As history was about to be made with a Mormon (the name often given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) being nominated for the first time in American history by a major political party as candidate for President of the United States, NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams aired a one hour special titled “Mormon in America.” Even though many Americans know that presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, is a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ, very few Americans know very little if anything about the LDS Church which was founded by its first prophet, Joseph Smith, in 1830. In fact, a recent survey indicated that 98 percent of Americans are “uninformed” about the Mormon faith.
There are over 6 million Americans who are Latter-day Saints, a representation of only about 2 percent of the total population, and yet Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in America. Most Americans are very familiar with the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and of course, Donny, Marie, and the rest of the Osmond family from the early days of the Donny and Marie Show, but outside of those things, what they do know about the Mormon religion is very limited and often obscured by what they hear from critics of the religion. The things that many Americans think of when they hear about Mormons are the issues of polygamy and the fact that for a time in Mormon history, members of the Black race were not permitted to hold the priesthood and therefore could not participate in the sacred ordinances that take place inside LDS temples. Most are also familiar with The Book of Mormon which Mormons testify is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is because Mormons use this sacred volume of scripture in addition to the Holy Bible, that many are skeptical that Latter-day Saints are Christian.
The special presentation “Mormon in America” was divided into several segments. The first segment was titled “Mormon Inc.” and discussed reasons why Mormons are so successful in business noting that from Dell to Marriott to Jet Blue, all of these businesses have been led by Mormon businessman. One of the things that was pointed out during this segment of the program is the impact that serving a two year voluntary mission for the Church of Jesus Christ seems to have on young men in preparing them to enter the business world. During their time in the mission field, these young missionaries learn how to deal with rejection and how to persevere in spite of that rejection. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they also understand what it means to “put their shoulder to the whell and push along.” They also understand and believe that they are their brother’s keeper and in many cases, Mormons who manage to climb up the corporate ladder often reach down to help other of their fellow Mormons. Jeff Benedict, who is a Mormon, wrote a book titled “The Mormon Way Of Doing Business: Leadership And Success Through Faith and Family” that describes what makes Mormons so successful in the business world. Benedict asserts that the most powerful influence in the lives of successful Mormon businessman is their mothers who groomed them at an early age. Hard work, discipline, perseverance, and thrift all seem to make up the DNA of Mormons.
The second segment of the program dealt with the early history of the LDS Church. One of the things that was discussed during this segment of the program was the Word of Wisdom, a code of health ethics whic Mormons live by and which they say makes them healthier and also helps to prolong life. As devout members, following the Word of Wisdom means that they do not drink coffe or tea, use tobacco products, use drugs, or drink alcohol. Mormons also abstain from pre-marital sex. Other topics that were discussed were Mormon temples and the fact that only those members who are deemed worthy are allowed to enter; tithing and that Mormons are expected to tithe ten percent of their annual income to the LDS Church; the Book of Mormon which Mormons testify is comparable to the Holy Bible and is the Word of God; genealogy and the work that Mormons do for their kindred dead; and the issue of “racism” which has plagued the LDS Church for centuries, as for a time, until a revelation was received by then President of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball, members of the Black race were not allowed to hold the priesthood. This issue of “racism” is one that many faithful Black people struggle with today, preventing them from becoming members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The third segment of the program spoke to life in modern Mormon families. Some of the issues brought about by Mormon feminists such as women serving in leadership roles in the LDS Church were discussed. The fact is that Mormon women do hold leadership positions in the Church. Women in general are revered as special daughters of God, and are taught that the role that they play is as important as the role that their male counterparts play in being members of the priesthood. Women are in no way considered to be inferior to men in the LDS Church. Each member, whether male of female, has a work to do for the Lord. Another issue that was discussed was gay Mormons. Mormons are taught that Heavenly Father loves gay people, but it is the homosexual acts that he deplores. A gay Mormon can be an active member of the LDS Church and serve in leadership positions so long as he remains celibate.
The fourth segment of the special report talked about how Mormons believe in taking care of their own. An inside look was taken of a Bishops’ Storehouse, a virtual warehouse of supplies for those in need. Mormons realize that at any given time, any member could be found in need of assistance, and the LDS Church is there to help its members meet their needs. One of the blessings of the Bishops’ Storehouse is that there is no money exchanged for goods, and members are encouraged to volunteer their time and services in helping to maintain the warehouse. However, members are not just handed supplies everytime they have a need. The Church of Jesus Christ also teaches and helps each of its members to be self-sustaining and self-reliant.
By Keith Brown