Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Amish Latter-day Saints

Yesterday I shared a video about the Hill Cumorah Pageant, an event of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has been discontinued. Today I'd like to share a video that details how three Amish families left their traditional faith and found their way into the LDS church. I have some thoughts that I'll share just below the video.

First, the video indicates that The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People played a major role in making this connection, as one of the Amish men was discussing it with a customer, who happened to be a Latter-day Saint. The Wikipedia article on this book has the following under 'Philosophical background':

Covey was heavily influenced by Peter Drucker and Carl Rogers. Another key influence on his thinking was his study of American self-help books that he did for his doctoral dissertation.[5] A further influence on Covey was his affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Clayton Christensen, The Seven Habits was a secular distillation of Latter-day Saint values.[6] (Retrieved 18 March 2021)

Having this book be the primary point of contact in the video version of the story makes sense, as it plays up a 'safe' Latter-day Saint connection to talk about with the general topic. While I have no reason to believe that this wasn't part of the conversation, LDSLiving has it that another topic was under discussion.

In the fall of 2011, a customer stepped into Raymond Weaver’s furniture store in Danville, Ohio. He was a good friend of Raymond’s, and in the course of their conversation Raymond mentioned his curiosity in Native American history, specifically how these ancient people came to live in the Americas. Raymond remembers his friend, Harry Proudfoot, replying that he had a book that could help with that.

 This isn't a secret, but it was left out of the video. I have to think it was in order to appeal to a broader audience. More people can get on board with wanting to improve one's life and outlook; far fewer will be impressed with the miseducation of people about the origins of indigenous North Americans.

Second, as noted in the video, discussing religion with the Amish couples had the feel of the 19th century origins of the religion. Given that the Amish typically don't go beyond 8th grade, that's even more accurate than they probably intended. These aren't stupid people, but they didn't have the educational opportunities of non-Amish folks. This together with their Bible-centered life made them prime candidates for conversion through reading the Book of Mormon. Their story is very much like that of many early Mormons back before Joseph Smith Jr was murdered by a mob. The LDS church usually only has it this easy with the conversion process in developing nations these days.

Third, this is a very good thing for the children of these families. Some were already grown and married when their parents withdrew from their Amish church, and have remained with it. The down side of this is the shunning and alienation. The upside for the underage kids was that they were brought into the 21st century. They have received and are receiving an education according to modern standards, and don't have the isolation and restrictions found in the Amish tradition. They will have far more options and opportunities now than they would have had otherwise.

Fourth, it's actually good for the families, in my opinion, that they had the LDS church members to help them along. The families lost their social support network and income with this conversion. Had they only left without joining the LDS church, which some have done, they certainly would have had a tougher go of it.

It's a mixed bag. I think they're generally better off than they were, even though the LDS church isn't truly an inclusive and affirming place when it comes to other kinds of people. The sex and gender restrictions are well behind the science and human experience, but an improvement over the marital and reproductive limitations found among the Amish. 

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