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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Is Elvis a Mormon?

Today I read a wild email from a friend who is now prepared to watch the coming presidential race from under her bed....frozen with fear that someone is going to ask her about temple rites, baptisms for the dead or polygamy and she won't know the right thing to say.

Today no less a famous person than Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist, is wondering if Elvis is Mormon.

What does that mean?

Is this a brace yourself moment? Are we as a religion about to be broadsided by a secular landslide that will rock our world? I don't think so...But if you are a Mormon I think it is time to put on your big girl (or boy) pants and start talking right out loud about your beliefs.

Most Mormons have been asked about their religion from an incredulous co-worker or neighbor with the opening salvo...."I heard something about your religion that didn't sound right and since I know you I thought it can't be true."

And then they proceed to ask questions from why can't you eat chocolate on Sunday (we can) to why do we hoard food? (we don't) There are others far more distasteful, and some just flat out profane. I enjoy answering questions....I don't think my parents asked me one question about Mormons. I joined the church at 18. Unfortunately my aunt was all too eager to answer their questions using information she had gotten from sources eager to distort. I should have cowboyed up, simply had the courage to talk to them. But I was young and I didn't know enough. I don't think as a group we have done a very good job explaining our religion. And if we don't start explaining it we have no one to blame but ourselves when Maureen Dowd steps up to do it for us. Ms. Dowd is a gifted writer, but she has a cynical streak when it comes to religion, especially, it seems when it comes to Mormons...should she be the one to explain what goes on in the temple?

I understand that Governor Romney is reticent to speak about our religion because we are so often misunderstood, and this election is not about religion...but I hope that he doesn't distance himself so much that we are deprived of the "when I was on my mission" stories that all returned missionaries enjoy telling. However he had an experience on his mission that few missionaries have. in June 1968, the car Romney was driving was hit by a vehicle head-on along a winding road in rural Bordeaux; the accident killed the wife of the mission president and severely injured the president, while Romney was knocked unconscious - and at first mistakenly declared dead by the French police. When the president returned to the US to bury his wife, Romney was left in charge of the mission. The missions work was in disarray. In a letter from his father George Romney quoted a line from Treasure Island, saying. "work on in your despair". Romney turned the mission's dire situation around. In a brazen move, Romney convinced the missionaries to shoot beyond their set goal for baptisms and when the year ended they had just that. (from Time magazine) And remember he was 21.

Wow I got way off the subject...I was going to write about baptisms for the dead...I will get back there.

Mormons are all about agency...the freedom to choose. I was sad to hear that Holocaust victims were baptized posthumously without family permission. I understand now that Jewish people have been forced throughout the ages to renounce their religion, and the thought of someone taking it upon themselves to baptize their dead sounded like tyranny to them. I would like to correct that misunderstanding right now. No one can force you to accept anything you don't want. Whether you are in this world or the next or Kemah Texas no one can force you to accept anything. I am glad that someone with authority from the church dropped a house on those folks who were going through the Enquirer choosing famous people to baptize. Which is, I guess, how Elvis is now a Mormon....remember only if he accepts it.

Mormons have great respect for family histories....we feel our ancestors are our ministering angels. Who else would know us more? Love us more? Or be able to protect us better? A dear friend of mine often tells the story of her grandfather Oscar McConkie who gathered his family together and told them, "I am your father, grandfather, husband, and uncle. I have prayed for you every day and just because I am going to die does not mean that will change. I will continue to pray for you every day no matter where I am."

The thought of my mother, grandmother.....Raymond's aunts....being my ministering angels gives me such peace, and a sense of unity of purpose. We were family on earth and we will still be family in units going on into eternity.

So my message is might hear some odd things about Mormons this year. Politics are ugly and the opposition may want to make Romney as weird as they can. Like his politics, don't like his politics but when you hear outrageous things about Mormons ask me first before you believe it.

Here is Ms. Dowd's column about whether or not Elvis is Mormon. She is a kick....