Righteous Gentiles Part II

Russellmissionary, missions, mormon 24 Comments

So methinks that we have a few clairvoyants on-board. That said, behold the top four “Righteous Gentiles.”

A few caveats…

A) No, C.S. Lewis fans…he did not make the list and for good reasons–primarily because his spot is being reserved a future, top-10 list that Arthur and I will co-arthur, I mean, author (*drum riff for comedic effect*).

B) I must give Howard Hughes a hat-tip…while he doesn’t make the official list (his contribution wasn’t wide-reaching enough to really lodge himself in the Mormon mind beyond esoterica), he fits well within the tradition of businessmen appreciating Mormons for their discipline and hard work. This also intersects some with the fourth

The list

4. The friendly gangster

This is more of a stock character than it is a particular individual. You’ve all heard the common returned missionary discourse from missionaries who have served in the ghetto (or in Russia). They all have a story or two about the gangster who promised them protection, about the guy with diamond-encrusted hubcaps who tells them to leave the area for their own good. One instance I heard even had a mobster in a tinted-window limousine ask the sister missionaries if anyone was bothering them. They supposedly then complain about a particularly lewd passerby who bothers them every morning. The limo drives off…they never see the man again.

So to the pious mafia and the clergy-fearing gangster, we tip our fedora hats to you.

3. Harold Bloom

A proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to literary studies (his bibliography of original monographs/novels/anthologies number thirty in total) –so he’s the kind of fellow that all the revisionists throw their critiques at. Harold Bloom has written extensively on American religious life, devoting a chapter to the Mormons. While he has little taste for much of the 20th century Church, he called the King Follett the greatest sermon in American religious history. From Bloom we saw the fullest articulation of the “religious genius” thesis—that whatever Joseph’s oddities, he was brilliant at “religion-making.” Harold Bloom has given a prominent voice of sympathy within the unfriendly waters of literary studies, and in doing, so has given Mormonism a certain sense of literary credibility.

2. Jimmy “Ah Shucks” Stewart

The actor who needs no introduction made himself beloved amongst the Mormons for his role in the Church-produced film, Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, as an old man who has a dream of the nativity and of directing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Stewart sealed his status as honorary Mormon when he donated all of his papers and materials to the Special Collections at Brigham Young University. With these contributions added to his previous image as the “aw-shucks” actor of It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart provided Mormons the embodiment of debonair innocence that seems to characterize the ideal of Mormon masculinity. His Gentile status legitimized this image as one Mormons could believe would thrive in modern society.

And you know that most Mormon women probably would have swallowed Kolob if Stewart promised to lasso it for them…

And the winner is…

1. Thomas Kane

While sufficiently obscure to lay members of the Church, his noted title, “Friend of the Mormons,” demands that he receive the revered spot (and besides, most of our academics either formally or informally–obscurity is what we do). Thomas Kane, an attorney in Philadelphia, abolitionist, and military officer in the Civil War, first contacted Mormons while they were visting a Philadelphia conference in 1846. Kane provided essential legal counsel and lobbying efforts to the Latter-day Saints during the following decade when the federal government was rabidly hostile to them. He delivered lectures on the Mormons behalf and defended the Mormons to the hostile Eastern press. When Utah was made into a U.S. territory with the compromise of 1850, then-president Fillmore offered Kane the position of territorial governor. He suggested that Young would be a more fitting choice. When James Buchanan sent his troops with the Utah war, Kane offered to mediate. Young noted that he wanted Kane’s name to “live for all eternity.” He had “done a great work,” and would “do a greater work still.” Kane legitimized the Latter-day Saints at a time when most politicians and the public held the Mormons in low-regard indeed.

Comments 24

  1. John – LOL! Alice Cooper was RLDS, tho, right, not LDS? I went thru security behind him about a year ago at the PHX airport. He was leathery yet friendly.

  2. I could have sworn Cooper’s family was Bickertonite, from the heavy metal magazine article I read years ago. The group that started in Pennsylvania with Sidney Rigdon, I think.

    Where’s John Hamer when you need him?

  3. What about Cecil B. Demille? He had a friendly relation with the Mormons and even consulted with them (especially artist Arnold Friberg) when making The Ten Commandments. Then there is Darryl F. Zanuck who produced the movie “Brigham Young” and took pains to discuss the story with LDS leadership.

  4. You left off Alexander Donaphin — without his intervention, Joseph Smith’s martyrdom would have happened in 1838, along with the deaths of several other Church leaders, and the impact on the Church would have been devastating. Donaphin also defended Orrin Porter Rockwell in his trial on charges of attempted assassination of Gov. Boggs. According to one (apocryphal?) account, at one point in the trial, the jurors were all brought outside, and Rockwell demonstrated his outstanding marksmanship, then said to the jurors, “Do you suppose the sonofabitch would still be alive if it were I who shot him?” Heh. ..bruce..

  5. Cooper was born “Vincent Damon Furnier” in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ella Mae (née McCart) and Ether Moroni Furnier. His grandfather, Thurman Sylvester Furnier, was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania (Bickertonite). Ether went inactive as a teenager but when Vincent was 11 or 12 the family became very active, reading the Bible and Book of Mormon, and participating heavily in church activities.
    Later in life, Vincent (now Alice Cooper) became a born-again Christian.

  6. Here are a few other people I’d vote for:

    Hugh Hewitt, who has been a staunch public defender of the LDS Church and Mormons in general (and Mitt Romney in particular) during this campaign season.

    Richard Mouw, a respected Evangelical scholar who has chastised Evangelicals for their attacks on the LDS Church (and has publicly apologized for such attacks, even though he has not made those attacks personally).

    — Similarly, Craig L. Blomberg, co-author (with Stephen E. Robinson) of How Wide the Divide? An Evangelical and a Mormon in Conversation, who has likely taken a lot of grief for daring to work with, sympathize with, and seek to understands Mormons and Mormon doctrine.

    Jan Shipps, who as a non-LDS historian of Mormonism has really worked to be even-handed in her portrayal of the Church’s history and leading figures.

    I’m sure I can think of a few others, given time. Ronald Reagan was certainly a friend to the Church; he coined the term “America’s Choir” when the MoTabs sang at his first inauguration, and he videotaped a message praising the Church’s role in American history and society for the 150th anniversary of the Church’s presence in the British Isles. ..bruce..

  7. hawk:

    Yeah, Larry was a tough one. Larry has been certainly friendly and prominent…yet, he doesn’t quite have the “spokesman” value of the others. Bloom devoted huge swaths of his work to the Mormons, Stewart had Mr. Kruegers Christmas.

    And the gangster…well, that was my swipe at Mormon discourse…couldn’t let it pass by 🙂

  8. Christina Aguilera parents met at Brigham Young University and married in the Washington, D.C. Temple. They were divorced when she was seven. When she was nine, her mother was still receiving home teachers, but it is unclear if Christina herself was baptized.

  9. I second Mike Wallace. A modern list wouldn’t be complete without him.

    How about Red Aurbach and the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles? (Can’t think of his name right now and too lazy to find out.) During the 80’s (the Celtics) and now (the Eagles) they employed a disproportionate number of Mormons. *grin*

  10. Enjoyable conversationh. These people have truly been great friends to the Mormons. Who will stand up for the Mormons in the future? The Mormons have, are and will be hit with societal moral issues that are in direct opposition to the Church. The Church has, does and will state boldly its position on the moral issues of the day. What Americans with courage will stand their ground in defense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its position on these moral issues? The test of our day!

  11. I always loved Jimmy Stewart, his Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is still one of my favourites. (Harvey and Its A Wonderful Life also do as well)

    However I could never really enjoy Mr. Kruegers Christmas. I do not know why but it just seems a little too weird for me.

    To know that he donated his papers to BYU, that is incredible.

  12. We shall henceforth refer to Jimmy Steward as Geneal Steward, US Air Force, WWII bomber hero. Some men pretend to be heros, he was the real thing.

  13. If you liked It’s A Wonderful Life, and Mr. Smith goes to Washington, how could you have missed “You Can’t Take It With You” the first of the Capra/Stewart troika of movies?

  14. Don’t look to the baptists. I think Catholics and agnostics would be far more likely to defend you. They knlw what it’s like to be hated in this country.

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