Excerpts from the autobiography of
about growing up as a Latter-day Saint

Source: Roseanne Barr. Roseanne: My Life as a Woman. New York: Harper & Row Publishers (1989).

[Roseanne Barr, who is often known simply by her first name "Roseanne," is a popular TV star and entertainer. She is probably best known as the creator and star of the top-rated TV sitcom "Roseanne," which ran from 1988 to 1997. She has also hosted talk shows.

Roseanne has had starring or supporting roles in a number of feature films, including the top-billed voice role in Disney's animated "Home on the Range" (2004). Other poster-billed roles include: "Look Who's Talking Too" (1990), "She-Devil" (1995), "Blue in the Face" (1995) and "Get Bruce" (1999).

Having married multiple times, the Roseanne has used professionally include: Roseane Arnold, Roseanne Arnold, and Roseanne Thomas.

Roseanne was born to a Jewish family in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the age of 6 until she was 16 years old she was also active as a Latter-day Saint. Her autobiography offers a glimpse into this period of her life. The account Roseanne provides in her autobiography is relatively short, and crafted to a certain degree as a humorous story with a punchline. Roseanne's sister's biography about her (My Sister Roseanne: The True Story of Roseanne Barr Arnold, by Geraldine Barr and Ted Schwarz, Carol Publishing Corporation, 1994) includes two chapters about Roseanne's time as a Latter-day Saint and their relationship with the Church. This biography provides a significantly more in-depth account about the depth of committment Roseanne and her mother exhibited to the Church.

It was not uncommon for Roseanne to refer to her combined Jewish/Latter-day Saint background earlier in her comedy career. In later years she spoke less frequently about her childhood as a Latter-day Saint and also became more committed to Judaism. She came to speak of her childhood in revisionist terms, describing "growing up Jewish among Mormons."]

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When I was three or four, I fell on the leg of the kitchen dinette and my face froze in a manner that resembled an older person who had had a stroke. When it did not return to normal the next day, mother called the rabbi, who said a prayer for me, and nothing happened. The next day, in escalating panic, mother called the Mormon priests, because she feared my face would mar my chances of acquiring a meal ticket at a later age. Anyway, the day after the Mormons prayed, I was miraculously "healed."

Why, you may ask (as I did at a later age), was a doctor or a health professional not contacted? Well the only rational answer to that is we lived in Utah, where all illness, disease and mild upset is assessed to be a SIGN.

Even though we were not Mormon but Jewish, the mystique of the "new Zion" had also enveloped us and mother feared the wrath of the god of the gentiles.

When my face became healed, mother (never having lived anywhere on earth but Salt Lake City) accepted it as a sign from god that the Mormon faith was the one true religion on the face of the earth, and that she and I should join it.

But she was afraid of the wrath of her own mother, and so there was a compromise. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning I was a Jew; Sunday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon we were Mormons. So, after I learned about my people being murdered in every country but America, I could then learn about my new forbears being persecuted in Illinois, New York and Utah. This made for a complete and well-rounded feeling of paranoia.

At the church's behest, mother travelled all over the holy city of salt proclaiming and testifying to the miracle that the Mormon priest had visited upon her daughter . . . Mother was a great public speaker, and in a way a good PR person for Jews everywhere, as those Mormons could see with their own two eyes that Mother did not possess horns, or humbs, or a hammer and sickle, or the numbers 666 embedded on her forehead. In fact nothing was odd about Mother, other than the dark hair and eyes and skin, which I'm sure was frightening anyway to those fine Mormon folk, to whom Jell-O and cheese whiz are mouth-watering delights.

Then when I was about eight, Mother stayed home and I began to speak in the Mormon church. I would always give the speeches for the youth, and then later for the adults, saying "I thank God for helping my mother to find the true church, and even though all of my ancestors were murdered recently, I still know that this is the true religion of God on earth."

I was the darling of the Mormon hour, as everyone was just so very excited by the "blessing of a membe of the House of Judah not going to have spend [sic] all of eternity in hell." I was quite pleased abut it myself, feeling extremely superior to those other "lost" people of Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Islamic, Moslem, socialist, and Sikh belief systems who were all, unfortunately and most certainly, doomed.

I still "loved" them, though, that's what we were taught, to have Christian charity in our hearts, and still love the sinners, as they were going to be very lost for a very, very long time . . . and we did love them, unless there was a chance that they would acquire any political cloud or power, thus making them enemies of our God.

I was very useful and also very popular in this very small circle, I was President of the Youth Group, and I also led the choir. People would say, "Look at our little Jeweeeesh girl, not even a member, really, and what an example she is to our own young people." I also considered it my duty to notify parents, and other authority figures if I feared that any of the other young people had strayed or sinned . . . that is how we helped each other. I remember one boy I fancied quite a bit, Eddie, who was very cute, and had very cute hair. I told him that I felt he was smoking pot, I had heard the rumor, and I was going to get "help" for him from his mother and father . . . he called me a bitch, but I forgave him, of course.

I remember at the age of sixteen I was at school, skimming through a medical journal, another of my "hobbies." Miraculously, the book just opened to the page on Bell's Palsy, which was the name of the disease which had led me into what turned out to be ten years of Mormon lifestyle. The information in the journal stated that Bell's Palsy was a temporary paralysis, usually lasting only forty-eight hours.

I only remember that I went just a wee bit mad, and started laughing and screaming at the same time. That very afternoon, I drank beer, smoked two cigarettes, tried to purchase drugs, and begged Eddie to go with me down a ravine and f--- my brains out. As a member of the church, he declined, in a manner rather like blind panic, probably thinking that I was possessed by Satan himself . . . then later that evening, he called me at home, to inquire about if I was OK, and could we still do it . . . I told him, as I have told them all . . . "Honey, you never gets a second chance."

[This may seem a peculiar story, and, in truth, the ending may be best seen as a mixture of fact, personal history, and punchline. To read the biography by her sister, it is evident that Roseanne's change from a committed participant in her Latter-day Saint ward to rebellious teenager may not have been as sudden as this. Also, ommitted from this brief account is the effect that the sexual abuse she later described at the hands of her non-LDS father had on her becoming involved with drugs, promiscuity, etc.]