Joseph Smith on Wall Street

josephsmithstatueNo, 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?


  1. fun catch — seems like a lame group anyway

  2. John, it doesn’t sound like the type of group I’d personally enjoy hanging out with, either. That said, its membership rolls are the bold-faced names of finance (Michael Bloomberg! Jon Corzine! Dick Grasso! Vikram Pandit!). To the extent this elite is unfamiliar with, or prejudiced against, Mormons, women, the LGBT community, or any other group, that’s probably a bad thing.

  3. Just goes to show you that what may have seemed so fun at the time, doesn’t look so good in the cold light of hindsight and sobriety. Unfunny and clueless about Mormons is only a small part of what is ultimately unfunny and clueless about this group. It’s like watching the cockroaches scatter when you turn on the light.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    NPR ran a story about this yesterday, which I listened to while driving. I had never heard of this fraternal organization. As I recall, the repurposed lyric they sang from the BoM was something iike “I believe…that I deserve a seven-figure bonus!”

  5. Anyone have any idea if there is a Mormon in that fraternity or who the likely candidates (besides Mitt Romney might be?). Who is the highest ranking Mormon at Goldman or in the hedgefund world?

  6. rah, there’s a link to the membership list in fn6. Romney’s not in it, nor is anybody else whose name I recognize. If you are more familiar than I with Mormons in the finance sector, I’d love to hear if you recognize any names.

  7. The Mormons who qualify to be part of this financial demographic likely have their own gatherings. And since we Mormons are pretty good at keeping our private things sacred, I don’t expect to see blurry cell phone photos of those folks in the news any time soon.

  8. Yes Mitt is not on the list and I don’t know the world of Mormon high finance enough to know if there is an LDS person on there which is why I asked. Mitt was just the only person that came to mind that would have the wealth and be closely enough related to finance to be considered for membership. I am sure there are others though.

  9. I just listened to the NPR Planet Money podcast about Roose and his experience this morning. Frankly, they sounded like a bunch of drunk bigots. That on top of the fact that I watched The Wolf of Wall Street a week ago, and yeah. I kinda hate those dudes right now. At least they didn’t say anything too nasty and/or terrible about JS, Jr. Some of their other jokes were… unsavory.

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