Posts Tagged ‘mormons’

Carter Howell and Seth Munger are a lot like you and me. They’re “just 19- and 20-year-old guys.” They’re “not different than other people.” And yet some people look at them like they’re “from a different planet.”

All because they’re Mormon missionaries:

The day begins at 6:30 a.m. and follows a schedule that includes time for prayer — both solitary and with others — and planning for the day. There is time for meals — an hour for lunch, another hour for dinner — and then more door knocking in the evening. Their curfew is 9:30 p.m. Lights out at 10:30.

Curfew may imply that somebody is watching. Not so. These young men know and embrace the rules — and follow them.

And they pay for the privilege.

That doesn’t sound that different from other people! I generally wake up around 6:30am, spend an hour on lunch, and spend another hour on dinner! I can’t always stay up much past 10:30, either. And I’ve been known to pay for “privileges,” although I’ve never used that exact euphemism. I never knew I had so much in common with the Mormons!

“Some people look at us like we’re from a different planet,” Munger said. Before becoming a missionary, he said, “I was a person, too.”

That’s when Howell said: “Tell people not to be mean to us.”

Sorry, Carter and Seth, you just lost me. When someone comes to my house and wants to lecture me about the planet Kolob, meanness is the most appropriate response. When someone rings my doorbell to convince me that a 19th-century treasure hunter was some sort of “prophet,” I’m likely to release the hounds. When someone comes onto my property to insist on the supernatural infallibility of a dogma that magically changes whenever the political winds change, I call them a “Moroni,” even if it hurts their feelings.

Anyway, according to their theology, they are from another planet. Shouldn’t they know that? It’s almost like the Standards of Worthiness don’t apply anymore!


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If you have a Google News Alert for “LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm” like I do, you probably saw the large number of articles describing how sales of new baptisms slipped again in 2008. (I was unable to find any good statistics on sales of pre-owned baptisms.)

And if you are a scholar of religion like I am, you probably ran to their website so you could download the data and play with it in Excel. You probably also hunted down some UCR data on crime. You probably started searching for correlations. And you were probably surprised to discover that higher Baptism rates mean higher murder rates!


Now, whenever we discover a relationship like this, we need to be careful. In general, correlation does not imply causation. There are certainly other options available for explaining this relationship:

1. Reverse Causation

If you flip the graph, you could construct the alternative hypothesis “murder causes baptism”. However, dead people cannot be baptised (unless you are a Mormon, which most Southern Baptists are not). QED.

2. Third factor causes both

Maybe Global Warming is responsible. After all, when it’s hotter, the blood gets angry. And also when it’s hotter, the cool dip of a baptism seems more appealing. Some NASA data should clear things up:


Looks like that doesn’t work either.

3. Coincidence

If this weren’t a religious phenomenon, we could chalk it up to “coincidence”. However, as everyone knows, a coincidence is just “god’s way of remaining anonymous” (as opposed to everything else he does to remain anonymous, like being invisible and silent and imaginary). In the land of religion, there are no coincidences!

4. Both cause each other

Maybe there’s some sort of physical law linking both, like “Joel’s Law of Murder and Baptism”: M = sB + G, where s represents sunspots, and G represents god’s wrath. If this were the case, increasing the murder rate would necessarily increase baptisms too.

Clearly there is room for further research here. Nonetheless, my preliminary Sunday-morning social science makes one thing clear: Baptism kills!

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