Posted by Kendall Harmon

Growing up, was it harder to be really tall or to be a practicing Mormon?

I think just tall, because in Chicago, people really don’t know what Mormons are. And being a basketball player, I didn’t really have to face a lot of struggles, because a lot of people around me respected me. I really didn’t get heckled or looked down upon. But being tall was a mixed blessing. Off the court, I felt kind of shy because I wasn’t average. I wasn’t able to be a part of being normal in my classroom.

What music do you listen to before games? Would hip-hop be too explicit for Mormons?

I’m a really big fan of hip-hop, and I can listen to it before the game, but I’m not that into a lot of profane music. Sometimes you can’t get the clean things, so I just make sure that it’s as conservative as possible and make sure the message is there if profanity is present.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSportsUrban/City Life and IssuesYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Judge Waddoups ruled that Utah’s law against consensual adult cohabitation among multiple partners violated the Constitution’s free exercise clause, but a main point was that opposition to polygamy did not advance a compelling state interest. In the background to that judgment was the argument asserted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to the effect that the only real opposition to any form of consensual sexual arrangement among adults would be religiously based, and thus unconstitutional.

Kennedy made that assertion in his majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior—and the Lawrence decision looms large over Judge Waddoups’s entire decision.

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Posted December 19, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"The state has got to feel a little foolish enforcing these old statutes that are particular to Utah history," says Kathleen Flake, chair of Mormon studies at the University of Virginia. "We no longer criminalize adultery or fornication. Any college dormitory could run afoul of these laws."

Americans today recognize "a zone of privacy around sexual activity," says Flake, who is working on a book about Mormon polygamy. "Why isn’t that granted to people who believe themselves to be married to multiple partners as opposed to those who simply have multiple partners?"

Now it is, at least to one judge.

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Posted December 16, 2013 at 6:49 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: Off they go, two-by-two, in search of converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. You know some of them. Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was a missionary in Taiwan. Mitt Romney served a mission in France. Since the time of its first modern-day prophet Joseph Smith about 180 years ago, Mormons have sent over a million missionaries throughout the world.

STEVEN ALLEN: It is an international church.

SEVERSON: In fact, you have more members outside of the country than inside?

ALLEN: Si.

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Posted December 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The full court document is there. One of the most important sections is this one:
Plaintiffs provide the “careful description” of the asserted fundamental right the required first step of the analysis in the Tenth Circuit, see Seegmiller, 528 F.3d at 769 as follows: “a fundamental liberty interest in choosing to cohabit and maintain romantic and spiritual relationships, even if those relationships are termed ‘plural marriage’.” (Pls.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 11 [Dkt. No. 50].) Plaintiffs truncate the Glucksberg analysis by reference to Lawrence , which they argue establishes “a fundamental liberty interest in intimate sexual conduct” (Pls.’s Opp. Def.’s Mot. Summ.J. 19 n.16 [Dkt. No. 72]), thus prohibiting the state “from imposing criminal sanctions for intimate sexual conduct in the home.” (Pls.’ Mem. Supp.Mot. Summ. J. 9 [Dkt. No. 50].)"

Lawrence was the latest iteration in a long series of constitutional decisions amplifying a core principle: the Due Process Clause circumscribes and in some cases virtually forbids state intervention in private relationships and conduct.”
(Pls.’s Opp. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. 22 [Dkt. No. 72].) (pp.35-36).
You may find a Deseret News story there as well as a New York Times article here. Take the time to sort through it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1888, speaking about the possibility of Mormon literature, the church leader Orson F. Whitney made an audacious promise to his fellow Mormons: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” Yet 125 years later, there is no Mormon Milton. There is no Mormon Milosz, no Mormon Munro.

Mormons are, on average, better educated than most Americans, and they have written popular fiction. But Mormon authors tend to cluster in genre fiction, like fantasy, science fiction, and children’s and young adult literature. Orson Scott Card, who wrote “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi novel on which the country’s current top-grossing movie is based, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So is Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series.

In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare — who has, lately? — have all had literary renaissances. Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore. And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted November 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Mormon church stands to own nearly 2 percent of Florida by completing a deal to buy most of the real estate of the St. Joe Co. for more than a half-billion dollars.

The megapurchase was announced jointly Thursday by a corporate representative of church, which owns the nearly 295,000-acre Deseret Ranches in Central Florida, and by the real-estate and timber business, which has built several communities along the Panhandle coast.

According to the announcement, a church entity, AgReserves Inc., will buy 382,834 acres – the majority of St. Joe's timberlands – in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties for $565 million.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate Market* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Early in the 20th century, it was easy to predict which flocks of believers would produce the most children — with Mormons reporting the highest numbers, followed by Catholics, then Protestants and so forth as fertility rates declined. But things changed as the century rolled on and America became more pluralistic and, in elite ZIP codes, secular.

After Woodstock and the sexual revolution, it was clear that "what really mattered wasn't what religion you claimed to be practicing, but the degree to which you actually practiced it — especially whether or not you were in a pew week after week," said journalist Jonathan A. Last, author of "What to Expect When No One's Expecting...."

"When it comes to people having what people today consider large families — three or more children — there are two Americas out there," he said, and the division is between those who actively practice a faith, especially a traditional form of faith, and those who do not."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsMormons* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, is a smiler.

He loves to laugh, and those who know him best say he can tell a joke with the best of them.

But there is one form of humor that always puts a frown on his face.

“I don’t like jokes that are hateful toward any one group, especially jokes that are hateful toward a religious group,” he said. “In my baptismal covenant I pledged that I would ‘work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.’ Statements of hate, regardless of who they are generated against or how humorously they are intended, are not part of what it means to me to be faithful as an Episcopalian. So I say, don’t do it.”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted September 12, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...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.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormonism is a new religion, less than 200 years old, which means many of its claims can be easily confirmed or denied by modern science. For example, even most Mormon scholars agree there's no archaeological evidence that Jews came to America in 600 B.C., as Joseph Smith claimed, or that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Mo.

Faced with those evidentiary challenges, some Mormons have felt betrayed and left the faith. Many others, like Joanna Brooks, are trying to reconcile their religion with the science. Brooks, who's a professor at San Diego State University and author of The Book of Mormon Girl, says she focuses on the fundamentals, such as a belief in God, and in Jesus' role as savior.

"Other sort of fine points of doctrine, I deal with privately," says Brooks. "And that's not uncommon in Mormonism."

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Posted November 29, 2012 at 4:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It has been quite a year for Mormonism in America. Outside the faith, the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney sparked unprecedented levels of interest and attention. Meanwhile, church leaders have transformed how young Mormons start their adulthood, affecting everything from education to dating and marriage.

Though you might not know it from Broadway's "The Book of Mormon," 12% of Mormon missionaries are women—a number that is about to skyrocket thanks to an unexpected change in official Latter-day Saint policy. The church announced last month that Mormon women are now eligible to begin serving missions at age 19 instead of 21, and that Mormon men may serve at 18 instead of 19.

The response was immediate. Within two weeks, the number of missionary applications jumped an astonishing 471%, from the usual 700 per week to more than 4,000. Slightly more than half of these applicants were women.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchWomen* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted November 16, 2012 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Mitt Romney has opened doors. He has made Mormonism much more respectable," says Charles Dunn, a professor at Regent University, and author of numerous books on politics and religion.

"He came out of this campaign as an honourable person, and that bodes well. He is the best missionary Mormons could have."

At the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) in Salt Lake City, Utah, there appears to be a similar mood of optimism. Although they have not given figures on whether membership numbers are up, enquiries certainly are. Mormons make up about 2% of Americans, but numbers are rising steadily.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralUS Presidential Election 2012* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormonism is something we cannot escape right now. We are in a "Mormon Moment," thanks to the candidacy of Governor Mitt Romney. Christians need to address this moment with truth and grace.

Right now, many are discussing what to call members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Is it a denomination, a cult, or another religion? How should we discuss such things in the moment?

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2012* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

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Posted November 2, 2012 at 7:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

n a surprising move that promises to transform Mormon social and spiritual dynamics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday (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.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissions* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureTeens / YouthYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Sept. 23 in Brigham City, Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated its 139th temple. One might think the completion of a temple in Utah, the state's 14th, would be a routine affair. But during a six-week open house, some 400,000 people flooded into tiny Brigham City (population 18,000), for an early look inside the new structure.

Perhaps the candidacy of Mitt Romney, who would be our nation's first Mormon president, has piqued the interest of believers and nonbelievers alike. In any event, temple open houses provide a welcome chance to dispel a few of the myths surrounding the Church of Latter-day Saints and to better understand the faith and rituals of its more than 14 million members.

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Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Pastors continue to preach that we’re a cult. This stuff just grows in people’s minds,” said [Nathan] Hale, a Mount Pleasant father and business owner whose ancestry reaches back to the church’s pioneers. “It hasn’t changed.”

Even as the Charleston Stake, or group of churches, celebrates its 40th anniversary amid tremendous growth and on the eve of an election with a Mormon presidential candidate, Mormons remain an oddity to some and a sacrilegious sect to others — even among their Christian brethren.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* South Carolina

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Posted September 30, 2012 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted September 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mitt Romney is getting too easy a ride over his Mormonism....[but there are hard questions to be asked].

The first is about the sheer weirdness of the founding beliefs and the sense in which he really embraces them. The second is the Church’s long history of racism and sexism, as well as its censorious ideas about the terms on which poor people qualify for community help. The third, with the most immediate implications, is whether the Church’s conviction that its members are direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and are now “members of the House of Israel” — as well as its belief that when a Mormon saviour one day arrives it may be in Washington — would make him more likely to attack Iran over its nuclear programme.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* Theology

27 Comments
Posted August 24, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

David Silverman, president of New Jersey-based American Atheists, atheists.org, unveiled the organization’s newest billboard campaign, which mocks religion in the political landscape. The billboards feature perceived aspects of Christianity and Mormonism that, according to American Atheists, have no place in politics.

In the billboard on Christianity, for instance, God is called "sadistic" and Jesus a "useless saviour." Christianity is said to promote hate but call it "love." In the billboard on Mormonism, God is called a "space alien" and the faith is accused of baptizing dead people.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsAtheismMormons

4 Comments
Posted August 23, 2012 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One challenge, [Conor] Dwyer and others said, is that abstinent singles can struggle to find close friends who empathize with their situation.

“When my friends found out I was planning on waiting until I was married, I got laughed at quite a bit,” said Miki Reaume, a Christian and former Rockette at Radio City Music Hall who lived in New York for nine years before marrying in 2010.

When she dated non-Christians, Reaume said, the topic would usually arise on the third date.

“And then the relationship ended,” she said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyMediaReligion & CultureSexuality* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Since the presumptive Republican nominee for president is a Mormon, St. Jude the Apostle Episcopal Church in Cupertino sees that as a hot topic among both liberal and conservative voters this election year.

In an effort to educate the community on the subject, The Rev. Maly Carswell Hughes is hosting a forum on Aug. 26 to discuss Christianity and Mormonism as part of its adult education series. Church organizers already see an intense interest in Mitt Romney's religion. The interest is drawing comparison to John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, and his election in 1960.

Hughes is looking to talk with church members and guests about Mormonism and discuss the religion's similarities to, and differences from, Christianity. The forum will not be a critique of either religion nor will it be political, but instead focus on the many similarities and differences between the two faiths.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult Education* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsMormons* Theology

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Posted August 18, 2012 at 9:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Each summer for the past several years I have spent some time witnessing to Mormons. This necessarily involves some apologetics, which is not a part I particularly relish. These days I am content being a teacher, not a debater. But I am still just as passionate for truth.

I was reflecting this evening that while there is abundant external corroboration for the authors of the Biblical books, especially the New Testament, being historical persons, there is absolutely no external evidence for the existence of any of the authors of the various books contained in the Book of Mormon. Mormons will counter that these "prophets" lived in the ancient Americas, not the Greco-Roman world, but that does not eliminate the problem that, unlike the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, there is no documentation anywhere outside the pages of the Book of Mormon that the figures contained in it (and the purported authors of its various books), as well as the church and civilization in which they supposedly lived, ever existed.

In contrast, the writers of the New Testament were known by and attested to by numerous witnesses.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

5 Comments
Posted August 15, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The main reason I find the Mormon War of 1838 of considerable interest, though, is because Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate for President, is a Mormon. Given the persecution of the Mormons in their early years and the fact that they were completely driven out of Missouri in 1839, it is remarkable that a practicing Mormon could possibly be elected President of the United States this year.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

2 Comments
Posted August 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every year in mid-July, Jesus descends from the heavens onto a hillside in bucolic western New York. Should they witness the nighttime scene, evangelical Protestants driving along U.S. Route 21 might worry that they have missed the rapture.

Instead, what they have missed is a uniquely American religious festival, concluding its 75th anniversary this weekend. In the Hill Cumorah Pageant, nearly a thousand members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bring to life the sacred history of their faith. The pageant takes place near Palmyra, the small town in which Joseph Smith Jr. published the Book of Mormon in 1830.

The Hill Cumorah Pageant is a very different sort of production from Broadway's "The Book of Mormon." The songs are not as snappy, and it's not a comedy. On the other hand, the pageant is free, the seating is ample, and those who attend will learn a great deal more about the Mormon religion and culture.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted July 20, 2012 at 11:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If Mitt Romney wins the presidential election this fall, he'll have Harry Reid partly to thank.

The Republican presidential nominee and the Senate Democratic leader don't have much in common politically. But they're both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — that is, they're both Mormons.

So whenever officials of the LDS church are asked about the once-common concern that a Mormon president might take orders from Salt Lake City, they have a ready answer: Just look at Harry Reid. Only last month, Reid endorsed President Obama's decision to support gay marriage, a position that conflicts with the church's views.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is the so-called Mormon Moment: a strange convergence of developments offering Mormons hope that the Christian nation that persecuted, banished or killed them in the 19th century will finally love them as fellow Christians.

I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.

For the curious, the dispute can be reduced to Jesus....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

4 Comments
Posted June 15, 2012 at 11:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Southern Baptist researcher Ed Stetzer defines Mormonism as a “theological cult,” not the classic “sociological cult.” His research shows that a full 75 percent of Protestant pastors believe that Mormonism is either a cult or simply a different religion.

Stetzer says he’d be concerned if the significant theological distinctions between Mormons and mainstream Christianity are blurred or overlooked in the name of political expediency.

“I think it is more helpful to call Mormons another religion, distinct from biblical or historic Christianity, as just about everyone from Catholics to Methodists to Baptists have clearly stated,” Stetzer notes. “It’s a different religion that uses the same words to describe very different things.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

6 Comments
Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mockery of Mormonism comes easily for many Americans. Commentators have offered many reasons, but even they have found it difficult to turn their gaze from Mormon peculiarities. As a result, they have missed a critical function of American anti-Mormonism: the faith has been oddly reassuring to Americans. As a recent example, the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon” lampoons the religion’s naïveté on racial issues, which is striking given that the most biting criticisms have focused on the show’s representations of Africans and blackness.

As a Mormon and a scholar of religious history, I am unsurprised by the juxtaposition of Mormon mocking and racial insensitivity. Anti-Mormonism has long masked America’s contradictions and soothed American self-doubt. In the 19th century, antagonists charged that Mormon men were tyrannical patriarchs, that Mormon women were virtual slaves and that Mormons diabolically blurred church and state. These accusations all contained some truth, though the selfsame accusers denied women the vote, bolstered racist patriarchy and enthroned mainstream Protestantism as something of a state religion.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted June 4, 2012 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...whether they want to call attention to it or not, Romney’s achievement is historic. Nearly 200 years after the founding of Mormonism by Joseph Smith, who himself ran for president to call attention to his flock’s persecution, Romney’s nomination signals how far his faith, and the country’s acceptance of it, has come.

“If you look at it in a historical perspective, it’s absolutely incredible,” said Richard Lyman Bushman, a leading Mormon scholar and longtime acquaintance of Romney’s. “A century-and-a-half ago, Mormons were detested as a people as well as a religion. They were thought to be primitive and crude. And now to have someone overcome all the lingering prejudice, that’s a milestone.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

6 Comments
Posted May 30, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the final exam for an American religion class I taught this spring, I asked my Boston University students to offer Mitt Romney some unsolicited advice on how to talk to the American public about his Mormon faith.

He needs it. In many respects, Mormons have become quintessentially American, yet "gentiles" (as Mormons call the rest of us) remain wary. Evangelicals often view the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an unchristian "cult," and many liberals are at least as uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon president. What to do?

Most of my students told me that the former Massachusetts governor could not sidestep "TMT," as his 2008 presidential team referred to "That Mormon Thing." He should discuss his faith in a heartfelt manner. But he should steer clear of its controversial history and unusual beliefs and rituals. What is to be gained from addressing Mormons' rejection of the Trinity, their baptisms of dead Holocaust victims, or their founder Joseph Smith (who also ran for president)? Romney should emphasize morality instead, my students said, underscoring the convergence of Mormonism and Christianity on "family values."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

16 Comments
Posted May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Mitt Romney embarked on his first political race in 1994, he also slipped into a humble new role in the Mormon congregation he once led. On Sunday mornings, he stood in the sunlit chapel here teaching Bible classes for adults.

Leading students through stories about Jesus and the Nephite and Lamanite tribes, who Mormons believe once populated the Americas, and tossing out peanut butter cups as rewards, Mr. Romney always returned to the same question: how could students apply the lessons of Mormon scripture in their daily lives?

Now, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Mr. Romney speaks so sparingly about his faith — he and his aides frequently stipulate that he does not impose his beliefs on others — that its influence on him can be difficult to detect....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted May 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Too often, ....[says Mouw in his new book], Evangelicals pick up little-taught LDS beliefs — such as humans becoming gods or having their own planets — and put them at the center of Mormon theology, rather than at the periphery.

"If in our attempts to defeat them we play fast and loose with the truth by attributing to them things they don’t in fact teach," Mouw writes, "then we have become false teachers: teachers of untruths."

Mouw spells out the doctrinal differences between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and historical Christian faiths: the nature of God and Jesus, the nature of the Trinity, nonbiblical Mormon scriptures and the rejection of the creeds. He rejects these positions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons* Theology

2 Comments
Posted May 16, 2012 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If you suspected the newly released U.S. Religion Census overstated the LDS Church’s growth rate, you were right. That’s because, this time around, the Utah-based faith changed the way it reported its membership to the researchers....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormonism and Islam are among the fastest growing religions in America, while just over half of all Americans are unaffiliated with any denomination, according to a major census of the country’s religious congregations published Wednesday.

The decennial census, released by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies in Chicago, found that the U.S. Muslim community had increased 160 percent from approximately 1 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2010.

There are 6.1 million U.S. members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons, up 45 percent for the same period....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMormons

1 Comments
Posted May 3, 2012 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The new storehouse, which opened in January, is the centerpiece of the LDS Church's intricate network for taking care of its members and lending a hand to others in times of natural disasters, putting scriptural encouragements into action in the aftermath of hardship, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes across the nation and around the world.

"As I walk through, I [don't] think, 'What a beautiful building' but how the Lord must truly love the poor to provide this building to take care of their needs," [Richard] Humpherys said during a tour of the facility, built with members' donations.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionPovertyReligion & Culture* General InterestNatural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For a glimpse of how Mormons see themselves....it’s worth visiting the Church History Museum of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here. Created by believers, for believers, the museum shows how close to the center of American life Mormons consider themselves to be.

The gap is enormous between that perspective and the one embedded in the wider culture. The hit Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” riotously mocks the church’s doctrine. The high-toned HBO soap “Big Love,” which ended last year, relished the complications of polygamy (once endorsed by the church and long since renounced). Reports of posthumous Mormon baptisms of Holocaust victims have fueled outrage. Accusations of extremism and murder appear in thrillers reaching back to Sherlock Holmes’s first case in “A Study in Scarlet.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

3 Comments
Posted April 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has hovered over his 20-year political career like a thick layer of incense at Easter Mass. Negative perceptions of the religion so worried his 2008 presidential team that the dilemma had its own acronym in campaign power point presentations: TMT (That Mormon Thing).

Worries persisted this year as skeptical evangelical Christians flocked to other candidates—any other candidate it seemed — causing Romney to avoid all things Mormon in public....

Read it all. Also, Jacques Berlinerblau has further thoughts on this in "How Romney should talk about religion".

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

10 Comments
Posted April 17, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Not the least of the church’s problems now is the growing number of highly educated, formerly prominent Mormons who have left the LDS and are only too ready to tell the world exactly why.

As a molecular biologist studying forest trees in Brisbane, Australia, Simon Southerton was in many ways a Mormon role model. He was 10 years old when his parents joined the church and he was baptised into the faith in 1970. He rose steadily through the ranks and became a bishop to his flock. Over the years he was vaguely aware that some of the historical events described by the Book of Mormon did not match the archeological or scientific record. “But I hadn’t dwelt on it,” he said. He loved his church for its emphasis on families and the sense of community it fostered.

Yet there was one key aspect of church doctrine that began to trouble him. The Book of Mormon describes a migration of Israelite clans across the Atlantic to America long before Columbus. The notion of a New Jerusalem, founded on American soil by the ancient forefathers of Mormonism, is one of the faith’s key tenets. Yet Southerton, familiar with the use of DNA to chart early human migrations, began to worry about the sheer weight of scientific evidence undermining the Book of Mormon’s account.

“Once I started looking at it seriously, it didn’t take me very long at all to realise that the Book of Mormon wasn’t real history,” he said. According to Mormon doctrine, Native Americans are descended from one of the Israelite clans. “But there’s been no serious mainstream belief in anything other than Asian origin for Native Americans for much of the last century,” Southerton added.

Read it all (requires subscription).


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

4 Comments
Posted April 15, 2012 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A technological crackdown, telegraphed by Mormon leaders, has effectively blocked the pre-eminent whistle-blower of controversial proxy baptisms from accessing the LDS Church’s database that chronicles so-called baptisms for the dead.

LDS officials defend the move, saying it helps prevent overzealous Mormons and mischief-makers from violating church policy by submitting the names of prominent Jewish figures, such as Anne Frank and Daniel Pearl, both discovered on the baptism rolls in recent weeks.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaismMormons* TheologyEschatologySacramental TheologyBaptism

0 Comments
Posted March 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints promised in 1995 to stop including Holocaust victims in its ritual, the church admitted last week that Anne Frank had been “baptized” in a Mormon church in the Dominican Republic. On Wednesday, The Boston Globe reported that Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002, was baptized last June in Twin Falls, Idaho; Mr. Pearl was Jewish.

Also on Wednesday, the church released a letter reiterating its policy that “without exception, church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims.”

In proxy baptism, a living Mormon immerses himself or herself in a baptismal font on behalf of a dead person. A church spokesman, Michael Otterson, said Friday that the ritual was done in the spirit of love, and that people’s souls were free not to become Mormons.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaismMormons* TheologyEschatology

0 Comments
Posted March 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Methodist and Latter-day Saint historians, theologians, preachers and congregants gathered Friday in Washington, D.C., like long-lost family members becoming reacquainted.

The common roots and differences between Methodists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were explored at an interfaith conference titled "At the Crossroads, Again," hosted by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy and the Wesley Theological Center.

The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy exists to build trust and friendship between religious traditions which are often suspicious of each other, foundation president Randall Paul said.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesMethodistOther FaithsMormons

6 Comments
Posted February 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What do George Washington, Albert Einstein and Stanley Ann Durham (Barack Obama's mother) have in common? Mormons have baptized each of them by proxy, performing a temple rite they believe gives human beings a posthumous opportunity to obtain salvation.

Researchers recently discovered that Mormons had similarly baptized the parents of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, whose mother died in a Nazi extermination camp in 1942. And one Mormon recently proposed for proxy baptism the still-living Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

This esoteric practice doesn't always provoke complaints—President Obama refused to comment on his mother's case, for instance—but it has strained Mormon-Jewish relations over the past two decades.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaismMormons* TheologyEschatologySacramental TheologyBaptism

7 Comments
Posted February 24, 2012 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom. To Mormons, only members of the LDS priesthood possess the power to baptize.

"It doesn't matter if you're a Baptist or a Buddhist," said Kathleen Flake, a Vanderbilt University scholar who has studied the church, "it's about who has the authority to perform the sacrament."

Flake said Mormons are encouraged to baptize at least four generations of forebears to seal the family for eternity. So the LDS church has built the world's most extensive genealogical library in Salt Lake City with 700 employees and more than 2 billion names.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyEschatology

4 Comments
Posted February 17, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the news.

"We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, a spokesman at the centre.

The Mormon religion allows baptism after death, and believes the departed soul can then accept or reject the baptismal rites.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaismMormons* TheologyEschatologySacramental TheologyBaptism

6 Comments
Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last week he did it again, wading into a discussion of money — or, rather, of the “very poor” who lack it — and succumbing to yet another pink slip of the tongue. Mitt Romney is forever being tripped up this election cycle by the topic of wealth.

Not, interestingly, religion. That was the angst last time around, and the extent to which the dynamic has changed, with mammon supplanting Mormon as the bejeweled albatross around his neck, was reflected in another recent comment of his, one that prompted less notice and was interpreted in a particular and highly revealing way....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted February 6, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....compared to other religious Americans, the Romneys and other Mormons are fairly atypical when it comes to passing the plate. Across the rest of the religious landscape, tithing is often preached but rarely realized.

Research into church donations shows a wide range of giving, with Mormons among the most generous relative to income, followed by conservative Christians, mainline Protestants and Catholics last.

Over the past 34 years, Americans' generosity to all churches has been in steady decline, in good times and in bad, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, whose Illinois-based Empty Tomb Inc. tracks donations to Protestant churches.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted February 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

what I tried to convey remains true: There are unbridgeable gaps between traditional Christian orthodoxy and the theological positions taken by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As Brigham Young University professor Robert Millet notes, "Latter-day Saints are not in the line of historic Christianity and … do not accept the concepts concerning God, Christ, and the Godhead that grew out of the post-New Testament councils." The theological affirmations contained in the great creeds of the historic church are held by Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants alike; the Mormon church teaches that all of these branches of the historic Christian family tree are apostate and not authentically Christian.

I know many individual Mormons and historic orthodox Christians who believe people in one another's communities to be genuine followers of Jesus Christ. But the religious movements of historic Christianity on the one hand and Mormonism on the other do not recognize one another's movements as Christian. That doesn't mean individual people within those movements reject one another as citizens, or as political leaders — let alone as friends and colleagues. But it does mean that these religious traditions have things to say about one another.

Read it all but please note that what Mr. Poling attributes to Luther ["With Luther, I would rather be governed by an honest and capable man of a different religious faith than by a corrupt and ineffective politician who attended my church"] is something you often see quoted, but no one has ever been able to show me a reference where this was said in Luther's own works [and I recall the now late Richard John Neuhaus saying much the same]. If any blog readers can find such a reference, do let me know--KSH.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

2 Comments
Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mitt Romney's newly released tax returns provide more than an accounting of the Republican presidential candidate's remarkable personal wealth. The documents also give a rare glimpse into tithing to the Mormon church by one its most prominent members.

Romney reports he will give a total of $4.13 million to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over two years as part of his overall charitable donations. The former Massachusetts governor reported income of about $43 million for the two years. Separately, over the past decade, Romney and his wife, Ann, have given more than $4.7 million to the denomination through the Tyler Charitable Foundation, a multimillion-dollar trust the couple leads.

The LDS church famously seeks a high level of commitment from its members - in prayer, study, service to others and charity. A lifelong Mormon, Romney served as a missionary in France as a young man and as a top Latter-day Saint leader in the Boston area.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted January 29, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States is currently in what some have called the "Mormon Moment" – a time when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is gaining attention due, in part, to the popularity of Mormon celebrities and politicians. Many Mormons, however, are leaving the church to embrace traditional Christianity, but such radical shifts in thought don't come easily.

The Western Institute for Intercultural Studies (WIIS), a think-tank organization dedicated to helping Christians understand and witness to those of other religions, has come up with a program which includes DVDs and a workbook that are designed to help ex-Mormons have an easier transition into Christianity.

Nearly 70,000 people left the Mormon Church in the U.S. in 2007, according to the Mormon Social Science Association via the first Transitions DVD. Some of the thousands of Mormons who have left the church have turned to Christianity, which is why WIIS created "Transitions: The Mormon Migration from Religion to Relationship," a six-part program that helps "immigrants" to Christianity address both personal and doctrinal issues.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsMormons* TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

0 Comments
Posted January 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The eternal embodiment of the divine is metaphysically audacious, and it explains why Mormonism is so inventive. Mormon metaphysics is Christian metaphysics minus Origen and Augustine—in other words, Christianity divorced from Plato. Mormons are so materialistic that they insist that the same unchanging laws govern both the natural and the supernatural. They also deny the virgin birth, since their materialism leads them to speculate that Jesus is literally begotten by the immortal Father rather than conceived by the Holy Spirit.

By treating the spiritual as a dimension of the material, Smith overcomes every trace of dualism between this world and the next. Matter is perfectible because it is one of the perfections of the divine. Even heaven is merely another kind of galaxy, far away but not radically different from planet earth. For Mormons, our natural loyalties and loves have an eternal significance, which is why marriages will be preserved in heaven. Our bodies are literally temples of the divine, which is why Mormons wear sacred garments underneath regular clothing.

This should not be taken lightly. The Mormon metaphysic calls for the revision of nearly every Christian belief. Still, not all heresies are equally perilous. If Gnosticism is the paradigmatic modern temptation—spiritualizing Jesus by turning him into a subjective experience—Mormonism runs in the exact opposite direction. If you had to choose between a Jesus whose body is eternal and a Jesus whose divinity is trivial (as in many modern theological portraits), I hope it would be an easy choice.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyAnthropologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3 Comments
Posted January 20, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the most fundamental issue, traditional Christians believe in the Trinity: that God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all rolled into one.

Mormons reject this as a non-biblical creed that emerged in the fourth and fifth centuries. They believe that God the Father and Jesus are separate physical beings, and that God has a wife whom they call Heavenly Mother.

It is not only evangelical Christians who object to these ideas.

“That’s just not Christian,” said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, a liberal Protestant seminary in New York City. “God and Jesus are not separate physical beings. That would be anathema. At the end of the day, all the other stuff doesn’t matter except the divinity of Jesus.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

0 Comments
Posted January 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first major independent poll of U.S. Mormons describes a conservative, devout community highly concerned about being accepted even as it embraces beliefs about gender roles, premarital sex and religious commitment that are well outside the mainstream.

The Pew Forum poll, to be released Thursday, offers an unusually detailed look at an American-born religion at a time when voters are craving information about GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, a Mormon who was once a bishop in his church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted January 12, 2012 at 7:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Switzerland passed new employment rules that ban foreign religious groups from sending unpaid missionaries, 13 Mormon members of Congress pleaded with the Swiss ambassador for an exception.

The Swiss ambassador sent a respectful, yet perfunctory, letter in response, and while some meetings took place, the rules went forward. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and a Mormon, called it “very disappointing.”

But for some, the fact that Mormon lawmakers waged the battle at all is troubling, and they point to it as evidence that if elected president, Mitt Romney may use his post to promote his faith and protect its interests.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

12 Comments
Posted January 11, 2012 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From Gerald McDermott's conclusion:
In sum, then, Mormon beliefs diverge widely from historic Christian orthodoxy. The Book of Mormon, which is Mormonism's principal source for its claim to new revelation and a new prophet, lacks credibility. And the Jesus proclaimed by Joseph Smith and his followers is different in significant ways from the Jesus of the New Testament: Smith's Jesus is a God distinct from God the Father; he was once merely a man and not God; he is of the same species as human beings; and his being and acts are limited by coeternal matter and laws.

The intent of this essay is not to say that individual Mormons will be barred from sitting with Abraham and the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are saved by a merciful Trinity, not by our theology. But the distinguished scholar of Mormonism Jan Shipps was only partly right when she wrote that Mormonism is a departure from the existing Christian tradition as much as early Christianity was a departure from Judaism. For if Christianity is a shoot grafted onto the olive tree of Judaism, Mormonism as it stands cannot be successfully grafted onto either.
Read both essays carefully.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

2 Comments
Posted November 27, 2011 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I have read most of those books [that argue that Mormonism is a cult], and I have studied and taught about cults for many years. I have also spent the last dozen years meeting with Mormons - scholars and church leaders - to engage in lengthy theological discussions. These dialogues have included several other prominent evangelical Christian leaders.

Based on these conversations and my own careful study, I do not believe Mormonism is a cult. However, I am not convinced that Mormon theology deserves to be classified as Christian in the historic sense of that word. I have serious disagreements with my Mormon friends about basic issues of faith that have eternal consequences. These include issues regarding the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity and the character of the afterlife. But I have also learned that in some matters we are not quite as far apart as I once thought. In any case, such theological differences don't preclude a Mormon from being a viable presidential candidate, in my view.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

9 Comments
Posted November 26, 2011 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After Sunday worship in recent months, Mormon bishops around the country gathered their congregations for an unusual PowerPoint presentation to unveil the church’s latest strategy for overcoming what it calls its “perception problem.”

Top Mormon leaders had hired two big-name advertising agencies in 2009, Ogilvy & Mather and Hall & Partners, to find out what Americans think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Using focus groups and surveys, they found that Americans who had any opinion at all used adjectives that were downright negative: “secretive,” “cultish,” “sexist,” “controlling,” “pushy,” “anti-gay.”

On seeing these results, some of those watching the presentation booed while others laughed, according to people at the meetings. But then they were told that the church was ready with a response: a multimillion-dollar television, billboard and Internet advertising campaign that uses the tagline, “I’m a Mormon.” The campaign, which began last year but was recently extended to 21 media markets, features the personal stories of members who defy stereotyping, including a Hawaiian longboard surfing champion, a fashion designer and single father in New York City and a Haitian-American woman who is mayor of a small Utah city.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

2 Comments
Posted November 21, 2011 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than four in 10 American voters say they are uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon in the White House, a reflection of the steep challenge facing Mitt Romney in the GOP primary.

According to a survey released Tuesday (Nov. 8) by the Public Religion Research Institute, Romney faces an identity problem among those who already know he’s a Mormon, and those who don’t but generally have qualms about the faith.

The poll found evangelicals are warming to Romney’s chief rival, businessman Herman Cain, and are also the group that harbors the most unease with Mormonism among all religious groups surveyed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted November 10, 2011 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Osteen just stated his belief that Mormons are Christians. He then expressed the thought that Mormonism “might not be the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with,” but he affirmed Mormon statements that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is Savior.

Evaluating Osteen’s boyhood understanding of Christianity would be a project unto itself, given the shifting theology of his preacher father, the late John Osteen.

The main point of concern in Joel’s latest comment is the lack of any biblical standard of judgment and the total abdication of theological responsibility. He relegates doctrinal disagreements between Christians and Mormons to the status of theological debates between Protestant denominations and then includes Roman Catholicism. There are plenty of issues there, and the issues are not the same when comparing Baptists to Methodists, on the one hand, and Protestants and Roman Catholics, on the other. Comparing any form of Trinitarian orthodoxy with Mormonism is another class of question altogether.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For decades, the popular image of Mormon style has been shaped by clean-cut young missionaries on bicycles in dark suits, white shirts and skinny black ties — and more recently by the sculptured coif of the presidential candidate Mitt Romney or the sporty style of the motocross-bike-riding Jon Huntsman, another Republican presidential candidate.

But the boundaries of Mormon style are expanding. The highly visible “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign (the subject of a major push on television, billboards, the subway and the Internet) seeks to quash strait-laced stereotypes by showing off a cool, diverse set of Mormons, including, besides Mr. [Brandon] Flowers, a leather-clad Harley aficionado, knit-cap-wearing professional skateboarder and an R & B singer with a shaved head.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted October 28, 2011 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormonism is not something I could accept as a faith -- you will never get the Catholic out of me, even if I attend an Episcopal church in Georgetown.

Mormons believe in the salvation story that makes Christianity a separate faith, not merely a separate sect, from Judaism. However, Mormons also believe mortals possess the potential for divinity -- to live a life like God in the hereafter -- if they live a truly just life here on earth.

The potential for our own divinity sounds farfetched and cult-like to rigid and inflexible Christians, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress, but no more so than did the divinity of Christ and the Christian salvation story to First Century Jews or their Roman rulers. What is more important is what Mormons believe and teach to their children about what God expects from each of us in our relationships with our fellow human beings -- or what it takes to live a good life.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* Theology

4 Comments
Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:
I take exception to Marilyn Gibson’s letter, “Placing Mormon faith” (Forum, Oct. 20), when she claims that Episcopalians “don’t think Mormons are Christian.” While I applaud her ability to back up her research using the trusted source Wikipedia, I urge her to broaden her research before asserting that my religion does not consider our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters to be Christian.
Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

17 Comments
Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent years, [Richard] Land has numbered himself among those who describe Mormonism as a kind of fourth Abrahamic tradition, a new faith that has reinterpreted the past under the guidance of its own prophet and its own scriptures. In this case, he said, "Joseph Smith is like Mohammad and The Book of Mormon is like the Koran." Mormons believe they have restored true Christianity, while Trinitarian churches reject this claim that they have lost the faith.

Thus, it's not surprising that a new LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 liberal and conservative Protestant clergy in America found that 75 percent disagreed with this statement: "I personally consider Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) to be Christians." The surprise was that 48 percent of mainline Protestant pastors strongly agreed that Mormons are not Christians.

Meanwhile, the Vatican in 2001 addressed the issue of "whether the baptism conferred by the community The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called Mormons in the vernacular, is valid."

The response from the late Pope John Paul II was blunt: "Negative."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptistsEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons* TheologyChristologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

0 Comments
Posted October 25, 2011 at 4:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A common argument runs this way:

Mormons aren't Christians. Why? Because Mormons differ dramatically from the Christian mainstream, rejecting major doctrines (for example, the Nicene Trinity) that developed in the centuries after Christ.

Critics often accuse us of deceptively claiming to be traditional Christians, and puzzled outsiders sometimes ask why we claim to be Christians while rejecting certain doctrines and traditional creeds.

But we don't claim to be mainstream Christians, and these objections conflate or confuse "mainstream Christianity" or "traditional Christianity" or "historical Christian orthodoxy" with "Christianity" as a whole. They mistakenly assume that "Christianity" and "mainstream Christianity" are synonyms.

Make sure to read that last statement again several times (my emphasis). Then take the time to read it all--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

12 Comments
Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We hypothesize that white Catholics and mainline Protestants are fine with Mormons because they are not bothered by the same theological issues as are evangelicals, who are theologically conservative and question whether Mormons are really Christians. Nor are these politically moderate groups troubled by the same political issues as staunchly secular Americans and racial minorities, who are politically liberal and disagree with Mormons' conservative political views.

It's clear, then, that whereas evangelicals present a problem for Mr. Romney as he competes in heavily evangelical primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, his Mormonism would be unlikely to hurt him if he survives and wins the Republican nomination. Neither secular nor minority voters are prone to vote for Republicans anyway, and evangelicals are equally unlikely to cast a ballot for a Democrat. Of course, evangelicals may hurt a Romney candidacy by staying home on Election Day 2012, but their strong opposition to President Obama and their past high levels of turnout suggest that they will take to the polls to try to oust the incumbent. Meanwhile, other churchgoing Americans—especially white Catholics and mainline Protestants—appear unconcerned with Mr. Romney's religion.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

12 Comments
Posted October 21, 2011 at 7:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tries to overcome unease about his Mormon faith in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, a new ad campaign promoting the religion is drawing attention.

"I'm a Mormon" billboards and television commercials aimed at improving the religious group's public image have surfaced over the past week in states almost certain to be battlegrounds for next year's presidential contest.

But don't expect to see Romney in a commercial proclaiming "I'm a Mormon." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly called Mormons, says its ad campaign has nothing to do with the candidate. (Federal law prevents nonprofit organizations such as the LDS church from participating in political campaigns.)

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[In the 18th century James]...Madison led the effort to enshrine the right of religious conscience in the First Amendment. To Madison, this was the most sacred of all rights. For him, the First Amendment included the most significant principle claimed by the founding generation.

Surely, Fischer and Jeffress believe deeply in their brand of Christianity. They also, no doubt, believe that they should be free to urge their followers to eschew a candidate who does not follow their brand of Christianity. They have, however, failed to grasp the crowning principle of our Constitution — the freedom of conscience. They also seem to have forgotten how tenuous religious liberty is.

Before religious leaders in the 21st century declare a religious test for political purposes, they should remember Madison's caution that their own brand of Christianity could, under such a principle, one day be disfavored in diabolical ways that will lead to persecution.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

11 Comments
Posted October 18, 2011 at 11:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will launch a new media campaign Monday in 12 major cities.

The "I'm a Mormon" campaign — mostly TV spots and billboards — will encourage people to learn about Latter-day Saints by visiting the mormon.org website, which features video profiles of thousands of Mormons from around the world.

"These are real people," said Cindy Packard, the LDS Church spokeswoman for the metropolitan Phoenix area. "There are no scripts, no fake stories, no wardrobe, just real people talking about their lives."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted October 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Marriage is a fundamental tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But church leaders now face a matrimony problem within their flock: Young single Mormons are delaying marriage.

Becky Maher, 29, attends the American River Young Singles Adult Branch in Sacramento. She is active in the congregation and has held leadership positions in the church. But getting married has so far eluded her. "I would like to be married as soon as possible," she said.

Ben Forsyth, 28, is also a member of the singles congregation. Sunday, he led the congregation in the benediction. But he's not ready for marriage. "I don't think I've put it off, I just haven't found the right person," he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

2 Comments
Posted August 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Mormon Church is preparing for the 2012 elections with a campaign message of its own: It has nothing to do with orchestrating or promoting the presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr., both Mormons.

On Thursday, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, a group of Mormon academics who defend the faith, will wrestle with the challenges presented by the two presidential candidates.

"We not only don't want to cross the line" between religion and politics, Michael Purdy, director of the church's media relations office, said in an interview at church headquarters here. "We don't want to go anywhere near the line."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted August 3, 2011 at 6:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mormon officials are telling their top, full-time leaders that they and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns, including making donations or endorsing candidates.

However, part-time leaders—including local and regional congregational leaders—are still allowed to do that, but are cautioned to make clear they are acting as individuals and do not represent the church.

Local leaders are also told not to engage in political fundraising or campaigning focused on members of congregations they oversee.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateState Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted July 8, 2011 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gary Cornia, dean of Mormon-run Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management, is often asked what makes Mormons so successful. "I'm not going to say we beat everybody out, but we do have a reputation," says Cornia. "And one of the defining opportunities for young men and young women is the mission experience." Reflecting on his own mission to the mid-Atlantic states, Cornia adds, "When I left, the son of a relatively poor mother and a father who died when I was young, I frankly didn't know if I could do anything. I came back with the confidence that I can accomplish most hard things. I may not have had that otherwise."

The Mormon Church is 181 years old, and its adherents compose less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2009 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). Yet Latter-Day Saints hold, or have held, a seemingly disproportionate number of top jobs at such major corporations as Marriott International (MAR), American Express, American Motors, Dell Computers (DELL), Lufthansa, Fisher-Price (MAT), Life Re, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Madison Square Garden, La Quinta Properties, PricewaterhouseCooper, and Stanley Black & Decker (SWK). The head of human resources at Citigroup is Mormon, and in 2010 Goldman Sachs (GS) hired 31 grads from BYU, the same number it hired from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

4 Comments
Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was last Saturday, and we were sitting with about 300 other Mormons, including dozens of children, at the annual picnic of the Genesis Group, a social organization for black Mormons and their friends. Some were Latino or American Indian, and nearly half were white, the parents and siblings of adopted black children. It was the most racially integrated church event I had ever attended.

Having been introduced to Mormonism by kindly white neighbors in his hometown of Colorado Springs, the teenage Darius [Gray] read his way through much of the scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had no idea about the racist church policy. His newfound faith was badly shaken.

“I went home and prayed,” Mr. Gray said. “And I received a personal revelation, an inspiration from God: ‘This is the restored Gospel, and you are to join.’ So the next day, I entered into the waters of baptism. Then the next day I went to church as a member for the first time.” And a little girl addressed him using a certain racial epithet. That was a first, too.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryRace/Race RelationsReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted June 13, 2011 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For all of its lewd jokes and potty-mouth banter, “The Book of Mormon” commingles the profane and the sacred, dramatizing the culture shock, the physical danger and the theological doubts that infuse what one might call the missionary narrative. That narrative has been lived out for centuries by Western missionaries in a range of denominations, and it has been expressed in recent decades in a spectrum of art and literature.

“The Book of Mormon” forms part — admittedly a loopy and idiosyncratic part — of that corpus of work. Both the musical’s respect for faith-based idealism and its criticism of fundamentalist certitude have informed such films as Roland Joffé’s “The Mission” and Bruce Beresford’s “Black Robe,” novels including “The Call” by John Hersey and “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver, as well as nonfiction accounts like “The Rebbe’s Army” by Sue Fishkoff, which is not even about Christians but the Hasidic Chabad movement’s emissaries to wayward, far-flung Jews.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissions* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureTheatre/Drama/Plays* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted April 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[STEFAN FATSIS]...Columnists and commentators love to defend righteous acts. But I think there's more to this conversation.

[MICHELE] NORRIS: More like what?

[STEFAN] FATSIS: Well, these rules, for one thing. We haven't heard much about whether these rules are applied uniformly across the student body. And it's also worth noting that Brandon Davies is African-American, and the last two athletes who left their BYU teams for the same reason are of Pacific Island descent. And this is a campus that is overwhelmingly white.

Then you've got the stickier subject of whether these rules should maybe be questioned by people outside of the Mormon Church. And finally, I think it bears asking, you know, does BYU's willingness to shame a 19-year-old in such a public way, is that the best approach, honor code or not?

Read or listen to it all. I happened to catch this yesterday in the car running an errand and what struck me was this phrase: BYU's willingness to shame a 19-year-old in such a public way. Ah, so this is the university's fault. Except, hang on now. First, the young man in question signed up for this school knowing the honor code on the front end of his whole undergraduate undertaking. So the possibility of bad consequences is something he already agreed to. Second, the young man is the one who has shamed himself, no?

This reminds me a bit of discussions in the house when I was growing up (with two parents who were teachers). One more than one occasion it was noted that when students do well a person will say "I got an A" but when things go wrong, what happens? The rhetoric changes to "the teacher failed me." Oh what a tangled web we weave--KSH
.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureSports* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

20 Comments
Posted March 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To many Americans, religious or not, chastity before marriage is a quaint tradition at best and emotionally damaging at worst.

After all, more than 90 percent of men and women, according to Guttmacher Institute surveys during the past 50 years, have reported engaging in premarital sex. And the older a single person becomes, many people believe, the more ridiculous it seems to forgo physical intimacy.

That’s the perspective of Mormon poet Nicole Hardy, who, in a New York Times essay last month, described her decision to join the rest of the modern world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

30 Comments
Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To many viewers, the LDS Church’s “I’m a Mormon” ad blitz seemed hip, refreshing and original.

The campaign, launched last year in nine U.S. cities, generated a lot of national buzz. Its short videos featured regular folks talking about their lives as doctors, skateboarders, tax attorneys, environmentalists, surfers or former felons before announcing that they are Mormons. Nary an Osmond to be seen.

It helped burst stereotypes of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by showing individual and diverse members expressing their spirituality.

Turns out, lots of other faiths take a similar tack.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsMormons

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Posted January 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first time the Rev. Scott Hayashi served Utah’s Episcopal Church, he was puzzled by some parishioners’ tendency to define themselves by what they weren’t: Mormons.

He even remembers pointing out the silliness in a sermon at Ogden’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where he was rector from 1989 to 1998.

“I asked, ‘Does this mean if the LDS people are against gambling, we should be for it? If the LDS people have the Mormon diet and believe whole grains, moderation in eating and getting exercise is what you should do, that means we should eat all high-fat foods and not exercise? If the LDS people are against smoking, that means we should all be smoking like chimneys? Does this make any sense?’ ”

The next bishop for Utah’s 5,200 Episcopalians now frames the question this way: “Shouldn’t we have an identity that is formed on the positive, as opposed to being against something?”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

24 Comments
Posted November 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Not so long ago, the LDS Church prohibited its missionaries from using the Internet, even to contact their families. The system then loosened a bit to allow weekly e-mails home and some occasional viewing of church materials.

Now the nearly 14 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is attempting to revolutionize the way Mormons find converts and it’s all online.

This involves experimenting with blogging missionaries, self-produced member profiles and stereotype-bursting videos. The American-born church, which has been harnessing technology to promote the faith since the 1920 radio days, sees great potential in fast-paced storytelling.

The Internet is the new “town square,” said Ron Wilson, manager of Internet and marketing for the church. “And Mormons are taking to it like never before.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted August 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1857, explaining his decision to send the army to put down a "rebellion" in Utah, President James Buchanan complained that Brigham Young's fanatical followers "obey his commands as if these were direct revelations from heaven." One hundred and fifty years later, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints again stands accused of fanaticism, in this instance by a documentary that seeks to indict the church for its recent foray into the politics of marriage.

"8: The Mormon Proposition" chronicles the role the church played in enshrining a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in California by supporting the 2008 passage of Proposition 8. As a spotlight on the suffering of same-sex couples and individuals who are rejected by family and church leaders, the film succeeds. Its critique of the church's recent political activism, however, is as ham-fisted as many of the mid-19th century allegations against the church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

3 Comments
Posted July 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After a decade long moratorium, Mormon is back. The name, that is.

It was on display everywhere last weekend (April 3-4) as thousands gathered here for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 180th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City.

Where LDS leaders once were pushing members to call themselves Latter-day Saints, rather than Mormons, now the church-owned Deseret News has created the Mormon Times. "Mormon Messages" is on YouTube. The "Mormon Channel" is on the radio. And the faith's missionary Web site is mormon.org.

So what has changed for the nearly 14 million-member church? The Internet.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted April 14, 2010 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As he describes the Church’s belief that the family unit endures eternally, Lyle [Shamo] begins to weep with emotion. He and his wife already have eight children and sixteen grandchildren but are now responsible for all the young missionaries in their area. “I’m the mom,” Tracy says proudly. They hadthe missionaries shovelling snow-filled driveways last week. “We don’t want them to become Bible bashers or stand in people’s way in the street,” Lyle says. “We tell them to always be respectful.”

Mormonism places Jesus Christ in the centre of its beliefs. But the Church’s independent brand of Christianity is not always recognisable to other denominations. “For a Christian, the gospels stand and Jesus is the final and ultimate revelation. We don’t add other books as they have,” says the Rev John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley, “But I would want to emphasise the quality of some of their people.”

Steven Hughes, the interfaith development officer for Churches Together in Lancashire, says that Mormons “are the one group who rarely cross my radar”. He lives just eight miles from the Temple Complex, but rarely sees the missionaries out and about.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted April 1, 2010 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Catholics and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must continue to stand together as a "vital bulwark" against those in American society who want to "reduce religion to a purely private reality," the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told a historic gathering at Brigham Young University in Provo.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago spoke Feb. 23 on "Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom" as part of the Mormon school's forum series. He was the first cardinal to speak at the university.

Cardinal George praised the Mormons for their work with Catholics to protect the conscience rights of health care providers and institutions that do not want to participate in abortion or assisted suicide and to defend marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

By rehabilitating original buildings like the Newel K. Whitney General Store — where Mr. Smith lived for a time and had the revelation that Mormons should not smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine — and rebuilding long-lost buildings like a sawmill, the curators try to explain the town’s significance in vivid terms and allow people to walk in their prophet’s shoes.

“When Joseph Smith arrives in Kirtland in 1831, he’s the head of a loosely organized group of followers,” Mr. Olsen said. “When they leave Kirtland in 1838, the church has a fully recognized ecclesiastical organization.”

The church also addresses the reason Smith and most of his 2,000 followers left Kirtland, citing the Depression and the failed bank the church had started.

And while the tour has attracted the many visitors the church had hoped, non-Mormons say any fear of Mormons taking over the town have evaporated.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted February 14, 2010 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Romney certainly has history on his side: Republicans prefer nominees who have run before. John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush and even Ronald Reagan all ran and lost before they ran and won the presidential nomination. Having run and lost in 2008, Romney is in a prime position to run and win in 2012.

His candidacy, however, faces a major obstacle that should concern all Americans: religious intolerance. Mitt Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon church) clearly hurt him in 2008. Polls showed that anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of Americans openly said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate for president. Mormons are hardly the only religious group to face such overt hostility. Polls show that Muslims, Buddhists and people without a religion are all viewed more warily by Americans. And as America becomes more religiously diverse, we can expect still more candidates from faiths that might be unfamiliar to many Americans, or those who profess no religion at all.

The good news is that accurate information about such unpopular religious groups can help the cause of religious tolerance in America.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted November 30, 2009 at 6:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Any claim of revelation is outrageous. It presumes that God exists, that God speaks and that all is not lost when human beings translate that speech into ordinary language. But time mutes the outrage, or muffles it. Many of us greet the miracles of Jesus with a shrug, and there is little scandal any more in claiming that the Bible is the word of God.

Not so with the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the most successful of America's home-grown religions, may not have been hounded by paparazzi, but the scripture that he brought into the world (as translator, not writer, Mormons insist) was born in an age of newspapers and before a cloud of witnesses. In fact, before the book was typeset it was drawing defenders and detractors alike. So we probably know more about the production of the Book of Mormon, which is holy writ to the world's 14 million Mormons, than we do about any other scripture. With the Yale University Press publication of "The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text" last month, we know even more.

The product of over two decades of painstaking labor by Royal Skousen—a Brigham Young University professor of linguistics and English language, a Mormon and an occasional spelling-bee judge—this Yale edition aims to take us back to the text Smith envisioned as he translated, according to the faithful, from golden plates that he unearthed in upstate New York.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

4 Comments
Posted October 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The criminal charges were the first in Canada, even though polygamy has been illegal in the country since the 1950s. No one has ever been prosecuted.

Blackmore has said that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects his religious rights to have more than one wife and trumps anti-polygamy laws.

“I am thrilled,” Blackmore told the Associated Press. “It has been a long and hard year so far. It’s been very stressful for my family and stressful for me.”

Nancy Mereska, who has devoted the past six years of her life to a campaign called Stop Polygamy in Canada, said she’s devastated by the decision.

“We are back to square one,” she told Canadian media. “The polygamists will see this as a great victory.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

0 Comments
Posted September 27, 2009 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The LDS Church remains one of the nation's top four churches in membership size and growth rate, despite 2008 statistics that didn't reach '07 numbers but mirrored the past decade's annual averages.

At its recent April general conference, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported a worldwide membership of 13,508,509 through Dec. 31, 2008 — an increase of 314,510, or 2.38 percent, over the end-of-'07 total of 13,193,999.

The year before, the church recorded an increase of 325,393, or 2.53 percent.

Over the past 10 years, the LDS Church has averaged an annual membership increase of 310,407, with a high of 348,536 from 1998 to 1999 and a low of 263,716 from 2002 to 2003.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

8 Comments
Posted April 14, 2009 at 6:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although many evangelicals were not quite ready for a Mormon presidential candidate this election season, others were quick to join Mormons' efforts to pass California's ballot proposition banning same-sex marriage.

Evangelicals were the largest group of Americans who expressed reservations about voting for a Mormon candidate in surveys conducted last year. But leaders of the successful Proposition 8 campaign said that evangelicals, Mormons, and Roman Catholics cooperated more extensively than ever before to rally California to ban gay marriage.

"I think this is the ironic part, because everybody seems very content to work together on these issues of common values," said Mark DeMoss, an evangelical publicist and early supporter of Mitt Romney. "But the moment a Mormon man presented himself as a candidate for President, people said, 'That's a line we as evangelicals can't cross.' "

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsOther FaithsMormons

1 Comments
Posted December 2, 2008 at 6:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Protesters have massed outside Mormon temples nationwide. For every donation to a fund to overturn Proposition 8, a postcard is sent to the president of the Mormon Church. Supporters of gay marriage have proposed a boycott of Utah businesses, and someone burned a Book of Mormon outside a temple near Denver.

"It's disconcerting to Latter-day Saints that Mormonism is still the religious tradition that everybody loves to hate," said Melissa Proctor, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School.

As an indication of how seriously the Mormon leadership takes the recent criticism, the council that runs the church -- the First Presidency -- released a statement Friday decrying what it portrayed as a campaign not just against Mormons but all religious people who voted their conscience.

"People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights," the statement said. "These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America."

Jim Key, a spokesman for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said barbs by gay marriage activists were directed at church leadership, not individual Mormons.

"We're making a statement that no one's religious beliefs should be used to deny fundamental rights to others," he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

54 Comments
Posted November 18, 2008 at 7:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Conservatives and liberals generally use dramatically different lenses to interpret the Bible. Christian conservatives tend to emphasize an interpretation of the Bible that doesn't change with the times. They say the Bible describes marriage as only between a man and a woman.

"You've got the California Supreme Court rewriting sacred heritage," said Steve Madsen, pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship, an evangelical megachurch in Livermore.

Liberal Christians tend to emphasize that divine revelation can come from many places, even outside the church. For example, many denominations don't allow same-sex marriages, while California law does.

"Culture is going to manifest Christ in a way that summons the church to new realities," said Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)* Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman CatholicOther FaithsMormons

10 Comments
Posted October 20, 2008 at 6:52 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.

An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, obtained by Catholic News Service in late April, asks episcopal conferences to direct all bishops to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained in those registers.

The order came in light of "grave reservations" expressed in a Jan. 29 letter from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the clergy congregation's letter said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsMormons* TheologySacramental TheologyBaptism

16 Comments
Posted June 3, 2008 at 9:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

century and a half ago, Mormons made national headlines by claiming a First Amendment right to practice polygamy, despite criminal laws against it. In four cases from 1879 to 1890, the United States Supreme Court firmly rejected their claim, and threatened to dissolve the Mormon church if they persisted. Part of the Court's argument was historical: the common law has always defined marriage as monogamous, and to change those rules "would be a return to barbarism." Part of the argument was prudential: religious liberty can never become a license to violate general criminal laws "lest chaos ensue." And part of the argument was sociological: monogamous marriage "is the cornerstone of civilization," and it cannot be moved without upending our whole culture. These old cases are still the law of the land, and most Mormons renounced polygamy after 1890.

The question of religious polygamy is back in the headlines – this time involving a fundamentalist Mormon group on a Texas ranch that has retained the church's traditional polygamist practices. Many of the legal questions raised since this group was raided are easy. Under-aged and coerced marriages, statutory rape, and child abuse are all serious crimes. Those adults on the ranch who have committed these crimes, or intentionally aided and abetted them, are going to jail. They have no claim of religious freedom that will excuse them, and no claim of privacy that will protect them. Dealing with the children, ensuring proper procedures, and sorting out the evidence are all practically messy and emotionally trying questions, but not legally hard.

The harder legal question is whether criminalizing polygamy is still constitutional. Texas and every other state still have these laws on these books. Can these criminal laws withstand a challenge that they violate an individual's constitutional rights to private liberty, equal protection, and religious liberty? In the nineteenth century, none of these rights claims was available. Now they protect every adult's rights to consensual sex, marriage, procreation, contraception, cohabitation, sodomy, and more. May a state prohibit polygamists from these same rights, particularly if they are inspired by authentic religious convictions? What rationales for criminalizing polygamy are so compelling that they can overcome these strong constitutional objections?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted May 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Texas appeals court said Thursday that the state had no right to take more than 400 children from a polygamist sect's ranch, a ruling that could unravel one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered "legally and factually insufficient" grounds for the "extreme" measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.

The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted May 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Religious freedom does not include the right to exemption from prosecution for violating the state's duly passed and constitutionally adjudicated laws. Let's be clear: The First Amendment's religious freedom and free speech guarantees protect a person's right to advocate polygamy and "spiritual" marriage with girls as young as 13, but the First Amendment does not allow you to act upon such beliefs when they contravene state or federal law. Adults having sex with underage girls is statutory rape and is illegal.

Like most Americans, I agree that the safety of children must always take priority in government's actions. That does not give government officials a blank check to use children's "welfare" as a subterfuge to justify governmental intrusion or to disrupt any practice it finds vaguely weird.

There is no more treasured language in America's collective heart than these 16 words: "Congress shall make no Law respecting an Establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." As invaluable to our heritage as these words are, they were never intended to exempt people from obeying generally applicable laws, which meet a compelling government interest, such as the ones prohibiting adult males from having sex with underage girls in or out of "spiritual" marriages.

To misconstrue the First Amendment's religious freedoms to grant such exemption would be to desecrate those time-honored words and the sacred freedoms they guarantee.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted May 2, 2008 at 12:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Harvard Divinity School has long prided itself on the diversity of its curriculum - it currently features classes in American Buddhism, Jewish Apocalypticism, and Classical Sufism - but it took until this semester for the venerable school to offer a course on one of the fastest-growing faiths in the world: Mormonism.

The decision by Harvard to add "Mormonism and the American Experience" reflects what appears to be an uptick of interest in Mormonism in higher education nationally.

Two non-Mormon universities, Claremont Graduate University in California and Utah State University, have established the first endowed chairs in Mormon studies, and the University of Wyoming is considering taking a similar step. The American Academy of Religion, which is the largest association of religion scholars worldwide, has established a new group for specialists in Mormon studies.

There are more presses publishing academic works about Mormonism, more academic conferences on the religion, and more non-Mormon scholars studying the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as Mormonism is formally known.

"The interest is growing in Mormon studies generally, and it's becoming something that other religious studies scholars have to take account of and pay greater attention to," said Melissa Proctor, a visiting lecturer teaching the new class at Harvard.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted February 21, 2008 at 5:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Soon, the Mormon Church began posting its videos on YouTube -- 22 so far. One clip, for example, showed Mr. Ballard, the church apostle, answering the question "Are Mormons Christian?" It has drawn 26,000 views. By contrast, a cartoon clip from "The God Makers," a 1980s film that mocks Mormon beliefs, has been viewed 945,000 times.

Mr. Ballard's call for more new-media activism inspired dozens of new Web sites. On Politicalds.com, several Mormons of different political views write about the presidential race. Founder Mike Rogan, of Chandler, Ariz., says he started the blog "to combat some specific misconceptions about Mormons," including that all Mormons are "conservatives with a mindless 'sheep' mentality."

Mr. Hitchens, the best-selling author of "God is Not Great," wrote last fall that Mr. Romney owed voters a discussion about "the mad cult" of his church. Similar commentaries inspired Ryan Bell, a Salt Lake City attorney, to start a Web site, Romney Experience.com last summer. "Every faith has wacky doctrines," he says, adding that the press seems fixated on his faith's more sensational side.

Mormon fury boiled over after Mr. O'Donnell's appearance on the "McLaughlin Group," when he called Mr. Smith a proslavery criminal and rapist. He said Mr. Romney "was" a racist because he was a member of a church that discriminated against blacks until 1978.

Mr. Bell and others responded on their Web sites that church founder Mr. Smith, who faced many charges in his turbulent life, including treason, was never convicted of any crimes. (At least one Mormon historian says he was found guilty of a misdemeanor as a minor for fraud, but others say incomplete court records make it impossible to determine.)

The allegations about blacks stung the most. Many Mormon historians say Mr. Smith welcomed blacks from the church's inception, had ordained some blacks, and ran on an abolitionist platform for president in 1844. Blacks were barred from being church leaders, they say, by his successor, Brigham Young. Many Protestant churches, Mr. Bell pointed out, were segregated well into the 20th century. In 1978, the church lifted the ban on blacks becoming leaders.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday's WSJ.

While I consider this an important article, I found it frustrating because it did not really plumb the depths of the source of the concern. The first, as I have said before, is not Mr. Romney's Mormonism, but his truthfulness about it. The second, which is the most glaring failure of the article, is the issue of what Mormons actually believe (much of which remains carefully hidden in a number of instances from the public, and which was the screamingly silent omission from Mr. Romney's Texas speech on religion and public life). This is then not about the harsh spotlight, but about legitimate scrutiny and concern which should be present in the same way for every candidate--KSH.

Update: The Deseret Morning News has a related article, "With Romney out, Utahns in quandary" which is also worth perusing and which includes the following:

Many Mormons interviewed in the past months about why they support Romney insisted his faith alone wasn't the reason they wanted him to become president, citing everything from his family values to his ability to tackle economic issues.

"First and foremost, I support Mitt Romney because I think he's the man with the right qualities," said Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who traveled to Boston to help raise money for Romney. "Secondarily, he happens to be a Mormon."

Herbert acknowledged that he and other Mormons feel "gratitude and pride" seeing a fellow member of the faith in the national spotlight. But, the lieutenant governor said, Romney's candidacy has also made it clear not everyone is ready for a Mormon leader.

"There is probably also a realization that Mormon bigotry is out there still in the country as we've seen it bubble up. There is still some work to do," he said, to show that Mormons are "acceptable people to be your neighbors and your leaders."



Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted February 9, 2008 at 1:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What went wrong? After all, Mr Romney was perhaps the only candidate who took positions pleasing all the factions of the conservative base. For security types, he promised to stay in Iraq and said that he would double the size of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. For economic conservatives, he talked of tax cuts and touted his success as a businessman (in contrast to his chief rival, John McCain). And he told social conservatives that he was against gay marriage and abortion. What was the “Reagan coalition” not to like about the man?

First was his Mormonism. Most evangelical Christians in the social-conservative base feel that Mormonism is not Christian—some even think of it as a cult. Mr Romney tried (but failed) to pacify them with a speech on faith, saying that “Jesus Christ is the son of God and the saviour of mankind”. He tripped up early in Iowa, the first caucus. He campaigned heavily and far outspent his rivals, but evangelicals instead plumped for a man they felt to be the real item: Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher. Having stumbled in Iowa, Mr Romney’s candidacy looked wobbly. He soon lost New Hampshire to Mr McCain.

He did manage to win a few primaries, for example in Michigan and Nevada. But the party would not rally to him. Some were troubled by his perceived recent rebirth to social conservatism. As the governor of Massachusetts he had been gay-friendly and pro-choice. His newfound opposition to gay marriage and abortion seemed shallow. And this seemed to reflect a more general tendency to go with the political wind. Republicans like their leaders to be steadfast. So social conservatives stuck with Mr Huckabee, who won a clutch of southern states on “Super Tuesday”. Moderate conservatives and independents joined the reinvigorated Mr McCain.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted February 8, 2008 at 6:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Our post-denominational age should be the perfect time for a Mormon to become president, or at least the Republican nominee. Mormons share nearly all the conservative commitments so beloved of the evangelicals who wield disproportionate influence in primary elections. Mormons also embody, in their efficient organizational style, the managerial competence that the party’s pro-business wing considers attractive. For the last half-century, Mormons have been so committed to the Republican Party that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once felt the need to clarify that Republican affiliation is not an actual condition of church membership.

Yet the Mormons’ political loyalty is not fully reciprocated by their fellow Republicans. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans told the Harris Poll last year that they probably or definitely would not vote for a Mormon for president. Among evangelicals, some of the discomfort is narrowly religious: Mormon theology is sometimes understood as non-Christian and heretical. Elsewhere, the reasons for the aversion to Mormons are harder to pin down — bigotry can be funny that way — but they are certainly not theological. A majority of Americans have no idea what Mormons believe.

Mormonism’s political problem arises, in large part, from the disconcerting split between its public and private faces. The church’s most inviting public symbols — pairs of clean-cut missionaries in well-pressed white shirts — evoke the wholesome success of an all-American denomination with an idealistic commitment to clean living. Yet at the same time, secret, sacred temple rites and garments call to mind the church’s murky past, including its embrace of polygamy, which has not been the doctrine or practice of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS, for a century. Mormonism, it seems, is extreme in both respects: in its exaggerated normalcy and its exaggerated oddity. The marriage of these opposites leaves outsiders uncomfortable, wondering what Mormonism really is.

Read the whole article (it is from the NY Times Magazine and is not short).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted January 7, 2008 at 10:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (to use its proper name) is arguably America's most important indigenous religion. It is a universal faith, but also “very American”, reckon Richard and Joan Ostling, authors of the excellent “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise”. Its history is entangled with America's. Like American settlers, Mormons were pioneers who travelled far for religious freedom. Like America, Mormonism has grown fast. Smith had 26,000 followers when he died. Now he has more than 13m, more than half of them outside America. And within America, by one estimate, Mormonism is the fourth-largest denomination.

As it has grown, it has moved towards the mainstream. Its leaders renounced polygamy in 1890. Its members, following Smith's view that the American constitution was divinely inspired, are patriotic and prone to public service. Mormons are also one of the best-behaved groups in America. Practising ones shun alcohol, cigarettes and even coffee. They work hard, marry, have lots of children and set aside an evening each week for quality time with the family. The 53,000 dark-suited, white-shirted, tie-wearing Mormon missionaries who fish for souls around the world can seem like America personified: earnest, friendly, optimistic, fond of Jesus and eager to tell you about it.

Yet many Americans have doubts about Mormonism. Only 53% of non-Mormon Americans think Mormons are Christian, despite the words “Jesus Christ” in the church's name. Many evangelical Protestants think them heretics—the ruder ones regularly heckle Mormon conferences. Some secular Americans voice the opposite complaint: that Mormons are too pious and too likely to knock on your door.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsMormons

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Posted December 22, 2007 at 3:23 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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