Charlie Riedel, AP
Bryce Harper warms up for the recent Major League All-Star Game. Harper's Mormon faith is, according to one writer, "a comfortable but not controlling part of the conversation" about this rising sports star.

Writers for two different publications consider the example being set by the LDS Church and by LDS baseball phenom Bryce Harper, respectively, as part of what one writer calls a "sustainable, Christ-honoring counterculture."

Learning from the example of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be the best possible way for evangelical Christians to curtail the flood of young people from their churches, an evangelical blogger says on the Patheos blog site.

"As a Calvinist member of the Presbyterian Church in America, I've got my theological differences with the LDS Church," writes David French. "But if we evangelicals don't learn from our Mormon friends, then we're foolish."

French, who, with his wife Nancy, cofounded Evangelicals for Mitt, cites studies that show how many young people are leaving Christian churches. But he points out that "Mormons, living in the same country and culture that Baptists do, just keep growing their church."

French offers six reasons for the difference:

  • Mormons have bigger families ("But then they tend to hold on to their kids while evangelicals do not," French says)
  • Mormons have lower divorce rates ("There are few things more demoralizing to a young Christian than seeing his Christian parents destroy their own marriage and destroy their own kids' childhoods in a blaze of selfishness, lust and pride")
  • Mormons evangelize ("Not only does (Mormon) evangelizing win converts, it also strengthens the faith of the evangelist")
  • Mormons are orthodox ("Members of a Mormon church tend to know and believe their faith")
  • Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members ("Compared to the Mormon experience, an evangelical church is a carnival ride of short services, low accountability and zero church discipline")
  • Mormons are less selfish ("Add up points one through five and you get to the sum")
"Big families, intact families, years-long missions, faithfulness to church teaching (rather than believing you can customize your own theology) and a lifetime of service add up to a sustainable, Christ-honoring counterculture," French said as he urged his evangelical colleagues to follow the Mormon example of resisting secular conformity.

Also referring to a Mormon example, the New England Sports Network recently posted on its website an article that compares the public Christianity of LDS Major League Baseball phenom Bryce Harper with pro football's Tim Tebow.

"Tebow has most people thinking that being a Christian likely involves some form of constant prayer, shout-outs to Jesus and rules that get rid of a lot of fun," writes reporter Jen Slothtower. "But Tebow's outspokenness isn't the only way athletes sincerely approach faith. Bryce Harper, who ascribes to Mormonism, has become an example of another young, talented player who is bringing his beliefs into the public eye, albeit in a much different way."

According to Slothtower, Harper is known for his "brash public persona, from his gamesmanship on the baseball diamond to his 'clown question' cult hero status."

"That's why a lot of people do a double-take when they find out Harper is Mormon — and not just a check-a-box Mormon, but a follow-the-book Mormon," Slothtower writes. "Harper famously doesn't drink (the source of 'that's a clown question, bro'), but he also doesn't party or get into much mischief off the field.

"It's difficult to imagine the impetuous Harper as a devout anything, but by all reports, he's serious about his faith," the writer continues. "And as he becomes a larger figure in American consciousness, he hasn't been shy about acknowledging what he believes and explaining how it fits in with his everyday life."

Comparing Harper with Tebow, Slothtower notes that "Tebow leads with his faith, making it the forefront of everything he does. "His eye black had Bible verses, and his virginity and other life choices are prime fodder in any interview. He even preaches at church services and prays publicly with people."

On the other hand, she writes, Harper "has let his play and personality carry him so far, with his faith a comfortable but not controlling part of the conversation."

The article debates the comparison, concluding "both players are leaning on their faith to change their lives, and leaning on their place in the limelight to spread their faith further.

"Whether their eye black is covered in tidy Bible verses or streaming down their faces in brash confidence, they've brought the deeper life to the shine and charade of professional sports," Slothtower writes. "Critics may pick apart how Tebow chooses to live, and whether Harper's moxie matches Mormon beliefs. But if they're talking about that, they're talking about faith. And that's a boon to anyone who believes that that's what really matters in all this."