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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mormon Crushes

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

A crush is generally understood as an intense, often temporary, romantic attraction to someone—a state of being inspired or carried away by love or passion. It can also refer to the object of said attraction. So what is a Mormon Crush? I’ll start with what it is not. It does not describe a person I am physically attracted to, who also happens to be Mormon. Rather it is a passionate respect for the way one approaches Mormonism and faith—an infatuation with one's "Mormon style." Seinfeld brilliantly helped familiarize us with the concept of a non-sexual crush. With a non-sexual crush, one can still have a deep admiration for the person, but not hope for romantic reciprocation.

I’d like to welcome any of our readers to share their Mo-Crushes in the comments. It would also be fun to see any of our contributors tackle this theme in a separate post (maybe this could be an ongoing series). Here is the criteria I used. 1) They must be somewhat of a public figure. My Uncle Dick is wonderful, but you can’t Google him to learn his take on things and only I know how to access his blog. 2) They must currently be living on the Earth (and no loopholes saying they’ve been resurrected, or translated, or they are living in the spirit world, which is “all around us”). Due to the fleeting nature of crushes, I feel this guideline is appropriate to the spirit of the theme. 3) No church leaders at or above the level of a seventy. They’re great, but it would be a pretty boring list if we all just picked our top five GAs. I don’t think we’re supposed to do that anyway—it has to do with not being a cafeteria Mormon (or something). Besides 92% of us would probably just pick Elder Uchtdorf anyway.

Without further ado, here are my current Mormon Crushes:

Dr. Joanna Brooks

Who is she?
Joanna Brooks is a professor, author, and a go-to fountain of knowledge on religion, race, culture, and Mormonism. In addition to being featured and cited in various prestigious publications, she is frequently interviewed on podcasts and radio. She’s a permablogger at Religion Dispatches regarding Mormonism and American religious history. She also runs the advice column Ask Mormon Girl. She is a highly respected scholar among Mormons, ex-Mormons, and never-been-Mormons alike (or in other words, you know, “people”).

Why do I crush on her?
Joanna (yes, I can call her by her first name, these are my crushes after all) is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever listened to. When I hear her, I often think, “Thank you for taking exactly what was in my mind and putting it into words in such an eloquent yet audacious manner.” I find it difficult to disagree with her because everything she says comes across so...reasonable. In discussions with those she disagrees with, she is always civil and classy. She is a feminist and a true intellectual, and still fully embraces her Mormonism with arms wide open. The bottom line is that I feel prouder to be a Mormon just knowing that she is one too.

Philip G. McLemore

Who is he?
Phil Mclemore is a former LDS Institute of Religion director and Air Force chaplain. After an injury which resulted in intense chronic pain, he discovered meditation was the most effective method in managing his ailments. Meditation also helped him to reach new spiritual heights. He is now, among other things, a meditation instructor in Utah.

What’s so great about him?
Even though the word “meditation” is occasionally mentioned in LDS circles/talks, it is often ignored, underutilized, and misunderstood. I have an ongoing interest in Eastern religions such as Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism. Phil McLemore, more than anyone else I have seen, is able to masterfully weave and reconcile Eastern teachings with LDS doctrine and culture. (See two article he has written here and here.) He claims that the teachings of Jesus are comprehensive enough to encompass the core spiritual elements of both East and West. I believe him and find much inspiration in his worldview.

Tresa Edmonds

Who is she?
Tresa often blogs under the name Reese Dixon. She’s a permablogger at Feminist Mormon Housewives and is published in a variety of big name venues. She is one of the co-founders of WAVE (Women Advocating for Voice and Equality). WAVE seeks to advance gender equality within the LDS church. She also writes for Beginnings New, which provides support for Young Women’s leaders in the way of lesson helps, ideas, and conversation.

Why do I care?
I am a big fan of both WAVE and Beginnings New (although aimed at YW, I have used Beginnings New to help me with Sunday School lessons). Tresa is an activist that is highly experienced with the YW program. She is focused on our youth and puts in a massive effort to improve existing conditions for them. I want my future daughters to grow up with self-confidence and self-respect. I wish the same for my sons and also hope they have a deep respect for women. I hope for the church and the world to be a healthy environment for my children. Tresa is doing all she can to make this happen. Oh, and she’s super creative and crafty (which is indirectly Mormon-related, right?).

Dr. John A. Peterson

Who is he?
Brother Peterson is a master historian, author, and LDS Institute teacher at the University of Utah.

Why do I dig his style?
Brother Peterson exists so people like me can take an institute class and not go crazy (there are probably additional reasons for his existence). He avoids “sugary-sweet” historical narratives, and presents real information. He is not afraid to discuss tough issues, but does so in a context of faith. He provides a safe place to ask questions, and a wealth of knowledge to answer those questions. In his CES teacher bio he writes, “Teaching the scriptures in their historical context allows a much richer background from which to draw parallels to help individuals apply the principles of the gospel in our lives. I try to create an atmosphere where the student can be both intellectually and spiritually edified." I think that says it all. I cannot say enough how amazing of a teacher he is. Try him out if you are in the area. On a personal note, Brother Peterson is one of the first things my (now) wife and I bonded over. It was our second time hanging out and things were going just okay. We got on the subject of Institute and I mentioned I had a favorite teacher. She passionately retorted that she did too (as if to say that hers would trump mine). Turns out it was the same guy. And the rest is history.

As I look over my list of Mormon Crushes I see varied perspectives. This is one of the things I love most about my religion. Not everyone sees the gospel in the exact same way. I believe God speaks to us in our own unique languages and inspires individuals according to the light and talents they possess. However, I do see a common thread to my list. A spiritual hero to me is one who is brave enough to embrace their spirituality while walking an unorthodox path. One who doesn't turn a blind eye to the limitations of our culture, but recognizes the complexities of God. One who is confident enough in their own conviction that they are unafraid to empathize with the wounded and reach out to the marginalized. One who acknowledges the messiness of the human condition, and chooses faith.

P.S. If any of said crushes somehow come upon this article and feel like sending in a guest post on a topic of their choosing, we would not say no.

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