Sunday's Washington Post magazine
features a really interesting, in-depth piece on the Mormon Church targeting the African-American community in inner city D.C. Until the late 70s, the church withheld "the priesthood" from black members, but now has some 170 missionaries working throughout the D.C. area.
Lauren Wilcox, a former Arkansan (who was just in town this past weekend for the opening of an art show
featuring her impressive metalworking), wrote the story and followed two 20-year-old Mormon missionaries as they trekked through the city. One of them, Eric Severson, is from Bentonville, not exactly a spot known for its Mormon population.
"Living where I did strengthened me more," Severson says. "I was used to answering questions about the church." In high school, his friends, mostly nonmembers -- "a Jew, a Buddhist, an atheist" -- defended him against the less godly aspects of high school life. "When someone who didn't know me swore," he says, "they would say, 'Hey, we've got a Mormon here.'" It wasn't hard, he says, to live according to the church's code of conduct, which includes eschewing alcohol and tobacco. "Outside of a doctrine perspective," he says, "my intellect is what I've got."