Mormonism

Nate Carlisle 8-29-2014
RNS file photo courtesy TLC

Kody Brown, center with (left to right) sister wives Robyn, Christine, Meri, and Janelle. RNS file photo courtesy TLC.

A federal judge on Wednesday finalized the order striking part of Utah’s bigamy law and gave one more victory to the family from the TLC television show Sister Wives.

The long legal battle over polygamy in Utah now appears headed to the appeals courts. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has said he would appeal the federal court ruling that found the law against polygamy was unconstitutional.

Sister Wives chronicles the lives of Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown and their children. Utah County authorities began their investigation of the polygamous family after their show debuted.

Jonathan Turley, the attorney for the Brown family, encouraged Reyes to reconsider his plan to appeal.

Mark Silk 6-18-2013
Photo courtesy Pan Xunbin/Shutterstock.com.

Freedom and peace abstract concept background. Photo courtesy Pan Xunbin/Shutterstock.com.

We all know that when it comes to the acceptance of LGBT folks, religions differ. But what the religions communicate, and how the people in the pews actually feel, are not the same.

In a word, the rank and file tend to be more accepting than the leadership. What’s striking is how much this LGBT Gap varies from religion to religion, and we can get some idea of the variance from Pew’s new survey of LGBT Americans.

As the measure of institutional messaging, we will use the percentages of LGBT people who say a given religion is unfriendly to them. These range from 84, 83, 79, and 73 percent for Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Evangelicalism to 47 and 44 percent for Judaism and Mainline Protestantism. Then there is the proportion of members of each religion who believe that “homosexuality should be discouraged by society.” That’s 45, 65, 20, and 59 percent for the first four groups; 15 and 26 percent for the last two.

Lisa Schencker 4-08-2013

Just because the nation may change its laws to “tolerate legalized acts of immorality” does not make those acts any less spiritually damaging, senior Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer said on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 183rd Annual General Conference.

“The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality,” Packer said, “does not reduce the serious spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity.”

Packer, president of the Mormons’ Quorum of Twelve Apostles and next in line to take over the church’s reins, didn’t specifically mention gay marriage, but his comments came amid controversy on the issue nationwide and a significant swing in public and political opinion toward favoring such same-sex unions.

QR Blog Editor 11-14-2012

Charls C. Haynes writes in The Washington Post:

Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:

Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.

After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy.

Read more here.

SALT LAKE CITY — As Americans cast their ballots and the clock ticks toward midnight in Mitt Romney’s quest for the White House, this much is clear: Americans didn’t know much about Romney's Mormon faith when this “Mormon moment” began.

Now, thousands of headlines, dozens of TV newscasts, and one Tony-winning Broadway musical later, Americans still don’t know much about Latter-day Saints and their beliefs.

But they know more. All those stories educated millions of observant Americans about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Still, some “understandings” remain misunderstandings — and many views of the religion are still skewed, exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

Here are 12 persistent myths about Mormonism.

Daniel Burke 10-12-2012

A majority of Protestant pastors plan to vote for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new survey, but nearly a quarter are still undecided less than a month from Election Day.

Just 17 percent of Protestant pastors said they would vote to re-elect President Obama, with 57 percent favoring Romney and 22 percent undecided, according to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research. 

Based in Nashville, Tenn., the research firm is a branch of LifeWay Christian Resources.

The results are remarkably similar to a LifeWay survey conducted in October 2008, which found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors planned to vote for then-GOP nominee John McCain, 20 percent for Obama and 22 percent were undecided.

Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Gary Whitton / Shutterstock.com

Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Gary Whitton / Shutterstock.com

SALT LAKE CITY — Call it a change for the ages.

In a surprising move that promises to transform Mormon social and spiritual dynamics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 6 announced that it is lowering the age of full-time missionary service to age 18 for men (down from 19) and 19 for women (down from 21).

“The Lord is hastening this work,” LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said at a news conference, “and he needs more and more willing missionaries.”

The church is counting on this change to dramatically increase the ranks of its full-time missionaries, currently more than 58,000 worldwide.

Tim Townsend 9-21-2012
RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Missouri Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

In 1831, Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that the righteous would gather in Independence, Mo., to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ — just one of the prophecies that estranged his faith from traditional Christianity.

Thousands of converted Mormons moved from Ohio and upstate New York to claim their New Jerusalem. Disputes with Missourians led to a bloody Mormon War that ended only when the state's governor issued an "extermination order" to expel Smith's followers.

Today, few places are better to contemplate the evolving — but still uncertain  relationship between Mormonism and the country where it was founded.

On the one hand, Missouri symbolizes how far Mormons have come. At least 66,000 Mormons now live in the state, more than triple the number of just three decades ago. Most recently, the LDS church has built a temple in Kansas City, Mo., near the epicenter of the Mormon War.

But Missouri also serves to highlight the intractable differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon theology.

Empty soda cans, somchai rakin / Shutterstock.com

Empty soda cans, somchai rakin / Shutterstock.com

SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe now, reporters, bloggers, outsiders, and even many Mormons will accept that the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not forbid drinking cola.

On Aug. 29, the LDS church posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond (tea and coffee).”

A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine.”

Shira Schoenberg 7-27-2012
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Mitt Romney leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Though Mitt Romney talks little about his faith on the campaign trail, he grew up in the Mormon Church and spent years as a top church leader in Massachusetts. From 1986 to 1994, he was president of the Boston stake, an entity similar to a Catholic diocese. Before that, Romney was bishop, similar to a lay pastor, of congregations in Belmont and Cambridge. Each job included both organizational work and counseling.

After leaving the stake president position, Romney taught Sunday school for a year, then oversaw the church’s programs for teenagers for around two years. Romney continues to tithe — giving 10 percent of his income to his church. In accordance with Mormon teachings, he does not drink alcohol, tea or coffee. He attends church services when he can. Romney's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

As a church leader, Romney ran the church with businesslike efficiency.

“He was very serious about doing an excellent job about things and he didn’t suffer fools,” said Helen Claire Sievers, executive director for the Harvard-affiliated WorldTeach, who was active in the church when Romney was stake president.

Stephen Mansfield, an evangelical author who has written widely about the faith of politicians, turns his attention to Mormons in his latest book, The Mormonizing of America.

He talked with Religion News Service about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — has progressed from persecution to prominence.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’ve written “The Faith of George W. Bush” and The Faith of Barack Obama. Why did you write “The Mormonizing of America” instead of “The Faith of Mitt Romney”?

A: I thought that the story of Bush at the time was bigger than the story of evangelicals and the religious right at that time. I thought the story of Obama personally was bigger then the story of the religious left that he was sort of the champion of. But in this case I think that the story of the Mormon moment or this Mormon ascent is a bigger story than Mitt Romney. There’s something broader going on and he’s not so much the champion of the movement, maybe just at the vanguard of it....

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

American flag hanging from a Kansas City, Mo., Mormon temple. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

As Americans celebrate the nation’s founding, some Mormons may outdo their neighbors in fireworks, fanfare, and frenzy to express their outsized patriotism.

Love of America, they believe, stretches beyond appreciation and gratitude. It is theological, prescribed in holy writ.

When it comes to American exceptionalism, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently said, “Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome.”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly lauds the crucial role this country has to play in human history.

RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a rally in Tempe, Arizona on April 20. RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

When Romney delivered his “Faith in America” speech in 2007, the Southern Baptist response was to label Mormonism a “theological cult” and “false religion.”

What's surprising in 2012 is the relative lack of anxiety on the other side, among evangelicals who for years considered Mormonism a "cult" that was to be feared, not embraced.

In fact, the relative ambivalence among prominent evangelicals about this new "Mormon moment" -- and the fact that Romney's campaign could mainstream Mormonism right into the Oval Office – could radically shift the dynamics on America's political and religious landscape.

Dawn House 5-31-2012
RNS photo courtesy Ogden's Own Distillery

RNS photo courtesy Ogden's Own Distillery

 Idaho regulators have decided not to carry Five Wives Vodka because of its label, while Utah booze cops have deemed the bottle’s depiction of 19th-century women in petticoats holding kittens near their lady parts as acceptable.

Although some may see the label as a spoof on Utah’s polygamy past, the inspiration actually came from a wagon traveling from Missouri several years before the arrival of Mormon pioneers, Ogden’s Own Distillery owner Tim Smith said.

The 1841 Bartleson–Bidwell caravan included 66 men and five women —hence the label Five Wives Vodka.

Daniel Burke 5-30-2012
RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a rally in Tempe, Arizona on April 20, 2012. RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney clinched the GOP presidential nomination on May 28, becoming the first Mormon selected by a major political party. But will his barrier-breaking faith be a boon or bane to his White House campaign?

The answer to that question could presage the next president, and two studies published in May come to contradictory conclusions.

In both studies people were given information about Romney and his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for him.

Mark Silk 5-15-2012

Mitt Romney speaking in Detroit, Feb. 2012. Photo via Wylio http://bit.ly/KqqDbi

It's no wonder that Mitt Romney won plaudits from evangelical bigwigs for his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday. It showed he's learned how to talk to them--or at least, learned to listen to the people who know how he's supposed to talk to them.

When he was running for president last time, Romney told the bigs that he was pretty much like them in considering Jesus his Lord and Savior. But if there's anything evangelicals don't like, it's Mormons claiming to be Christians like them. Then he gave a speech declaring that, like a presidential candidate half a century earlier, he did not "define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."  But evangelicals (these days) don't much believe in Kennedyesque separation of faith and public office.

RNS photo courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Mouw argues that understanding Mormonism is a Christian mandate. RNS photo courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Mouw never intended to start a riot within the evangelical community by saying his fellow believers had "sinned against Mormonism." But that’s exactly what happened.

Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., had been meeting regularly with Latter-day Saint scholars before he gave a seven-minute introduction of Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical speaker who addressed a packed audience in the Mormon Tabernacle in November 2004.

"We’ve often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of members of the LDS faith," Mouw said that night. "It’s a terrible thing to bear false witness."

Kevin Eckstrom 5-01-2012
Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Michael Patrick and Eduardo Martins observe Temple Square from observation deck in Salt Lake City, Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Mitt Romney may or may not become the first Mormon to move into the White House next year, but a new study shows that Mormonism is moving into more parts of the country than any other religious group, making it the fastest-growing faith in more than half of U.S. states.

The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, released here Tuesday (May 1), shows that the mainline Protestants and Catholics who dominated the 20th century are literally losing ground to the rapid rise of Mormons and, increasingly, Muslims.

Brooke Adams 4-27-2012
Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

SALT LAKE CITY — At the new Utah Bishops' Central Storehouse, pallets loaded with food wait to be ferried to locales near and far, their destinations handwritten in black marker on plastic wrap covers: Lindon, Ely, Mesa, San Diego, St. George.

Storehouse manager Richard Humpherys stops a golf cart next to one steel storage rack, slits open a cardboard box with a pocket knife and pulls out a can of peaches made with fruit grown at a Mormon church-owned orchard and processed at its cannery in Lindon, Utah. The can's label is stamped "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and "Welfare Services, Salt Lake City, Utah."

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