Careful readers of this blog, and even sloppy ones, know that I have a thing for Mormons. Don't ask me why....I just do. Maybe it's because their guy founded American Motors, manufacturer of the cars I drove as a kid. Maybe it's that Mormons get to be elders at 19 or 20, and can wear nametags to that effect, whereas we can't touch the word until...oh, at least 30....usually later, and even then we don't get nametags. Maybe it's that, for their brief (but intensive) 2 year stint, they're our “competition” in the door to door ministry...nobody else touches that work with any regularity....usually not at all. Occasionally some awkward moments arise, like when I was on a return visit and the doorbell rang. The householder answered, returned with an odd look on her face, and announced: "This ought to be interesting. Jehovah's Witnesses: meet the Mormons!" They'd also called on a return visit!
So we all chatted for awhile....I was conscious of a certain air of absurdity.....when the younger Mormon launches into some heartfelt, long-winded, emotional diatribe about, I think, creation. I mean, it was all very fine, but it had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Whereupon the senior Mormon turns on him and says "So?!" I thought the poor kid would melt into the floor.
Of course, this is a human story, not really a Mormon story. Sometimes you have to reign in an underling. Didn't Moe do that with Larry and Curly? The same thing could have happened among us. But, as it was, these guys were Mormons.
But this is back in the day when Mormons competed with us on the basis of spirituality. Now, however, they are trying to "out-cool" us, at least if their new ad campaign is anything to go by. Since starting in nine test markets a year ago, I've recently seen the ads online! Does that mean they're everywhere now? If not, I fear they may soon be.
When I first saw that Mormon TV spot ad a year ago...
..... I'm a surfer, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse, I believe that we're all here in life to make a difference.......and I'm a Mormon!
.....I right away telephoned JW headquarters. 'You'd better drop this Bible schtick right away,' I told them, 'and stress how cool we are, otherwise those Mormons are going to pull so far ahead of us we'll never catch up! They ignored me! Oh, they may have played with a prototype or two...
......I hang drywall, I own five suits, I believe sinners are going down......and I'm a Jehovah's Witness!
......but I don't think their hearts were in it. Well, it's too late now! Mormon coolness has gone viral! Just look at this recent Newsweek cover:
See?! This is what happens when you drag your feet and dilly-dally, like our people did. And just what are we to do now? Can we really have a Tommy Lee Jones moment like in The Fugitive movie “......well.....we're cool, too. Yeah.....we're real cool. I mean, those Mormons, how cool can they be? We're cool also”.....I tell you, it's hard to play second fiddle to Mormons after Newsweek puts them on the cover.
But that's not all....winning the Newsweek top spot! No! They've made a musical about Mormons. And not just some schocky low-grade, 3rd rate production, like those ridiculous evangelical movies. The Book of Mormon is the winner of nine Tony awards! The Broadway cast recording is the highest-charting such album in over four decades. The world has gone after these guys, and just like the Pharisees groused about Jesus: “You observe you are getting absolutely nowhere. See! The world has gone after him,” (John 12:19) I'm so jealous I can't stand it! To be sure, that Book of Mormon musical is said to be blasphemous, but what's a little blasphemy on the road to coolness?
Now.....can I be serious here for a moment?
As far as I'm concerned, this all illustrates Jesus words at John 17:19: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own.” As soon as those Mormons decided to remake their image to emphasize coolness, fun, and good vibes, the world grew fond of them. Mormons have become the latest fad, and there's nothing the world loves more than fads. As for us, we're stuck with the 2nd part of that John 17:19 verse: “….Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” I don't think anybody, even among the grousers, would deny that Jehovah's Witnesses are no part of the world. So, they're unpopular, sometimes even hated. But Mormons.....am I wrong in this?.....seem to have embraced the world, perhaps with a view to reforming it. Well....so be it. If that's where we must be, that's where we must be. Christianity, as defined in the Bible, is not the road to popularity with this world.
So firmly is the U.S. in the grip of, as Newsweek put it, the Mormon moment, that, not one, but two Mormons (Jon Huntsman Jr and Mitt Romney) are likely to run for President in 2012 and it seems that......wait a moment....do you think.......you don't suppose that's what's behind this new image-making of theirs, do you? Helping maneuver one of their own into the top seat? I mean, just like backers feared John F Kennedy could never be elected President solely because he was a Catholic, many doubt a Mormon candidate could ever win, solely because he is Mormon. Evangelicals, to take the most extreme example, would vote for a pig in heat before they would vote for a Mormon....a “cultist”, in their eyes, almost as grievous as a JW. And most of mainstream America is also said to have their doubts, but those doubts are not likely so substantial that they can't be assuaged by slick marketing. The most recent ads are better done than the first ones, IMO. Are Mormons eying for themselves a modern-day application of John 6:15? “Therefore Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, said 'you know, I'd make a pretty good king. But first I must set up a PR campaign so people will know that I'm fun, I'm cool, and I'm not a bit weird!'” (the Sheepandgoats Translation of the Holy Scriptures)
Oh, alright alright! So it doesn't agree with most other translations, which are apt to render the verse along the lines of: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (NIV) Sheesh! How can a guy have any fun with all these sticklers for accuracy around?!