Those Beautiful Mormon Girls

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My husband and I have had the opportunity to live for many years abroad in various countries while our children were growing up. Because we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons, people we met were fascinated and often had questions. As we explained our faith, they re-examined their own lives and choices and decided how they felt about us and our faith.

For eight of our years abroad, we were fortunate to live in Israel, and we had many rich experiences there. We were in Israel when the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies was planned, approved, constructed, and launched. There was a lot of controversy, especially because some Israelis thought the Center might be a base for proselyting, which wasn’t true. In order to assuage the fears of Jews who have been forcibly converted over the centuries and therefore understandably sensitive, The Church of Jesus Christ undertook to make a covenant with Israel not to teach, preach, or even answer questions about Mormonism. Every student who studies at the Center makes this promise anew.

At the onset of this agreement, certain Jewish religious leaders were still chagrined. Sure, the BYU semester abroad students could be mum about their beliefs, but how would they hide the light that radiated from them and was so attractive? This is no fable, but was a genuine concern. I can tell you that both the citizens of Israel and the Palestinian merchants in Jerusalem’s Old City could identify a Mormon on sight, just by the “Mormon glow” that studies have shown is palpable and identifiable by Mormons and non-.

One Saturday at church (Mormons worship on Saturday in Israel to conform with the Jewish Sabbath) a BYU student handed me my driver’s license. I hadn’t even realized I had lost it, but I had evidently dropped it at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. I had gone to meet a friend there who was touring the Holy Land. Someone had found it and noticed it was from Utah. The person easily identified a group of BYU students because of their glow, and had given the license to them to turn over to me.

On the Fourth of July, the Jerusalem Center faculty and students joined Marines and U.S. Embassy staff for a picnic at a large park in downtown Jerusalem. The lunch was great, and a softball game ensued. Everyone was having a lot of fun, but the students had other commitments and had to abandon the game a little before its natural end. As the girls walked together across the diamond and up the hill to the buses, the Marines stood frozen in place, gazing after them, longingly, for a very long time. It seemed to me that they stood there even after the girls were out of sight. What was it that had made such an impression? All the girls were modestly dressed and clean-cut.

A Sunday at the beach was even more interesting. The beach near Tel Aviv was managed by a nearby Kibbutz and closed on Sundays. The kibbutz had reserved it during the closure for the BYU students to enjoy a day at the Mediterranean seaside. Again, the girls were dressed in modest swimsuits in a day when many European beach-goers wore nearly nothing. Two bus-loads of Israeli soldiers arrived in the spacious and empty parking lot so that the soldiers could buy lunch from the kiosk on the beach. In full uniform they filed from the parking lot to the kiosk, but a few stragglers made their way to the seaside. As one approached, he caught sight of the Mormon girls arrayed on the sand, at least 60 of them, glowing. Gradually, he eased from a slow walk to a little run and then raised his arms in the air to signify a rejoicing soul, and he began a slow spin. He looked like a dancer from Fiddler on the Roof. He looked like he had found heaven on earth. Photographs followed, as the number of soldiers on the beach increased.

BYU Girls
BYU Girls in Sports

The next month, my husband and I attended a business conference in Dusseldorf, Germany. One of our associates was a European in his 30’s. He was a heavy drinker and carouser, and always had in mind some pretty entertaining, but off-color jokes. But during this company dinner in a beer house, he was shy, abashed, and sitting with the small group of internationally-based Mormons. The main office was in Provo, Utah, and the company had been founded by Mormons, but abroad, most employees were not members of the Church. Our friend had suffered two heavy blows in recent months. First, he was told by his doctor that he had to quit drinking if he wanted to live. Second, he had made a business trip to Provo to the main office, and had gotten his first sight of Mormon Girls. Both of these events were life-changing for him. At one point after dinner, the boss stood up to lead a toast and to invite anyone who desired to give a little speech. After a while our friend arose. He looked very sober. (I mean sober in spirit, but in body, too. He was usually drunk, or nearly-so.) He looked around at the group, then said, “Well, I’ve learned something in the past couple of months. If you want to continue your indulgent lifestyle, don’t go to your doctor, and whatever you do, don’t go to Provo!”

That Mormon Glow

Lindsey Stirling Mormon
Lindsey Stirling, Mormon Hip-Hop Violinist

Here’s what Psychology Today said about the ability to detect the “Mormon glow.” [1]

Several years ago, a woman named Brook White appeared on the reality TV competition show American Idol. White was 24 years old, blond, and strikingly pretty. When she sang her song, "Like a Star," she struck a familiar chord among some viewers. White said nothing about her religion, but Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were certain that she was one of their own.
"She has the Mormon Glow," one blogger wrote, referring to the belief that the faithful radiate the Holy Spirit. White mentioned that she never drank a cup of coffee or watched an R-rated movie—signs of a Mormon-like squeaky-clean lifestyle. But the "glow" clinched it, and it turned out that her fans were right. "I didn't know I was setting off the Mormon radar," White remarked later in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

Brooke White Mormon
Brooke White, Mormon Singer

Soon after, psychologists Nalini Ambady, then at Tufts University, and Nicholas Rule, at the University of Toronto, set out to test the Mormon glow. One way to do this is to see if even non-Mormons can detect it. The psychologists began their experiment by cropping head shots of Mormons and non-Mormons and asking undergraduate volunteers whether they could pick out the Mormons.

They certainly could—and in just a glance. While random guessing would yield 50 percent accuracy, as in a coin toss, the volunteers accurately identified Mormon men and women 60 percent of the time. (Mormons themselves were only slightly more accurate.) This means that "Mordar" isn't foolproof, but it's statistically significant—about as accurate as the ability to tell if a face looks envious or anxious.

Ambady and Rule cut the photos of Mormons to pieces and had subjects look at the eyes, etc., in isolation. People could still identify the Mormons with one type of photo fragment — the skin. Mormons don't drink or smoke. They enjoy community support, which relieves stress. They live 10 years longer than the average American. Holy Spirit aside, their skin may glow because it's healthier. While the judges likely knew that Mormons are clean-living, they weren't consciously aware when categorizing faces that they were associating religious purity with good skin. It was a gut feeling.

The Mormon glow might indeed have something to do with health. The Mormon health code, received by revelation and called the Word of Wisdom, not only forbids the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and recreational drugs, but recommends meat in moderation (mostly during winter) and the use of whole grains, and fruit and herbs in their season. The blessings promised by God for keeping the Word of Wisdom include more than health, but spiritual blessings as well, especially blessings of peace and knowledge.

Mindy Gledhill Mormon
Mindy Gledhill, Mormon Singer

But Mormons attribute their glow more to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. This is called the “gift of the Holy Ghost” and is bestowed right after baptism by the laying on of hands. As long as a person remains worthy and honors his or her body as a temple for the Spirit, the Holy Ghost will never depart. Consecrating one’s life to the Savior, Jesus Christ, increases one’s light.

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

Holy Ghost Mormon

One day, I had the privilege of meeting a BYU professor who was to be in Jerusalem for only a few days. We planned to meet downtown at the bottom of Ben Yehuda Street. But I was worried. I had met the gentleman only once, and his coloring was similar to many European Jews. He had dark hair and an olive complexion. I was concerned I might not be able to pick him out in the crowd. I took the bus down Jaffa Road and got off nearby, then began the walk to our proposed meeting place. As I approached it, I started to laugh. This was a very special man, indeed, such a true disciple of Christ. He stood alone at the bottom of the cobblestoned street, and a ball of light, maybe 20 feet in diameter, surrounded him. Why had I been so worried?

The Mormon Girls I Know

I grew up in L.A. and am a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ. I came of age in the sixties, and it was a wild time. Joining the Church and adopting its moral standards helped me to get through the decade without any fatal mishaps — some of my close friends weren’t so lucky. Morality has been on a slippery slope ever since that revolutionary decade. Now I have grandchildren who are old enough to date and to marry. All of my six children have stayed faithful to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are raising their children to do the same. I am amazed as I watch my oldest granddaughter. She recently finished serving a Mormon mission and is now engaged. She and her fiancé are planning a temple marriage and attend the temple together often to increase their spirituality. Both are morally clean and chaste, and staying that way through their long engagement doesn’t seem to be a problem. They are nonplused and unruffled. They are so solid in their understanding of the gospel and the commandments of God, they don’t even have to think or worry or fret. So here we are, two generations removed from the sexual revolution, and these two kids are more solidly set on God’s side than I was. I see this as a great miracle in today’s world.

Mormon girls

I see this kind of resolute, secure morality everywhere I look in Mormondom. Mormon girls know who they are. They are educated, talented, and beautiful inside and out.