MormonLeaksreposts LDS Church apostasy presentation, rebuffs faith’s copyright violationclaim
“The MormonLeaks website on Tuesday reposted an LDS Church PowerPoint presentationdealing with the roots of apostasy, such as pornography, campaigns to ordain women,challenges to the faith’s history, and general ‘lack of righteousness.’ Thesite, which has generated past headlines by displaying restricted church paperson topics ranging from the salaries of Mormonapostles to rules governing calls home by missionaries, had taken down thepresentation after The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints threatened legal action March 1. Based on acopyright-violation allegation, it marked the first time that the Utah-basedfaith had turned to its attorneys to challenge MormonLeaks’ revelations in thefour months the site has been up. On Tuesday, the site reposted the material, along with a letter sent Monday to Barry Taggart, arepresentative of the LDS Church’s Intellectual Property Office. In the letter,MormonLeaks’ Las Vegas-based attorney Marc Randazza contends the site ‘obtainedthis document lawfully and had a right to distribute it in its capacity as ajournalistic resource devoted to discussing facts about the LDS Church.’ Arepresentative for Taggart’s office said Tuesday the church would have nocomment on MormonLeaks’ latest actions.” (TheSalt Lake Tribune, 3/14/17) [IT8.2]
Mormonleader Richard G. Scott dies at 86
On September 22, Mormonleader Richard G. Scott died at theage 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 hospitalizedwith gastrointestinal bleeding, which he recovered from; but church officialsannounced in May that he was experiencing fading memory that kept him fromtaking part in Quorum meetings. Scott had a successful career as a nuclearengineer before being chosen as a member of the Quorum. Scott didn’t speak atthe last church general conference in April. His final address came in October2014 when he spoke about the importance of prayer, scripture reading, familyhome nights, and going to the temple.
“Each of us is intimately aware of our own struggles withtemptation, pain and sadness,” Scott said that day. “Despite all of thenegative challenges we have in life, we must take time to actively exercise ourfaith.” (USA Today, 09/23/15) [IT 7.12016]
Nearlya hundred people submit resignation letters to LDS church
Nearly a hundred people marched through the streets of SaltLake City in late July 2015 to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Their purpose wasto resign from the Mormon Church.Women’s inequality and LGBT discrimination were among the reasons behind theirofficial resignation from the church. (Fox13 Now, 07/25/15) [IT 7.1 2016]
Mormonswin battle to distance themselves from BC polygamist
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS) has succeeded in getting its name back. OnJanuary 12, 2015, the British Columbia Supreme Court, by consent, issued anorder prohibiting WinstonBlackmore and his followers fromusing the name The Church of JesusChrist of LDS Inc. or any similarnames. The order also forbids any attention that would confuse Blackmore’sgroup or the LDS in anyway. Furthermore, the order prohibits Blackmore and hisfollowers from questioning, attacking, challenging, objecting to, or opposingin any way the Church’s trademarked names. Those names include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints, Latter-day Saints, and Mormon. Blackmore was ordered to immediately change his group’s corporatename to the Church of Jesus Christ(Original Doctrine) Inc.
In August 2014,Blackmore was criminally charged for practicing polygamy. He has also “had topay for back taxes, fines, and court costs after failing in his attempt to haveRevenue Canada tax him and his followers not as individuals but as a religiouscommune.” Vancouver Sun 1/13/15) [IT 6.3 2015]
Fraudarrests may be turning point for FLDS
In Hildale, Utah, Andrew Chatwin, former member of the FLDS, watches as police and agentssurround an FLDS outpost; he says he’s been waiting for this moment. “Accordingto prosecutors, the businesses were key players in a high-desert conspiracythat siphoned millions of dollars in food-stamp benefits from the pockets ofAmerican families to bank accounts controlled by the polygamist sect, whose leaders—most prominently, the jailed Warren Jeffs—follow a self-styled formof Mormonism and dictate wherefollowers live, how much they eat and whom they marry. . . The arrests are onlypart 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 toseek revenge against a religion it abhors.” (The New York Times, 03/2/16) [IT 7.2 2016]
New York Times
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 hisfather and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “areaauthority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsthroughout Europe.
When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to himwith information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history andteachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings ofLucifer. 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 owninvestigation.
But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’sfounder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and otherscriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt thatthe foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
Around the world and in the United States, where the faithwas founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt anddisillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet thatsabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews withdozens 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 undermy 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 thatthe church faces serious challenges not just from outside but also fromskeptics inside.
Greg Prince, a Mormon historian and businessman inWashington who has held local leadership positions in the church, shares Mr.Mattsson’s doubts. “Consider a Catholic cardinal suddenly going to the mediaand 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, thehighest-ranking church official who has gone public with deep concerns, who hashad a faith crisis and come forward to say he’s going to talk about it becausemaybe that will help us all to resolve it.”
Every faith has its skeptics and detractors, but the MormonChurch’s history creates special challenges. The church was born in Americaonly 183 years ago, and its founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, and hisdisciples 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 workthrough the hiccups in its history,” said Terryl L. Givens, a professor ofEnglish, literature and religion at the University of Richmond and a Mormonbeliever. “Mormonism is still an adolescent religion.”
Mr. Givens and his wife, Fiona, recently presented what theycalled “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 sometimesthey are simply faithful members who are looking for clarity and understandingto add to their faith,” said Mr. Givens, who hosted a similar discussion inJuly in Provo, Utah, and has others planned in the United States. The church isnot sponsoring the sessions, Mr. Givens said, but local bishops give theirpermission.
Eric Hawkins, a church spokesman, said that “every churchfaces 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 whomay be affected.” Mr. Hawkins also said the Mormon Church, which counts 14million members worldwide, added about one million members every three years.
But Mr. Mattsson and others say the disillusionment isinfecting the church’s best and brightest. A survey of more than 3,300 Mormondisbelievers, released last year, found that more than half of the men and fourin 10 of the women had served in leadership positions in the church.
Many said they had suffered broken relationships with theirparents, spouses and children as a result of their disbelief. The study wasconducted by John Dehlin, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Utah StateUniversity and the founder of “Mormon Stories,” a podcast of interviews withscholars and church members, many critical toward the church.
Some church leaders are well aware of the doubters in theirmidst. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who serves in the church’s Quorum of theTwelve Apostles (the governing body just below the three-member FirstPresidency), said in April while addressing the church’s semiannual generalconference in Salt Lake City: “Please don’t hyperventilate if from time to timeissues arise that need to be examined, understood and resolved. They do, andthey will.”
Mr. Mattsson served as a young missionary in England; hiswife, Birgitta, is a convert. They raised their five children in the MormonChurch in Sweden, which dates to the 1850s and has about 9,000 members.
He and his twin brother, Leif, both rose through the ranksof leadership, and in 2000, Hans Mattsson became the first Swede ever to benamed an area authority. (He served until 2005, when he had heart surgery.)During the week he worked in technology marketing, and on the weekends hetraveled widely throughout Europe, preaching and organizing the believers.
“I was just in a bubble, and we felt so happy,” Mr. Mattssonsaid.
The first doubts filtered up to him from members who hadturned to the Internet to research a Sunday school talk. There are dozens ofWeb sites other than the Mormons’ own that present critical views of the faith.
The questions were things like:
■ Whydoes the church always portray Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon fromgolden plates, when witnesses described him looking down into a hat at a “peep stone,” a rockthat he believed helped him find buried treasure?
■ Whywere black men excluded from the priesthood from the mid-1800s until 1978?
■ Whydid Smith claim that the Book of Abraham, a core scripture, was a translationof ancient writings from the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, when Egyptologists nowidentify the papyrus that Smith used in the translation as a common funeraryscroll that has nothing to do with Abraham?
■ Isit true that Smith took dozens of wives, some as young as 14 and some alreadywed to other Mormon leaders, to the great pain of his first wife, Emma?
About that last question, Mr. Mattsson said, “That was kindof shocking.”
Mr. Mattsson said he sought the help of the church’s highestauthorities. He said a senior apostle came to Sweden at his request and told ameeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it waspublished, would prove all the doubters wrong. But Mr. Mattsson said thepromised text never appeared, and when he asked the apostle about it, he wastold it was impertinent to ask.
(Mr. Mattsson refused to identify the apostle, but otherssaid 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 abranch in Sweden with skeptical members, but said he recalled satisfying theirquestions 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 byRichard Lyman Bushman, a historian at Columbia University and a prominentMormon.
Mr. Bushman said in a telephone interview: “You would beamazed at the number of Mormons who don’t think Joseph Smith practicedpolygamy. It just wasn’t talked about. It was never mentioned in churchperiodicals. That was policy.”
In the last 10 or 15 years, he said, “the church has come torealize that transparency and candor and historical accuracy are really theonly way to go.” The church has released seven volumes of the papers of JosephSmith and published an essay on one of the most shameful events in churchhistory, the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which church leaders plotted theslaughter of people in a wagon train in 1857.
But the church has not actively disseminated most of thesedocuments, 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’tbeen told the truth growing up,” he said. “They feel like they were tricked orbetrayed.”
Mr. Mattsson said that when he started sharing what he hadlearned with other Mormons in Sweden, the stake president (who oversees acluster of congregations) told him not to talk about it to any members, evenhis wife and children. He did not obey: “I said to them, why are you afraid forthe truth?”
He organized a discussion group in Sweden, and more than 600participated, 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 aboutSmith and polygamy.
The Mattssons have tried other churches, but they are stillattached to their Mormon faith. A few weeks ago, they moved to Spain for healthreasons, they said. They left behind some family members who are unhappy withMr. 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. “Ijust 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 Searchthe Web And Find Doubt.
Mormons Change References To Blacks, Polygamy
March 17, 2013
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints releasedthis 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 becontained in the 2013 edition of Mormon scriptures — available online now andin print format in August — the substantive changes come in terms of theintroductions to the actual scriptural material.
“Those are what are really catching the attention ofmembers 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 Mormonscripture can be found in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, says Givens, aprofessor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, and theydeal specifically with the church’s original ban on black priesthood ordinationand polygamy.
Givens says Joseph Smith himself ordained black members ofthe church to the priesthood. But after Smith’s death, beginning in the late1840s, Brigham Young apparently charted a new direction in terms, and beganwhat became known as “the ban,” under which people ofAfrican-American ancestry were not permitted to hold the priesthood or toparticipate 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 MormonismMakes Sense of Life.
“I think that this new introduction to the revelationending the priesthood ban is a major step forward in many ways because itacknowledges that the practice may have originated — it seems to me, this is howI’m reading it anyhow — as a matter of error or cultural and historicalconditioning rather than as the will of God,” he says. “And that’s afairly significant statement for the church to make.”
The changes also deal with polygamy. A new introduction includedin Doctrine and Covenants, Givens says, declares that “monogamy is God’sstandard for marriage unless he declares otherwise.”
“I think that one could read that almost as aninversion of many Mormons’ historical understanding of plural marriage,”Givens says.
Givens says he believes these additions to Mormon scriptureshow signs of a more modern Mormon Church.
“In many ways, what we’re seeing with these changes isthe privileging of history over theology in some ways,” he says.”It’s a kind of acknowledgement that the Mormon Church is rooted in a pastthat is replete with historical claims. And it’s a magnificent thing for achurch to allow professional historians to have a lead role in the way thatscripture is presented and its story is told.”
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 (includinggovernment-run lotteries), guns in churches, euthanasia, Satan worship andhypnotism for entertainment.
It “strongly discourages” surrogate motherhood, spermdonation, surgical sterilizations (including vasectomies) and artificialinsemination — when “using semen from anyone but the husband.”
But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supportsorgan donation, paying income taxes, members running for political office andautopsies — “if the family of the deceased gives consent.”
These and other positions are spelled out in what Mormonscommonly refer to as “the handbook” — a newly published two-volume set ofinstructions for stake presidents, bishops and other local LDS leaders.
Until now, the handbook was available only to these churchleaders. That still holds true for the first volume, which is available onlineto bishops and stake presidents.
That blue volume includes information about counseling withmembers. 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 reservethat volume for leaders.”
But the church is putting the second, red volume online foreveryone. So, for the first time, members and outsiders can read for themselvesthe 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 withother materials. It absolutely makes sense.”
LDS general authorities understand that, whether they postedit or not, the book would be online within days, he says. “It was acommon-sense decision. There was no great debate about it.”
Putting that book on the Web “removes the veil of secrecyfrom 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 churchto become more transparent.”
Such transparency also is reflected in “a new appreciationfor candor and openness in publishing Mormon history,” Mauss says, “and in apublic approval for academic Mormon studies not controlled by the church.”
All these developments, he adds, help to “neutralize thepublic image of the church as an unduly ‘secretive’ organization in itsoperations.”
Julie M. Smith, a Mormon in Austin, Texas, also applauds themove.
“Some people assumed that there was something sinister thatthe church was trying to hide,” Smith says in an e-mail. “Making the bookpublic shows this wasn’t the case.”
It will help clear up confusion about counsel that wasn’tclearly understood, says Smith, a stay-at-home mom with a degree in biblicalstudies.
Smith points to the church’s position on vasectomies.
“I’ve known church members who were shocked that the handbookstrongly discourages vasectomies. They had no idea that there was any policyconcerning it,” she says. “If there are such policies, I think it is wise thateveryone — not just those with leadership callings — knows about them.”
Making such stances available is particularly important forwomen, who generally had less access to the handbook, she says. They can “feelmore involved and knowledgeable about church policies.”
The dual handbook was unveiled last weekend in a worldwideleadership-training session viewed via satellite by thousands of members. Themove to put Handbook 2 online also may have been prompted by busy Mormonauthorities who were tired of answering questions already delineated in thebook.
In fact, the book specifically says that members should notcontact LDS general authorities about doctrinal or personal issues. (It saysnot to ask for their autographs, either.) Instead, Mormons are urged to taketheir questions to their local leaders.
For outsiders as well as the faithful, the handbook providesa fascinating peek into the administrative, social and doctrinal positions ofthe nearly 14 million-member faith.
Many members hail this new openness and find severalstatements in the handbook to be surprisingly complex, leaving muchdecision-making to individuals or couples.
Take birth control.
The handbook says it is a “privilege” for Mormon couples tonurture and rear children, but the decision of how many to have is “extremelyintimate 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 “aredivinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way ofexpressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husbandand wife.”
While the LDS Church discourages the use of in vitrofertilization 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 basisfor various stances. For example, it says that artificial insemination ofsingle sisters is not approved.
“Single sisters who deliberately refuse to follow thecounsel of church leaders in this matter,” it says, “are subject to churchdiscipline.”
Writing at feministmormonhousewives.org, Keri Brooks asks,“I recognize that they want to encourage the birth of children within templemarriages, but they don’t discipline pregnant women married to nonmembers, orsingle women who adopt, so there’s something more going on.”
Several Mormon bloggers are especially pleased to see thisstatement about other faiths: “Much that is inspiring, noble, and worthy of thehighest respect is found in many other faiths,” the handbook says, and cautionsmissionaries and other members to be “sensitive and respectful toward thebeliefs of others and avoid giving offense.”
As a whole, Mauss says, putting Handbook 2 online shouldhave the effect of helping rank-and-file Mormons feel “inclusion and ownership”where programs and policies are concerned, rather than belonging to theleaders.
It will, he says, help create a “more informed membership …with a greater awareness of church expectations, both in personal behavior andin the requirements of all the various callings.”
The church’s rules and policies, Mauss says, will “seem morelike ‘ours’ as a church than as ‘theirs.’ ”
Where the LDS Church stands on …
The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anythinglike unto it” (D&C 59:6). The church opposes elective abortion for personalor social convenience. Members must not submit to, perform, arrange for, payfor, consent to, or encourage an abortion. The only possible exceptions arewhen:
1. Pregnancy resulted from forcible rape or incest.
2. A competent physician determines that the life or healthof the mother is in serious jeopardy.
3. A competent physician determines that the fetus hassevere 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 personsresponsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmationthrough 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 beforgiven for the sin of abortion.
Parents have primary responsibility for the sex education oftheir children. Teaching this subject honestly and plainly in the home willhelp young people avoid serious moral transgressions. To help parents teachthis sensitive and important information, the church has published A Parent’sGuide.
Where schools have undertaken sex education, parents shouldseek to ensure that the instructions given to their children are consistentwith sound moral and ethical values.
Surgical sterilization (including vasectomy)
The church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as anelective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered onlyif (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birthdefects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and notresponsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined bycompetent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the personsresponsible for this decision should consult with each other and with theirbishop 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, whichhad previously been available to only to church leaders, go to › lds.org
Why I Won’t Leave the Mormon Church Alone
November 22, 2010
“You left the church two decades ago,” my sister said to merecently. “Why can’t you leave it alone?”
It’s a common conversation between former or inactiveMormons 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 supposedlyproves that the Mormon church is true and that those who leave it are broken insome fundamental way—though the exact means by which this is proven is neverclearly established.
This at least is true: although I stopped attending theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1989, I continue to study andwrite about it—and I can explain why.
The LDS church was an integral part of my early life. I grewup in a tiny community in Arizona so Mormon that activities at the publicschool 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 mylife for the narrative threads that guide my choices and determine mycharacter. I will never shake this habit, no matter what. Truth be told, if theLDS church somehow lost all it leaders and members tomorrow and existed only asa historical relic, I would still strive to puzzle out how my past—includingthe 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 mylife, it was something I had a personal and passionate relationship with. Itwasn’t merely the religion of my community; it was, more importantly, my ownprivate religion. I studied its texts, learned its doctrines. I went throughthe temple and participated in the rituals there. I served a mission, learningMandarin Chinese so that I could teach the Mormon gospel in Taiwan.
Given the depth of my attachment to Mormonism, the decisionto leave was correspondingly agonizing. As I know from discussing the topicwith former Mormons from England, Belgium, Germany, and South Africa, therupture can be harrowing even for people who have never set foot in Utah andare one of only a handful of Latter-day Saints in their community.
In The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi states, “Changingmoral codes is always costly; all heretics, apostates, and dissidents knowthis.” Mormons who leave the church face dire consequences: damnation,separation for all eternity from loved ones, shunning and judgment in thislife, as well as irritated, self-righteous assertions that we shouldn’t evendiscuss parts of our own history. It’s hard to invite all that, and one mainreason to do so is that you come to the tortured conclusion that the LDS churchdoesn’t offer you truth, integrity, or salvation in this life or the next.
For years after my exodus, I tried to work out my feelingsabout Mormonism on my own, and to avoid saying anything about it that wouldupset my family. But it was difficult, particularly since the church wouldn’tleave me alone. (I got repeated phone calls, letters, and visits to my homefrom missionaries and people in the congregation, despite formal requests thatthey stop.) Eventually I sought a community of people also striving to come toterms with what it meant to have been but no longer be a devout Mormon. Luckilya diverse community of ex-, post-, or lapsed Mormons (we differ on what to callourselves) thrives on the internet.
Another thing that makes leaving Mormonism difficult is howlittle it is understood by the world at large. It’s frustrating to have toexplain fundamental elements of the church before discussing the crisis offaith those elements prompted. Mormonism has unusual and esoteric doctrines(i.e., the idea that God is married), a rich and complex (albeit somewhatbrief) history, some deeply peculiar practices (such as wearing sacredunderwear 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 tooutsiders.
Anyone familiar with Mormonism is occasionally called uponto explain it. Those of us who have intimate knowledge of its inner workingsbut are bound neither by orthodoxy nor its evangelical agenda (Mormons are themost aggressive proselytizers on the planet) are well equipped to do so. It’strue that we have our own biases, but that does not mean we see nothing valuablein Mormonism and cannot discuss it honestly. I have written extensively aboutMormonism’s virtues and strengths. Granted, I’ve written more about itsfailings and flaws; but if I thought the benefits of remaining Mormonoutweighed the costs, I would still be a practicing Mormon.
In particular, we are asked to explain aspects of LDSpolitics, at least recently. Latter-day Saints are generally among the mostpolitically conservative voters in the U.S., and the church has marshaled bothits own and its members’ resources to support conservative political causes. Inthe 1970s, when I was a teenager, we had church activities where we wererequired to write letters to our legislators, urging them not to pass the EqualRights Amendment. (Even at the time, I wondered why legislators would beimpressed by letters from high school students, but ever dutiful, I wrote themanyway.) The LDS church was most recently a major player in the 2008 campaignto amend the California State Constitution to ban gay marriage via Proposition8.
That, of course, is one primary reason I cannot and will notleave the church alone: it continues to exert its influence in areas thataffect my life and the lives of people I love. Most of what I have writtenrecently about the church deals with gender and sex; as long as the church hasopinions that move it to action on these topics, I will have opinions on thechurch’s actions, which I claim the right to express.
Surprises Pop up in New Survey of U.S. Mormons
Salt Lake Tribune
Peggy Fletcher Stack
On July 24, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Lifereleased an extensive statistical portrait of Mormons in the United States.
It drew on answers by self-identified members of The Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Pew’s U.S. Religious Landscape Surveyin 2007.
Though it will come as no surprise to Utahns that mostMormons are church-attending, Bible-believing Republicans, some of the otherresults may be less predictable. For instance, Latter-day Saints are morelikely to attend church and less likely to home-school or attend religiousschools than the general population.
Here are some of the findings:
Comparative size » Mormons make up 1.7 percent of theAmerican 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) ofLatter-day Saints are under age 50, compared with 59 percent of the public as awhole. Most Mormons are women (56 percent).
Marriage » Nearly three-quarters of Mormons (71 percent) aremarried, compared with just more than half (54 percent) among the generalpopulation. Only Hindus (78 percent) are more likely than Mormons to bemarried. Mormons (83 percent) and Hindus (90 percent) also are the most likelyof all the major religious traditions to be married to someone of the samefaith.
Family size » Latter-day Saints are widely known for havinglarge families and, indeed, about half the nation’s Mormons (49 percent) havechildren under age 18 living at home, with one in five (21 percent) saying theyhave three or more children at home. Only Muslims are similarly likely to havelarge families: 47 percent of Muslims have at least one child living at homeand 15 percent have three or more.
Race » Nearly nine in 10 U.S. Mormons (86 percent) areAnglo, compared with 71 percent of the general population. Just 3 percent ofMormons are African-American and 7 percent are Latino. Other predominantlyAnglo religious groups in the United States include Jews (95 percent), membersof mainline Protestant churches (91 percent) and Orthodox Christians (87percent).
Education » Six in 10 Mormons (61 percent) have at leastsome college education, compared with half the overall population. However, theproportion of Mormons who graduate from college (18 percent) or receivepostgraduate education (10 percent) mirrors the population as a whole (16percent and 11 percent, respectively).
Converts » Nearly half the LDS converts (48 percent) areabove age 50, compared with about three in 10 lifelong members (29 percent).Converts also tend to be less educated than nonconverts (16 percent did notgraduate from high school, compared with just 6 percent of lifelong members),and they earn decidedly lower incomes (40 percent pocket less than $30,000 ayear, compared with 21 percent among nonconverts).
Converts are more likely than lifelong Latter-day Saints tocome from minority racial and ethnic groups. They are less likely than lifelongmembers to be married (64 percent vs. 74 percent).
A quarter of current Mormons (26 percent) are converts tothe faith. This is a much higher proportion than among Catholics (11 percent)and Jews (15 percent) but significantly lower than among Buddhists (73percent), Jehovah’s Witnesses (67 percent) and Protestants (45 percent, whenthose who have switched from one Protestant family to another are included,such as Baptist to Methodist; if changes within Protestantism are omitted, thefigure is 16 percent). Of those who have converted to Mormonism, roughly half(13 percent of Mormons overall) were raised Protestant, one in four (7 percentof Mormons overall) were raised Catholic and one in five (5 percent of Mormonsoverall) were raised without a religious affiliation.
Retention » Mormons boast a relatively high retention rateof childhood members compared with other major religious traditions. Seven in10 of those raised LDS (70 percent) still identify as Mormon, a figure roughlycomparable to that seen among those raised Catholic (68 percent are stillCatholic) but somewhat lower than among those raised Protestant (80 percent arestill Protestant and 52 percent remain in the same Protestant family). Jehovah’sWitnesses have a lower retention rate (37 percent are still Jehovah’sWitnesses).
Of those who leave Mormonism after being raised in thefaith, 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) saythe Bible is the God’s word, while a majority of Mormons (57 percent) say itshould not be taken literally.
Church attendance » Mormons rank among the most active ofthe 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 publicoverall to home-school or send their children to a religious school; 6 percentsay they do so, compared with 15 percent among the general population.
One true church » Most Mormons (57 percent) say theirs isthe one true faith, with a sizable minority (39 percent) taking the oppositeview. More than six in 10 younger Mormons (62 percent) say theirs in the onetrue 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 isthe one true faith.
Utahns and others » Utahns are much less likely than Mormonsfrom other states to share their faith with others at least once a week (13percent vs. 37 percent), they are more likely to say theirs is the one truefaith (63 percent vs. 51 percent) and they more heavily favor preservingtraditional beliefs and practices (77 percent vs. 63 percent).
Politics » Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Mormons saythey identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while a fifth (22percent) say they are Democrats. Mormons in the West are significantly morelikely than members from other regions to identify as Republican (68 percentvs. 55 percent).
Among the general public, two-thirds (62 percent) say thegovernment should do more for the needy, while only about half the Mormons (49percent) say this. More than four in 10 Latter-day Saints (42 percent) saygovernment cannot afford to do much more to help the needy, compared with 29percent among the population as a whole.
Most Mormons (55 percent) said in summer 2007 that strongenvironmental laws are worth the cost. Half (51 percent) say it is best to beactive in world affairs, and 37 percent say the nation should focus more onproblems at home. Jews are the only other major religious tradition in which amajority leans toward involvement in international affairs (53 percent).
Those who are married are significantly more likely thanunmarried Mormons to identify as conservative (66 percent vs. 43 percent) andRepublican (70 percent vs. 52 percent) and to oppose legal abortion (73 percentvs. 63 percent).
More on the Web
To read the full Pew report, go to pewforum.org.
‘Big Love’ in Big Trouble with Mormons
March 15, 2009
Did the creators of HBO’s “Big Love” cross a line inSunday’s episode by portraying a ritual that normally happens behind the sealeddoors of a Mormon temple? Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints say there are corners of the religious landscape whereHollywood is just not welcome.
I checked in with polygamist fans of the show who I’vewritten about in the past—fundamentalist Mormons who practice the kind ofplural marriage portrayed in “Big Love.”
Anne Wilde, a plural wife for 33 years until the death ofher husband, also voiced her objections to Sunday’s episode.
“It seems that many religions have sacred elements that arenot 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 aswell as Fundamentalist Mormons, most of whom have no access to the templebecause they practice plural marriage, “but nevertheless support thesacred and private nature of its ceremonies. Indeed, when I touched base withWilde after the show, she expressed bewilderment that the show pushed theenvelope 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 andconfidential,” she said. “I was shocked (as were the two active LDSmembers 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 ofthe 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 templeanyhow.
“She has been conflicted about her relationship to theChurch for three seasons now, but the thought of being cast into ‘outerdarkness’ 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. Ifthe Church would allow her to be a member she would do so without hesitation.”
Wilde can relate to much of the show, which oftenillustrates how plural wives usually get along.
“One thing I have especially liked about the show so far isthe family solidarity; even though the three wives have disagreements, theyusually support each other in the long run,” she said. “I also like the factthat the Hendrickson family lives in a relatively upscale community, is not inan isolated area, is able to support themselves … dispelling the stereotypesthat all polygamous wives are controlled and uneducated, dress in differentstyles, 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 plotline, for example, main character Bill Henrickson surreptitiously pursued aprospective fourth wife.
“It is not acceptable, for most Fundamentalist Mormons, ifthe husband seriously ‘courts’ a future wife without the knowledge of theexisting wives,” Wilde said. “And the fact that he ‘slept’ with her before themarriage sealing was performed is definitely immoral in our estimation.”
On Sunday night, Wilde said she did not appreciate theobvious deception Barb had to use in order to get inside the temple. Wilde alsosaid the show got the pattern and color of the temple aprons wrong. (They aregreen, not blue.)
HBO apologized to those who might be offended by thefictional ceremony. Olsen and Scheffer said they went to great lengths toportray the ceremony accurately.
“In approaching the dramatization of the endowment ceremony,we knew we had a responsibility to be completely accurate and to show theceremony in the proper context and with respect,” Olsen and Scheffer said in astatement. “In order to assure the accuracy of the ceremony, it was thoroughlyvetted by an adviser who is familiar with temple practices and rituals. Thisconsultant was actually on the set throughout the filming of the scenes to makesure every detail was correct.”
According to Olsen and Scheffer, that consultant was borninto the church and taught temple ritual and practices. The individual resignedfrom the church eight years ago.
Sunday’s episode has prompted some mainstream Mormons toboycott and cancel subscriptions to companies owned by HBO’s parent companyTime Warner. But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has notadopted an official position.
“Certainly Church members are offended when their mostsacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context orunderstanding,” the church said in a statement. “The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Sucha step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves andin the end would increase audiences for the series.”
But Wilde hopes more people do watch the show and realizethat all Americans (including polygamists) should be granted equal civilrights. She said plural marriage between consenting adults should be aconstitutional guarantee.
“By learning more about this lifestyle, they hopefully cansee that a polygamous family is very similar to a monogamous family in manyways,” Wilde said. “Except there are usually more members of thefamily, thus more people to love and more people to love you.”
What do you think? Should Hollywood avoid the secret andsacred?
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 thewealthiest and fastest-growing Christian denominations, members of the faithoften take a defensive stance toward the outside world. “Mormons of everystripe are obsessive about their image,” historians Richard and JoanOstling noted, “deeply concerned that their church appears to outsiders asa ‘cult.’ “
In the ongoing effort to enhance the church’s image, noMormon played a bigger role than Hugh Nibley, the multilingual teacher andscholar whose books, laden with footnotes and laced with quotations fromancient texts, make a meticulous argument that Mormon scripture reflectshistoric truth.
But this spring, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints has been rocked by a furious attack on the beloved historian — anattack that comes from his daughter, Martha Nibley Beck.
In an explosive memoir, Beck, 42, says that Nibley was apedophile who abused her as a child while chanting ancient Egyptian prayers.She also says that her father’s history books were fictional and that theextensive footnotes for which he was famous were simply made up.
Beck’s mother and her seven siblings have angrily denouncedthe book, “Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found myFaith,” saying she is either lying, deranged or both. Nibley’s fellowhistorians in the field have rallied to his defense, arguing that his scholarlywork is reliable.
The family notes that the bitter controversy made for a sadconclusion to Nibley’s life. He died in February, at the age of 94, as hisdaughter’s book went on sale. In his last months, his other children say, heforcefully denied Beck’s charges of sexual abuse and of academic misconduct.
The impact extends far beyond the Nibley family. Much ofUtah — with 73 percent of the population Mormon, it is the closest thingAmerica has to a one-church state — has been stunned by the attack on arevered defender of the common faith. Internet chat rooms, radio talk shows andletters-to-the-editor columns have been flooded with commentary.
“It’s just a terrible thing for a community to gothrough,” said Andrew Ludlow, a church member and a senior at the church’spremier school, Brigham Young University. “I don’t think there’s ever beena Mormon scholar more admired, or even loved, than Hugh Nibley. To see himattacked like this — attacked by his own daughter — is almost unbelievable.”
Dan Wotherspoon, editor of the independent Mormon magazineSunstone, says the book has aggravated divisions within the Mormon world.
“Martha’s book clearly has energized those who want tojustify their own struggles with the church,” he said. “The buzzaround this book is huge, and it’s primarily negative. She says a lot of thingsin there that anyone who lives in Utah will just know is wrong. But it hasstruck 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 theGarden of Eden was in Missouri. The church uses the Judeo-Christian Biblealongside scripture of its own, primarily the Book of Mormon. This text saysthat Jesus Christ came to America after his resurrection to preach to theIndians. Nonetheless, the Salt Lake City-based church has seen its fastestgrowth overseas. The church says it operates in 170 countries, and more thanhalf its 12.3 million members live outside North America.
Beck, a therapist and self-help columnist, said in aninterview that she did not write the book “to punish my family or thechurch.” The book was primarily designed, she said, to be”therapeutic for the author.” She writes that “protecting theMormon Church by keeping dark secrets . . . would isolate me in a life ofsmothered rage.”
In “Leaving the Saints,” Beck says that shesuffered for years from anorexia, anger and despair, and had frequent suicidalimpulses. When she and her former husband, John C. Beck, were teaching atBrigham 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 herfather abusing her in her bed when she was 5. She subsequently remembered otherabuse that she said lasted until she was 8. In an interview, she said thesememories were the reason for her unhappiness and mental problems.
Beck, a mother of three, says that an obstetrician whoexamined her as an adult found vaginal scarring, but concluded it came fromgiving birth. She says a therapist told her that if she was abused by herfather, her three sisters would have been abused, as well. The sisters say thisdid not happen.
Beck argues that such negative evidence makes her moreconvinced her memory is accurate.
“The peculiar details of my memories had at first mademe doubt myself — they were so weird — but in the end, reinforced myconviction that I hadn’t unconsciously made something up,” she writes inher book.
Beck writes that she was in the frozen-foods aisle of agrocery store when a scholar in a tweed coat, whom she does not name, came upto her. He told her that Nibley’s 15 history books were fictional, and that 90percent 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’sscholarship came from the man in the grocery store, and “not as a resultof my own investigation.” She cited articles by historians, includingother Mormons, criticizing one of Nibley’s books.
One of the historians Beck cited, Kent P. Jackson of BrighamYoung, said he has studied Nibley’s work and challenged some of hisconclusions. “But I never found the slightest hint of falsification ormaking things up,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that he does not believe any scholar actuallymade the charge cited in Beck’s book. “In my opinion, the man in tweed inthe grocery store is a fictional character that she made up,” he said.
Beck writes in the book that parental sexual abuse is morefrequent in Mormon families than in the general population; she says this is sobecause, until the 1890s, the church endorsed the practice of polygamy. In aninterview, she said it is “absolutely impossible” to find statisticaldata on comparative rates of abuse. She said that when she talks about her bookon radio or television, she almost always hears from other Mormon daughters whosay they, too, were abused.
In the controversy here surrounding Beck’s attack on herfather, her critics have pointed out that parts of the book are clearlyfictional.
Beck writes, for example, that she was initially afraid tosee a therapist named “Rachel Grant,” because the name reminded herof a former Mormon president, Heber J. Grant. At another point, she says shehad a vision that a woman whose name contained the letters “D””N” and “A” would help her through a crisis. Shortlyafterward, she says, her cousins “Diana” and “Miranda”knocked on her door.
Beck said in an interview that she made up the names of thethree women. She said the rest of the book is true.
Her siblings focus on various turns in Beck’s life that shedoes not mention in the book. While “Leaving the Saints” repeatedlydiscusses Beck’s sex life, the book does not mention that Martha Beck, nowdivorced, is a lesbian.
In 1990, Beck and her husband co-wrote a book,”Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior,” which argues thathomosexuality is a choice — an “addiction” that can be”overcome” through will power. Martha Beck now lives with a woman ina relationship she calls “more than platonic.” She said she no longerbelieves that homosexuality is a choice that can be overcome.
Beck said that her sexual orientation would seem to beappropriate to mention “in a book about sex and sexual secrets.” Butshe decided to leave it out, she said, because “that will be anotherbook.”
Church members are also angry that Beck jokes about aspectsof the Mormon faith; for example, she refers to the religious garments thatMormons 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 alongall the time,” Wotherspoon, of Sunstone Magazine, said. “But anattack on Hugh Nibley — to call Hugh Nibley a pedophile and a liar, with noevidence to back it up — of course that is going to hit the Mormon communitylike an earthquake.”
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 somesatisfaction this week during a visit from a national officer of the AmericanPsychological Association.
The visit came Wednesday after members of the UtahPsychological Association complained that the national organization hadcharacterized LDS Church methods of retaining members and motivating missionariesas “brainwashing,” “mind control” and “powerfulpsychological 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 annualconvention in Hawaii to garner attendance at the screening of an independentdocumentary film called “Get the Fire!” The film followed a pair ofLDS missionaries in Europe and included interviews with former missionaries whohad left the LDS Church after return.
In town Wednesday, Anton said the film’s description wascopied and reprinted from the film’s own publicity materials, and — to hisknowledge — had not been authored by anyone at the APA. Anton said he didn’tbelieve the person responsible for putting the film’s description in the APAprogram had an agenda but was probably in a hurry and was simply careless. Acommittee has now been put in place to vet any language accompanying filmsshown at the national convention, he said.
Film producer Nancy du Plessis told the Deseret Morning Newsin December 2003 that she got the LDS Church’s permission to shoot 12,000minutes of footage over 26 months, which included filming inside the MissionaryTraining 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 fromlocal residents. At that time the church declined comment on the film.
St. George psychologist Gary Groom attended the filmpresentation last year at the APA convention “and recognized that it had anegative bias and (was) certainly not representative of the views and feelingsof the vast majority of returned missionaries we have known over the years.”He subsequently wrote to the president of the APA and talked with otherpsychologists who were surprised at the characterizations of the LDS Church inthe 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 theAPA program) would likely cause outrage if it were similarly applied to anyother religious or minority group,” they said.
After repeated contact with top APA officials, seeking anofficial apology to the group’s national membership, the two felt theirconcerns were not being taken seriously, and they set up a Web site to explainthe situation in detail, www.biasfire.com. They continued to tell nationalofficials their concern was with the characterizations the APA provided aboutthe LDS Church and its missionaries, not with the film itself.
Groom and Adams recounted much of their story Wednesday formembers of the Utah Psychological Association and other local professionals whogather each month to discuss Utah’s ongoing religious divide. Anton representedAPA at the gathering and said the association has now changed the way it putsthe national convention program together in an effort to prevent similarproblems in the future.
Wednesday’s meeting followed a March confab between UPAofficials and leaders of the APA to reinforce the concerns that Groom and Adamshad 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 hearinput on the issue for two hours earlier this year, and had also sent arepresentative to the Wednesday meeting.
“It happened because it’s about anyone who has a beliefthat gets walked on or treated poorly. That’s what psychologists do.”
Responding to characterizations raised by Groom and Adamsabout how such a characterization of other faiths would not be tolerated, Kleinsaid she’s seen a variety of faith or ethnic groups express similar concernsand get a hearing with the APA.
Groom said he appreciated the chance to discuss thediscrepancy with a local group concerned about religious discrimination andprejudice. He and Adams said they still would like an apology from the APA toits national membership over the incident.
The association has 160,000 members nationwide.
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 fortheir 172nd Semiannual General Conference this weekend, those attending willrepresent a microcosm of the church’s growth in the United States andinternationally.
Considered one of America’s most successful homegrownfaiths, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has increasingly comeunder the microscope of statisticians and researchers in recent years. Itsexplosive growth, particularly during the past three decades, has generated nosmall amount of discussion in scholarly circles.
And Utah’s role in February as host of the 2002 Winter Gamesshone the spotlight of popular culture on the faith in a way unprecedented inits history.
Last month, the church was named the fastest-growing denominationin America during the 1990s — percentage-wise — by scholars with the GlenmaryResearch Center, whose survey of “Religious Congregations and Membershipin the United States 2000” has been touted as “the most complete dataavailable on U.S. religious affiliation.”
The survey reported data for 149 religious bodies in theUnited States by state and county, surveying 268,254 congregations with morethan 141 million adherents. It showed the LDS Church is present in 1,802 of thecountry’s 3,141 counties. Like the fast-growing Evangelical faiths — mostnotably the Assemblies of God — the LDS Church has more concentrated growth inmajor metropolitan areas, according to Glenmary researcher Dale Jones.
“In the majority of major metropolitan areas, we find theLatter-day Saints are one of the faster-growing groups. It’s a nationwidephenomenon, and it shows they’re doing a good job of reaching morepeople.”
Statistics provided to the Deseret News by the LDS Churchshow that at year-end 1997, 45 percent of the church’s domestic growth had comefrom 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 decadesince 1980, according to the church, reaching 5,208,827 in the year 2000.
Sociologist Rodney Stark predicted nearly two decades agothat church membership would top 267 million members by 2080. Five years ago,he told members of the Mormon History Association the estimate may actually betoo 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 havehistorically been will continue, and we know the world changes. The Latter-daySaints already are a major player in many areas of the world. If you apply thefigures and assume things will continue as they are currently, that (predictedgrowth) will happen.”
Since February 1996, the church has had a larger membershipinternationally than in the United States, and Latin American membership hasskyrocketed in the past 30 years, far outpacing every other region of the worldin percentage growth. As of 1997, 90 percent of members outside the UnitedStates were converts.
But Jones said denominational growth has proven fickle overtime for several historic mainline churches. The United Methodist Church wasgrowing so rapidly 100 years ago, it would likely be much larger than today’sfast-growing churches, but it became so large so fast, it wasn’t able toinstill a commitment to the principles that made the church’s doctrine unique,he said. Children of believers also began to leave the church, rather thanretaining their spiritual heritage.
Other Protestant faiths — all of them democratic in nature —faced much the same problem, he said, and today their membership is eitherstagnant or shrinking.
He said the question for the LDS Church is,”Will theirsize get to the point that it’s just too tough to continue theiroutreach?” meaning the ability to keep their members focused anddoctrinally cohesive.
United Methodists “didn’t change the doctrine itself atfirst, but by being inclusive enough, the new folks led to a change indoctrine. . . . That’s the thing all Evangelicals are facing and Mormons arefacing: Do we, when we win them, sell them on our vision as well and be contentto have bigger numbers, or will we include them and eventually beoutvoted?”
Though the Catholic Church is considered by many to befairly strict in its moral doctrine, “to keep the focus on behavioralexpectations is a real challenge when you have fast growth” as that faithis experiencing, according to Jan Shipps, emeritus professor of history andreligious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University. Statistics show thata large percentage of U.S. Catholics, in particular, disregard the church’s banon 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 conferencetalks, 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 ademocracy, also helps keep doctrinal drift at bay, she said.
Only time will tell whether growth projections for thechurch will actually pan out, Shipps said,
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has told the mediaon several occasions that while one of the church’s three major goals ismissionary work and spreading the gospel message, growth is the major challengethe church faces now and in the foreseeable future.
Hoping to reverse the trend in some areas where people arebaptized and then fall away from the church, he has repeatedly implored churchmembers to make sure new converts are welcomed into the faith with threethings: “A friend, a responsibility and nurturing with the good word ofGod.”
• 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 6p.m. Saturday.
• Tickets have already been distributed. Doors open 90minutes 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 11satellite, transponder 17.
Adapting ‘Mormon’ to Emphasize Christianity
New York Times, February 19, 2001
SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 17 — The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter-day Saints, which has long been concerned that it be understood as adistinctively Christian institution, will step up efforts to discourage use ofthe term Mormon Church and instead emphasize the name Jesus Christ inreferences to the church, a leading Mormon official said in an interview onThursday. It will urge that the church be called first by its full name andthen, in subsequent references, the Church of Jesus Christ.
The church will also urge that it not be identified by twoother 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 expectsto attract during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, will primarilyaffect how the church’s officials refer to the institution, especially indealings with the news media, and how missionaries refer to the church in theirwork overseas. But church leaders also hope to encourage members at large to dolikewise.
“I don’t mind being called a Mormon, but I don’t wantit said that I belong to the Mormon Church,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, amember of the Council of the 12 Apostles, which, together with the church’sthree- member First Presidency, exercise the highest level of authority withinthe 11-million-member church.
Elder Oaks said the church would not discourage use of theterm Mormon for church members, although he said it officially prefers they beknown as Latter-day Saints. Nor, he said, will the church seek to change nameslike the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Trail and the Book of Mormon. Theword Mormon is taken from the book, where it refers both to a geographical areaand also to a prophet of that name.
He said the decision, taken by the First Presidency and theCouncil of the 12, but not yet announced to church members, needed to be seenin context, as a “deliberate reaffirmation” of a long effort in favorof 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 beenrevealed by God to Mormonism’s first prophet, Joseph Smith. “We haveadopted a short-hand reference to the church that we think is moreaccurate.”
Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon expert on the church who isprofessor emeritus of history and religious studies at IndianaUniversity-Purdue University Indianapolis, said efforts to discourage the useof the term Mormon Church represent “the desire of Latter-day Saints — andnot just the leadership — to be understood as a Christian tradition.”
Although the church has always seen itself as Christian, shesaid, its image has been “cloaked” by distinctive practices — like buildingtemples, as Mormons still do; referring to members as “the gathering ofIsrael,” 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 inlanguage within the church has been under way, so that Mormon as a noun isbeing replaced by “an adjective, as in Mormon Christian.”
“That’s a dramatic shift that’s taking a very longtime,” said Professor Shipps, the author of “Sojourner in thePromised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons” (University of Illinois,2000).
Although the Mormons tend to be highly regarded among a widepublic for their emphasis on family ties and personal rectitude, the church’steachings are viewed critically by other churches, especially by evangelicalProtestants, who say much of Mormon theology — dealing with God, the Trinity,salvation and the nature of the Christian church itself — falls outsideorthodox Christianity.
The church, for example, teaches that God has a physicalbody, that members may progress toward “deification” after death, andthat in founding the church, Smith was “restoring” true Christianity.
Three years ago, the Southern Baptists, holding their annualconvention in Salt Lake, began an effort to evangelize Mormons. On a moresubtle level, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) published a study guide in 1990to show Presbyterians where Mormons part company theologically withProtestants. “At first glance, they seem to be like us,” the guidestated, noting that the two churches use similar terms for theologicalconcepts. “But we will see in this study they are not like us.”
In 1995, the church altered its logo so that “JesusChrist” appears in larger letters. More recently, the church’s publicaffairs office released a statement, bluntly saying there was nothingofficially called the Mormon Church.
None of this controversy seems to have impeded the church’srapid growth, particularly overseas, where a majority of the world’s 11 millionMormons live. (Utah claims 1.6 million Mormons, or about 15 percent of thetotal.) But the overseas growth has also put pressure on the church to paycloser attention to what it wants to be called.
“And,” said Elder Oaks, who is a former Utah StateSupreme Court justice and, before that, was president of Brigham YoungUniversity, “this is brought to focus and given a kind of timeline by theOlympics, when we’re going to have an invasion by your associates in the mediathe 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 tobegin using the abbreviated name of Church of Jesus Christ because no othermajor Christian body in the United States had laid claim to it. (Some have comeclose, as in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, the Churches of Christand the United Church of Christ.) He said it was possible that some churchesmight take exception to the Mormons using the abbreviated name.
“This decision is right-oriented, notresult-oriented,” Elder Oaks said. “We’re only trying to do what theLord wants us to do.”