Mormons in the News

The debate over creationism in Utah makes the Times. You see, when you live in New York, you can say, “the Times,” without worrying that people won’t know which Times you are talking about. It’s awesome to be able to do it.

Anyway, here’s the article.

Two thoughts:

1. A Professor Jowers of the University of Utah makes a tremendously important point that I think many in Utah overlook: “Professor Jowers pointed to the awareness among Mormons of their religion’s minority status in the nation and world. ‘It was kind of a realization that if you push to have prayer in school, then outside of Utah, the prayer would not typically be a Mormon’s prayer, so is that road you want go down?'”

2. The following made me laugh: “‘It’s being watched very closely because of the very conservative nature of the state,'” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, based in Washington. “‘If the legislation is rejected in Utah, it would be a very strong signal that the issue should be avoided elsewhere.'” I am confident that the Rev. Barry Lynn will now being looking to Utah as an example of the ideal relationship between church and state.

13 thoughts on “Mormons in the News

  1. People forget that the lawsuit against school prayers at football games in the Santa Fe, Texas school district was filed by an LDS and Catholic student. And yet I hear people in Utah complaining about all the godless anti-Christians who don’t want prayer in school. This is why Mormons outside Utah cringe when the Utah Mormons (yes, they are a separate wing of the building) do idiotic things under the name of “religious majority”).

    I wonder to myself — do these people *ever* leave the state? Didn’t they serve missions at one point? Didn’t they realize that the world is NOT like Utah?

    At the 2004 Libertarian convention, the Utah delegation reportedly announced themselves as being from Utah, “where the separation between Church and State is 2 blocks”.

  2. Queuno,

    I think you’re being overly harsh on Utah Mormons, as non-Utah Mormons are wont to be. I agree that Utah Mormons need to be more sensitive to the minorities in their midst, but yes, Utah Mormons do leave the state, and they do realize the world isn’t like Utah.

  3. Queuno,

    I still wonder about that mormon in Texas if he/she is a godless anti-christian.

    I am from outside of Utah. Before any high school football game we would all kneel and the coach would say a non-mormon prayer – I thought it was awesome. Who cares if it is not a “mormon” prayer. Honestly, it was a petition to the Almighty to let us all (both sides) play our best and the coaches last effort to minimize injuries on the field.

    A state legislature is there for the people of the state. If many in the state are of one religion, it would be assumed that that would direct the political agenda as well. I don’t think that is wrong. Generally speaking, we have a federal government based on the principles of Christianity. We are not some muslim nation, and our politics don’t assume we are.

    As time goes on, I see those values being chiseled away. I’m all about being fair, but we don’t have to change our values to do it. One day, we will have a population of Christians ruled by a government first of Agnostics, and eventually by Atheists.

    Go Utah for being true to representational democracy!

  4. The football team would have been just as well served by silent prayers uttered privately by each of the players and the coach according to their choice.

    I see no purpose for public prayers in secular forums other than for religious minded people to show off for the godless heathens.

    In my mind, it isn’t prayer.

    It’s showing off.

    It’s sending a message that “hey buddy! This is America! We Christians own this place! If you don’t like it, buzz off! Ya godless loser!”

    I see no difference between this kind of stuff and the prayer of the Pharisee in the temple.

    Let’s just make like the humble publican and keep our communion with God to ouselves.

  5. Whenever I hear “the Times” I still think the London Times myself. It’s always the NYT to me…

    I actually disagree that public prayers, whether at school, at public events, or before Congress are merely showing off. I think it can, at least for believers of various kinds, orient us and our thoughts in the matters we preform.

    As others mentioned though, if you introduce prayers you have to be fair about it. And I think all too many don’t want to be fair. They want to limit praying to a particular range of Christians, or perhaps include a few Jews or even Muslims. But to really be for public prayer I think one has to be willing to allow prayers from other groups such as Hindus or Wiccans.

    This came up in Priesthood for some reason when I was teaching about prayer and I asked how many would be willing to have a Wiccan pray before a football game. It was quite illuminating.

  6. Well Clark, your response is certainly more measured than mine. But I can’t help but be suspicious about people who are so adamant about making a spectacle of religious performance.

    I think the marriage between “Utah” and the “Christian Right” is merely one of convenience. We’re really in it together for the abortion issue and not much else. If you took away abortion, I don’t think the bond would be half as strong.

    There are other issues that we sympathize with each other over, but they aren’t even a quarter as potent. LDS as a people, don’t really care much about whether the schools teach intelligent design or not because our kids are already being taught the way we want outside of school. The Mormon response to “faith-based initiatives” was a collective ho-hum, and a polite refusal from Mormon leadership (after all, our church isn’t so desperate that we need handouts from Bush). As far as school prayer, again we have our needs met outside of school and aren’t as desperate for it (we’re also are a bit leery of what sort of prayers we’d get).

    Furthermore, Mormons just tend to be more comfortable behind the scenes. We’d rather take over the world in peace and quiet thanks. All this Evangelical grandstanding tends to make us a little uneasy. It just seems excessive.

    Even on homosexuality our leadership has been much more measured. Besides, it’s not like gays would get a temple marriage, even if they do get a “civil union.”

    No, I think the marriage is mostly based on abortion. And even there, we have a few visible cracks.

  7. Random musings:

    Full disclosure: I have pro-Utah Mormon sentiment due to my ancestry, even though I was raised outside Utah. I always found it funny when I was at BYU that *I* was considered “one of those poor Mormons who had to grow up in the mission field” even though I had more of a Utah family history than my critics did (when they’d try to scoreboard, I’d point out the three campus buildings named after ancestors). When my mother (BYU class of ’68) graduated, the graduation speaker told the parents in the audience that their children were destined to leave and live outside Utah. Glad she took the advice.

    But DBell, I think we’re at metalinguistic loggerheads. If a Utah Mormon leaves the state, can he still be called a Utah Mormon? And isn’t one of the characteristics of Utah Mormons that they don’t recognize the larger world out there? [It’s like the joke about the father not knowing he has kids but is vaguely aware of small people in the house — it’s like Utah Mormons, when they come home from their missions, completely forget that there were once members outside the borders who aren’t aspiring to move to Zion.] Do Utah Mormons even know that there is a class of Mormons called Utah Mormons? Or is “Utah Mormonism” a state of mind rather than a state of State?

    Re Clark and Seth’s comments – our little suburb in TGSOT used to have prayer before city council meetings, until our Wiccan friend asked when they would have Wiccan prayer. Then prayer was discontinued. We only like public prayer when it’s our own.

  8. In my Mississippi highschool, they’ve been saying prayers for as long as I can remember. Official prayers by a pastor before football games. Kinda official prayers led by the band leader before one of our performances. Unofficial prayers by the cheerleading squad. Unofficial prayers by the entire class right before taking a standardized test.

    No one complains, because I belong to the most exotic religion of anyone in the school. I do have one friend who is an agnostic, but she’s not passionate enough about it to care.

    My point: the prayers offered at these events aren’t “Mormon prayers.” They use phrasing that makes me uncomfortable, and say the Lord’s name after ever sentence, and sometimes ask for things which I consider theologically off the mark. But they are prayers and I bow my head and close my eyes and join hands with my neighbor (another thing Mormons don’t usually do while praying) with everybody else.

  9. So tolerance only flows one way? I guess hearing a wiccan pray is offensive? Why is that? I wouldn’t mind if the world, well the USA, was more tolerant. When I was in school the instituted a set of required courses on multi-culturalism. You have 3 classes you had to chose from to open your horizens. The problem is that for many Mormons, if not most, their religion is their culture and they are prohibited from talking about it in a public building.

    As for this filler about Utah Mormons, I’ve live inside Utah and out, I’ve lived in numerous wards in both places and found that the church in most ways is the same everywhere, and to a large degree so are the people. The first time I lived outside Utah I’d hear all about how Utah Mormons were social members, but I’d see the same gossip occuring in the wards outside Utah, the same cliques, and class systems that creep into every part of life, even church.

    As a missionary I heard alot about “California” missionaries and I had 2 comps from Cali, one was the stereotypical DUDE! Who didn’t want to get up before 9:00 and the other was extremely dedicated and didn’t fit the profile.

    My question is why even in the church do we cling to stereotypes that are not constructive? Do we interact better if we believe we are somehow better because we live in Utah with higher activity rates or baptisms? Are we better if we live outside Utah because we resist more temptation and must be stronger to be active?

    Pride is human nature and comparisons are inevitable, but according to President Benson, the competition or comparison is a stumbling block that can prevent our spiritual growth. Next time someone moves in your ward get to know them for themselves, don’t compartmentalize them based on where they were raised or where they last moved from.

    Oh, and don’t be offended by someone’s prayer Stella, be tolerant and curious, take knowlege from every source and bless the giver. Maybe we need more praise in our prayers, maybe we need to hold hands or explicitly show that bond.

    Seth, I know its easy to say everyone should be tolerant and not force anyone to listen to their prayer, but just maybe we’re all looking at this wrong. Maybe tolerance is being respectful and interested in anothers culture, beliefs, and prayers. Its not showing off, community prayer is designed to strenghten the bond between the group. Sure it can be abused as can any public forum, just listen to CSPAN in the morning and you’ll hear some people who should never be allowed to speak in public. However, we believe strongly in free speech, unless its religious speech, then the restrictions abound. And individual prayers don’t cut it for a team sport, they’ll have to due for now.

    I know if you’re the only Jew or LDS on a Texas football team, and you’ll hear 30 Evangelical Christian prayers for every Jewish or LDS prayer you offer it could be rough, but if you have an open mind or you are a tolerant person it won’t bother you.

  10. Heli, I don’t think hearing a Wikkan prayer is offensive. And I personally don’t mind praying with people of many faiths. I even joined into the drum circle at a Hari Krishna worship service. But clearly many people do think that for prayer to be prayer it has to be their prayer. Which then suggests whether prayer ought be had at all.

    I’d agree about the whole Utah Mormon bit. I’d say though that the one difference is that there is more social utility to being Mormon in Utah as opposed to out. So a lot of people in Utah are more social members whereas outside of Utah I think they’d just stop coming. That’s especially true during the dating years. I had one basically non-Mormon roommate who used to complain about women only wanting to go out with RMs, for instance, or checking for garments.

  11. Oh, there was nothing I loved more than a girl feeling my leg for garments. The first time it happened I thought the girl was just coming on to me, then later one of my friends told me (we were in a social setting, sitting next to each other).

    I thought about bringing sexual harassment charges, but then I realized its only sexual harassment if you’re not attracted to the person making the advance.

    Sorry for the inappropriate humor above; hope I didn’t offend any BYU coeds (the situs of the offense was at BYU). Oh and I found the girls at BYU were much more forward than at the UofU, I’d have girls in class give me their phone numbers and ask me if I was going to a particular social event the first time we sat next to each other. That almost never happened at the U unless I got to know someone at class.

    I’ve always found that in more dense LDS populations there are more social Mormons, but the numbers have never been great in any of the wards I’ve been to. And who doesn’t need social encouragement now and then? Well maybe I don’t, but I don’t fault people who do, I encourage them.

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