CANADIAN MORMON

I was Mormon before it was cool.

Penny-Anti

What is with Anti-Mormons?

The last thing I want to do is make it seem like this is a place that people who are hostile to my beliefs can come for a fun debate. I can’t imagine anything more tiresome, frankly. Let’s just operate under the assumption that I am fully aware that people not only disagree with what I believe to be true, but are very sincerely convinced that my religion can somehow be “scientifically” proven false. I have seen much of this so-called proof, and suffice it to say, I find none of it compelling. There are places to debate this stuff, but I couldn’t be less interested. So please anti-mormons, take your ball and go play somewhere else.

Glenn Beck, again, for the last time.

I listened to Glenn Beck’s conversion story in audiobook form. It’s getting harder to dislike him as much as I’d like to, even though his opinions are still not my opinions. Then again, he’s a multi-millionaire, and I’m just some dude.

Mormon Apparel

I designed some Mormon T-shirts for another website, and I’ve done my best to walk the fine line of humour, relevance, and respect. It’s hard to make Mormon-themed t-shirts and avoid sacrilege. For instance, you cannot parody (that is, make light of) any doctrines, which leaves skewering Mormon culture as the only remaining option, which is boring and not-so-amusing.

I’ve looked at Mormon t-shirt apparel available online, and wow, it’s terrible. I’ve found they fall into a few categories.

Humour
Typically mild humour, that pokes gentle fun at the foibles of Mormondom. These are printed with phrases you might also see cross-stitched on a wall somewhere. I will also include the “Sons of Helaman: Momma’s Boys” shirts in this section; you know, the one with all the chiseled, shirtless warriors, with their arms folded? Or the “Repent: Tough on Sins” shirt mimicking the Tide laundry detergent logo. (I bought one of those.) Humour is so subjective and such a broad category - I just don’t find many of the existing shirts that aim for humour to be that funny.



“I can’t. I’m Mormon.”
A subset of the humour category, this phrase deserves it’s own category simply because there are so many versions of this ridiculous shirt.

Inexplicably Rude
The inexplicably rude category: You have to really get a thrill from shocking the normals with shirts from this category. For example, some genius figured out that putting the abbreviation for Utah (UT) after an abbreviated abbreviation of Salt Lake City (SL) spelled a naughty word. It would be more clever if it didn’t have to drop the ‘C’ from SLC in order to work, but if you’re the kind of person who would wear that shirt and/or find it amusing, I’m sure you’re not bothered by the logical contortions and cognitive dissonance necessary for the joke to work.

The Importance of Being Earnest.
There’s also the painfully earnest shirts, the ones about families being together forever, etc. For people who want to wear their heart/testimony on their sleeve.

Virulently Anti-Mormon
And there there are a bunch of shirts that can only be described as anti-mormon. They are hostile to the Church and it’s doctrines, and you’ve got to be a special kind of terrible person to design, purchase or wear a shirt from this category.

My shirts fall mostly into the humour category, although a few might be construed as earnest, I suppose. They’re certainly not rude or sacrilegious, and none of them say “I can’t. I’m Mormon.”

Glenn Beck is a Mormon.

Michael Otterson is the head of Public Affairs for the Church, and some time after my previous screed regarding Glenn Beck (and after I found out that everyone but me was well aware of his religious affiliations), I read Brother Otterson’s article written for The Washington Post, “Mormon Voices in the Public Square and What to Make of Them”. The article can be viewed here: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/michael_otterson/2010/09/glenn_beck.html

I’ve consistently been very impressed with the job Otterson is doing in Public Affairs, and his writing, whether in editorials for the Washington Post, or in official statements from the Church, has always seemed to me to be eminently reasonable and excellently written. I admire him a great deal for his facility with words, and found his fair treatment of Beck in the aforementioned article quite reassuring.

So, no hard feelings.

Glenn Beck is a Mormon!?

Look, I don’t represent the Church – my dumb opinions are my own. I should make that clear right off the bat. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the right to express it, and that’s why blogs exist. I understand that politics is a hot-button issue, (as is religion), but I don’t see any reason why I should hide the fact that I think Obama is great, and that George W. Bush was an awful disgrace. That doesn’t mean Obama hasn’t made mistakes, or that Bush didn’t accidentally get one or two things right.

I’m a Canadian, and while Americans (from what I can gather) generally ignore and/or are totally unaware of Canadian politics, I think it’s fair to say that most Canadians follow American politics rather closely. I have no statistics or surveys to back this perception up, but it seems to be true. At any rate, it’s hard to ignore the so-called war between the White House, and the comedy network called Fox News.

Whatever gambit Fox is making seems to be working, even though I couldn’t agree more with the thought that it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to ignore the network altogether. I really find Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and their ilk distasteful, smug, and supremely irritating. (Keith Olbermann and Al Franken are also smug and irritating, but have a much superior batting average.) Glenn Beck has quickly proven himself to be just as absurd as O'Reilly et al., with asinine, knee-jerk, reactionary twaddle like an inexplicable screed against the White House’s charitable service initiative, or countless other bizarre positions and opinions.

It’s utterly perplexing, I know. I shudder to think who might count themselves among Beck’s acolytes, but feel reassured that most wise, thinking individuals, regardless of political orientation, most likely avoid both republican and democratic pundits like the plague. The world would doubtless be a better place if Republicans and Democrats alike tuned out the white noise of punditry and relied on their own abilities to weigh issues and form opinions…

But back to Beck. In Beck we find a man whose opinions seemed to be generated exclusively by the polar opposite of everything that Obama says or does, regardless of how ridiculous that opposite extreme happens to be. This is the man, you may recall, who called Obama a racist. What? I ventured to Wikipedia to see what might have happened to make Beck the way he is, and was astonished to learn that he is, in fact, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There’s even an (aptly named) dvd about his conversion.

Obviously (and thankfully), his opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Church any more than mine do. But I found it fascinating that someone so vitriolic and personally distasteful to me, and with whom I disagree on virtually every point of politics, ostensibly shares my most personal and deeply held spiritual beliefs. I haven’t seen the Deseret Books DVD of his conversion story. Perhaps I should. Knowing that “Brother Beck” is a fellow Latter-Day Saint has certainly been an interesting exercise in contexts, and a reinforcement of the Church’s position that members are free to exercise their own agency when it comes to political opinions and affiliations.

I am aware that our Church membership tends to skew right, and there are likely many who did not bat an eye when they learned Glenn Beck was Mormon. Many Mormons would be proud, I suppose. So far, I’m not one of them. But I am more than happy to, as Joseph Smith said, “claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (That goes for pundits and politics, too.) If Glenn Beck found the answers he was looking for in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

None of this matters anyway. I’m Canadian – I can’t vote in US elections, and am hardly steeped in the day-to-day political machinations of our neighbour to the South, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Does the "One Good Man" trailer freak you out?

Does so-called “Mormon Cinema” making a bid for mainstream acceptance make anyone else feel uneasy?

I like going to Apple’s movie trailer page every week or so to see the latest round of trailers for upcoming films. A month or two ago I came across the trailer for a film called “One Good Man.” I had never heard of it, so I began to watch the trailer. It became apparent fairly quickly that this was a film about Mormons. I felt the uneasiness I often feel when something like this comes around, watching to see if it was pro-Mormon, anti-Mormon, or in-between. It appears, in fact, to be a new entry into the burgeoning genre of “Mormon Cinema”. (Or as it’s unfortunately known by some colloquially: “Mollywood”.)

Am I the only one who cringes a little at these things? I’m nervous when anyone attempts to encapsulate and sell the “Latter-Day Saint Experience”, especially if it’s being marketed to the world at large.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the idea of a film that can demystify Latter-Day Saint beliefs, or send the message that we’re a lot more normal than most people give us credit for. That’s good. But I didn’t elect these people to do it. I didn’t get to vet their message, or approve their interpretation of how Mormons live. I know I don’t have any right to complain, but if I’m going to be judged by a non-Mormon based on what they’ve seen in this film, I have some kind of stake in it. People who don’t know anything about Mormons, but who happen to see this film may have their entire opinion about our beliefs and culture informed by it. I know this scenario is unlikely, but hypothetically speaking, if the film defies all odds and becomes a monster indie hit, (stranger things have happened) the ramifications of its success and (more importantly) its message would affect me personally in my daily interactions.

Again, I’m not (really) complaining, and I’m not even suggesting that the film is without merit. I’m just saying that when something like this comes along, I get a little uneasy. Like the first time you saw the trailer for Big Love. Whenever Mormons come up in mainstream popular culture, I just cross my fingers and hope they get it right. They frequently do not. I’m all for Mormons making films; it’s a shame so many of them are terrible and embarrassing, but the instinct is sound. I just get nervous, that’s all.

(Maybe this post would be better on the MormonFray.com site, but since I don’t really deal with “Mormon Cinema” on that blog per se, it’s probably better here.)

Me

I’m a Canadian who grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was raised in a Mormon family, and I served a two year mission when I was nineteen. I am still an active, faithful, believing member of the Church, so let’s get that out of the way right now. Suffice it to say, I consider myself to be in the mainstream of the Church. I have a firm testimony that this Church is true, the Book of Mormon is the divinely translated Word of God, and that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour.

Good. Now we can move on.

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I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also, among other things, Canadian. If you've never heard of Mormons, you could do a lot worse than to watch this video. It's ten minutes long, and you'll come out the other end knowing more about Mormons than 90% of the population.

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