A recent encounter raises this provocative question.

Some mormons will tell you they converted on a visit to Salt Lake City and Temple Square, and understandably so. Perhaps neuroses fester underneath, but externally the Utah society appears to work. A few years ago, the Mormons themselves spent millions of dollars advertising their success in a series of 12-page inserts in Reader’s Digest. The first, entitled “Seven Keys to Mormonism,” centered on the healthy, upright lifestyle that presents itself to a visitor to Utah.

Home and family come first to the Mormons, the pamphlet said. “It will be a family likely to be admired by neighbors for its quiet competence and self-assurance, and generally envied for its closeness and good-natured round of shared activities.” The pamphlet went on to praise the virtues of self-reliance and enjoying work.

Temperance, a rather old-fashioned word, is unashamedly adopted by Mormons. They abjure alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and other vices. In short, Mormons point to upright living, high achievement, and sterling citizenship as primary proofs of their faith.

Despite the obvious attraction of all these qualities, something kept nagging me as I studied the pamphlets extolling the virtues of Mormonism. Virtually every word could have been written by the National Association of Evangelicals in a brochure touting evangelicals. Do we want to be known for our citizenship, industriousness, righteousness, and temperance? Is not that the goal of right-wing evangelicals—to create a national climate that would allow these qualities to flourish?

Another thought troubled me when I compared the Mormon self-promotion with its evangelical equivalents. It contains not one word about grace, forgiveness, ...

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