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Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Your Face, Mormons!

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

You definitely should have seen this by now (if you haven’t, you may want to sign up for something called “Facebook”). Here, watch it again:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Yahweh or No Way? - Mormons & God's Poll Numbers
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Stephen Colbert features Mormons in a recent “Yahweh or No Way?” segment. I find it hilarious. It seems like everyone does. I’ve seen it shared by many practicing members claiming he’s actually being quite sweet on us. I’ve also seen it shared by anti-Mormons pointing out how much he is mocking us. We see what we want to see I guess. Personally, I didn’t find it mean-spirited and I also thought he brought up some interesting points.

Are Mormons weird? Well, we do have some “peculiar” beliefs compared with mainline Christianity—baptisms for the dead, temple garments, and Jesus visiting the Americas, to name a few. I appreciate that he compares the Joseph Smith narrative with the Moses narrative. Biblical Christianity also has some curious beliefs when you look at it—burning bushes, prophets telling bears to eat kids, and ingesting our savior’s flesh, to name a few more. Mormonism is young. Maybe we won’t seem so weird after being around for another two thousand years.

Are Mormons normal? Stephen Colbert affirms a resounding, “Yaweh!” The “I’m A Mormon” campaign agrees. Mormons are complex human beings, just like the rest of the world. We are deep, and complicated, and conflicted. But is this kind of diversity encouraged by the church? Before this campaign I would have thought, “No.” Conformity seems to be valued above most everything else. I felt profoundly out of place growing up as a skater and a bit of an unorthodox thinker. I have ambivalent feelings toward the campaign. The videos are extremely well produced and slick. Are they too slick though? They have received some flak for coming across as disingenuous. Are they disingenuous? Even though I haven’t traditionally experienced this inclusive message, I’ve decided that I ultimately like the “I’m A Mormon” campaign. I’m willing to take the church at its word. If, going forward, they are projecting the notion that diversity will not only be tolerated, but celebrated, that’s an approach I can get behind.

So which is it? Are Mormons normal or are Mormons weird? In my opinion, the answer is, “Yes!”

Update: As a result of filming the segment, that Catholic tiger became curious. He visited and felt inspired to contact the missionaries. He was baptized last Saturday. In YOUR face, Stephen Colbert.

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