Comedy Central's Jon Stewart discovered much to admire about Mormons by reading Joanna Brooks' Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith.
Like the LDS obsession with food storage.
Brooks, who was a guest on Stewart's "Daily Show" Thursday night, told the host that her LDS family had a year's supply of food in the garage when she was growing up, plus backpacks with 72 hours' worth of goods for emergencies.
"We've been chased out of every country you can name," replied the comedian, who is Jewish. "We don't even have go-bags."
Stewart also commented on Brooks' childhood story of joining 15,000 Mormon teens at the Rose Bowl, dancing in synchronized steps to Neil Diamond.
"We didn't start out as Broadway producers," he said with a tone of amazement, "You've got to work up to it."
Brooks then asked, "Can we grow up to be you?" to which Stewart replied: "If you're lucky."
The pair also discussed Mitt Romney's presidential run and the increased scrutiny this "Mormon moment" — with its positives and negatives — is bringing to Latter-day Saints and their church.
Brooks noted that, like many Mormons, the candidate himself — even after running for president for years — worries about how he comes across.
"The most Mormon thing I see about Mitt Romney is that he is always terrified," Brooks said.
Host and author also examined how every religion confronts its tough challenges.
"I became a liberal at Brigham Young University ... when people like me were excommunicated by the church," she said. "I loved my faith, but I was also a thinker and a woman who cared about justice and progressive causes. Was there a way to still be Mormon?"
Brooks said that the Utah-based church now faces institutionally what she wrestled with as an individual. She pointed out that just this summer Mormons in 10 cities marched in gay pride parades.
"Did they know that?" Stewart joked.
They certainly did, she replied, adding, "there are gay Mormons ... they belong to us. We are not going to push them out."
Brooks easily bantered with the host about the commonalities between Mormonism, Judaism and religion in general. She teaches literature at San Diego State University, writes about faith and culture at Religion Dispatches — and is married to a Jew.
"Through his eyes (and my own), I notice anew the relish with which we Mormons like to make casual comparisons between our faith and Judaism. I hear Mormons describe ourselves as a 'chosen people' who made an "exodus" (across the American Plains) to build our 'Zion,' " she writes in a recent essay in Tablet magazine. "And I now understand the hazards — big and small — that come with presuming too much familiarity between Mormons and Jews, hazards that reveal a disconnect in many LDS minds between Israelites as an abstract conception and the reality of contemporary Jewish life."
Brooks hopes that some day Mormons "will be ready to have a broad and open dialogue with ourselves about the reality of our own contemporary lives ... and the same open dialogue with others, including Jews."
Until then, she writes, "be patient. We are a young religion."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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