With Mitt Romney the first Mormon to run on a party’s ticket for the presidency, the Queens Chronicle spoke with Joanna Brooks, author of “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith.”
She is also a professor of American literature at San Diego State University, has appeared on National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Company, and is a source on Mormonism for the New York Times, Reuters and others.
She will speak at the Central Queens Y on Monday, June 11 at 1:30 p.m..
Q: Mormonism has been described as the second fastest growing religion in America.
A: The numbers are iffy.There was a recent survey that suggested that’s the case.
Q: What do you think attracts people to become a Mormon?
A: First of all, Mormonism, the church, dedicates a lot of resources to proselytizing.But I think one of the things converts are attracted to is the fact that the church provides a very strong sense of belonging to its members.Mormons look out for each other in our congregations both in spiritual and practical ways.So when you join the Mormon congregation, you are joining almost like a family.
Q: What are some of the core beliefs or practices of Mormonism?
A: Mormonism is rooted in 19th Century American Protestantism.So we are a Christian faith, in terms, we believe in a loving, heavenly father who sent his son, Jesus to the earth.It’s very similar to Protestant beliefs about the purpose of life and the role of Jesus Christ in redeeming people from sin.
Mormonism also adds a uniqueness of dimension of emphasis on the family.An element of Mormon belief is: families are essential to the well-being of the soul in this life and in the afterlife. Mormons believe that we go to heaven in family units, and that the relationships we develop here on earth stay with us in the next life.So that’s distinctive from other Protestant faiths that often see the soul entering eternity alone.
Q: Do they emphasize individual or communal prayer?
A: Prayer is an essential element of every day for many traditions and Mormons certainly emphasize prayer.Prayer is viewed with special efficacy.Mormons really believe in a God who hears and answers prayers.
Q: What was it like growing up as a Mormon?
A: I grew up in a wonderfully, nurturing Mormon community in Southern California.In some ways, growing up Mormon was like growing up Jewish, in that in some parts of the country where you might be the only Jew in your classroom, you’re aware of that and you feel that special sense of belonging and identity that sets you apart.That’s how it felt, to me, to be a Mormon girl.I knew my faith had a special history and that I had a special responsibility to my faith. So that can be a very powerful way to grow up feeling a sense of responsibility and identity. That sense of belonging.
Q: Mormons have been persecuted by the American government in the past. Now we have Gov. Huntsman and, of course, Romney. How does the Mormon community view government and politics?
A: Mormonism is in all of the 50 states of the Union and comes in every flavor. We live all around the world as well.There is a broad spectrum of opinion on government.There are very conservative Mormons.Since the middle of the 20th century there are many Mormons who have been strongly identified with political conservatism. Today, about 85 percent of Mormons in the United States are Republicans. So among Mormons who identify as political conservatives, there is a belief that wise government is important to the health of the nation, but there is also awareness of over-extension ofgovernment powers, which is also a fairly standard conservative perspective as well.
Q: How is Romney viewed in the Mormon community?
A: There are many Mormons rooting for Romney.It’s exciting to see the church on a national stage.We, of course, know he’s not the only national politician.Very few people don’t know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is a Democrat, is also a Mormon.
Romney is certainly not the first national caliber Mormon politician but his candidacy, his campaign, is [garnering] a lot of attention among people as we realize how little America really knows about us.Not all of us are voting for Romney. Fifteen percent are Democrats.Everybody is watching his campaign with special interest.
Joanna Brooks will speak at the Central Queens Y, located at 67-09 108 St. in Forest Hills 1:30 p.m. on June 11The public is welcome to attend, with a suggested donation of $6. Her website is joannabrooks.org.