More than Mormon: Students shed light

Heather Nichols-Haining

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly nicknamed “Mormons,” gave a presentation to raise awareness about their religion. Speakers from the local church, many of them Whitman students, took turns sharing information about the religion.
However, many students were disappointed that the Latter-day Saints avoided issues of contention. “I thought it was a good idea for a lesser-known or lesser-understood faith to make itself understood. But I felt like they shied away from talking about the more controversial stuff,” said first-year Kyle Byrd-Fisher.

Some students went to the presentation because of the advertisements around campus.
“I thought it was interesting they didn’t address many of the stigmas mentioned in their advertisements,” first-year Kristin Iviy said, referring to table-toppers and fliers that promised answers to questions such as, “Do Mormons really have horns?” “Are Mormons really polygamous?” and “Who is Joseph Smith?”

Some of these questions were answered directly in the lecture, while some were answered in a handout of facts about the Mormon Church. Junior Gregory Phillips, who organized the event, gave a brief history of the church, including a summary of the role of the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith.

Polygamy was not mentioned in the talk, but it was addressed in a handout that read, “Polygamy, a limited practice in the early pioneer days of the Church, was discontinued in 1890, some 118 years ago.”

The speakers also talked about the role of missionaries and the history and basic beliefs of the Church, and many of them shared personal testimonies.

“The missionaries took me to church and I felt closer to God than I ever felt before,” said senior biology major Robert Marcotte of his conversion experience.

Many of the speakers spoke about issues that were very personal to them and one presenter was nearly moved to tears by her testimony.

“I know how shy many of them can be, but they were very brave,” said community and church member Cheryl McCracken.

Many audience members appreciated this honesty. “Their willingness to be open about their faith was refreshing, yet they didn’t try too hard to push their religion on us,” said first-year Olivia Johnson.

The presentation was considered a success by Phillips.

“Our main goal was to promote understanding of our religion and I think we were able to do that,” he said.

Olin 130 was packed with supporters and curious students who stayed for the hour-long presentation. If some didn’t get answers to all the controversial questions they had, they at least came out with a greater understanding of Mormons.

“I already knew about the beliefs they talked about,” said Kristin Iviy, “but they gave a really good impression of Mormons. They were all normal, pleasant, and had senses of humor.”
Jerica Johnson, a first-year, concluded the presentation by encouraging the audience to decide the truth for themselves.

“Faith doesn’t come from external sources; not from church leaders or family,” she said, then quoted from the Book of Mormon, “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true.”