, company executives, and a nuclear engineer.
But, practicing Mormons don’t drink alcohol, coffee, or tea (herbal tea seems to be all right, and apparently there’s been some communication that indicates that caffeinated sodas are okay – pardon me while I sip my Cherry Coke Zero…) We believe in chastity – abstinence before marriage, and complete fidelity after marriage. We donate 10% of our income to the Church (incidentally, there’s no official word on gross or net income, and I don’t know WHAT someone who’s self-employed and re-investing profits in their business would consider 10%, but I’m sure they come up with something).
We aren’t perfect. There are Mormons who have an occasional beer or a glass of wine. There are those who have problems with pornography or infidelity or pre-marital sex. But by and large, we try to live a standard that’s different from what is now mainstream America.
You may have the idea that Mormons are ideologically homogenous, especially when it comes to politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I’m not talking about Mitt Romney. You want to see examples of the extremes of political opinion, consider this.
The LDS church features as what I’m sure are active members in good standing both Harry Reid and Glenn Beck. If you follow politics and commentary, one of those two guys has torqued you off in the past, and may have caused some strong emotions. But they’re both good, practicing Mormons, who happen to disagree on things like the role of the government, tax policy, etc.
Over the next two days, we have our semi-annual conference. It happens the first weekend of April and the first weekend of October. You may see a lot of tweeting with the hashtag #ldsconf. If you have the means, and you’re curious, I’d invite you to listen to some of the things being said. Sessions run noon-2 pm and 4-6 pm Eastern Time (with another session at 8 for the guys, which you have to take careful notes for, because your wife will inevitably ask you what they talked about when you get home). And watching doesn’t require that you talk to those nice young men. If you get BYUTV on your cable package, it should be shown there. You can watch The Mormon Channel on a roku or other streaming set-top box. Or you can set your browser to LDS.org and the homepage has a big link that will take you to live streams of the current session or recorded streams of prior sessions.
Take a look and see for yourself. Yes, we’re different. Maybe even peculiar. But we’re also just regular folks, trying to do what we think is right.