I had a conversation with Ian Fowles last week about “celebrity status” in Mormonism. Mormons tend to have a fascination with other Mormons who achieve greatness in art, music, film, etc. Evidence for this would be the Famous Mormons website, of course Linescratchers, and a few other sites online with lists of well-known Mormon celebrities. Even more infamous is our tendency of “wishful thinking” rumors. These are rumors that a certain celebrity is Mormon, even when they’re not and have never been (Elvis, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, etc.), based on an exaggerated rumor, or some sort of slight interaction with the church at some point.
Why do we care so much? Actually, that’s a pretty good question. We Mormons spent the first half of our history as a very peculiar people, living in the mountains with our polygamous wives, stealing passers-by and forcing them to swear oaths of loyalty to Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Temple. Okay, well, that’s perhaps it wasn’t that, but it’s no lie that we weren’t exactly “assimilated” into American culture. Peculiarly, sometime in the last 100 years, we’ve reversed this image. Now, we’re the clean-cut, conservative representatives of traditional (some would now even say outmoded) American family values. Explaining how we managed such a reversal is beyond my abilities and the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that we are uniquely concerned with how we blend in to American society. So perhaps we like hearing about Mormon celebrities because it means we’ve “arrived” on the American scene. Not only does it mean we’ve successfully blended into American culture, it also means we have talented members of the church out there being recognized for their skills. Continue reading “…but are they active?”