Home » Author, Ellyse Borghi, Recent Posts, Religion and Jewish Thought

Choosing Mormons

October 21, 2013 – 10:27 am11 Comments

By Ellyse Borghi:

jesus2Some people collect stamps, others gnomes. There are many hobbies available to a Good Jewish Girl (GJG). I could have taken up crocheting or volunteering at Emmy Monash or cupcake baking. I however chose none of the aforementioned options. Instead I chose Mormons (followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints or LDS) to be my hobby.

This hobby is quite time consuming. I spend at least 30 minutes a day keeping up with my Mormons. There are times where I could spend hours on this hobby. General Conference is a very busy time of year. So how exactly did this hobby (or compulsion) begin? A very good friend of mine, a vegan and feminist, sent me this adorable blog post about this very good looking girl who made a cake that looked like a burger for her equally conventionally attractive husband. From this single blog post began my awakening to the Bloggernacle, the range of Mormon blogs. Now I’m not so interested in the many blogs about Mormon faith or even Mormon discussion forums. Even the Feminist Mormon Housewives has little appeal when compared to the strong pull of Mormon 20something life-style blogs. These blogs are well photographed; they have adorable children in moccasins and mothers who are young enough to be my friends. These women are involved in crafting, baking and the many other activities that engage the good-looking of the world. My Mormon Mommies have great wardrobes and very sleek vintage-style bicycles. But it isn’t mere envy or aesthetics that has got me hooked. Instead there are three distinct causes that fuel my addiction.

Slate has already discussed why a feminist such as me would be so engrossed in the world of Mormon Mommies. In that piece Emily Matchar argues that these blogs are a ray of optimism and positivity in a world a cynicism and naysayers. To a certain extent this is true; I do appreciate these bloggers hopeful and joyous outlook at life. I do find these blogs strangely uplifting but there is more to my love of Mormons than just appreciating their happiness. Indeed, my hobby is deeply linked with the conflicted nature of my Judaism.

One of the hardest things for me to deal with in Judaism is its patriarchy. I’m not always sure how to deal when the community that I love has such an unfair system. Having said that, without clear gender roles I feel that I’m floating without direction. If I love baking and crocheting, does that make me a bad feminist? Probably not, but that’s a conclusion I’ve come to slowly. If I’m intimidated by my future career as a lawyer with full-time work as well as financial independence and responsibility I find these Mormon Mommies a comforting fantasy. These women are my age, but they married young, had children young and now they spend all day going to the zoo while hubby foots the bill. They live in a world where the 1960s never happened and housewifedom is a matter of course. My Mormons are not so different to me to make it impossible for me to imagine myself in their shoes. They are college educated, wear skinny jeans, dabble in yoga and have a love/hate relationships with running. Yet by their mid-twenties their lives have taken a very different path to mine. I suppose these blogs are a sliding doors moment on a daily basis. It’s not that I’m not excited to begin my career but sometimes the grass can look a little greener.

The second key to my interest in the Mormons is that as an observant Jewess I often find myself as the odd one out in the secular world. These women have a similar experience to me. They are deeply observant; they do not drink tea, coffee or alcohol. They dress modestly and fulfil their church callings. I’m often fascinated at how they manage to combine their traditional and faith-based lifestyles with living and engaging with the modern world. Indeed I’ve discovered some similarities. For example, Brigham Young University of Utah and Yeshiva University of New York. They seem to have a close knit communities and families that help support them with the challenges of being a bit of an oddity in the secular world. I suppose I look at these women and think to myself, if they can live a faith-based life and make it seem cool, I can probably pull it off too.

The last reason for my addiction is related to that point exactly; their faith. Frequently these women post gratitude lists to their heavenly father, they blog about their brothers being sent as missionaries to convert Africa and about the priestly blessing they received from their husbands. These women are proud of their religion and they believe in it wholeheartedly and unashamedly. This type of emunah eludes me. My religion is that of Israel, I am constantly wrestling with Hashem. I struggle to know what I believe and what is required of me. I’m quite sure that my constant engagement with and questioning of my religion is a good thing and a divine quest but sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to embody the simple faith of these Mormon bloggers.

I suppose at the end of this there are lessons for us all, even for those of us to have managed to abstain from a full-fledged Mormon addiction. This is a story about a person who sees what somebody else has and wants it for themselves. I want their simple housewifedom and their simple faith. I want their simplicity. But we all know that it’s just an illusion. Nobody and no lifestyle are ever simple. They have struggles and challenges and live messy lives just like the rest of us. But maybe my addiction can serve as a reminder to myself that what I’m really craving is not an endless photo stream of adorable babies and baked goods but simplicity. And I can create that for myself. I can choose that for myself.

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  • loz says:

    yes yes i have the same private fascination. mine stems from an old friend in america who is mormon and one of 17. there are 80 grandchildren among them all of whom are written about in a family blog.

  • naf says:

    Thanks for this well written and thought provoking article! I really hope to see more of your work here.

  • Mike Bennion says:

    Hi Ellyse,

    I enjoyed your article. As a fifty-something Mormon grandpa of 10 and father of three, including a young woman who matches your profile, I tell you that despite the fact that you are correct in assuming that they and we all face difficulties, you are also correct in noting their deep faith in and love of their religion. I taught my daughter to make her own decisions based on whether she felt peace and calm when the decision was made. I allowed her to decide on her life after telling her what I felt and believed. She is a magnificent young mother of two of my fabulous grandsons. Her family is a ray of sunshine in my life.

  • N says:

    What a joy to read. It is a fascinating lifestyle and religion, as much so as Judaism. My father was raised Jewish and converted to Mormonism. The lifestyle similarities are remarkable. I appreciate your affectionate respect and interest in the culture beyond jello creations and polygamy.

  • Ellie says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts. My thoughts have led to a similar conclusion that perhaps happiness is found in not only the realization of choice but also the protection of choice. Setting ourselves free
    and others from everything that takes away the freedom to choose how to be and who to be. Naturally our choices do affect others freedoms so it is essential that we include how our choices affect others freedoms. Many Mormon women seem to be free ‘to be’ because of (I think) the fundamental belief that they are of great worth. Valuing ourselves and others leads to freedom, as you begin to lose the need to seek external approval. I met a Rabbi in Israel a few years ago who told me his main concern was to ask God each day what God wanted him to do.. I was really moved by his devotion. Love of God should always lead to love others.
    I am a Mormon and love the freedom that it has brought to my life. I love knowing that amidst the magnitude of His creations we all matter to Him.

  • frosh says:

    “My father was raised Jewish and converted to Mormonism.”

    Could you just clarify if that was while he was still alive, or posthumously?

  • GoatesNotes says:

    Hi Ellyse,
    I loved your delightful sharings about your Mormon hobby. I have to tell an usual situation that is not well understood. Many folks don’t understand the close ties and affinity Mormons have with the Jewish people. After all, up to Jesus’ birth we’re on the same page. We kind of see ourselves as in the same religion. We love and revere the same prophets, laws, commandments and stories. And we believe in the promises that have been made to the Jewish people, by God Himself. One of our apostles, Orson Hyde, traveled to the Holy Land in 1941 and dedicated it to the return of the Jews to their land of heritage. We greatly honor our Jewish brothers and sisters and have -many- programs where we work together. Also you might want to look into The Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. This is a fascinating operation full of education, culture, collaboration and good works. Have fun with your hobby. There are many more heart-warming stories you will discover.

  • letters in the age says:

    Thanks for sharing…..

    Not my cup of tea but very enjoyable read.


  • Denise Hamilton says:

    I think Orson Hyde’s visit to the Holy Land occurred about a century BEFORE 1941. My hubby and I visited there around Christmas, 1989.

    I’ve only ever heard of conversions referring to the living, never the deceased.

  • Jeremy Pownall says:

    Loved reading your blog post.

    It reminded me of my Jewish mates at University. When I told one of them about the word of wisdom he responded, “wait a minute, in 1833 you knew that smoking was bad! Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

    I then apologised that missionaries hadn’t knocked on his Eastern Suburbs door just yet but that it could happen any day.

  • GoatesNotes says:

    Correction on previous post. Sorry about the silly typo on Orson Hyde’s visit to what was then Palestine. The event occurred on Sunday, 24 October 1841 when he climbed the Mount of Olives to offer his prayer. Thank you Denise!

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