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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Mormon Mentions: Sonja Yoerg

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture.

(Note:  In 2018, Russell M. Nelson—president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsmade an impassioned plea to members of the Church and to the media to always use the full and correct name of the Church instead of referring to it by its various nicknames.  This led to the renaming of many Church entities, including its famous choir, which is now The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.  Although I have been trying to think up a clever new name for this feature that is more in line with President Nelson's request, for the moment it remains "Mormon Mentions.")

--

The Family Ship by Sonja Yoerg revolves around a large family.  The following exchange takes place between one of the siblings and his friends while they're sneakily drinking beer around a fire pit:

"How many you got again?"

"Four brothers and three sisters.  Plus one more on the way."

Beetle let out a low whistle.  "You're not Mormons or anything, are you?"

Boone punched his arm.  "Ever hear of a beer-drinking Mormon, you half-wit?"

*Please note that quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof of The Family Ship, quote at about 31%.

If you know anything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's probably that family is valued very highly.  Because of this, members of the Church often have large families with lots of children.  Although it's not as common today, in past decades it wasn't unusual for Mormon parents to have half a dozen to a dozen children (or more).  I only have five siblings, so I guess my family might be considered small by Mormon standards!  

Another thing that is widely known about members of the Church is that we abide by a health code called The Word of Wisdom (see Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 and this explanation).  This dictates that we not drink alcohol or "hot drinks" (coffee and tea) and avoid tobacco use and other substances that are harmful to the body.  So, while a Mormon certainly could drink a beer (we have our agency, after all), most members of the Church do their best to abide by the Word of Wisdom and refrain.

The family in The Family Ship, by the way, are not members of the Church.  

14 comments:

  1. This section of dialog shows that you can't just make assumptions. While the majority of the Mormon families I know in my area have larger families, I also know at least one Mormon who drinks beer and is still single in his 40s. The only reason I know any of them are Mormon are because I went to school with the guy and the other people told me they were Mormon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely not! I know Mormon families who have 12 kids and others who have none. It just depends. Large families are not the norm these days and that is true with Mormons as well.

      Compliance with the Word of Wisdom can also depend on how active you are in the Church. Those who are very active generally follow it to the letter (you have to in order to enter the temple, for example). Those who rarely attend church or who were raised in the Church but maybe aren't involved with it anymore are more likely to smoke, drink, etc. The Church does run addiction recovery programs for substance abuse, so obviously there's a need even with devoted members.

      Delete
  2. You do such a good job with these posts!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is very enlightening, thanks Susan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad. I always wonder if anyone's really interested in this stuff. I am, anyway :)

      Delete
  4. I just finished this book and really enjoyed it.
    I don't like when an author makes derogatory remarks about any religion in a story, but to play devil's advocate, maybe she is showing how clueless and immature the boys are, drinking underage & too much, and making hurtful jokes. Maybe she is showing their lack of knowledge under the influence of beer. I'm not saying it's right but it happens.
    By the way, my whole extended family is Roman Catholic, some very religious (with large families) and some non-practicing. Pope and nun jokes are found everywhere, plus the stereotype of Irish Catholics having too many kids. I can commiserate with you on this issue!
    Thanks for sharing more about your own religion. It is enlightening the health clause. When I was a kid, people always mentioned the Osmonds when talking about Mormons. Now shows like Sister Wives spin it in a different direction. Good grief!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't find this passage derogatory at all, actually. If anything, I think it's complimenting the fact that Mormons value children and that they practice what they preach in terms of following the Word of Wisdom. I get that people might find these concepts odd, though, so I can laugh at passages like this when I hear them. Also, growing up in a big family, I heard ALL the jokes, so I've got a thick skin :)

      On the other hand, I agree with you about stereotypes. Even if they're based in truth, they can be harmful and upsetting. We absolutely need to be careful in allowing them to be perpetuated.

      Yes, the Osmonds are well-known Mormons! The Sister Wives thing makes me roll my eyes. Polygamy has not been practiced in the mainstream LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) since the 1800s. The groups that do practice it are splinters and not associated with the mainstream church. I do have polygamist friends (they weren't polygamists when I met them - that happened later) who were on one of those shows, though - it's such an odd lifestyle! Even though I do have ancestors who practiced polygamy as early members of the Church, I'll still NEVER understand it.

      Delete
    2. I absolutely loved the Osmonds when I was a teenager, especially Donny who was around my age. I think they did a lot for the image of the Mormons, at least in Germany where there are hardly any that one knows.

      And as to stereotypes, they are just disguised prejudices. There are lovely people everywhere, in every nation and every race, and also awful ones.

      Delete
    3. My older sister and I were OBSESSED with The Donny and Marie Show. When my mom was pregnant with our younger sister, she asked us what we wanted to name her. We decided on either Wonder Woman or Marie - guess which one Mom picked?? LOL

      Delete
    4. And who can blame her? LOL

      Unfortunately, that show didn't run in Germany but I loved them nonetheless. We had a youth magazine that published "puzzles", every week a new page with part of a star. I had Donny. Look here.

      Delete
  5. Thank you for that. I had not read another post by you about Mormons so it was a surprise to me.

    I have met several Mormon families (mainly in the Scout troup my boys attended), some of them had large families, some of them only small ones, just like in my church (I'm Catholic). They were all lovely, family devoted people.

    I'm looking forward to reading more posts like this. Thanks for doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've done a whole series of "Mormon Mentions" over the years. If you look on my right sidebar, way down at the bottom where the labels are listed, you can click on "Mormon Mentions" and read them all. I hope they're informative!

      My Church has long been associated with Scouting, so it doesn't surprise me that you know members because of that. My church calling (all of us contribute to our church communities by performing a voluntary "job," which changes every few years or so) for a long time was to be a den mother.

      As far as big families, I think people always assume they're either Mormons or Catholics. LOL.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for that hint. I was going to have a look anyway but didn't have time yesterday.

      You are right, I think people often have similar thoughts about Catholics as about Mormons. Maybe that's why I always got along with them so well.

      Delete

Comments make me feel special, so go crazy! Just keep it clean and civil. Feel free to speak your mind (I always do), but be aware that I will delete any offensive comments.

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