Brandon Flowers: Making Mormons Cool Again

I went to high school in Gilbert, Arizona. It's kind of like Utah except the winters feel like paradise and there aren't as many Mormons. Still, there is a lot of us. Back then, being Mormon was cool. From student council to sports teams to cheerleaders, Mormons were everywhere. It wasn't until I went on a mission to Northern California that I realized that there are people who don't like us very much. Sure, all the beehives in the ward thought the missionaries were cool but their opinion doesn't matter when you're biking down the street wearing a white shirt and a helmet as punk teenagers yell "Satan loves you!" at the top of their lungs.

The very day I got home from my mission was 'Super Tuesday' and I watched as John McCain overtook Mitt Romney to become the Republican nominee for President. Only a few months later I found myself outside the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles as David Cook rallied texters to vote him over David Archuleta for American Idol. With that one-two punch, I was officially convinced that being Mormon wasn't cool anymore like it was in high school. It didn't seem to help Romney to believe that Jesus came to ancient America. It didn't seem to help Archuleta to be such a clean cut gee-whiz-mister kind of kid.

For some reason, being cool and accepted is something that's really important to us as Mormons. We love Romney and Archuleta because they are one of us. They have the same beliefs, same values, and they watch the same ten hours of television we do twice a year during General Confrence. We know that if either of them or if Steve Young or the Osmonds or Gladys Knight were in our home ward, they'd make great home teachers and give great comments in Gospel Doctrine. To see someone just like us succeed on a national level gives us validation. We even go so far as to pass on Mormon urban legends such as Steve Martin being a member. And although Christina Aguilera's parents met at BYU and were married in the Washington DC Temple, she was never baptized. Plus, I don't think they'll be making 'dirrty' a Young Women's value anytime soon ('Beautiful' works though because it's nothing more than having self worth "no matter what they say").

I've often wondered why this validation is such a big deal for us. I guess we still carry around a bit of a persecution complex. It's easy to see why when angry women yell at you saying you're not a Christian and when gruff men slam the door in the face despite your promise that you're not selling anything and you'll take out the trash or move a heavy couch if that's what they need. The voices mocking and scoffing at not only Mormonism, but religion in general are so loud that, even with a strong testimony, having a little validation every once in a while feels good. You might think we're crazy, but we sure can sing and dance and be governors of liberal states.

One such validation came watching the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Ben Stein. You could argue about its use of emotional appeal but you couldn't disagree it's main point: that you can be intelligent and believe in intelligent design. As the film drew to a close, a familiar song was played. It was the Killer's "All These Things That I've Done". I was proud as Brandon Flowers sang "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" and even prouder reading this month's issue of Rolling Stone magazine where, speaking about the Killer's frontman, Brian Hiatt wrote, "...unlike Bruce [Springsteen], or basically any rock star ever, Flowers is a practicing Mormon. He goes to church, and his wife, a schoolteacher and former manager of a Vegas Urban Outfitters, converted to the faith before they wed in 2005. They named [their son] Ammon after a missionary in the Book of Mormon".

And unlike David Archuleta or Donny Osmond, or basically any popular Mormon artist ever, Flowers isn't the clean cut gee-whiz-mister type. He grew up in Sin City, he's had his share of cigarettes and alcohol and partying, but he's apparently seen the error of his ways. Two years ago Flowers said he cleaned up his act. He told Rolling Stone, "I think I probably feel less guilt, and I'm also healthier than I've ever been. My wife being pregnant and all that really put things into perspective". He's got soul but he's not a soldier.

Comparing Archuleta and Flowers, the two biggest Latter-day Saints in popular music today, reveals stark contrasts. Archuleta fits every Mormon stereotype there is. He's humble, polite, and squeaky clean. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that most people don't consider that cool for whatever it's worth. Flowers on the other hand, isn't exactly a model for Peter Priesthood. The good thing is that there is room in Mormonism for both kinds of people. Even though the image of a Mormon in the collective conscience of America is probably clean cut, white, and militantly conservative, it doesn't tell the full story. Yeah, you need to stay away from alcohol, premarital sex, and fork over ten percent for tithing, but you don't have to fit 'the mold'.

Rock and roll has always raged against what's considered appropriate. Elvis swivelled his hips, Madonna took her clothes off, and Brandon Flowers proved that being religious and being Mormon doesn't mean you have to lose your personality and conform to certain expectations. All you have to do is believe in something and live it. We're so used to rock stars' rebellion aimed at shredding America's values and leaving in its place a moral wasteland, but considering the vocal opposition and ridicule of religion, what Brandon Flowers is doing is rebellion. Sure, we don't see it as controversial, but Richard Dawkins probably would.

Thank you Brandon Flowers. Thank you for the music, thank you for living what you believe, and thank you for making Mormons cool again.

7 comments:

Bronson said...

He doesn't look a thing like Jesus...

vicm said...

...but, you have to admit, he talks like a gentleman just like you imagined when you were young.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Brother Flowers is like all of us...perfectly imperfect. Great read dude!

drama17 said...

Thanks for sharing--I think it is a good thing to not fit in the mold-but it does get hard at times if you do not fit the mold. I have the up most respect for Brother Flowers because he does not have a squeaky clean past. We need to feel "cool" because we have the need has people to feel accepted in the world whether we admit that or not. I have learned that I can think for myself and still believe in the Gospel. I respect you for sharing this with the people of today...thank you. And you are still Cool at least in my book-and hey California is not all that cool :) well maybe :)

Anonymous said...

Nice one Brandon!

Josie said...

You should be proud of being different from the ugly dirty filth we have on screens!!! Please don't change a thing!

Lidia Barrera said...

Brandon Flowers rocks!!! Is there anything cooler than being an LDS family man and a rockstar at the same time? People think we lose our identities as mormons, but we all have our own identities and it's our beliefs and values what make us one.
I love The Killers music from the beggining and before I knew Brandon was a mormon. Now I respect him even more.
Greetings from Chile

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