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Mistaken Missionaries

November 11, 2000|NORINE DRESSER

Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were sent on a mission to Spain. After their arrival, numerous Spaniards asked them, "Where are your hats? Where are your horses? Where are your beards?" This puzzled the clean-shaven young men.

What did it mean?

Prior to their arrival, the movie "Witness" had been released there. The local population thought the Amish were the same as Mormons because those religions and lifestyles contrast with their own largely Roman Catholic background. To them, both Mormons and Amish were outsider religions, and they had not learned to distinguish between the two.

It is easy to confuse groups with which we have had little contact. Although the Amish and Mormons both have large families and a strong sense of community, their lifestyles differ. While the Amish remain a closed society and do not proselytize, Mormons go out into the world to bring in new church members.

Finally, while the Amish shun modern conveniences, prefer rural living and do not educate their young beyond the eighth grade, Mormons utilize the latest technology, are incorporated into urban life and encourage higher education.

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Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail: norined@earthlink.net.

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