Different – but not superior
Jørn Holm Bendtsen is a third generation Mormon. 15 years ago his son decided to leave the church, but to Jørn, it is and will always be a huge part of his life.
By: Åsa Secher
The entrance hall is quiet. Inside the church hall the broadcast from the General Meeting in Salt Lake City is soon to be finished. Jørn leads the way in to a small room in the back of the church and pulls out a chair. In front of him are two old-fashioned looking microfilm readers. A reminder of the Mormons great interest in genealogy research.
To Jørn, the message taught by the Mormon Church makes sense. And it gives him a mission in life – to constantly try and do better, be better.
Many years ago he met his wife, during missionary service in Norway. They have two children, a son and a daughter. Their daughter and her family are also members. Their son used to be, until he and his family decided to leave the church 15 years ago.
“It made me a little bit sad of course, but I had to accept his choices. I guess he just figured out it wasn’t for him”
As most Mormons Jørn was baptized in the church when he was 8 years old, but it’s during your teens you have to decide whether you want to commit to the church completely. For Jørn that was an easy choice to make.
“It’s important that you feel you made the choice by yourself, that you’ve found your own connection to the church. And since there are quite a few demands becoming a member you need to make sure you’re wholeheartedly committed”.
Time consuming faith
Since he retired he spends a lot of time in the church. Right now he is not only the caretaker but also in charge of public relations, which means he writes articles, ships off books people ordered and so on.
“Being a part of this church is a little more demanding compared to other churches, I think. We have to engage actively in making other people’s lives better, we’re not just here to find salvation for ourselves but just as much to improve the lives of others”.
“Being a Mormon does in that way make me feel a bit different, but not superior”.
Among the activities all Mormons have to engage in is the annual community service. It can be taking down trees, building a staircase down to the beach or something else that will improve life for people in the entire community. More so, pairs of men and women are given a list of families within the congregation to visit once a month.
Another example of the congregation members’ commitment is the tithing, which means they all have to give one-tenth of their income to the church.
Misconceptions and controversy
Even though less people nowadays seem to think Mormons are strange and odd people, there are still a few misconceptions that Jørn is fed up with.
“I’m tired of people thinking we practice polygamy. We gave that up in 1890, so it’s a really long time ago. But I guess everything relating to sex draws attention in one way or another”.
Something they haven’t given up though is the belief that homosexuality is a problem. The church’s official position on homosexuals is that they can be members of the church as long as they don’t act on their homosexuality in any way. Quoting the official website “…homosexual activity is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you”.
Jørn’s position on the subject is somewhat ambiguous.
“I’d say I have an unresolved understanding of whether homosexuality is due to innate, upbringing or an intended action. Regardless of which these people deserve he same respect as everyone else and they must have the right to live their lives as they wish, just like you and me. On a more personal level though, I’m disturbed by the way their way of life is forced into the public domain by for instance parades.”
If one of his children claimed to be homosexual, he says it wouldn’t affect family life, relationships would stay intact.
“On the other hand, everyone would be aware of each others’ beliefs and attitudes when it comes to homosexuality”.