Everyone who knows me knows I’m a Mormon. It’s no secret really. It seems to come up in business conversations all the time because I can speak Japanese, and people seem interested in knowing how I learned that language. So, depending on the nationality of the person I’m dining with, I get loads of questions about my faith/culture.
If I’m eating with Asians, they want to know why I’m not drinking alcohol. Then they spend the rest of the trip trying to entice me to do just that. If I’m eating with a European, they may ask me about Salt Lake City, and assume I make a pilgrimage there every so often. They’re usually shocked to find out that not only am I not from there, I have no relatives or business ties to Utah.
I spent some time last year with a business acquaintance who was also a Baptist Preacher in Brazil. When he found out I was LDS he asked me if I thought Barack Obama is the antichrist. I told him no, he’s a Democrat. Anyway, I thought that was funny. But this guy missed the humor and kept pressing me about the President. He actually was shocked that everyone in America didn’t see that he’s the antichrist.
But it’s Americans who seem to have the wildest questions for me everywhere I go. People often tell me that I’m the first Mormon they’ve met they feel they can speak frankly with and can ask any question without worrying that I will get upset.
So what kinds of questions do I get from Americans?
- Are you Christian?
- How many wives do you have?
- Have you been saved?
- Are you allowed to dance?
- What do you think about Harry Potter?
- Do you celebrate Christmas? (substitute Easter, Birthdays, etc. here)
Maybe you’ve been sitting on some of those same queries too. If so, allow me to help: Yes; one is plenty; so far so good; allowed to but not willing to; it’s a book – it’s not real; yes indeed!
As to that last question, I usually say something to the effect of, “If it’s about kids having a good time, we’re all for it.” So yes, we celebrate Christmas, and yes we hang stockings and have Christmas trees, and yes we think the whole thing is too commercial and takes away from the real meaning of the season, but yet we celebrate the same as other Christians.
Besides the spiritual hymns associated with Easter, we also decorate and hide eggs and give the kids baskets. I have no idea what all this fascination with eggs has to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but I don’t really dig that deep. We celebrate spiritually at church, then go home and have a nice ham dinner with Easter baskets for the kids. So you see, Mormons aren’t really all that different, right? Not so fast. It seems inquiring minds want to know how Latter-Day Saints handle the subject of Halloween.
In the past few years I’ve had well-meaning “Christians” witness to me that Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling were agents of the devil. I’ve been told that Star Wars was troubling because of “the Force.” But perhaps weirdest of all was when I did a little sleight of hand number I freaked out several people at work who told me that if I continued to do that I was opening myself up for demon possession.
OK folks. Let’s relax a bit and take a breath here. Bewitched was just a TV show. Jeannie didn’t really turn into smoke and hide in a bottle. Criss Angel doesn’t really levitate. And by the way, the WWE is fixed. And allowing my kids to dress up as Power Rangers is not paving their personal road to Hell.
Now, on the subject of Halloween, yes, Mormons decorate their homes and pass out candy to neighborhood kids who come trick-or-treating. We also usually have a Halloween party at our local church building. But for some of you, it may be a bit different from some of the Halloween parties you’re used to. For one, it’s not all that dark. It also will usually have tons of carnival type games for children. But the biggest difference you will see is that none of the costumes include masks. The simple reason for this is that some people may change their behavior if they think their identity is hidden. So to encourage a good time without nasty teenage pranks, LDS parties enforce the no mask rule. It doesn’t mean you can’t use tons of makeup though. We have some wonderfully frightening vampires and zombies at our parties.
But through the years my favorite attendee at an LDS Halloween party was a 12 year old boy who clearly was having problems with his parents' rules. Andrew had purchased a gorilla costume with his own money and was determined to wear it to the Ward party. But the problem was what to do about the mask. His parents told him absolutely no, he couldn’t wear the mask to the party. But Andrew complained that it wasn’t fair and that he bought the suit with his money. He wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to bounce around in public like a simian.
The compromise was the funniest costume I had ever seen: A gorilla with a boy’s head. Even better, Andrew was a red-haired freckled faced lad. Everyone at the party had the same question I had: What was he? Robin Williams? Some kind of mutant? I guess he was a darling half-man. Maybe some kind of comment on evolution.
But my Christian friends demand an answer: How can Mormons recognize Halloween when its origins are so, I don't know, questionable? Hey, haven’t you ever heard of “don’t ask, don’t tell?” The origins of Halloween are probably no stranger than the way we all celebrate Christmas and Easter.