Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2002/ 3 Adar, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Ease up on the brothers and sisters -- KATIE COURIC'S rapidly blinking eyes distracted us from her Elke Sommer/snow bunny headband. Katie was visibly nervous because her co-host at the Olympics opening ceremony, Bob Costas, was talking of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Katie held her breath as Bob talked Mormons, "You're on thin ice, baseball boy."

Katie is not the only one on the edge about Mormons snowing on the Olympic parade. USA Today skirted the issue with this headline, "Utah much more than Mormons." A New York Times' 2,800-word piece disapproved of Mormon missionary work during the Olympics. Hide your sons and daughters. If John Walker Lindh watches the Olympics he'll be in white shirt and tie riding a bike around Camp X-Ray.

All religions do missionary work and make no secret of their desires re: conversion. Democrats and aerobics instructors do the same. The media are more open-minded about leper colonies than Mormons. It's an irrational fear for the Mormons' worst sin is going a little heavy on the cinnamon roll frosting.

Ease up on the brothers and the sisters. On the fear mongering scale of journalism, Mormons are right up there with guns. There is a palpable fear that this faith grabs your soul at its very mention. About 60,000 Mormon missionaries around the globe have worn shoes and 12-hour days to prove that the soul-grabbing theory is seriously flawed.

The brow beaten Saints withdrew a planned Olympic advertising campaign from NBC. To quell the media rebellion, the Mormon Church promised, "it won't "proselytize," Bob Costas' phrase that halted Katie's blinking.

The news stories drip with disdain like frosting from the rolls. A sample, "The last few years have brought out the French cuisine, but also the purchase of a downtown square by the Mormon Church, which is off limits to loiterers, smokers and sin in general." Private land use control is not unique to Mormons.

There's a standard formula for the Olympics/Mormon stories: get in the bribery dig; mention the missionary work; rustle up a few disgruntled cranks who hate Mormons for choice quotes; and tap into skiing potheads who want liquor in Safeway.

The bribery that brought the games to Salt Lake City was awful. However, these were novices, or "hypocritical bumpkins," as the Times says. They used checks and credit cards. Important safety tip on bribes: Use cash! Thirty years of prior bid attempts by SLC included only letter openers to grease the palms of the IOC.

SLC put codes of ethics in place so that elected and appointed officials now play by the rules, even when the IOC doesn't. The media mention that 2 "high-ranking church members" were indicted but neglect to note that the charges were tossed. Ease up!

A disgruntled crank quote from the Times, "This community is like a theocratic monoculture. If Mormons were left to their own devices, they would own the country."

Mormons may be 70% of the Utah population, but they are 2% of the U.S. population. A Wall Street coup seems unlikely. If the Times' fear and loathing are any indication, no Mormon could get a cab from La Guardia. The closest Mormons come to mainstream entertainment is the Osmonds, and Marie has had trouble handling it. Ease up on the brothers and sisters.

I offer the assurance and perspective of an insider who was once an outside crank. Nearly 30 years ago, I lived with Mormons while a Gentile, their lighthearted label the media take seriously, as I pursued my degrees. I studied them and their faith and saw the things the cranks mention. The cliques. Their desire to be different from the cosmopolitan ideal. They'll take a Wal-Mart over a Spago. Another child over a new car. And a donut over a beer.

But, employing the nouveau notion of tolerance, I came to understand them. If you know Mormon history, you know that the "cliques" are security stemming from hesitancy about a world that has been cruel and confiscatory. The mocking media coverage drives a turtle back into its shell. But, ask a Mormon about Joseph Smith, the atonement, or Lavell Edwards, and the hesitancy vanishes.

When you explore the Mormon faith and people with an open mind, you find a remarkable people and religion. They will step in and care for a family when a mother is ill, even if it means months of work. Their welfare program offers help with dignity, including training for a better job. Adults are selfless when it comes to helping teens. They teach 6 AM seminary classes, do hikes, and chaperone weekly dances.

Take note of this peculiar people with their low rates of divorce and cancer and amazing longevity. Perhaps it's the cinnamon rolls, but there is nothing to fear from a people who would give you the shirts from their backs if you asked, just not in the public square. Ease up on the brothers and sisters.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


02/11/02:Because I was courted
02/05/02: Fat fault
01/24/02: Tolerance does not mean stupidity
01/17/02: Too old too soon
01/10/02: Ethically challenged firms
01/03/02: The year that was
12/27/01: The Twelve Days of inconsistency
12/20/01: Free Speech and the political spectrum
12/13/01: Curbing brats
12/06/01: Power to influence
11/29/01: The disappearing art of grading
11/21/01: The Big Two-Five
11/13/01: You can never find a lib when you need one
11/01/01: Unlucky in sports
10/26/01: An epidemic of counselitis
10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings