Eli Mormons obey a higher calling

When the school year draws to a close in May, Russell Ault ’12, Kyle Cooper ’12, McKay Nield ’12 and Thayne Stoddard ’11 will pack up their belongings and leave behind their respective dorm rooms for not one summer but two years away from Yale.

The four students will each spend the next two years abroad serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a religious rite of passage all capable Mormon men between the ages of 19 and 25 are encouraged to fulfill. (Mormon women are encouraged to serve 18-month missions, but there is less of an expectation for them to do so and they must wait until they are at least 21 years old, Cooper said.)

Shebby Swett ’09 visits a Mormon church in Italy during his mission.
Shebby Swett ’09 visits a Mormon church in Italy during his mission.

Yale College has just a handful of Mormon students, as evidenced by the fact that Yale’s Latter-day Saints Student Association counts only 12 undergraduates as active members. But many of them set aside time in the middle of their bright college years to serve their Church as missionaries abroad — in spite of the complications that come with being away from their friends and studies at Yale.

“It’s going to be hard,” Stoddard said of his move to Belgium and the Netherlands this coming summer. “But I think it will be well worth it.”


While certainly not obligatory, missions are highly encouraged and in some cases expected of Mormon young men, Cooper explained, stressing that his parents gave him the choice of whether or not to go. Nineteen is the traditional missionary age, Stoddard added.

“Lots of times when I explain my mission to friends here, they want to try to frame it in secular terms and the benefits to be had from it — like, you’ll learn a language or you’ll be in a different place for a while — and I think that’s all great. But at the same time, it’s not why I’m going,” said Cooper, who is from Centerville, Utah. “It’s important because I believe in the Church and in its message.”

Walker Frahm ’10, who returned from his mission in Romania in 2007, likened the Mormon mission to a tithe on the first 20 years of life. The experience is a means of both building the Church’s presence around the world and helping young Church members to develop spiritually and personally, he said.

“The stereotype of Mormon missionaries is walking around in white shirts with black name tags,” he said. “And that’s kind of how it is.”

After being assigned to a location by Church officials, missionaries spend up to three months at a missionary training center, most commonly the one in Provo, Utah. There, they study scripture and, if needed, a foreign language, while also preparing for their proselytizing work.

Missionary life is closely regimented. Television, movies and electronics such as iPods are not allowed, and communication is limited to weekly e-mails and written letters, as well as one family phone call on Christmas and one on Mother’s Day, Stoddard said. On a daily basis, missionaries rise early to study before going out to speak with local people — for example, by approaching them in marketplaces or knocking on their doors, he said.

“The mind-set is not to go out armed with arguments and proofs and convince people, ‘You have to believe this or you’re crazy,’ ” said Alan Hurst LAW ’10, who did his mission in Germany after his first semester as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University. “We explain [Mormon doctrine] to them, invite them to think about it, ponder it, pray it and, if they believe it’s true, to join the Church.”


But going on a mission comes at a cost to some aspects of the Yale experience, students interviewed said.

By the time Ault, Cooper and Nield return as sophomores, their freshman-year friends will be seniors, and Stoddard’s current classmates will have graduated already.

“It’s really difficult to consider that all these new friends I just made sort of have to be put on the back burner,” Nield said. “But at the same time it’s something that I believe is worth it.”

And returned missionaries confirmed his sentiments.

“That was definitely a growing experience, sophomore year,” noted Shebby Swett ’09, a fullback for the football team who served as a missionary in northern Italy the two years after his freshman year. When he returned to Yale, Swett said, he spent most of his time with his freshman-year friends at first but met new people through the football team and in other social contexts.

Frahm had to deal with being apart from not only his Yale friends but also from his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Frahm ’05 GRD ’08.

Jennifer Frahm, who completed a mission in Sweden while Walker Frahm was in Romania, said the two of them wrote letters and sent recorded audiotapes to each other to keep in touch — an experience she said helped to lead to their marriage last summer.

The spiritual development to be gained from missionary work was well worth the cost of an interrupted college education, said Jeremy Jacox MED ’15, who was an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he left for his mission in France.

And from the way Jacox talked about his mission in an interview — sharing photos of the people he encountered, a ticket stub from his flight abroad and a well-used daily planner — it was evident how “transformative,” in his words, the experience was for him.


Leaving Yale mid-college is tricky not just emotionally but also practically, the students said.

“Logistically it’s been pretty tough, actually,” said Cooper, who has not yet received his assigned location.

While Yale College permits undergraduates to take off two consecutive semesters, a longer absence technically requires a withdrawal, Swett said.

In order to be eligible to return to Yale, Stoddard explained, missionaries must take the equivalent of one Yale credit for each year away — a requirement that Cooper, for example, said he hopes to fulfill by learning a foreign language wherever he is assigned to serve his mission.

Upon returning from their missions, Mormon students have to go through a modified re-admission process which requires an essay, two letters of recommendation and a brief interview, Walker Frahm recalled. In contrast, Hurst said, Mormon students at a Church-owned school like his alma mater BYU have a more “streamlined” re-entry process, which simply requires a form notifying the school of the planned mission and leave of absence.

But for Mormon Elis, challenges such as withdrawing from college are part of the trade-off of coming to Yale, a school several students said they chose precisely for its diverse community, as well as for its academic prestige.

Still, Hurst said, Mormonism is often misunderstood, including at Yale.

“On occasion there’s the sense that something that’s foreign doesn’t need to be taken seriously publicly,” Hurst said. “But first, take it seriously enough to learn what we believe and what we are as much as you can through our own eyes.”

Mormon students from various schools within the University meet for church on Trumbull Street, where a combined 200 or more students and New Haven residents, Frahm estimated, attend separate services for single and married members.

Many of the Mormon students said that a religiously diverse and intellectually rigorous environment at Yale has served to strengthen their faith.

“I’m forced to think about what it means to be a Mormon in a little bit more critical way,” Cooper said.

Added Walker Frahm: “I spent two years in Romania doing something that was really hard — knocking on doors for 80 hours a week and getting rejected over and over again. So if I can do that, then I can do anything.”


  • 09yalie

    i'm glad we have Mormons on campus. I wish I knew one. But what this article didn't mention is that Mormon missionary activity, like most Christian missionary activity, is a vestige of colonialism. The best way to subjugate a people is to make them reject their own heritage, their own gods, and to embrace a Blond Haired, Blue Eyed, White Jesus. Missionary activity in the developing world destroys cultures and rends communities apart.

    Obviously, people have freedom to choose their religion. But when joining a church is tied to education, charity, or forms of patronage, is the choice really free? christian missionaries engage in these "hard sell" tactics all the time, even today.

    Finally, the Mormon church should respect local laws and stop sending missionaries to countries where missionary activity is illegal. disregard for another country's laws, even if you disagree with them, is no better than how European colonists used to demand extraterritorial jurisdiction.

  • tpbarron

    Thank you for the informative and thoughtful article. I, too, served a two year mission in Italy. My wife served in Anaheim, California speaking Cambodian. My mission was a powerful developing influence in my life.

    The LDS church does not send missionaries where it is illegal. We go in through the front door with the blessing of local governments. If a government changes its laws, the missionaries will be withdrawn.

    I can understand the point about the conflict in cultures. By asking Italians to join the LDS church, I was asking them to change a Catholic fabric woven in to every part of their social, educational, and political life. But our message continues to be: "Keep the culture and truth that you have, and accept the rest of the truth."

  • Ahlstrom

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not proselyte in countries where it is not allowed. We believe in following the laws of the land. This is why many countries in Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and communist countries do not have members of our church.

    Furthermore, our goal in spreading the gospel is to allow everyone in the world the same opportunity to hear about their creator, not to strip people of their culture and heritage. We invite them to keep the good things they have while adding other good practices and beliefs. Whenever a new temple is built we often have a celebration where locals perform dances and tell stories about the local culture.
    The church tries very hard to introduce our message without engaging in “hard sell” tactics. This is why our humanitarian aid department is kept apart from our missionary efforts so we won't be accused of bribery.

    We also don't believe Jesus is a blond haired, blue eyed Anglo-Saxon.

  • roflcopter

    So, to summarize your post, 09yalie:

    1. The Mormon church should respect laws that abridge the freedom of religion. Because it's not as important as those other rights.

    2. The Mormon church, founded in the United States in the 1830s, which has never been a major social force in American federal politics, is really perpetuating a system of colonialism and subjugation by converting Romanians to LDS.

    3. The Mormon Church, which was founded by the dark-haired, dark-eyed Joseph Smith in rural Appalachia, conspires to embrace an Aryan Jesus.

    4. Spreading what someone believes to be the Truth about the Word of God is a fundamentally selfish endeavor; a nicer course of action would be to withhold such knowledge from people because they have such a nice culture.

    Wow. I regard Mormonism as a heretical sect, but seriously? Way off base. It's a good thing you're graduating so we won't have to be exposed to your ignorance next year.

  • Brian

    I think this article was great. I served as a missionary in northern Brazil for two years and the experience was great, both on a secular and spiritual level.

    In response to Ogyalie's post, don't worry. The Mormon church is very aware of laws in various countries, and goes to great efforts to make sure all the missionaries know and follow the laws. The Mormon church does not send missionaries to countries where they're not allowed, and in many places they have restrictions on what the missionaries may or may not do.

  • JLaForce

    Nice piece about our Church and our missionary program, fair and balanced. Thank you. BTW o9yalie, our missions are not a vestige of colonialism. They are an effort to help improve the world. I served in Japan, my oldest son served in Dallas & my younger son is serving in Brazil. All of us agree that the 2-year experience is "priceless".

  • observer

    @ 09yalie - although you have some concerns, you also have stated unsubstantiated facts.
    1. Mormons are harmless. They are not trying to colonize anything. Jesus Christ is not a white's only savior.
    2. Many people's lived have been blessed temporally and spiritually because other individuals have served voluntary missions to bring education and medical aid to other countries.
    3. Not one thing in Mormonism is without "choice".
    4. Mormons never send missionaries into countries without first meeting with the leaders of that country and obtaining permission. The safety of these young people is too great to do otherwise.

    If you studied the principles of Mormonism you will find free agency, obeying the laws of the land, and a love for mankind to be the motivators in wanting to help other people. Please don't make it into something is isn't.

  • Pedro

    09yalie: As a returned Mormon missionary to Chile I can tell you that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) DOES respect local laws and does NOT send missionaries to countries where missionary activity is illegal.

    While there are missionaries from other churches who may use the "hard sell" tactics, Mormon missionaries do not have anything other than their scriptures and rhetorical persuasion. The welfare system of the church is a stellar system but it is not wagged around a potential convert. In my experience it was never discussed by missionaries to potential converts. Also, you may choose to lop Mormons into the group of "Christian missionaries" even though most Evangelical Christians do not regard Mormons as Christians. Mormons do however regard themselves as Christian. Mormon missionaries are unpaid and have no financial incentive to bring people into the church.

    To become Mormon one does not need to abandon one's traditions unless they conflict with Mormonism. I know a number of Jewish Mormons personally as well as some Hindu Mormons. There are a number of examples of the American-born faith encouraging native cultural celebrations at the time of a new temple dedication etc.

  • Anonymous

    The Church of Jesus Christ believes strongly in obeying the laws of the land, whatever land you live in. As missionaries we live in the land and so therefore obey the laws there. If it is illegal to be there we are not there. The only hard sell tactic used by Mormon missionaries is that for encouraging the study of God's teachings and then fasting and praying about them so as to be worthy to recieve the direction of God as to if now is the time to join His church or not.
    I have brown hair and brown eyes.

  • YDN Reader

    Was that an African-American person that I saw in the photo or are my eyes deceiving me? The Mormons didn't even consider African-Americans to be fully human, and forbade until the 70's was it(?) African-Americans from joining the church and/or becoming leaders in it. It's a racist cult, and yes I said cult. I noticed that the majority of the posts here were made by members of the LDS; I can't say I'm surprised.
    Moreover, I find it very ironic that given their history vis-a-vis AFrican-Americans that they had the audacity to build a temple in Harlem. I think Mormons are freaks just as I think people who believe in the invisible man in the sky are freaks devoid of basic intelligence and/or rationality. Yeah, I said it!

  • Anonymous

    This is a tragedy. I hope that we won't have to realize that electing Wu was a huge mistake, but I suspect that sometime in the near future, everyone will realize they were mislead. Ryan, despite not having been on YCC, knew the issues and knew how to represent the students better, as anyone who witnessed him at the endorsement interviews would know.

    I'm in mourning.

  • Kari C

    I'm an atheist and I think all organized religion is b.s. I have a particular disdain for Mormonism because of its history vis-a-vis African-Americans. I have the same bile in the throat about Christianity generally I should add. I was on a bus in Harlem and was astonished to see a Mormon Temple in Harlem given the history of this particular group.

    I loved Bill Maher's movie. He went out to Utah to try and interview some Mormons, but had to settle for a few who had the good sense to leave Mormonisn far behind. It amazes me that you have these guys who were bright enough to get into the Ivy League, but yet, they believe the Joseph Smith Tall Tales. Are they planning to practice polygamy too? Oh, I forgot that's outlawed wink wink.

  • Anonymous

    I have to say that I am a bit freaked out by the systematic response to 09yaleie's post. It seems that pretty much all of Yale's Mormons responded to this post. Frankly, any church whose members have the need to respond so strongly and in such numbers to even the slightest comment about their religion is, well, a bit frightening.

  • yaylie

    "And Jesus … began to say: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am [He],' and will deceive many."
    (Mat 13:5-6)

  • Yalie'11

    I think we're all giving 09yalie too hard a time here. I don't think he or she explained himself/herself too well.

    The simple assumption that what you're doing while on a mission is "improving the world" as JLaForce aptly put it, is a colonialist set of mind (no matter what color you think Jesus' eyes were). It presumes that by making other people in your image, they will be better off - which in itself suggests a difference in value: I am better than you, that is why I can improve you. This is what the Catholic Church did with the entirety of Latin America (look up "encomienda" if you'd like) which is why so many people in Latin America are Catholic today. Religions (particularly monotheistic ones) obviously lend themselves to such thoughts.

    If missions solely involved humanitarian aid then they could justly be called an uninterested effort to improve the conditions of those less fortunate but as far as I can see from this article, the comments and my own relationship with members of the Church the emphasis of missions is placed on proselytizing. I think it's easy to see how this article could conflate aid and conversion in people's idea of the Church's activities in other countries, leading people to worry about underprivileged people being "forced" into conversion in exchange for aid. This is a legitimate concern in relation to any religion and something people certainly should be sensitive towards and wary of. I'm glad that informed members of the Church were available to clarify this point.

    It also, though, makes me wonder why so much time, energy and money is spent in proselytizing in other countries when so many people in the US genuinely believe that to be part of the Church of the Latter-day Saints you have to have three wives (I found this really surprising considering I'm not American and was aware that that was a ridiculous prejudice). I've noticed that it is somehow more acceptable to be intolerant of the Mormon religion than others and I can only relate it to the prejudices born from lack of education. In fact, I think it would be great if Yale's small community of Mormons (with the help of the Chaplain's office) could try to educate the larger Yale community about their religion. Who knows, maybe this article will spark some interest?

    On a side note, speaking from the point of view of someone who has lived their entire life (not just 2 years) in Latin America I can say that some countries are forced to keep their borders open to missionaries even if they might not want to (particularly considering huge Catholic populations) because of the help they can give sectors of society not reached by (often) limited state aid.

    Very interesting article overall, thanks YDN.

  • Concerned Speller


  • Concerned Speller


  • ummmm

    Last time I checked, 65th Street wasn't in Harlem…

  • Setaf

    AAHHH now numbers 10 and 11. I see that Yale has it's share of ignorance and bigotry, which reflects the rest of society. If you are indeed students, perhaps you should learn to do research and come to conclusions based on the "in depth" research you do, not by copying others' comments etc. It sounds to me after reading this article those missionaries are far and above more mature, selfless and level-headed than either of you could hope for. Hopefully some day you'll catch up and gain some maturity yourselves. It's not nice to call people names because you don't understand something and are scared of it. Very nice article and well written YTD!

  • Hieronymus

    What? Criticism of a religion--and no death-threat fatwa in response? No cries of "idiot" or demands that one study centuries of "scholarship" before opining?

    You Mormons are *entirely* too reasonable.

  • maggie tulliver

    I agree with you, Yalie '11--missionary work operates upon a fundamental disrespect of other religions and belief systems.

  • congrats

    congratulations on the new E board….

    …we're screwed for next year.

  • Larry Lawton

    When I was a missionary, we looked for opportunities to do humanitarian service, and found joy in that – one-on-one whenever possible, and for several hours a week. It’s not just part of what missionaries do, it’s part of what Christians do, of whatever denomination.
    My mission in Scotland was eye-opening. Church members recognized the potential danger to their culture because then (in the 1960s) most missionaries were from the United States. They were at the forefront of those seeking to preserve their culture. They learned Scottish dance, sports and customs. Many of their children had lessons in Gallic, the ancient language of Scotland. At church gatherings, we sang the traditional songs, ate the traditional dishes, and learned the culture.
    I found "Mormonism" during my sophomore year of college, and often say I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not the BYU booster club or the Utah Chamber of Commerce. My heritage is a diversity I bring to my faith, and I have seen less prejudice there than in any other institution I know of. I wish I could say there is no bias there, but converts from the founding right up to today bring with them the prejudices they received from their culture. As soon as we had, as a church, shed those non-Mormon ideas, the old practices were done away with. Thus, when I lived in New Jersey, the leader of all the congregations in south Jersey (the stake president) was an African-American; his first counselor was Tongan, and his second counselor had an African-American wife.
    I'm surprised an Eli doesn't know my faith NEVER had segregated congregations, has had African-American members since the very beginning, and has leaders from all cultures and races. Just last week, we sustained a black African from Kenya as one of our “general authorities” (A leader who has authority over the entire church, world-wide.) He was not the first, though.

  • Anonymous

    congratulations jon!

  • Kent

    My wife and I are fourth-generation Mormons. The missions we served were positively developmental regarding character, attitudes and work habits, leading to studying and teaching at a dozen top universities (including Yale, Stanford. Georgetown Ph.D.). publishing books, making documentary films. Our beliefs and LDS experiences carried us well until we read widely in history, life sciences, earth sciences, etc. Though through factual education our "firm testimonies" softened like pasta in hot water, requiring a painful transition to greater cultural/historical awareness, we (I more than she) remain grateful that Mormonism gave us a safe, clean, solid place to stand while we looked around. (I'm also grateful we weren't taught to strap on explosives; we would probably have accepted it as part of the package.)

  • Rick

    Great article on The
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a fifth generation member. The church has a extremely intresting history. The history of the first converts to the church, my relatives included is rich with manifestations of the spirit. Some knew Joseph Smith JR. well and have passed on these accounts. I am thankful for those early missionaries who taught my forefathers. I am impressed and proud of the church.

  • Addy

    Okay, there is not a temple in Harlem, but the Mormons do have a "Church" in Harlem. They actively promulgated racist policies against African-Americans until about 1978. See, the New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/nyregion/02mormon.html

  • Yeppers

    Mormons have the highest "pass" rate for TSI (top secret) clearance of any sub-group.

    Just sayin' (and, no, I am not one).

  • 09yalie

    all I was saying was that any kind of missionary activity, not necessarily Mormon activity per se, is a form of neo-colonialism. Going to a poor country and starting up churches of a multi-national Western religion is like going to a poor country and starting up McDonald's franchises. People in those countries are free to make whatever choices they want (assuming the choice is really free, which I doubt it is), but in the end missionary activity creates a homogenizing, polluting affect on the local culture, just as economic globalization homogenizes.

    The power dynamic is unavoidable. If a white man from a wealthy country comes to your village and tells you that you're going to hell for not agreeing with him, what is he implying about you and your culture? What does it say when your neighbor agrees with that white man? It's a humiliating betrayal of your traditions. That's why missionaries have always been the vanguards of imperial armies, they soften the ground for people to more willingly accept foreign domination. Today, missionaries make people more willing to accept modern forms of North-South domination.

  • Daniel

    Great Article. Thanks for the post!

  • Anonymous

    While visiting my room to promote his campaign, Yanni said he would not address Adamo's policies becasue he was a "joke" and a "fraud." Now he wants Adamo to win?!? Sounds like a sore loser to me.

  • good call

    #10, I think it's hard to be African-American if you're not American. Just sayin'.

  • Troll Alert

    #28 is not only a troll, but a racist one at that. Given the subject matter -- Mormons -- one shouldn't be too surprised I guess. Since Barack Obama's election this past fall, the sheets have gone back on literally and figuratively. LDS'ers aren't much better than Jehovah's Witnesses from what I've been able to gather. Two really annoying groups of brainwashed individuals hell-bent on getting others into their respective cults.

  • Miriam Feldstein Case

    I am so happy for these young men and the choices that they made. My son went on his mission after his first year at Rochester Institute of Technology. Yes it was a sacrifice, but what is anything worth if it does not include sacrifice? After his mission, he graduated with highest honors. Oh yes, he also was married, and working, before graduation. He is now working on his masters and working full time as a software engineer at Xerox. These men will be much more mature than the average college graduate. I pray that they will stay focused and never lose the truth of the gospel light.

  • Anonymous

    To "Troll Alert" (#29): "good call" (#28) is neither a troll nor a racist.

    Although the caption to the photo does not identify ethnicities, it is obvious that the man in the center was was taught by the men on either side, and that he is "African-Italian," not "African-American."

    Our Sunday worship services are open to the public. I invite you to go to Mormon.org, click on "worship with us," and get to know some Mormons. You might be surprised to find yourself treated with kindness and respect.

    Tracy Hall Jr

  • anon

    #29, how exactly was that racist? If anything, it's insensitive to refer to a black Italian as African-American rather than African-Italian. I meant that earnestly.

    Besides that, it's hard to take accusations of bigotry seriously when you categorize 12 million people from all over the world without stopping to take a breath. Have you ever even had a conversation with a Mormon?

  • anon

    Tracy's tone and message is what I was trying to achieve. I'm sorry if I seemed acerbic; I was just taken aback at being called a racist (and having that label applied to my entire faith). Tracy's right in asking you to talk with a Mormon or two at church. If you're not up for that, though, and still think Mormons are racists, note, for example, that Pres. Obama earned 4.6 more percentage points of the national popular vote in '08 than Kerry did in '04. In Utah, he earned 8.8 points more.

  • So….

    …how many Mormon panlists/websites was this article sent to/posted on? Looks like the entire Mormon congregation has descended upon the YDN comment page.

  • Hieronymus

    I fear Mormons: their war against unbelievers--simultaneous with constant whining and claiming of victim status--their implemented death sentences for homosexuals, hatred of Jews, condemning (and killing) of cartoonists, and general cultural backwardness really, really bug me.

  • Alpha Female

    #35 you forgot to mention their general racism. I saw an excellent program about the Mormons on PBS a couple of years ago. It's a cult if ever there was one, and I don't care how cute the former Massachusetts gov's sons are! Oh, yeah, I almost forgot his name: Romney.

  • @#35 & 36

    #35 Hater

    #36 ???

  • Yale '08

    Ahhh Hieronymus, up to your typical churlishness, casting aspersions on anything that you deem doesn't fit into your narrow cultural perspective. We all got the point about your taking the Devil's advocate approach to 'extreme' religious beliefs (of course, you were joking and making a statement when you said "they kill cartoonists")…echoes of popular American attitudes to Islam. We are also aware of how keenly you relish other people on the comments board not gettin' you, because of course you are such a genius! Will you ever tone down your holier-than-though polemics? Nahh, you get off on SEEMING smarter than others and clearly have nothing else to do.

  • Yale '08

    Quick joke. What's the difference between an atheist and a religious fundamentalist?

    …indelible silence

  • what?

    #35 is so obsessed with Islam that you'll attack it while commenting on an article on Mormons? go away and have your fun at Daniel Pipes's blog or something.

  • Homo Sapiens

    "(Mormon women are encouraged to serve 18-month missions, but there is less of an expectation for them to do so and they must wait until they are at least 21 years old, Cooper said.)"

    I couldn't read past this nonsense…

  • laughing at my fellow agnostics

    I LOVE READING CUTE LITTLE ATHEIST LIBERALS attempt to articulate principles they immediately violate in the next sentence, and their sanctimonious tone. I am 19 and I can say ‘human rights’ and ‘tolerance’ all by myself—yeah, Daddy, now buy me my BMW!

    I don’t really care what Mormons do, any more than what you do. But what scares me more about you is that they seem to realize their pushing a doctrine and way of life, but you don’t see that you are. To reiterate I’m not fighting for Jesus or God or mormons on this one. Straight up agnostic here; it’s purely out of a desire to show others the stupidity of their own attempt to speak.

    One of the more obvious stupidities of YDN Reader, 09yalie, Kari C is that they tend to say, don’t do missions b/c it’s disrespectful of others’ religion, and then they go on to disrespect others’ religion. Just as a note, fellow evolved linguistic creatures, hypocrisy is something that we avoid in order to not undermine what we are saying. Note 1.

    Note 2. I love when I talk to undergrads and they banter about terms like ‘brainwashing’, ‘cult’, etc. How do you define these things? What is brainwashing?
    --in lieu of your definition. ‘uhhhh, like, like, what the mormons and muslims do and stuff.’ (How did you people get into Yale??!?)

    Merriam Webster: “A forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas; persuasion by propaganda.’ So, let’s see. Seems, according to this article that mormon missionaries do it. Bad thing, so does everybody else! Let’s see, op-ed pieces, political campaigns, commercials. Yeah, I’m assuming you never have conversations or debates in the hopes of encouraging other people to give up their political, social, or religious beliefs. Wouldn’t you yourself love to brainwash some mormons to help them see your Rawlsian view of the world, that emancipates all on my chosen world view? Do you not go to Africa, South America, and “promote” your 2009, chic, and wonderful doctrines of human rights every summer. Please, you neo-colonial snob. You go to countries that have used particular practices and rites, but which you deem ‘backward’, ‘unfit’ according to your 2009 form of morality that privileges rights and harm-based moral systems above others. So glad you aren’t brainwashing people. And don’t give me this b.s., “oh, but I’m really helping them. They want it, even if they don’t know it.” Just as McDonalds—they want it. And what if they do want it? What if people want to convert to your western notion of the human, and human rights, etc. should we castigate your western colonialism? If people want to eat McDonalds or change religions.

    If I could debate with you for less than 3 minutes, it would be oh-so apparent that the beef you have with other ‘cults’ and groups you don’t like is that they don’t support your agenda. So you like your Lord and Savior Obama, even though he talks about Jesus a lot, b/c you agree with him on most everything else. Is he a backward cult member b/c he believes a lot the religious stuff you don’t like. Nope. He’s cool, b/c he agrees with me on the important stuff.

    But no, you say. Brainwashing, neocolonialism is different. If you’ll think outside your unreflective box for a few minutes, you’ll realize that it has nothing to do with process, i.e. how it comes about, and the content you happen to arrive at.

    Otherwise, look at you. You’re a cog in a large machine that tells you that your merit is based on a certain amount of grades, SAT scores. You enter Yale where your future prospects are based on how well you digest and accept regimented ideas about physical, biological, moral, and social structures and occurrences, and then how well you digest, synthesize, and spit back these ‘truths’ to your professor is how well your chance of getting even better ‘opportunities’ to get the Rhodes/Gates/Marshall/Fulbright scholarship, land that great job at McKinsey, or grad school. I guess at least with the mormons, they don’t go to people, set them down and say your worth and upward-aspiring merit is based on an examination of mormon principles, and your net worth and general social rank will be tied to how well you espouse these beliefs. And it’s not just academic. Imagine in your average dorm party or conversation, saying really controversial, anti-conventional statements like this racial group is “retarded”, women are ____, or that human rights are a sham, and see how people respond to you. Hmmm, we have a problem with social structures that require people to espouse, say, and act in certain ways that accord with certain moral principles that we hold dear. No, that’s not brainwashing.

    So do I get disturbed by you? No. Saddened that Yale doesn’t weed you out, perhaps, but not disturbed. I figure, you are just as much a cog in the socio-ideational structure of your parents, peers, and society as some mormon.

    But in the end, it seems that these people are affirming something in a very obvious, categorical way, whereas you just think your beliefs are ‘true’, ‘right’, and ‘obvious’. You people scare me. You might want to read some Foucault, Marx, poststructuralism, Zizek, before you go out to save the world from yourself, you dogmatic little fools.

    ….Laughing. At. You.

    PS-I hope I misspelled something so you can say, wow, maybe I am dogmatic, but I don’t have to think about what that person says, b/c of a misspelled word. Or would this be you just perpetuating your brainwashed normative teachings that ‘to spell well is inherently associated with one’s intellectual worth’—just like your cultish associations have so forcefully taught you!)

  • screen name

    Wow, I'm not used to reading an article about Mormons without stereotypes, diggs and anti Mormon rhetoric. Maybe Yale does give peace a chance.

  • Hampton

    Mormons are an important part of the fabric of our lives, like cotton.

    <a href="www.theobamadress.com">Michelle Obama Dresses</a>

  • angryyaleconservative

    argh, look at me, i'm an angry yale conservative! i like to whine about how Yale perpetuates a close minded liberal dogma and how it contributes to political correctness/moral relativism/decline of western civilization! that didn't stop me from coming here, though, i just like feeling like part of an embattled minority!

  • beedoo

    Ha, right on #45. Notice the mask of extreme arrogance coupled with defensiveness that makes it impenetrable to anyone who can't afford to make a public spectacle laughing.

  • YDN Reader A

    I strongly agree with the points made by #42.

    As for #45, your comment about still coming to Yale despite a disagreement with certain views is non-sensical. Being part of an institution, like Yale, doesn't mean you can't voice your objections to certain "close minded liberal dogma" that it "perpetuates." Just because someone emigrates to the U.S., for example, does this mean they don't have the right to object to certain U.S. government policies?

    It is a recurring incidence I've witnessed at Yale for "free speech" and "liberalism" to be so freely proclaimed, yet when one (e.g. a conservative, a religious person, etc.) expresses views that somewhat differ to the Democratic rhetoric, they are shot-down and shunned. Free speech works both ways, not just for when the views agree with your own.

    The great thing about this article is that it omits stereotypical perceptions of Mormonism, and is an informative piece on the challenges/rewards for Yale Mormons. Subsequent comments that added more to this, such as describing personal experiences of missions, makes for a more fruitful discussion. Comments, however, that are rudely disrespectful of their beliefs are uncalled for and unproductive.

  • Anonymous

    I am thrilled to read about great LDS kids at Yale and their willingness to take the risk of withdrawing and not being readmitted to Yale in order to serve their fellow men. For those who truly believe, that is what a mission is about. However, I am sad that Yale does not have a policy like other Ivies, to hold their spots. I also had to withdraw from Yale for 2 years in the late 80's to serve my mission in Japan. I and all of my LDS friends(4 others) were readmitted after our missions. I hope other Yalies will learn from their example and even if it is not for religious reasons, will feel inspired to serve their fellow men in ways they feel appropriate, even if it takes two years away from Yale. In these time of economic crisis, encouraging service is an area in which Yale's policies should be setting the example.

    All my best to these Bulldogs…keep the faith.

  • Ahlstrom

    I think 09yalie has had enough rebuttals to his arguments. (I know, I posted one)

    We LDS just like to make sure that correct information about our church is shared, because (as can be seen from this comment board) there are way too many people who are eager to throw mud at it.

    I really did like this piece of journalism. Well done, well researched.

  • ExStr8

    In the spirit of "correct information" cited by Ahlstrom at #49, I am surprised that no one has mentioned that the Mormon Church aggressively supported Proposition 8 in California--a proposition which seeks to amend the Constitution of California to deny equal civil marriage rights to Lesbians and Gays.

    The Mormon Church first reported that its "direct" contributions to the campaign were only approximately $2,000, but was later forced to confess that it spent almost $200,000. The actual amount and its legality are now being investigated by California authorities as are many "in kind" contributions.

    In addition, the Mormon Church strongly urged its worldwide members to contribute money to the campaign, resulting in total contributions of between eighteen and twenty MILLION dollars.

    Note well that this proposition deals with CIVIL rights--equal protection of the law. There is NO requirement whatsoever for "religious" institutions to change one iota of what they believe or do.

    I'm not sure whether or not one classifies this as missionary work or just meaness.

  • yaylie

    Of course all you Mormons choose to ignore Mat 13:5-6 but how do you ignore this:

    Mormons claim that an ancient record (the Book of Mormon) was written beginning in about 600 BC, and the author in 600 BC supposedly copied Isaiah in Isaiah's original words. But when Joseph Smith pretended to translate the supposed 'ancient record'," he used the word "Lucifer" in Isaiah 14:12. "Lucifer" is not a word native to the Hebrew language, but was rather an anachronism introduced by mistake into the King James Bible by its transaltors. "The Hebrew of this passage reads: 'heleyl, ben shachar' which can be literally translated "shining one, son of dawn." Why would JS accidentally all of a sudden also use "Lucifer," the same anachronistic Latin term that was used by mistake in the KJV translation? Obviously, it's because he wasn't copying what Isaiah actually wrote, but rather simply the King James Version of the Bible. This is just one example of the strong evidence that indicates Joseph Smith was not a prophet but instead a con man who founded a false religion based on lies, deceiving multitudes, just as Jesus Christ foretold would happen in Mat 13:5-6.

    Further reading:


    Just to clarify some misconceptions perpetuated by "ExStr8", #50, who states:

    "Note well that this proposition deals with CIVIL rights--equal protection of the law. There is NO requirement whatsoever for "religious" institutions to change one iota of what they believe or do."

    Individuals and church organizations have legal rights to give their opinions about and to support causes and movements. Questions of retaining tax-exempt status begin to emerge when there is active solicitation and campaign contributions to a specific political candidate.

    An important distinction (which I believe you followed) was to single out the 'Mormon Church' rather than Mormons in general. (To avoid stereotyping, not all Mormons supported it). But you may disagree with their literal reading of Biblical and other texts, but Prop 8, from the documents I have read, do not take away an existing civil right. In Lawrence v. Texas, the majority opinion explicitly stated that although states could not longer criminalize sodomy (and principally (O'Connor) because it penalized same-sex sodomy and not opposite-sex sodomy in the TX case), it said nothing about marriage. Certain suspect classes are treated as distinct groups, and the courts have not said that homosexuals are placed in this group.

    But as to whether this will have no bearing on their own practices, it does. There have already been a number of cases in which certain groups, who for religious, personal or other reasons, do not want to legitimize and condone homosexuality, have been legally penalized for doing so. Yeshiva University received an injunction requiring them to provide housing to homosexual couples, all hotels, places of accomodation, restaurants can be held for Title VII and other discrimination lawsuits for refusal to provide services. Even the Boy Scouts in Connecticut (in BSA v. Wyman) were taken off the state list of state employee contribution roles because of their stance on homosexuality.

    This isn't to say that this is necessarily bad. But if you are trying to say that religious and other groups that refuse to condone homosexual behavior won't be affected, that Prop 8 denies broad civil and legal rights previously enjoyed for an extended period (i.e. taking away), or that churches do not have the right to express their opinion actively in regards to areas deeply important to them, the reality of legal jurisprudence and the way cases have actually turned out actually contravenes what you are trying to say.

  • ExStr8

    To #52 By Mormons, etc.

    I utterly fail to see where you have pointed out "misconceptions perpetuated by me" as I have neither introduced misconsceptions nor perpetuated them.

    Nothing I have written prejudices legal rights or opinions of individuals or organizations. You fail to mention that tax-exemp status can be denied organizations if a "substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation".

    How people read or misread "religious" texts is of no concern to me, absent my considerable interest in the psychology of delusion.

    Proposition 8 amends the Constitution of the State of California to LIMIT marriage to one man and one woman thus taking away from Lesbians and Gays their existing RIGHT to marry as determined by the California Supreme Court. Approximately 18,000
    Lesbian and Gay couples have exercised that right, and the status of their marriages is of considerable concern.

    I have drawn no connection between Prop 8 and Lawrence v Texas. I applaud the decision in Lawrence, especially its citation of "equal protection" and the fact that it overturned an abomination of "jurismisprudence", Bowers v Hardwick. For a well-reasoned decision on Lesbian and Gay marriage, read the recent one from Iowa's Supreme Court.

    Your bald assertion of "a number of cases" is disingenuous, at best. The two cases you cite involve secular, not religious, organizations. Yeshiva University is a SECULAR organization as is carefully noted in the filings and decisions in the case. There was no injunction. Yeshiva abandoned its claims when its secular status obviated its legal status. Likewise, the Boy Scouts are secular, not religious. Claims against both organizations proceeded from non-discrimination statutes, not marriage.

    I repeat, Prop 8 took away the legal, not religious, right to marry previously enjoyed by Lesbians and Gays. No one asked churches to marry Gays and Lesbians or to condone anything. Churches have the right to express their opinions actively. If churches wish to be tax-exempt they must abide by the laws and regulations of the United States.

    Nothing which you have alleged here contradicts anything which I stated correctly above.

    For clarity, when I said "believe or do" I meant "do" to mean "do legally". Churches may not marry couples where one or both is a juvenile.

  • Diane

    #53 Yeshiva is a university run by Orthodox Jews. If they say they're secular, ask any student organizations at its grad and professional schools whether they have to adhere to Jewish dietary law when having events at any of its schools irrespective of the faith or lack thereof of the members of the student groups.

    It's all mumbo jumbo …. religion, but just wanted to state for the record that Yeshiva is wholly under Orthodox Jewish auspices - just as Brigham Young is under Mormon auspices.

  • ExStr8

    Dianne #53

    There is this wonderful site on the web called Google. It searches billions of documents for you.

    When you search the words "Yeshiva and nonsectarian" Google very quickly identifies 6,150 documents containing these terms . It just did this for me in 0.15 seconds!

    Item number four on the found list is from "The Jewish Observer" and contains the following paragraphs:

    "Yeshiva University is generally perceived as an Orthodox Jewish institution. It was founded under Jewish auspices, runs Jewish undergraduate colleges and a rabbinical school, and its president, Norman Lamm, is an Orthodox rabbi."
    "However, Yeshiva University's graduate schools, including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where the plaintiffs are enrolled, are nonsectarian and receive government funds — and thus must comply with all anti-discrimination laws."
    "At times, the nonsectarian status has put Yeshiva University in conflict with the religious sensibilities of Orthodox alumni and donors. In the mid-1990s, the university refused demands from some donors, alumni and others in the university community to ban gay student groups at the medical and law schools."

    The cited article can be found here:

    I know very little about Brigham Young University. In the course of my work I have come across an interesting "memo" written by Morris A. Thurston identified as an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University Law School and a "prominent Mormon scholar." I was quite favorably impressed by it in a cursory review, but judging from the Google search results, the delusional don't like it.

    You can find the "Thurston Memo" here:

    You'll find Google at http://www.google.com. The search screen has a wonderful little drawing celebrating Earth Day

  • Spectre

    This article is cursed. Two of the four featured Latter-day Saints students are no longer serving a mission starting this year.

  • Anonymous


  • ExStr8

    Spectre #56(and YDN),

    Details, please! Follow-up!
    This should be "breaking news"!

    "no longer"… Does this mean they started a mission and withdrew?


    Did they discover Google?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

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