Comments about ‘Mormon Media Observer: The news says Latter-day Saints are suddenly hip but the church is square’

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Published: Monday, Oct. 31 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Wonderful article, Lane. This is not a culture - it's a remarkable, life-altering truth.

M. Matchette
Syracuse, Utah

Mr. Williams, you made some great points with this piece. I would just add that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is, when you take into account how the world OF MAN is falling apart at this particular time, is quite Hip with the times we live in. Thank goodness it's message to the world hasn't changed....

claremont, ca

That you have to assume that those interviewed have left Church activity shows just how much you are ingrained in the generally stodgy Church culture. Is it that hard for you to believe that Mormons with long hair, beards, tattoos, so-called "immodest" clothing, etc., can also be active members as well.

Furthermore, Colbert is a devout and practicing Catholic. His point was neither that both religious groups believe in revelation, nor that all believes are just silly. Rather, his point--which should be evident to any religious believer--is that regardless of one's faith, in our modern age every founding religious narrative /seems/ silly, regardless of their validity. If a Latter-day Saint doesn't think that the stories of a boy receiving buried golden plates from a dead Native American that he translates with rocks he used to find buried treasure doesn't seem prima facie silly, then that Mormon lacks the ability of reflective thought.

Allen, TX

I have to disagree with you on the Colbert segment. I, and most of the "fringe" LDS I associate with who watch Colbert regularly saw it as a repectful, if tongue-in-cheek, nod to the Mormons and Mitt Romney specifically (nice hair). I think he was saying that there are plenty of things about religion that are hard to believe - thus the need for FAITH. And I believe he is indeed a devout Catholic, even if he pokes fun at its own history and politics at times.

I agree however, in large part, with your take on the Times article.

O\'Fallon, IL

Mr. Williams, I think you said it just right---Nibley would approve!

Free Agency
Salt Lake City, UT

I certainly agree that it would be a terrible thing for a Mormon to forsake Mormon values such as honesty, compassion, treating one's body as a temple--and replace them with "hip" things like getting drunk, doing drugs, sleeping around, living expediently rather than consciously.

And certainly it's no surprise that people like Steven Colbert would find a lot to laugh about in staying true to "out of fashion" values.

But the New York Times article was making a different point: many of these young Mormons want to express their individuality, apart from the one-size-fits-all dictums of the Church "suits."

For instance, what's the problem with having a beard? The problem is "it doesn't look good"--according to *someone else's* viewpoint. And that's where the great Mormon doctrine of free agency comes in. Bravo to those young (and maybe not so young) Mormons who are exercising it.

I'm sure I'm not the first to point out the great irony: that Brigham Young could never have been admitted to the school named for him, until he either got a very close shave--or proved he had ultra-sensitive skin.

Medical Lake, Washington

I have noticed more members sporting tatoos, and the unshaven look on more and more. In each generation there is an attempt on the part of some to be a Latter-day Saint while blending in with the in-crowd. I mean, as long as you don't actually do the big sins, its okay and you get to run with the pack - all at the same time.

Some are even successful, for a time, but time catches up.

Its not easy being a "peculiar" person. But in the long run, its the only rewarding lifestyle that I've seen. The fashions change again, as do the grooming styles, and when they do, many are tossed out with the trash and left to wonder, what happened? and Where is my family, where are my friends? Stick to what works; what has always worked.

m.g. scott

A good article. I particularly like the point about "not wanting to tackle the implication of LDS belief". That is really the crux of much anti-Mormon sentiment whether from other religions or the media. Think about it. If some reporter was assigned to investigate the church for a story, and got a testimony, his job could be in jeopardy. As a missionary I saw the pressure when someone realized the truth and then weighed the cost to himself with family, friends, co-workers ect. It's a fifty/fifty proposition. Either the Church is true or it is not. I think many people would rather go through life not knowing. Because, if you do know, then you have obligations to God that you can otherwise ignore. Life is easier that way for them, especially in this growing secular/cynical culture.

Ravenna, OH

Good article. You are correct that mainstream media avoids serious issues such as the implications of gospel truth, but they are avoiding deep issues in politics, economics and science as well. Depth in reporting is not rewarded.
@Scootd28: No so - This IS a culture AND it's a remarkable, life-altering truth.
The truth is there in the gospel and in doctrine, but the culture is there in dress and grooming standards. Modesty is doctrine, dress codes are culture. Agency is doctrine, intolerance is culture. Prudence in use of food and medicine is doctrine, reversion to legal standards to determine acceptable medicine and fast food use is culture. Adherence to eternal principles is doctrine, social or political conservatism is culture.
We need to keep always in mind that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an institution of gospel and of doctrines, but we members live in a culture that adds many layers over the doctrinal meaning when we say we are Mormon. "Mormon" is a culture, what that means in Utah or California is not the same as what it means in New York, Washington DC or Akron OH. The NYT article was about culture.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


I saw the Colbert segment and similarly thought that though it was tongue-in-cheek, it was offered in defense of our faith. I enjoyed it.

I certainly don't think you have to be "fringe" LDS to see it that way. At least I sure hope not.

I agree with the writer (Mr. Williams) that, in this "Mormon Moment" we can be seen as a sort of retro version of cool.

But it is our belief, not our culture that defines us. Indeed, the LDS culture is morphing as we become more and more international. We are less likely to be from the intermountain west and more likely to be from some other part of the world.

As people bore past the culture and into the belief, most will tire quickly (faith is too demanding), some will grow hostile (because again, faith is too demanding) and a few will join with us.

My take? Enjoy the moment. It won't last. And if Mr. Romney should be elected, we may find ourselves in a very different Mormon Moment (as political criticism inevitably turns negative and commentators try to find the roots of a new president's "flaws").

Bill Freeze
Lindon, UT

Devoted Latter-day Saints are committed to doing God's will in all things...it's not always easy, but that's the mission and goal! - "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."- Romans 12:1

Mount Pleasant, UT

To: Bill Freeze - Perfectly stated and as we have been taught - "it may not be easy but it will be worth it". Of this I absolutely know and count on.

Surrey, BC

The LDS church is truly a world-wide church. There are many cultural differences and traditions that have very little to do with doctrine and commandments except in cases where they are in contradiction to the doctrine and commandments. There is nothing wrong with adapting programs and procedures to reflect a growing church but the core beliefs do not change. Some may challenge that statement with the "polygamy" and "blacks and priesthood" debate but in those cases it was the Lord who made the made those decisions.

Being a LDS is not easy sometimes but we have people from all walks of life joining the church. In my ward are people with tattoos, former gang members, former Jehovah Winesses, former drug addicts etc etc. These people have embraced the truth and are living the gospel. It is truly a church for those who are willing to follow Christ and change their lives.

Pocatello, ID

Most of his life Brigham did not wear a beard. It somehow happened that the picture we associate with him is one in which he did. That isn't even the point. It is: "When the bullets start to fly, how strong is your conviction to the GOSPEL (which is way different than the church)?

Daytona Beach Shores, FL

I don't know about the beard talk. I see a lot of beards in church nowadays. I wore one myself for about a year and am thinking about starting it again. And, I am really young and hip . . at 75.

Free Agency
Salt Lake City, UT

Back to the beard thing: even leaving out whether Brigham Young preferred himself to be bearded or beardless . . . could Jesus have gotten into BYU unless he shaved first?

And now for a tip to those Mormons who want to grow a beard and still look okay in church: from the very first day, shave an *outline* of the beard (cheeks and neck), and keep doing that every day thereafter. That keeps it from looking like stubble, and people's thinking you were too lazy to shave that day, or just don't care about your appearance.

Tacoma, Washington

Well said, Lane Williams, thank you!


Humor is an interesting tool that if not taken seriously can get people to dig deeper. The rattling of the religion cage has caused many to learn and find out about others. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members across the spectrum of society. Their political viewpoints vary deeply, but they do have the commonality of religion. Church members are in most occupations in the world. Weird yes and no, until recently most of the wold paused one day a week and took time to go to church. Societal values and religious values were parallel. I grew up in the time when the norm slipped. We are not a one day a week religion it is a way of life which touches every fiber of our being. To see people surfing, riding a Harley, and just having fun is to be expected. Life as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is full of joy, service, fun, family and access to the most special place on the planet, the Temple.

Mamma C

I agree. "Much of the writing about the church, as generous and as favorable as it seems sometimes, becomes a kind of avoidance in the end... Reporters dont seem to want to tackle the implications of LDS belief."

Shallow media "coverage" of church members consistently skips the real stories. How about mentioning a live prophet and 12 apostles on earth today, who give the living word of God to mankind? Why skirt around revelation, priesthood, redemption of the dead --all huge stories--- in favor of interviewing barely-lds fence-sitters, as if they could enlighten a reader about this church?

Ravenna, OH

"Why skirt around revelation, priesthood, redemption of the dead --all huge stories--- in favor of interviewing barely-lds fence-sitters, as if they could enlighten a reader about this church? "

We define things by their borders. The barely-LDS are our borders. Those who are not-Mormon know where they are, those who are deeply-Mormon know where they are. The reporter is trying to tell us where Mormon stops and not-Mormon starts.

I, and think Lane Williams, might find it more instructive to find the borders between LDS and Mormon. In the process, the readership might come to understand how Mr Romney straddles that border and how devotion to faith and devotion to myth or tradition can be starkly different.

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