Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An unhealthy fixation on Mormon elite?

I’ve always felt like as Mormons we have sort of an unhealthy fascination with those of our brothers and sisters who have “made it big”. Today in property, upon seeing the famous Mormons website appear on someone's computer screen, I started wondering if other religions’ followers have the same fascination with their "elite". Is there a “Famous Southern Baptists” website, or a Finish reading post.

I conducted a Google search “Famous [Insert religion’s adjective]” to see what popped up. Below I have the religion, if such a website existed, and how many hits the exact phrase returned. Frankly, my suspicions were confirmed. I excuse the Muslims, Catholics, and Jews because their religions have been around forever. Your bound to have a few winners every 100 years or so. There are 15,400 websites containing the phrase “Famous Mormons”:
Mormons – Yes – 15,400
Baptists – Yes – 401
Lutherans – Yes – 698
Adventists – Yes – 207
Methodists – Yes – 177
Evangelists – Yes – 652
Jehovah’s Witnesses – Yes – 470
Jews – Yes (Complete with interactive home page) – 64,000
Catholics – Yes – 12,600
Hindus – Yes – 242
Muslims – Yes – 20,000
Eastern Orthodox – Yes – 63
Buddhists – Yes – 308
Christian Scientists – Yes - 191


At 3/29/2006 12:28:00 PM,

how about famous sceintologists? 291,000

At 3/29/2006 12:29:00 PM,

unless you put it in quotations, then it is only 593

At 3/29/2006 01:00:00 PM,

if you do a search for "famous mormon" instead of "famous mormons" you get a broader search set, including phrases like "famous mormon celebrities". so that search yields like 21,000 additional hits.

At 3/29/2006 01:30:00 PM,

If you type "Famous Mormons" into google you get 15,400 hits.

I for one don't take any comfort that the sceintologists are extremely into themselves.

At 3/29/2006 07:25:00 PM,

One feature of the Mormon experience seems to be that we are particularly insecure.

May be, our insecurity would diminish if we were less preoccupied with ourselves and focussed more on our obligations to serve beyond our own community and organization. Then we would worry about what we do instead of who we are. 

Posted by Hellmut Lotz

At 3/29/2006 08:13:00 PM,

Hellmut - Doug Spencer made some interesting observations akin to yours, in his comments to a post called "BIG MORMON PLANET" here on LYMA.

At 3/29/2006 08:18:00 PM,

unhealthy, maybe. insecure is how I would describe the obsession some people have with associating themselves with famous people who are "also a part of that wierd religion".

At 3/29/2006 09:07:00 PM,

The point is - Mormonism's facination with the elite among us is out of proportion to other religions when doing similiar searches.

At 3/30/2006 12:54:00 PM,

I think that perhaps one reason that we find more "Famous LDS" sites out there is because the LDS feel that they have a close community. When we go to a different ward, usually we hear the same lesson that you would have heard in your own ward. Go to different churches of different faiths, you might not even hear some of the same doctrine.

I think that there is an attitude within the church of brotherhood(sisterhood) that we think is important. This spills over to the celebrity circles. When there is a famous LDS person, we somehow feel there is a connection.

When I was a boy growing up in Georgia, my favorite baseball player was Dale Murphy. I have loosely followed his life since then.

Also, try looking up how many sites that are dedicated to, say, Brittany Spears. How many of you encourage your children to idolize her?

I'd like to think that we, as a community, try to choose better role models that trashy pop artists. Perhaps we choose to try to find idols that are more righteous. Hence the facination with LDS famous people.

While perhaps an overactive fascination with Mormon "celebrities" could be a problem with some people, I think that the brotherhood that the LDS comunity shares is a good thing, and is at the heart of the facination. 

Posted by Ian Cook

At 3/30/2006 12:56:00 PM,

I meant to say "I'd like to think that we, as a community, try to choose better role models than trashy pop artists.

At 3/30/2006 03:56:00 PM,

Ian -

I absolutely agree with your theory. The LDS community is generally more close-knit than that of other faith's (except maybe the Jewish faith and they seem to have the same fascination we do--I refer you to Adam Sandler's Hannakuh song) and because of this we may feel more of a "connection" with our celebrities then.

However, I do not agree with your idea that we are fascinated by Mormon celebrities because they are better role models. Let's face it, most of the LDS people that have "made it" aren't particularly active---especially those who have been successful in Hollywood. I cannot count the number of times I've heard "oh, he's Mormon! I mean, well, he was baptized and went on a missio, he doesn't still go to church. Oh, and I'm sure that incident with the the strangled hooker was just rumor." Okay, so I haven't heard that, exactly, but you know what I mean. LDS people who "make it", especially in Hollywood, often don't stay LDS.

So sure, we're interested in LDS "stars" because we feel a kinship with them--I'll buy that. But that we're interested because they lead more moral lives than other celebrities? I don't think so.

At 3/30/2006 04:31:00 PM,

I dont think we make the "mormon celebrities" (of the hollywood, political or business genre) our role models, generally.

I mean, I have never heard someone say, "so and so is a famous mormon, and my role model". Marriott? Reid? Napoleon Dynamite guy?

We like that there are famous mormons, not because we want more moral role models, but because they validate our own religious experience. "Mormonism cant be that weird if SO-AND-SO believes in it!"

At 3/30/2006 06:12:00 PM,

I defintely see both points about role models. This may very well be true. Perhaps sometimes we try to "validate our own religious experience" by looking at well known LDS faces.

Growing up, one of the ball players I followed was Dale Murphy. He wasn't the best ball player ever, (he usually makes it to the top 100 batters of all time) but he was LDS, and that was all that I needed. I looked up to him because he did lead a more moral life than the rest of his team. He would often be the only one on the field trying to break up a fight...

Maybe sometimes it can be both, and most likely it is different reasons for different people.

On a side note, I think both Harry Reid and The Napoleon Dynamite guy are good role models. At least the ND guy isn't a bad role model :-)


Posted by Ian Cook

At 3/31/2006 11:58:00 PM,

While I don't discount the peculiar Mormon fascination with other well known Mormons. I believe you underestimate the extent to which protestants exhibit a similar peculiarity. I think it stems from a slight flaw in how you've approached your calculations with the various protestant denominations. Many of them focus less on being "Methodist" or "Baptist" or "Presbyterian" and more on being "Christian." When they discuss their standout performers, their movies, their athletes, they usually simply speak of them in terms of being Christian (e.g., "born again," "saved," "evangelical"). They tend to claim other believers as their own (e.g. Jessica Simpson, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Stephen Baldwin, etc. are frequently discussed in terms of being "Christian").

So... having established that, if you do a search of "Famous Christians" you get 29,300 hits.

At 4/01/2006 07:50:00 AM,

marc that was a great point. good thinking.

At 4/01/2006 10:31:00 AM,

I thought you might have also discounted the possibility of an Amish fascination with their celebrities, but a google search returns only 759 results, and most appear to be things like "famous amish recipes" or "famous amish towns". Go Figure. There must be more than that though, what about Harrison Ford in that one movie, or was that the Mormons?

At 4/01/2006 02:25:00 PM,

here's my problem with this whole discussion: why on earth would a famous mormon be an "elite" mormon?

At 4/05/2006 01:36:00 AM,

I agree that our sense of community -- we believe that we're members of one *global* church but protestants generally believe that they're members of a *local* church that is associated with other local churches under a particular banner like "Baptist" --brings greater interest in success of one of our own group.

I believe that there is another reason we have greater interest in public successes of our fellow members: the favorable opinions that follow about the Church. Our Protestant friends may have the same interest in winning converts as do we, but they're more likely now than in Jos. Smith's time to "let them join what sect they please;" in converting folks to a general faith in Christ than to a specific church. We, however, believe that to accept Christ fully cannot include rejecting the specific Church that He restored, with his gifts in it of continuing revelation, true priesthood authority, etc. I suppose this peculiar interest in bringing people to a specific Church fuels our exceptional interest in favorable publicity about it. At least for me, even a large part of my loyalty to BYU's football team comes from hope for bringing the Church favorably into conversations. 

Posted by manaen

At 4/05/2006 01:45:00 AM,

Sheldon, "why on earth would a famous mormon be an "elite" mormon?"

The answer clearly comes from the days of typewriters. They offered two sizes of fonts: Pica and Elite. Pica had 10 characters per inch and Elite had 12 characters per inch. We see quite plainly from this that a famous/elite LDS would be smaller -- more humble -- than a famous non-LDS. It's just a matter of choosing to be the right type of person.




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