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MormonLeaks reposts LDS Church apostasy presentation, rebuffs faith’s copyright violation claim

“The MormonLeaks website on Tuesday reposted an LDS Church PowerPoint presentation dealing with the roots of apostasy, such as pornography, campaigns to ordain women, challenges to the faith’s history, and general ‘lack of righteousness.’ The site, which has generated past headlines by displaying restricted church papers on topics ranging from the salaries of Mormon apostles to rules governing calls home by missionaries, had taken down the presentation after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints threatened legal action March 1. Based on a copyright-violation allegation, it marked the first time that the Utah-based faith had turned to its attorneys to challenge MormonLeaks’ revelations in the four months the site has been up. On Tuesday, the site reposted the material, along with a letter sent Monday to Barry Taggart, a representative of the LDS Church’s Intellectual Property Office. In the letter, MormonLeaks’ Las Vegas-based attorney Marc Randazza contends the site ‘obtained this document lawfully and had a right to distribute it in its capacity as a journalistic resource devoted to discussing facts about the LDS Church.’ A representative for Taggart’s office said Tuesday the church would have no comment on MormonLeaks’ latest actions.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, 3/14/17) [IT 8.2]

Mormon leader Richard G. Scott dies at 86

On September 22, Mormon leader Richard G. Scott died at the age of 86. Scott passed away at his home from natural causes in Salt Lake City. He had been a member of a church governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1988. Scott was hospitalized with gastrointestinal bleeding, which he recovered from; but church officials announced in May that he was experiencing fading memory that kept him from taking part in Quorum meetings. Scott had a successful career as a nuclear engineer before being chosen as a member of the Quorum. Scott didn’t speak at the last church general conference in April. His final address came in October 2014 when he spoke about the importance of prayer, scripture reading, family home nights, and going to the temple.

“Each of us is intimately aware of our own struggles with temptation, pain and sadness,” Scott said that day. “Despite all of the negative challenges we have in life, we must take time to actively exercise our faith.” (USA Today, 09/23/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Nearly a hundred people submit resignation letters to LDS church

Nearly a hundred people marched through the streets of Salt Lake City in late July 2015 to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Their purpose was to resign from the Mormon Church. Women’s inequality and LGBT discrimination were among the reasons behind their official resignation from the church. (Fox 13 Now, 07/25/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Mormons win battle to distance themselves from BC polygamist

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has succeeded in getting its name back. On January 12, 2015, the British Columbia Supreme Court, by consent, issued an order prohibiting Winston Blackmore and his followers from using the name The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS Inc. or any similar names. The order also forbids any attention that would confuse Blackmore’s group or the LDS in anyway. Furthermore, the order prohibits Blackmore and his followers from questioning, attacking, challenging, objecting to, or opposing in any way the Church’s trademarked names. Those names include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Latter-day Saints, and Mormon. Blackmore was ordered to immediately change his group’s corporate name to the Church of Jesus Christ (Original Doctrine) Inc.

In August 2014, Blackmore was criminally charged for practicing polygamy. He has also “had to pay for back taxes, fines, and court costs after failing in his attempt to have Revenue Canada tax him and his followers not as individuals but as a religious commune.” (Vancouver Sun, 1/13/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Fraud arrests may be turning point for FLDS

In Hildale, Utah, Andrew Chatwin, former member of the FLDS, watches as police and agents surround an FLDS outpost; he says he’s been waiting for this moment. “According to prosecutors, the businesses were key players in a high-desert conspiracy that siphoned millions of dollars in food-stamp benefits from the pockets of American families to bank accounts controlled by the polygamist sect, whose leaders—most prominently, the jailed Warren Jeffs—follow a self-styled form of Mormonism and dictate where followers live, how much they eat and whom they marry. . . The arrests are only part of the legal troubles confronting the sect and its home-base communities, accused in a federal civil rights trial in Phoenix of denying housing, utilities, and adequate policing to nonbelievers. In closing arguments. . ., the defense argued that the government was using the towns as scapegoats to seek revenge against a religion it abhors.” (The New York Times, 03/2/16) [IT 7.2 2016]


Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt

New York Times

Laurie Goodstein

July 20, 2013

In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.

Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

Mr. Mattsson’s decision to go public with his disaffection, in a church whose top leaders commonly deliberate in private, is a sign that the church faces serious challenges not just from outside but also from skeptics inside.

Greg Prince, a Mormon historian and businessman in Washington who has held local leadership positions in the church, shares Mr. Mattsson’s doubts. “Consider a Catholic cardinal suddenly going to the media and saying about his own church, ‘I don’t buy a lot of this stuff,’ ” Mr. Prince said. “That’s the level we’re talking about here.”

He said of Mr. Mattsson, “He is, as far as I know, the highest-ranking church official who has gone public with deep concerns, who has had a faith crisis and come forward to say he’s going to talk about it because maybe that will help us all to resolve it.”

Every faith has its skeptics and detractors, but the Mormon Church’s history creates special challenges. The church was born in America only 183 years ago, and its founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, and his disciples left behind reams of papers that still exist, documenting their work, exposing their warts and sometimes contradicting one another.

“The Roman Catholic Church has had 2,000 years to work through the hiccups in its history,” said Terryl L. Givens, a professor of English, literature and religion at the University of Richmond and a Mormon believer. “Mormonism is still an adolescent religion.”

Mr. Givens and his wife, Fiona, recently presented what they called “Crucible of Doubt” sessions for questioning Mormons in England, Scotland and Ireland. Hundreds attended each event.

“Sometimes they are just this side of leaving, and sometimes they are simply faithful members who are looking for clarity and understanding to add to their faith,” said Mr. Givens, who hosted a similar discussion in July in Provo, Utah, and has others planned in the United States. The church is not sponsoring the sessions, Mr. Givens said, but local bishops give their permission.

Eric Hawkins, a church spokesman, said that “every church faces this challenge,” adding, “The answer is not to try to silence critics, but to provide as much information and as much support as possible to those who may be affected.” Mr. Hawkins also said the Mormon Church, which counts 14 million members worldwide, added about one million members every three years.

But Mr. Mattsson and others say the disillusionment is infecting the church’s best and brightest. A survey of more than 3,300 Mormon disbelievers, released last year, found that more than half of the men and four in 10 of the women had served in leadership positions in the church.

Many said they had suffered broken relationships with their parents, spouses and children as a result of their disbelief. The study was conducted by John Dehlin, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Utah State University and the founder of “Mormon Stories,” a podcast of interviews with scholars and church members, many critical toward the church.

Some church leaders are well aware of the doubters in their midst. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who serves in the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the governing body just below the three-member First Presidency), said in April while addressing the church’s semiannual general conference in Salt Lake City: “Please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood and resolved. They do, and they will.”

Mr. Mattsson served as a young missionary in England; his wife, Birgitta, is a convert. They raised their five children in the Mormon Church in Sweden, which dates to the 1850s and has about 9,000 members.

He and his twin brother, Leif, both rose through the ranks of leadership, and in 2000, Hans Mattsson became the first Swede ever to be named an area authority. (He served until 2005, when he had heart surgery.) During the week he worked in technology marketing, and on the weekends he traveled widely throughout Europe, preaching and organizing the believers.

“I was just in a bubble, and we felt so happy,” Mr. Mattsson said.

The first doubts filtered up to him from members who had turned to the Internet to research a Sunday school talk. There are dozens of Web sites other than the Mormons’ own that present critical views of the faith.

The questions were things like:

■ Why does the church always portray Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon from golden plates, when witnesses described him looking down into a hat at a “peep stone,” a rock that he believed helped him find buried treasure?

■ Why were black men excluded from the priesthood from the mid-1800s until 1978?

■ Why did Smith claim that the Book of Abraham, a core scripture, was a translation of ancient writings from the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, when Egyptologists now identify the papyrus that Smith used in the translation as a common funerary scroll that has nothing to do with Abraham?

■ Is it true that Smith took dozens of wives, some as young as 14 and some already wed to other Mormon leaders, to the great pain of his first wife, Emma?

About that last question, Mr. Mattsson said, “That was kind of shocking.”

Mr. Mattsson said he sought the help of the church’s highest authorities. He said a senior apostle came to Sweden at his request and told a meeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong. But Mr. Mattsson said the promised text never appeared, and when he asked the apostle about it, he was told it was impertinent to ask.

(Mr. Mattsson refused to identify the apostle, but others said it was Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Perry, now 91, confirmed through a church spokesman that he did visit a branch in Sweden with skeptical members, but said he recalled satisfying their questions with a letter written by the church’s history department.)

That encounter is what really set off Mr. Mattsson’s doubts. He began reading everything he could. He listened to the “Mormon Stories” podcasts. And he read “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,” a biography by Richard Lyman Bushman, a historian at Columbia University and a prominent Mormon.

Mr. Bushman said in a telephone interview: “You would be amazed at the number of Mormons who don’t think Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. It just wasn’t talked about. It was never mentioned in church periodicals. That was policy.”

In the last 10 or 15 years, he said, “the church has come to realize that transparency and candor and historical accuracy are really the only way to go.” The church has released seven volumes of the papers of Joseph Smith and published an essay on one of the most shameful events in church history, the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which church leaders plotted the slaughter of people in a wagon train in 1857.

But the church has not actively disseminated most of these documents, so when members come across them on Web sites or in books, Mr. Bushman said, “it’s just excruciating.”

“Sometimes people are furious because they feel they haven’t been told the truth growing up,” he said. “They feel like they were tricked or betrayed.”

Mr. Mattsson said that when he started sharing what he had learned with other Mormons in Sweden, the stake president (who oversees a cluster of congregations) told him not to talk about it to any members, even his wife and children. He did not obey: “I said to them, why are you afraid for the truth?”

He organized a discussion group in Sweden, and more than 600 participated, he said. In 2010, the church sent two of its top historians, Elder Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr. to allay the Swedes’ concerns. They had a remarkably frank and sometimes testy exchange, especially about Smith and polygamy.

The Mattssons have tried other churches, but they are still attached to their Mormon faith. A few weeks ago, they moved to Spain for health reasons, they said. They left behind some family members who are unhappy with Mr. Mattsson’s decision to grant interviews to The New York Times and to the “Mormon Stories” podcast.

“I don’t want to hurt the church,” Mr. Mattsson said. “I just want the truth.”

A version of this article appeared in print on July 21, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Some Mormons Search the Web And Find Doubt.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt.html?pagewanted=all

 

Mormons Change References To Blacks, Polygamy

NPR

March 17, 2013

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released this week the most significant changes to its scripture since 1981.

The Mormon scriptures comprise four books: the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Although there are grammatical revisions that will be contained in the 2013 edition of Mormon scriptures — available online now and in print format in August — the substantive changes come in terms of the introductions to the actual scriptural material.

"Those are what are really catching the attention of members of the church," Mormon scholar Terryl Givens tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

The two biggest additions to the new edition of Mormon scripture can be found in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, says Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, and they deal specifically with the church's original ban on black priesthood ordination and polygamy.

Givens says Joseph Smith himself ordained black members of the church to the priesthood. But after Smith's death, beginning in the late 1840s, Brigham Young apparently charted a new direction in terms, and began what became known as "the ban," under which people of African-American ancestry were not permitted to hold the priesthood or to participate in temple ordinances.

"That was a policy that remained in place until 1978. It's really the albatross around the neck of the church, and it was for many, many years," says Givens, co-author of The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life.

"I think that this new introduction to the revelation ending the priesthood ban is a major step forward in many ways because it acknowledges that the practice may have originated — it seems to me, this is how I'm reading it anyhow — as a matter of error or cultural and historical conditioning rather than as the will of God," he says. "And that's a fairly significant statement for the church to make."

The changes also deal with polygamy. A new introduction included in Doctrine and Covenants, Givens says, declares that "monogamy is God's standard for marriage unless he declares otherwise."

"I think that one could read that almost as an inversion of many Mormons' historical understanding of plural marriage," Givens says.

Givens says he believes these additions to Mormon scripture show signs of a more modern Mormon Church.

"In many ways, what we're seeing with these changes is the privileging of history over theology in some ways," he says. "It's a kind of acknowledgement that the Mormon Church is rooted in a past that is replete with historical claims. And it's a magnificent thing for a church to allow professional historians to have a lead role in the way that scripture is presented and its story is told."

http://www.npr.org/2013/03/17/174559275/mormons-change-references-to-blacks-polygamy

 

LDS Church Handbook on Social Issues Available Online

Salt Lake Tribune

Peggy Fletcher Stack

November 26, 2010

For those members — and any others — who might be wondering, the LDS Church takes no stand on drinking Coca-Cola.

The Utah-based faith opposes gambling (including government-run lotteries), guns in churches, euthanasia, Satan worship and hypnotism for entertainment.

It “strongly discourages” surrogate motherhood, sperm donation, surgical sterilizations (including vasectomies) and artificial insemination — when “using semen from anyone but the husband.”

But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports organ donation, paying income taxes, members running for political office and autopsies — “if the family of the deceased gives consent.”

These and other positions are spelled out in what Mormons commonly refer to as “the handbook” — a newly published two-volume set of instructions for stake presidents, bishops and other local LDS leaders.

Until now, the handbook was available only to these church leaders. That still holds true for the first volume, which is available online to bishops and stake presidents.

That blue volume includes information about counseling with members. LDS authorities worried that if it were widely read, some members “might decide they don’t need to go see their bishop,” says Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs. “It made much more sense to reserve that volume for leaders.”

But the church is putting the second, red volume online for everyone. So, for the first time, members and outsiders can read for themselves the church’s position on a panoply of social issues.

“It’s extremely convenient to have it on the Internet,” Otterson says. “Church members can search it easily and cross-reference it with other materials. It absolutely makes sense.”

LDS general authorities understand that, whether they posted it or not, the book would be online within days, he says. “It was a common-sense decision. There was no great debate about it.”

Putting that book on the Web “removes the veil of secrecy from a lot of the operation,” says LDS sociologist Armand Mauss of Irvine, Calif. “That’s healthy.”

Mauss sees the move as part of a “recent trend in the church to become more transparent.”

Such transparency also is reflected in “a new appreciation for candor and openness in publishing Mormon history,” Mauss says, “and in a public approval for academic Mormon studies not controlled by the church.”

All these developments, he adds, help to “neutralize the public image of the church as an unduly ‘secretive’ organization in its operations.”

Julie M. Smith, a Mormon in Austin, Texas, also applauds the move.

“Some people assumed that there was something sinister that the church was trying to hide,” Smith says in an e-mail. “Making the book public shows this wasn’t the case.”

It will help clear up confusion about counsel that wasn’t clearly understood, says Smith, a stay-at-home mom with a degree in biblical studies.

Smith points to the church’s position on vasectomies.

“I’ve known church members who were shocked that the handbook strongly discourages vasectomies. They had no idea that there was any policy concerning it,” she says. “If there are such policies, I think it is wise that everyone — not just those with leadership callings — knows about them.”

Making such stances available is particularly important for women, who generally had less access to the handbook, she says. They can “feel more involved and knowledgeable about church policies.”

The dual handbook was unveiled last weekend in a worldwide leadership-training session viewed via satellite by thousands of members. The move to put Handbook 2 online also may have been prompted by busy Mormon authorities who were tired of answering questions already delineated in the book.

In fact, the book specifically says that members should not contact LDS general authorities about doctrinal or personal issues. (It says not to ask for their autographs, either.) Instead, Mormons are urged to take their questions to their local leaders.

For outsiders as well as the faithful, the handbook provides a fascinating peek into the administrative, social and doctrinal positions of the nearly 14 million-member faith.

Many members hail this new openness and find several statements in the handbook to be surprisingly complex, leaving much decision-making to individuals or couples.

Take birth control.

The handbook says it is a “privilege” for Mormon couples to nurture and rear children, but the decision of how many to have is “extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord.” Moreover, church members “should not judge one another in this matter.”

The book also says sexual relations in marriage “are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.”

While the LDS Church discourages the use of in vitro fertilization using semen and eggs from people outside the couple, the decision “ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife.”

Some members wish the book explained the theological basis for various stances. For example, it says that artificial insemination of single sisters is not approved.

“Single sisters who deliberately refuse to follow the counsel of church leaders in this matter,” it says, “are subject to church discipline.”

Writing at feministmormonhousewives.org, Keri Brooks asks, “I recognize that they want to encourage the birth of children within temple marriages, but they don’t discipline pregnant women married to nonmembers, or single women who adopt, so there’s something more going on.”

Several Mormon bloggers are especially pleased to see this statement about other faiths: “Much that is inspiring, noble, and worthy of the highest respect is found in many other faiths,” the handbook says, and cautions missionaries and other members to be “sensitive and respectful toward the beliefs of others and avoid giving offense.”

As a whole, Mauss says, putting Handbook 2 online should have the effect of helping rank-and-file Mormons feel “inclusion and ownership” where programs and policies are concerned, rather than belonging to the leaders.

It will, he says, help create a “more informed membership … with a greater awareness of church expectations, both in personal behavior and in the requirements of all the various callings.”

The church’s rules and policies, Mauss says, will “seem more like ‘ours’ as a church than as ‘theirs.’ ”

Where the LDS Church stands on ...

Abortion

The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Members must not submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion. The only possible exceptions are when:

1. Pregnancy resulted from forcible rape or incest.

2. A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy.

3. A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

Even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons responsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmation through prayer.

Church members who submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion may be subject to church discipline.

As far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.

Sex education

Parents have primary responsibility for the sex education of their children. Teaching this subject honestly and plainly in the home will help young people avoid serious moral transgressions. To help parents teach this sensitive and important information, the church has published A Parent’s Guide.

Where schools have undertaken sex education, parents should seek to ensure that the instructions given to their children are consistent with sound moral and ethical values.

Surgical sterilization (including vasectomy)

The church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.

Source: Handbook 2: Administering the Church

Read the handbook online

To view all of Handbook 2: Administering the Church, which had previously been available to only to church leaders, go to › lds.org

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50690125-76/church-handbook-says-members.html.csp

 

Why I Won’t Leave the Mormon Church Alone

Religion Dispatches

Holly Welker

November 22, 2010

“You left the church two decades ago,” my sister said to me recently. “Why can’t you leave it alone?”

It’s a common conversation between former or inactive Mormons and those who are still faithful. “People can leave the Mormon church, but they can’t leave it alone” is an adage I heard as a child. It supposedly proves that the Mormon church is true and that those who leave it are broken in some fundamental way—though the exact means by which this is proven is never clearly established.

This at least is true: although I stopped attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1989, I continue to study and write about it—and I can explain why.

The LDS church was an integral part of my early life. I grew up in a tiny community in Arizona so Mormon that activities at the public school were often held at the Mormon church, and vice-versa. Most of my classmates, virtually all my friends, and much of my family were Mormon.

At church I was commanded to keep a journal, examining my life for the narrative threads that guide my choices and determine my character. I will never shake this habit, no matter what. Truth be told, if the LDS church somehow lost all it leaders and members tomorrow and existed only as a historical relic, I would still strive to puzzle out how my past—including the two and a half decades I spent as a devout Mormon—shaped my present life.

Not only was the LDS church a dominant institution in my life, it was something I had a personal and passionate relationship with. It wasn’t merely the religion of my community; it was, more importantly, my own private religion. I studied its texts, learned its doctrines. I went through the temple and participated in the rituals there. I served a mission, learning Mandarin Chinese so that I could teach the Mormon gospel in Taiwan.

Given the depth of my attachment to Mormonism, the decision to leave was correspondingly agonizing. As I know from discussing the topic with former Mormons from England, Belgium, Germany, and South Africa, the rupture can be harrowing even for people who have never set foot in Utah and are one of only a handful of Latter-day Saints in their community.

In The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi states, “Changing moral codes is always costly; all heretics, apostates, and dissidents know this.” Mormons who leave the church face dire consequences: damnation, separation for all eternity from loved ones, shunning and judgment in this life, as well as irritated, self-righteous assertions that we shouldn’t even discuss parts of our own history. It’s hard to invite all that, and one main reason to do so is that you come to the tortured conclusion that the LDS church doesn't offer you truth, integrity, or salvation in this life or the next.

For years after my exodus, I tried to work out my feelings about Mormonism on my own, and to avoid saying anything about it that would upset my family. But it was difficult, particularly since the church wouldn’t leave me alone. (I got repeated phone calls, letters, and visits to my home from missionaries and people in the congregation, despite formal requests that they stop.) Eventually I sought a community of people also striving to come to terms with what it meant to have been but no longer be a devout Mormon. Luckily a diverse community of ex-, post-, or lapsed Mormons (we differ on what to call ourselves) thrives on the internet.

Another thing that makes leaving Mormonism difficult is how little it is understood by the world at large. It’s frustrating to have to explain fundamental elements of the church before discussing the crisis of faith those elements prompted. Mormonism has unusual and esoteric doctrines (i.e., the idea that God is married), a rich and complex (albeit somewhat brief) history, some deeply peculiar practices (such as wearing sacred underwear and baptizing other people’s dead ancestors), and educated, ambitious, but often clannish and eccentric members. The intricacies, oddities, and relative newness sometimes make it both intriguing and impenetrable to outsiders.

Anyone familiar with Mormonism is occasionally called upon to explain it. Those of us who have intimate knowledge of its inner workings but are bound neither by orthodoxy nor its evangelical agenda (Mormons are the most aggressive proselytizers on the planet) are well equipped to do so. It’s true that we have our own biases, but that does not mean we see nothing valuable in Mormonism and cannot discuss it honestly. I have written extensively about Mormonism’s virtues and strengths. Granted, I’ve written more about its failings and flaws; but if I thought the benefits of remaining Mormon outweighed the costs, I would still be a practicing Mormon.

In particular, we are asked to explain aspects of LDS politics, at least recently. Latter-day Saints are generally among the most politically conservative voters in the U.S., and the church has marshaled both its own and its members’ resources to support conservative political causes. In the 1970s, when I was a teenager, we had church activities where we were required to write letters to our legislators, urging them not to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. (Even at the time, I wondered why legislators would be impressed by letters from high school students, but ever dutiful, I wrote them anyway.) The LDS church was most recently a major player in the 2008 campaign to amend the California State Constitution to ban gay marriage via Proposition 8.

That, of course, is one primary reason I cannot and will not leave the church alone: it continues to exert its influence in areas that affect my life and the lives of people I love. Most of what I have written recently about the church deals with gender and sex; as long as the church has opinions that move it to action on these topics, I will have opinions on the church’s actions, which I claim the right to express.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/3781/why_i_won%E2%80%99t_leave_the_mormon_church_alone_/

 

Surprises Pop up in New Survey of U.S. Mormons

Salt Lake Tribune

Peggy Fletcher Stack

July 31,2009

On July 24, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an extensive statistical portrait of Mormons in the United States.

It drew on answers by self-identified members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Pew's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey in 2007.

Though it will come as no surprise to Utahns that most Mormons are church-attending, Bible-believing Republicans, some of the other results may be less predictable. For instance, Latter-day Saints are more likely to attend church and less likely to home-school or attend religious schools than the general population.

Here are some of the findings:

Comparative size » Mormons make up 1.7 percent of the American adult population, a proportion that is comparable in size to the U.S. Jewish population but more than Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7 percent), Buddhists (0.7 percent), Muslims (0.6 percent) and Hindus (0.4 percent).

Age, gender and family » Two-thirds (66 percent) of Latter-day Saints are under age 50, compared with 59 percent of the public as a whole. Most Mormons are women (56 percent).

Marriage » Nearly three-quarters of Mormons (71 percent) are married, compared with just more than half (54 percent) among the general population. Only Hindus (78 percent) are more likely than Mormons to be married. Mormons (83 percent) and Hindus (90 percent) also are the most likely of all the major religious traditions to be married to someone of the same faith.

Family size » Latter-day Saints are widely known for having large families and, indeed, about half the nation's Mormons (49 percent) have children under age 18 living at home, with one in five (21 percent) saying they have three or more children at home. Only Muslims are similarly likely to have large families: 47 percent of Muslims have at least one child living at home and 15 percent have three or more.

Race » Nearly nine in 10 U.S. Mormons (86 percent) are Anglo, compared with 71 percent of the general population. Just 3 percent of Mormons are African-American and 7 percent are Latino. Other predominantly Anglo religious groups in the United States include Jews (95 percent), members of mainline Protestant churches (91 percent) and Orthodox Christians (87 percent).

Education » Six in 10 Mormons (61 percent) have at least some college education, compared with half the overall population. However, the proportion of Mormons who graduate from college (18 percent) or receive postgraduate education (10 percent) mirrors the population as a whole (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

Converts » Nearly half the LDS converts (48 percent) are above age 50, compared with about three in 10 lifelong members (29 percent). Converts also tend to be less educated than nonconverts (16 percent did not graduate from high school, compared with just 6 percent of lifelong members), and they earn decidedly lower incomes (40 percent pocket less than $30,000 a year, compared with 21 percent among nonconverts).

Converts are more likely than lifelong Latter-day Saints to come from minority racial and ethnic groups. They are less likely than lifelong members to be married (64 percent vs. 74 percent).

A quarter of current Mormons (26 percent) are converts to the faith. This is a much higher proportion than among Catholics (11 percent) and Jews (15 percent) but significantly lower than among Buddhists (73 percent), Jehovah's Witnesses (67 percent) and Protestants (45 percent, when those who have switched from one Protestant family to another are included, such as Baptist to Methodist; if changes within Protestantism are omitted, the figure is 16 percent). Of those who have converted to Mormonism, roughly half (13 percent of Mormons overall) were raised Protestant, one in four (7 percent of Mormons overall) were raised Catholic and one in five (5 percent of Mormons overall) were raised without a religious affiliation.

Retention » Mormons boast a relatively high retention rate of childhood members compared with other major religious traditions. Seven in 10 of those raised LDS (70 percent) still identify as Mormon, a figure roughly comparable to that seen among those raised Catholic (68 percent are still Catholic) but somewhat lower than among those raised Protestant (80 percent are still Protestant and 52 percent remain in the same Protestant family). Jehovah's Witnesses have a lower retention rate (37 percent are still Jehovah's Witnesses).

Of those who leave Mormonism after being raised in the faith, half (15 percent of those raised LDS overall) convert to a new religion, while the other half (14 percent overall) become unaffiliated.

The Bible » More than nine in 10 Mormons (91 percent) say the Bible is the God's word, while a majority of Mormons (57 percent) say it should not be taken literally.

Church attendance » Mormons rank among the most active of the major religious traditions in terms of attendance at religious services. Fully three-quarters (76 percent) say they attend church at least once a week, compared with 39 percent among the general population.

Home schooling » Mormons are less likely than the public overall to home-school or send their children to a religious school; 6 percent say they do so, compared with 15 percent among the general population.

One true church » Most Mormons (57 percent) say theirs is the one true faith, with a sizable minority (39 percent) taking the opposite view. More than six in 10 younger Mormons (62 percent) say theirs in the one true faith, compared with roughly half (48 percent) of Mormons 50 and older. LDS men are more likely than women (64 percent vs. 52 percent) to say theirs is the one true faith.

Utahns and others » Utahns are much less likely than Mormons from other states to share their faith with others at least once a week (13 percent vs. 37 percent), they are more likely to say theirs is the one true faith (63 percent vs. 51 percent) and they more heavily favor preserving traditional beliefs and practices (77 percent vs. 63 percent).

Politics » Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Mormons say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while a fifth (22 percent) say they are Democrats. Mormons in the West are significantly more likely than members from other regions to identify as Republican (68 percent vs. 55 percent).

Among the general public, two-thirds (62 percent) say the government should do more for the needy, while only about half the Mormons (49 percent) say this. More than four in 10 Latter-day Saints (42 percent) say government cannot afford to do much more to help the needy, compared with 29 percent among the population as a whole.

Most Mormons (55 percent) said in summer 2007 that strong environmental laws are worth the cost. Half (51 percent) say it is best to be active in world affairs, and 37 percent say the nation should focus more on problems at home. Jews are the only other major religious tradition in which a majority leans toward involvement in international affairs (53 percent).

Those who are married are significantly more likely than unmarried Mormons to identify as conservative (66 percent vs. 43 percent) and Republican (70 percent vs. 52 percent) and to oppose legal abortion (73 percent vs. 63 percent).

pstack@sltrib.com

More on the Web

To read the full Pew report, go to pewforum.org.

http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12946018

 

'Big Love' in Big Trouble with Mormons

Chicago Tribune

Manya Brachear

March 15, 2009

Did the creators of HBO’s “Big Love” cross a line in Sunday's episode by portraying a ritual that normally happens behind the sealed doors of a Mormon temple? Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say there are corners of the religious landscape where Hollywood is just not welcome.

I checked in with polygamist fans of the show who I've written about in the past—fundamentalist Mormons who practice the kind of plural marriage portrayed in “Big Love.”

Anne Wilde, a plural wife for 33 years until the death of her husband, also voiced her objections to Sunday’s episode.

“It seems that many religions have sacred elements that are not for public view--and certainly the LDS temple ceremony is one of them,” said Wilde, co-founder of Principle Voices, a plural marriage advocacy group. She predicted before the show that it would offend mainstream LDS members as well as Fundamentalist Mormons, most of whom have no access to the temple because they practice plural marriage, "but nevertheless support the sacred and private nature of its ceremonies. Indeed, when I touched base with Wilde after the show, she expressed bewilderment that the show pushed the envelope as far as it did. "Of all the parts of the temple ceremony that 'Big Love' could have depicted, they selected absolutely the most sacred and confidential," she said. "I was shocked (as were the two active LDS members with whom I watched the show) that the wording, Priesthood handshake, and going through the temple veil were all shown. I don't see how that part of the ceremony was essential to the plot, as the writers had previously claimed ... I feel they really overstepped ethical boundaries.

Sunday’s episode shows Barb (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn), who is not a church member in good standing, finding a way into a temple anyhow.

“She has been conflicted about her relationship to the Church for three seasons now, but the thought of being cast into ‘outer darkness’ as excommunication promises is something deeply upsetting to her,” Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the show’s creators and executive producers, said in an e-mail. “She was brought up in this Church and still loves it. If the Church would allow her to be a member she would do so without hesitation.”

Wilde can relate to much of the show, which often illustrates how plural wives usually get along.

“One thing I have especially liked about the show so far is the family solidarity; even though the three wives have disagreements, they usually support each other in the long run,” she said. “I also like the fact that the Hendrickson family lives in a relatively upscale community, is not in an isolated area, is able to support themselves … dispelling the stereotypes that all polygamous wives are controlled and uneducated, dress in different styles, depend on government assistance.”

But in Wilde’s opinion, this isn’t the first time “Big Love” pushed the envelope. She also questions their accuracy at times. In one plot line, for example, main character Bill Henrickson surreptitiously pursued a prospective fourth wife.

“It is not acceptable, for most Fundamentalist Mormons, if the husband seriously ‘courts’ a future wife without the knowledge of the existing wives,” Wilde said. “And the fact that he ‘slept’ with her before the marriage sealing was performed is definitely immoral in our estimation.”

On Sunday night, Wilde said she did not appreciate the obvious deception Barb had to use in order to get inside the temple. Wilde also said the show got the pattern and color of the temple aprons wrong. (They are green, not blue.)

HBO apologized to those who might be offended by the fictional ceremony. Olsen and Scheffer said they went to great lengths to portray the ceremony accurately.

“In approaching the dramatization of the endowment ceremony, we knew we had a responsibility to be completely accurate and to show the ceremony in the proper context and with respect,” Olsen and Scheffer said in a statement. “In order to assure the accuracy of the ceremony, it was thoroughly vetted by an adviser who is familiar with temple practices and rituals. This consultant was actually on the set throughout the filming of the scenes to make sure every detail was correct.”

According to Olsen and Scheffer, that consultant was born into the church and taught temple ritual and practices. The individual resigned from the church eight years ago.

Sunday’s episode has prompted some mainstream Mormons to boycott and cancel subscriptions to companies owned by HBO’s parent company Time Warner. But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not adopted an official position.

“Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding," the church said in a statement. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series.”

But Wilde hopes more people do watch the show and realize that all Americans (including polygamists) should be granted equal civil rights. She said plural marriage between consenting adults should be a constitutional guarantee.

“By learning more about this lifestyle, they hopefully can see that a polygamous family is very similar to a monogamous family in many ways," Wilde said. "Except there are usually more members of the family, thus more people to love and more people to love you.”

What do you think? Should Hollywood avoid the secret and sacred?

http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2009/03/big-love-in-big-trouble-with-mormons.html

 

Daughter's Denunciation of Historian Roils Mormon Church

Washington Post, Sunday, May 8, 2005, Page A-03

T. R. Reid, Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY -- Although the Mormon Church is one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing Christian denominations, members of the faith often take a defensive stance toward the outside world. "Mormons of every stripe are obsessive about their image," historians Richard and Joan Ostling noted, "deeply concerned that their church appears to outsiders as a 'cult.' "

In the ongoing effort to enhance the church's image, no Mormon played a bigger role than Hugh Nibley, the multilingual teacher and scholar whose books, laden with footnotes and laced with quotations from ancient texts, make a meticulous argument that Mormon scripture reflects historic truth.

But this spring, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been rocked by a furious attack on the beloved historian -- an attack that comes from his daughter, Martha Nibley Beck.

In an explosive memoir, Beck, 42, says that Nibley was a pedophile who abused her as a child while chanting ancient Egyptian prayers. She also says that her father's history books were fictional and that the extensive footnotes for which he was famous were simply made up.

Beck's mother and her seven siblings have angrily denounced the book, "Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found my Faith," saying she is either lying, deranged or both. Nibley's fellow historians in the field have rallied to his defense, arguing that his scholarly work is reliable.

The family notes that the bitter controversy made for a sad conclusion to Nibley's life. He died in February, at the age of 94, as his daughter's book went on sale. In his last months, his other children say, he forcefully denied Beck's charges of sexual abuse and of academic misconduct.

The impact extends far beyond the Nibley family. Much of Utah -- with 73 percent of the population Mormon, it is the closest thing America has to a one-church state -- has been stunned by the attack on a revered defender of the common faith. Internet chat rooms, radio talk shows and letters-to-the-editor columns have been flooded with commentary.

"It's just a terrible thing for a community to go through," said Andrew Ludlow, a church member and a senior at the church's premier school, Brigham Young University. "I don't think there's ever been a Mormon scholar more admired, or even loved, than Hugh Nibley. To see him attacked like this -- attacked by his own daughter -- is almost unbelievable."

Dan Wotherspoon, editor of the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone, says the book has aggravated divisions within the Mormon world.

"Martha's book clearly has energized those who want to justify their own struggles with the church," he said. "The buzz around this book is huge, and it's primarily negative. She says a lot of things in there that anyone who lives in Utah will just know is wrong. But it has struck a chord with folks moving in her direction, out of the faith."

The Latter-day Saints church is an intensely American faith. Founded in the 1820s by a New York farm boy named Joseph Smith, it says the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. The church uses the Judeo-Christian Bible alongside scripture of its own, primarily the Book of Mormon. This text says that Jesus Christ came to America after his resurrection to preach to the Indians. Nonetheless, the Salt Lake City-based church has seen its fastest growth overseas. The church says it operates in 170 countries, and more than half its 12.3 million members live outside North America.

Beck, a therapist and self-help columnist, said in an interview that she did not write the book "to punish my family or the church." The book was primarily designed, she said, to be "therapeutic for the author." She writes that "protecting the Mormon Church by keeping dark secrets . . . would isolate me in a life of smothered rage."

In "Leaving the Saints," Beck says that she suffered for years from anorexia, anger and despair, and had frequent suicidal impulses. When she and her former husband, John C. Beck, were teaching at Brigham Young in the 1990s, she believed that church authorities stalked her, tapped her phone and threatened her.

One day, in her late twenties, Beck writes, her brain "seemed to erupt like a volcano" and she suddenly had a memory of her father abusing her in her bed when she was 5. She subsequently remembered other abuse that she said lasted until she was 8. In an interview, she said these memories were the reason for her unhappiness and mental problems.

Beck, a mother of three, says that an obstetrician who examined her as an adult found vaginal scarring, but concluded it came from giving birth. She says a therapist told her that if she was abused by her father, her three sisters would have been abused, as well. The sisters say this did not happen.

Beck argues that such negative evidence makes her more convinced her memory is accurate.

"The peculiar details of my memories had at first made me doubt myself -- they were so weird -- but in the end, reinforced my conviction that I hadn't unconsciously made something up," she writes in her book.

Beck writes that she was in the frozen-foods aisle of a grocery store when a scholar in a tweed coat, whom she does not name, came up to her. He told her that Nibley's 15 history books were fictional, and that 90 percent of his footnotes were made up. On hearing this charge, she says, "I felt noticeably, physically stronger."

In an interview, Beck said the charges against her father's scholarship came from the man in the grocery store, and "not as a result of my own investigation." She cited articles by historians, including other Mormons, criticizing one of Nibley's books.

One of the historians Beck cited, Kent P. Jackson of Brigham Young, said he has studied Nibley's work and challenged some of his conclusions. "But I never found the slightest hint of falsification or making things up," Jackson said.

Jackson said that he does not believe any scholar actually made the charge cited in Beck's book. "In my opinion, the man in tweed in the grocery store is a fictional character that she made up," he said.

Beck writes in the book that parental sexual abuse is more frequent in Mormon families than in the general population; she says this is so because, until the 1890s, the church endorsed the practice of polygamy. In an interview, she said it is "absolutely impossible" to find statistical data on comparative rates of abuse. She said that when she talks about her book on radio or television, she almost always hears from other Mormon daughters who say they, too, were abused.

In the controversy here surrounding Beck's attack on her father, her critics have pointed out that parts of the book are clearly fictional.

Beck writes, for example, that she was initially afraid to see a therapist named "Rachel Grant," because the name reminded her of a former Mormon president, Heber J. Grant. At another point, she says she had a vision that a woman whose name contained the letters "D" "N" and "A" would help her through a crisis. Shortly afterward, she says, her cousins "Diana" and "Miranda" knocked on her door.

Beck said in an interview that she made up the names of the three women. She said the rest of the book is true.

Her siblings focus on various turns in Beck's life that she does not mention in the book. While "Leaving the Saints" repeatedly discusses Beck's sex life, the book does not mention that Martha Beck, now divorced, is a lesbian.

In 1990, Beck and her husband co-wrote a book, "Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior," which argues that homosexuality is a choice -- an "addiction" that can be "overcome" through will power. Martha Beck now lives with a woman in a relationship she calls "more than platonic." She said she no longer believes that homosexuality is a choice that can be overcome.

Beck said that her sexual orientation would seem to be appropriate to mention "in a book about sex and sexual secrets." But she decided to leave it out, she said, because "that will be another book."

Church members are also angry that Beck jokes about aspects of the Mormon faith; for example, she refers to the religious garments that Mormons wear in their temples as "holy long johns."

But the main complaint about "Leaving the Saints" is that Beck has targeted one of the most admired of all the Latter-day Saints.

"Books by apostates from the church, they come along all the time," Wotherspoon, of Sunstone Magazine, said. "But an attack on Hugh Nibley -- to call Hugh Nibley a pedophile and a liar, with no evidence to back it up -- of course that is going to hit the Mormon community like an earthquake."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/07/AR2005050700981.html?sub=AR

 

Psychology Group Calms Utahns over Film on LDS

Deseret Morning News, Saturday, April 30, 2005

Carrie A. Moore

Film claims church methods were like 'brainwashing'

It wasn't quite an apology, but Utah psychologists got some satisfaction this week during a visit from a national officer of the American Psychological Association.

The visit came Wednesday after members of the Utah Psychological Association complained that the national organization had characterized LDS Church methods of retaining members and motivating missionaries as "brainwashing," "mind control" and "powerful psychological techniques."

"It won't happen again," said Barry Anton, professor of psychology at the University of Puget Sound.

The descriptions were used last year during the APA's annual convention in Hawaii to garner attendance at the screening of an independent documentary film called "Get the Fire!" The film followed a pair of LDS missionaries in Europe and included interviews with former missionaries who had left the LDS Church after return.

In town Wednesday, Anton said the film's description was copied and reprinted from the film's own publicity materials, and — to his knowledge — had not been authored by anyone at the APA. Anton said he didn't believe the person responsible for putting the film's description in the APA program had an agenda but was probably in a hurry and was simply careless. A committee has now been put in place to vet any language accompanying films shown at the national convention, he said.

Film producer Nancy du Plessis told the Deseret Morning News in December 2003 that she got the LDS Church's permission to shoot 12,000 minutes of footage over 26 months, which included filming inside the Missionary Training Center in Provo and inside the home of a mission president in Germany. From that, she produced a 60-minute documentary.

The film aired on KUED in late 2003 to mixed reviews from local residents. At that time the church declined comment on the film.

St. George psychologist Gary Groom attended the film presentation last year at the APA convention "and recognized that it had a negative bias and (was) certainly not representative of the views and feelings of the vast majority of returned missionaries we have known over the years." He subsequently wrote to the president of the APA and talked with other psychologists who were surprised at the characterizations of the LDS Church in the APA's convention brochure and urged him to lodge a formal protest.

Groom approached another colleague from St. George, psychologist Chauncey Adams, who also sent a letter of disapproval to the APA. The two "felt that the bias shown in the film introduction (printed in the APA program) would likely cause outrage if it were similarly applied to any other religious or minority group," they said.

After repeated contact with top APA officials, seeking an official apology to the group's national membership, the two felt their concerns were not being taken seriously, and they set up a Web site to explain the situation in detail, www.biasfire.com. They continued to tell national officials their concern was with the characterizations the APA provided about the LDS Church and its missionaries, not with the film itself.

Groom and Adams recounted much of their story Wednesday for members of the Utah Psychological Association and other local professionals who gather each month to discuss Utah's ongoing religious divide. Anton represented APA at the gathering and said the association has now changed the way it puts the national convention program together in an effort to prevent similar problems in the future.

Wednesday's meeting followed a March confab between UPA officials and leaders of the APA to reinforce the concerns that Groom and Adams had raised. Nanci Klein, who represents the UPA on the APA national council, said she was impressed that the association's top leaders had agreed to hear input on the issue for two hours earlier this year, and had also sent a representative to the Wednesday meeting.

"It happened because it's about anyone who has a belief that gets walked on or treated poorly. That's what psychologists do."

Responding to characterizations raised by Groom and Adams about how such a characterization of other faiths would not be tolerated, Klein said she's seen a variety of faith or ethnic groups express similar concerns and get a hearing with the APA.

Groom said he appreciated the chance to discuss the discrepancy with a local group concerned about religious discrimination and prejudice. He and Adams said they still would like an apology from the APA to its national membership over the incident.

The association has 160,000 members nationwide.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,600130202,00.html


LDS Meeting Challenges of Diversity

Deseret News, Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Carrie A. Moore

Deseret News Religion Editor

As members of the LDS Church gather in Salt Lake City for their 172nd Semiannual General Conference this weekend, those attending will represent a microcosm of the church's growth in the United States and internationally.

Considered one of America's most successful homegrown faiths, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has increasingly come under the microscope of statisticians and researchers in recent years. Its explosive growth, particularly during the past three decades, has generated no small amount of discussion in scholarly circles.

And Utah's role in February as host of the 2002 Winter Games shone the spotlight of popular culture on the faith in a way unprecedented in its history.

Last month, the church was named the fastest-growing denomination in America during the 1990s — percentage-wise — by scholars with the Glenmary Research Center, whose survey of "Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States 2000" has been touted as "the most complete data available on U.S. religious affiliation."

The survey reported data for 149 religious bodies in the United States by state and county, surveying 268,254 congregations with more than 141 million adherents. It showed the LDS Church is present in 1,802 of the country's 3,141 counties. Like the fast-growing Evangelical faiths — most notably the Assemblies of God — the LDS Church has more concentrated growth in major metropolitan areas, according to Glenmary researcher Dale Jones.

"In the majority of major metropolitan areas, we find the Latter-day Saints are one of the faster-growing groups. It's a nationwide phenomenon, and it shows they're doing a good job of reaching more people."

Statistics provided to the Deseret News by the LDS Church show that at year-end 1997, 45 percent of the church's domestic growth had come from convert baptisms, with 55 percent of new membership coming through "in-house" membership growth as children are born and baptized.

U.S. membership has grown by roughly 1 million each decade since 1980, according to the church, reaching 5,208,827 in the year 2000.

Sociologist Rodney Stark predicted nearly two decades ago that church membership would top 267 million members by 2080. Five years ago, he told members of the Mormon History Association the estimate may actually be too low, because the church was growing faster than his highest estimate.

Jones said "some scholars have difficulty with" Stark's projection because "the assumption is that the way things have historically been will continue, and we know the world changes. The Latter-day Saints already are a major player in many areas of the world. If you apply the figures and assume things will continue as they are currently, that (predicted growth) will happen."

Since February 1996, the church has had a larger membership internationally than in the United States, and Latin American membership has skyrocketed in the past 30 years, far outpacing every other region of the world in percentage growth. As of 1997, 90 percent of members outside the United States were converts.

But Jones said denominational growth has proven fickle over time for several historic mainline churches. The United Methodist Church was growing so rapidly 100 years ago, it would likely be much larger than today's fast-growing churches, but it became so large so fast, it wasn't able to instill a commitment to the principles that made the church's doctrine unique, he said. Children of believers also began to leave the church, rather than retaining their spiritual heritage.

Other Protestant faiths — all of them democratic in nature — faced much the same problem, he said, and today their membership is either stagnant or shrinking.

He said the question for the LDS Church is,"Will their size get to the point that it's just too tough to continue their outreach?" meaning the ability to keep their members focused and doctrinally cohesive.

United Methodists "didn't change the doctrine itself at first, but by being inclusive enough, the new folks led to a change in doctrine. . . . That's the thing all Evangelicals are facing and Mormons are facing: Do we, when we win them, sell them on our vision as well and be content to have bigger numbers, or will we include them and eventually be outvoted?"

Though the Catholic Church is considered by many to be fairly strict in its moral doctrine, "to keep the focus on behavioral expectations is a real challenge when you have fast growth" as that faith is experiencing, according to Jan Shipps, emeritus professor of history and religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University. Statistics show that a large percentage of U.S. Catholics, in particular, disregard the church's ban on birth control and its stance on divorce.

Shipps said the LDS Church has a unique answer to Jones' question about doctrinal purity that other faiths don't share. "Correlation. . . . There's nobody else that has anything that tight" in terms of doctrinal purity or inside communication and direction, she said.

As a central clearinghouse for lesson manuals, church magazines, formal communications with local church leaders and even LDS general conference talks, the church's Correlation Department has helped keep the church "from becoming a bunch of different Mormonisms," Shipps said.

The structure of the church as a hierarchy, rather than a democracy, also helps keep doctrinal drift at bay, she said.

Only time will tell whether growth projections for the church will actually pan out, Shipps said,

LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has told the media on several occasions that while one of the church's three major goals is missionary work and spreading the gospel message, growth is the major challenge the church faces now and in the foreseeable future.

Hoping to reverse the trend in some areas where people are baptized and then fall away from the church, he has repeatedly implored church members to make sure new converts are welcomed into the faith with three things: "A friend, a responsibility and nurturing with the good word of God."

• General sessions are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Conference Center. A priesthood session is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.

• Tickets have already been distributed. Doors open 90 minutes before each session. Those attending must be at least 8 years old.

• General sessions will be carried live on KSL-TV, KBYU-TV, Direct TV channel 374, DISH Network channel 9403 and on the Galaxy 11 satellite, transponder 17.

http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,410017136,00.html


Adapting 'Mormon' to Emphasize Christianity

New York Times, February 19, 2001

Gustav Niebuhr

SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 17 — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has long been concerned that it be understood as a distinctively Christian institution, will step up efforts to discourage use of the term Mormon Church and instead emphasize the name Jesus Christ in references to the church, a leading Mormon official said in an interview on Thursday. It will urge that the church be called first by its full name and then, in subsequent references, the Church of Jesus Christ.

The church will also urge that it not be identified by two other labels common in Utah, the Latter-day Saints Church and L.D.S. Church.

The decision at a meeting of the church's top leadership, also taken with an eye to the international news media interest the church expects to attract during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, will primarily affect how the church's officials refer to the institution, especially in dealings with the news media, and how missionaries refer to the church in their work overseas. But church leaders also hope to encourage members at large to do likewise.

"I don't mind being called a Mormon, but I don't want it said that I belong to the Mormon Church," said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Council of the 12 Apostles, which, together with the church's three- member First Presidency, exercise the highest level of authority within the 11-million-member church.

Elder Oaks said the church would not discourage use of the term Mormon for church members, although he said it officially prefers they be known as Latter-day Saints. Nor, he said, will the church seek to change names like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Trail and the Book of Mormon. The word Mormon is taken from the book, where it refers both to a geographical area and also to a prophet of that name.

He said the decision, taken by the First Presidency and the Council of the 12, but not yet announced to church members, needed to be seen in context, as a "deliberate reaffirmation" of a long effort in favor of wider use of the church's full title.

"We haven't adopted a new name of the church," Elder Oaks said, noting that Mormons regard the full name as having been revealed by God to Mormonism's first prophet, Joseph Smith. "We have adopted a short-hand reference to the church that we think is more accurate."

Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon expert on the church who is professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said efforts to discourage the use of the term Mormon Church represent "the desire of Latter-day Saints — and not just the leadership — to be understood as a Christian tradition."

Although the church has always seen itself as Christian, she said, its image has been "cloaked" by distinctive practices — like building temples, as Mormons still do; referring to members as "the gathering of Israel," as church leaders once did; and, most controversially, sanctioning polygamy, which the church ended more than a century ago.

In recent years, Professor Shipps said, an evolution in language within the church has been under way, so that Mormon as a noun is being replaced by "an adjective, as in Mormon Christian."

"That's a dramatic shift that's taking a very long time," said Professor Shipps, the author of "Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons" (University of Illinois, 2000).

Although the Mormons tend to be highly regarded among a wide public for their emphasis on family ties and personal rectitude, the church's teachings are viewed critically by other churches, especially by evangelical Protestants, who say much of Mormon theology — dealing with God, the Trinity, salvation and the nature of the Christian church itself — falls outside orthodox Christianity.

The church, for example, teaches that God has a physical body, that members may progress toward "deification" after death, and that in founding the church, Smith was "restoring" true Christianity.

Three years ago, the Southern Baptists, holding their annual convention in Salt Lake, began an effort to evangelize Mormons. On a more subtle level, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published a study guide in 1990 to show Presbyterians where Mormons part company theologically with Protestants. "At first glance, they seem to be like us," the guide stated, noting that the two churches use similar terms for theological concepts. "But we will see in this study they are not like us."

In 1995, the church altered its logo so that "Jesus Christ" appears in larger letters. More recently, the church's public affairs office released a statement, bluntly saying there was nothing officially called the Mormon Church.

None of this controversy seems to have impeded the church's rapid growth, particularly overseas, where a majority of the world's 11 million Mormons live. (Utah claims 1.6 million Mormons, or about 15 percent of the total.) But the overseas growth has also put pressure on the church to pay closer attention to what it wants to be called.

"And," said Elder Oaks, who is a former Utah State Supreme Court justice and, before that, was president of Brigham Young University, "this is brought to focus and given a kind of timeline by the Olympics, when we're going to have an invasion by your associates in the media the likes of which no continental Western city has ever had before." Church officials say they expect close to 10,000 journalists for the Olympics.

Elder Oaks said church leaders decided it was possible to begin using the abbreviated name of Church of Jesus Christ because no other major Christian body in the United States had laid claim to it. (Some have come close, as in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, the Churches of Christ and the United Church of Christ.) He said it was possible that some churches might take exception to the Mormons using the abbreviated name.

"This decision is right-oriented, not result-oriented," Elder Oaks said. "We're only trying to do what the Lord wants us to do."

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/19/national/19MORM.html?pagewanted=2