Very little coverage of the story of the cruel hoax perpetrated on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o has focused on aspects of the Mormon and Pacific Islander cultures that helped shape him and how these might help illuminate and give context to what seems so baffling to so many: how Te’o could be as trusting and naïve as he would have to be to be so victimized, as well as why he might be extra hesitant to share the story earlier than he did. In this podcast, panelists Anapesi Ka’ili, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and Stephen Carter, along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon look at the Te’o saga with eyes trained on the places and cultures in which he was raised and how they likely helped create a perfect storm for him to be so extraordinarily trusting and captivated by the qualities embodied by the woman he fell so deeply for without ever having met her in person. Both Mormonism and Pacific Islander identities (especially in combination with each other and also their mix in the specific town in Hawaii in which Te’o was raised) help us better understand this story, but in return the story provides a fruitful jumping off point for examination of things Mormon and Islander, such as many largely un-examined LDS (and wider religious) sensibilities and narratives, the prevalence of affinity fraud in Mormon and other close-knit religious groups, and pressures to present oneself to others in ways that fit inspirational molds but which are not fully authentic.
This discussion is rich at many levels. We look forward to your listening and then joining in the conversation below!