This summer, construction is expected to begin on a large Mormon temple in Center City, Philadelphia; a Mormon is campaigning to be president of the United States; and a hit Broadway musical spoofs the faith.
Locally, nationally, and culturally, the Mormons are having a moment.
“Who Are the Mormons?” is an informational symposium to be held Sunday evening at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Broomall, Pa. It will answer questions people might have about the religion.
“The obvious thing is, ‘Do you believe in God?’ ” said Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles who finds himself fielding questions when people discover he has been a practicing Mormon for 33 years. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Even though the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — they ask very simple questions.”
Reid will be the master of ceremonies for the Sunday evening symposium. He grew up a not-very-observant Lutheran, joining the Mormon church while playing football for Brigham Young University.
“I like the way they kept themslves physically and mentally fit,” said Reid. “A lot of emphasis was put on sports. Besides intercollegiate sports, they had youth programs centered on basketball and softball. And the religion part — the Scriptures — I enjoyed studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon.”
The Church is based on a belief that, in 1823, Joseph Smith of New York State was shown a revelation from God, in the form of engraved golden plates, which Smith translated into the Book of Mormon. While essentially Christian, the religion eschews much of the theology that developed over the course of the Middle Ages.
“We have the deepest regard and highest respect for Christian churches and other religions that are not Christian,” said Ahmed Corbitt, president of the Cherry Hill New Jersey Stake — a diocese overseeing South Jersey Mormons. “It’s just we try to follow a purely biblical Christianity, including the structure of the church, with 12 apostles and that kind of hierarchical structure.”
Despite the political, cultural, and (in Philadelphia) urban developments involving the Latter-day Saints, Corbitt doesn’t see this period as a Mormon Moment, rather an evolving paradigm shift concerning popular interest in the faith.