ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended November 24, 2000
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?

News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 21Nov00

By Kent Larsen

Salon Looks At Religion, Mormon Missionaries

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC -- The online magazine Salon launched a series of articles yesterday on religion in the US, and started its coverage by looking at LDS missionaries serving in Prague. The result is an entertaining look at missionary work in a foreign country and at the potential for religion in the US.

Salon associate editor Amy Standen observes that the US is actually a very religious country, with 95% of its population claiming to believe in God and 54% claiming to attend a church at least once a week. Surprisingly, it also claims that education and money aren't barriers to religion here, with no significant variation in participation rates between the educated and the non-educated, or between rich and poor.

What does make a difference is family status -- singles are more than twice as likely to be non-believers as those that are married with children. Standen interpretes this to mean that Americans see religion as a guidance system for family and social responsibilities, rather than a personal, solitary relationship with God. In this Mormonism, according to Standen, may be ahead of other religions in transforming America into a country with more volunteerism and community activism. Looking at the work of LDS missionaries, Standen writes that the LDS Church "builds the duty of working for the community into the meaning of being a Mormon."

In a separate article, journalist Tara Zahra looks at exactly what this means for the average LDS missionary, in this case, in Prague, Czech Republic. What she discovers about LDS missionary life is well known to LDS Church members; 19 and 20 year old men and 21 and 22 year old women try to get the Czech people to listen to the gospel, while living a life focused on spirituality. Zahra observes the missionaries in a "street display," in which missionaries try to attract attention by preaching in public. But, she observes, "One man seems to mistake the missionaries for Disney World characters, handing his camera to his girlfriend and strolling over to have his picture taken." She gives the impression that this display is largely unsuccessful.

But missionaries tell her that other strategies work. The missionaries teach English classes and contact people on the street. One pair of Sisters tell her that they strike up conversations by using the language barrier. They sit down next to a prospect on the train, and ask the prospect for help reading unfamiliar words in Czech in the Book of Mormon. They claim that half the time they manage to give away the Book of Mormon.

Zahra is dubious about some features of missionary life, however. She sees the lifestyle of missionaries, regulated by mission rules, as isolating them from both their homes and from the people they are trying to teach, "The practical effect of the missionaries' unity in isolation is that, for two years, they live in a cultural twilight zone. They are fully part of neither American nor Czech society; they're exposed to foreign cultures (many for the first time), and also strictly sheltered from those cultures. How, then, do the mostly American missionaries understand the Czech population they serve?"

Culturally, Zahra also sees difficulties for Mormonism's acceptance by the Czech people. She sees obstacles because beer is often cheaper than water there, and because of tithing and sexual mores. But Zahra is impressed with the way missionaries return from their missions, because of how the mission changes them.

And she makes a connection with one missionary. An Elder Mattingly asks her advice on a potential career as a science fiction writer. She tells him to expect a lot of rejection. He immediately responds, "That's OK, I'm used to rejection."


Faith in America
Salon 20Nov00 N1
By Amy Standen
What does religion mean now? Is it a mystical experience, a collection of social protocols or just common sense?


When the saints go marching in
Salon 20Nov00 N1
By Tara Zahra
Mormon missionaries abroad lead a life of evangelism, community service and mind-numbing austerity.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information