By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - The founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, wed as many as 40 wives, including some who were already married and one as young as 14 years old, the church acknowledged in a surprising new essay.
Smith's marital history had been the subject of frequent historical debate, but until recently Mormon leaders had taken pains to present its founding prophet as happily married to one woman. Now, the church says, "careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40."
The church, officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, disavowed plural marriage in 1890 under pressure from the U.S. government, which had imprisoned polygamists and seized their assets.
Editor’s note: Jill Strasburg is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a wife and a writer who muses on life, love and faith in her blog The Strasburg Family. The upcoming episode of "This is Life With Lisa Ling" explores the scourge of prescription drug abuse in Utah and within its Mormon community at10 p.m. ET/PT Sunday on CNN.
Opinion By Jill Strasburg, special to CNN
(CNN) – I became deathly ill two months into my marriage and during my long recovery, I could barely eat or drink. I certainly couldn’t do daily chores around the house, and I would stay in my pajamas throughout most days.
During this time, something remarkable happened: Women from my congregation whom I had never met began showing up at my house.
I was new to the area, had just joined the local Mormon church, and here were these women at my house with a gift, a meal for my husband, a smile, a hug and a sympathetic ear. They expected nothing in return. I could feel the love they had for me as it radiated from them.
That wasn’t the only thing I felt though.
Opinion by Randal Maurice Jelks, special to CNN
(CNN) – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from South Africa, called one of his books “God is Not a Christian.”
He might have added a subtitle, “God is not a man, either!”
One of the great problems in our world is patriarchy. The late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, put best in song, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
Patriarchy assumes that men are made to lead and women are simply cooperative and reproductive subordinates.
These assumptions come to light in all kinds of ways, but especially through religion — the various faiths that treat women as though they are not equal to men.
We read it in the Quran and the Bible. We see it in iconic imagery, and religious taboos about sexuality, particularly women’s sexuality. And we see that around the world these days, from Salt Lake City to Sudan.
Men continue to dominate religious institutions, and use them to judge whether women can be in religious leadership or change faiths.
There is a direct link between Kate Kelly, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter day-Saints, who was excommunicated on charges of apostasy, and Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her supposed apostasy.
And the link is deeper than the charge of abandoning one's faith.
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – Kate Kelly, a lifelong Mormon who’s spearheaded a fight for equal opportunities for women in her church, was convicted of apostasy Monday and excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The verdict, decided by a panel of male judges who convened Sunday, came to her by way of an e-mail sent by her former LDS Church bishop in Virginia, Mark Harrison. Kelly described the verdict as “exceptionally painful.”
“Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities,” she said on Ordain Women’s site Monday.
“I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”
No harsher punishment exists for a Latter-day Saint.
Kelly was excommunicated “for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” Harrison wrote.
Editor's note: Dagfinn Høybråten is a vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chairman of the GAVI Alliance Board. GAVI is a public-private partnership that works with governments, vaccine producers, faith-based organizations and others to expand access to vaccines and immunization. Since its launch in 2000, GAVI has helped immunize 370 million children in the poorest countries.
By Dagfinn Høybråten, Special to CNN
Despite their political, religious and ethnic differences, leaders from around the world are coming together for today's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. As they do, it is worth noting that faith and science are also coming together around the world to promote healing and equality in the form of access to vaccines.
Vaccines are a triumph of science due to their incredible capacity to save lives and protect health. Yet vaccines reach only four out of five children who need them. To reach the fifth child, science has found an important partner in the faith community, which helps bring vaccines to the most remote areas and the children who need them most. FULL POST
(CNN)–CNN's Susan Hendricks discusses MormonsAndGays.org and the shift in the Mormon church with a current & former Mormon.
Read more: Mormon website embraces LGBT community
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN)–The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has fought against same-sex marriage throughout the United States, launched a website on Thursday that preaches understanding and compassion for the gay and lesbian community.
The website “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction” www.mormonsandgays.org, outlines the church's position on “same-sex attraction” and provides readers with a host of videos from “church members who are attracted to people of the same sex, and conversations with the loved ones of gay spouses, children, or grandchildren who are dealing with the effects of same-sex attraction in their own lives.”
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The 2012 election has been widely hailed as a diversity moment — a coming out party for an American electorate no longer dominated by white men. And it was a triumph as well for religious diversity, thanks especially to Hawaii, which is sending the first Hindu to the House and the first Buddhist to the Senate.
But is this religious change more symbolic than real? In “Faith on the Hill,” a study on religion in the 113th Congress released Friday by the Pew Forum, the story seems to be static rather than change.
Should Mitt Romney win the presidency next Tuesday, it will mark an historic first: a Mormon couple moving into the White House.
What would this mean and look like?
Would there be “dry” state dinners, since faithful Mormons don’t do alcohol? Would Secret Service tag along to sacred ceremonies only open to worthy church members? What book would a President Mitt Romney use to take his oath of office?
(CNN)–CNN International's Richard Quest recently visited the campus of BYU and talks with Mormon students who share Mitt Romney's faith.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.