Mormons in the media: Interfaith nights, Passover, proposals, service and musicals

Published: Sunday, Oct. 4 2015 10:15 a.m. MDT

So you've heard about Mitt Romney's announcement for an exploratory committee, Glenn Beck not renewing his contract with Fox and Steve Young visiting the Atlanta Georgia Temple open house.

But that's not the only Mormon news making headlines this week as it ranges from sporting events, Passover and other interfaith activities, serving in the community, the Book of Mormon and essays in the Huffington Post.

Mormon nights and interfaith outreach

Religion outreach at sporting events has been ongoing for the past several years, as there have been "Mormon nights" organized at professional-level baseball and basketball games.

Take this one in San Antonio, where LDS Church members gave Sean Elliot a framed copy of his family tree at halftime. And Mormon missionaries helped sing the national anthem, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

USA Today's Michael McCarthy shows that it's not just Mormons but other Christian faiths and Jews who also have designated days. (The Oakland A's are hosting their first Jewish Heritage night.)

"We welcome everyone to the ballpark," said San Francisco Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter.

Others wonder, all things being equal, how would a Muslim or an atheist day be received?

Also in interfaith news, Mark Paredes, who is LDS and writes about Jews and Mormons for the Jewish Journal, spoke at Harvard, and student Avishai D. Don, a Crimson editorial writer, said the "no-holds-barred discussion" about a variety of topics left him "far more enlightened than after any other interfaith event I’ve been to on Harvard’s campus."

The New York City-based Jewish Daily Forward, based in New York City, highlighted the capacity crowds at the Seder services hosted by Brigham Young University professor Victor Ludlow on campus, commenting on the details and how it "was a scene reminiscent of the Seders that so many Jewish campus centers host at Passover time."

Day of service

President Henry B. Eyring issued an invitation for a day of service just a few weeks ago; some areas already have that spring tradition, and coverage has been popping up in community papers, like these in Lompoc, Yreka and Redlands, Calif.; Kinston, N.C.; and Navasota, Texas.

Who can't relate to this project to help with 20 Habitat for Humanity homes that was scheduled in Murrieta, Calif., but then was canceled because of the rain?

A proposal and a wedding story

This week there were two sweet stories on wedding proposals that highlighted members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in star roles. (And considering what President Thomas S. Monson said at conference about marriage, it's pretty timely.)

The New York Times highlighted the wedding of Jill Fernald and Geddes Munson in its weekly "Wedding/Celebrations" section. (The Times usually does one longer story weekly and then several short wedding notices.) The feature included Fernald and Munson's story of meeting during a young single adult activity in New York City and dating, mentions how LDS leaders encourage singles to marry and included photos of the happy couple outside the temple.

Then this proposal on the baseball diamond after the opening pitch got a "yes."

The Book of Mormon, the musical and otherwise

"The Mormon Church has worked hard for decades to raise awareness about the Book of Mormon, and finally everyone is talking about it. Unfortunately, most of the conversations are about the new Broadway musical," writes Grant Hardy on Patheos.com.

He lists "10 things everyone should know about the Book of Mormon," including Joseph Smith as the translator, geography vagueness, scriptural language, the basic narrative of a family and praying to know it's true. He also lists a few sections to get started on reading (and no, they don't include 1 Nephi).

Over on The Washington Post's "On Faith" forum, John Mark Reynolds gives an interesting response in his post titled "When faith is mocked, who responds?"

The original question was about Pastor Terry Jones and his Quran-burning antics, but Reynolds, a professor of philosophy for Biola University, points out that in the case of the Book of Mormon musical, "evidently mocking a thing your neighbor loves is acceptable in the name of art, but horrific in the name of religion."

And he pokes fun at the junior-high bully who picks on those who won't fight back and applauds members of the LDS Church.

"The Broadway writers have revealed the Mormons who respond with patience and peaceful protest, and even weary humor, to yet another mocking of their beliefs," he writes. "We must oppose the violence and applaud the civility."

And he concludes: "This weekend I will go to a good play, attend a loving church, and try to better understand my Mormon neighbor and my Islamic friends."

Michael Otterson, the head of the LDS Church's public affairs, last night posted "Why I won't be seeing the Book of Mormon musical" on the Washington Post's On Faith forum.

"Specifically, I’m not willing to spend $200 for a ticket to be sold the idea that religion moves along oblivious to real-world problems in a kind of blissful naiveté," he writes. He also lists the church humanitarian efforts in Africa as the musical's producers were crafting the show.

He also notes that there hasn't been a huge public outcry from Mormons. Why? In his opinion, it's because many see things like this in pop culture are irrelevant, members of the LDS Church have been admonished to seek things that are "of good report or praiseworthy" and the Christian teachings of turning the other cheek.

And there is always a danger in satire and parody.

"Of course, parody isn’t reality, and it’s the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously – if they leave a theater believing that Mormons really do live in some kind of a surreal world of self-deception and illusion," he writes.

Otterson also penned this post on "What Mormon equality looks like" and shares the thoughts of three women on their role in the LDS Church.

Huffington Post

It was a pleasant surprise to see an essay by Salt Lake poet Emma Lou Thayne on HuffingtonPost.com. She writes in "On Learning to Go Away: Reflections of a Mormon Poet," that her "spiritual life withers in too much togetherness, just as it thrives in quiet. Alone I find my link to the vertical, the divine: I meditate and pray and walk and dream and write by the hour anything long."

She concludes: "But I could never be content without also being connected to the horizontal, my people. Because I know I'll get to occupy both worlds, I'm content in either, with the heavenly balance of both."

Also on Huffington Post this week, Brook Wilensky-Lanford wrote about what Mormons believe about the Garden of Eden, including "Exactly how literal a place is 'Zion' or 'Eden' really? That's a matter of personal belief. But if it's going to be anywhere, it might as well be Jackson County."

She also treats the LDS belief of Adam and Eve leaving the garden with fairness. (Brook does note that she isn't Mormon but has "spent the past four years writing a book about people who search for the Garden of Eden on earth.")

Email: rappleye@desnews.com

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