No, I don’t mean Joseph Smith’s 1832 visit to Manhattan, though he stayed at 88 Pearl Street, which is mere blocks from Wall Street,[fn1] and he may well have walked on Wall Street. I also don’t mean the bronze statute of Joseph Smith that stood in the Financial District.
No, I mean the name-checking of Joseph in 2012′s induction ceremony for Kappa Beta Phi, a secret Wall Street fraternity.
Kevin Roose,[fn2] then a reporter for DealBook and now a writer for New York Magazine, crashed the induction, and has recently written about it. He writes that the ceremony closed with the inductees dressing in missionary drag and singing a Wall Street version of “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon.
Though, frankly, that they parodied a song from The Book of Mormon doesn’t tell us anything about elite Wall Street’s awareness of Mormonism. It was the biggest thing on Broadway at the time; in 2011, it won nine Tony Awards. If this induction had been in 2005, I’m sure the inductees would have dressed up like various witches from Oz and sung a parody of, well, (a little help? I haven’t actually heard a single song from Wicked).
No, Joseph showed up in Wilbur Ross’s opening speech, at about the 1:20 mark.[fn3] He says this:
This is the most astonishing discovery since Joseph Smith found the Book of Mormon in an abandoned mine in Omayra,[sic] New York.[fn4]
Lest we feel persecuted, though, note that we’re in good company: Roose tells us that the jokes ranged from “unfunny and sexist . . . to unfunny and homophobic.” Unfunny and clueless about Mormons[fn5] seems to fall somewhere within this range. Somehow, we made it onto the radar screen of the unfunny scions of Wall Street. So maybe that means that we’ve arrived?[fn6]
(h/t Gordon for pointing the audio out to me.)
[fn1] (and, in fact, less than half a mile from the current location of the New York Stock Exchange)
[fn2] (whose wonderful book The Unlikely Disciple, about his semester “abroad” at Liberty University is simply wonderful, and which I’ve meant to review for more than a year now)
[fn3] You can listen to a recording of the speech at Roose’s article.
[fn4] Yeah, I’m not sure where Omayra, New York is, either. My guess is that he conflated Palmyra and Oneida, New York. Though equally possible is that he’d had a few too many at that point.
[fn5] “Anti-Mormon” doesn’t really seem to fit, as Ross isn’t making any kind of normative statement on Mormonism; he’s mostly using a half-remembered story about a strange religious group from New York as part of a(n unfunny) joke. I struggled to figure out what word to pick here, but “clueless about Mormons” was the best I could do.
[fn6] Roose also provides a list of the fraternity’s membership; I glanced through it (not carefully of course), and didn’t recognize any names as Mormon, but I clearly don’t know every Mormon on Wall Street. Did I miss someone?