With 'I'm a Mormon' campaign, church counters lily-white image
Ruth Williams passes out bulletins at the Third Ward in Washington, D.C., a diverse Mormon church.
November 2nd, 2011
11:32 AM ET

With 'I'm a Mormon' campaign, church counters lily-white image

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - The scene at a Mormon congregation here on a recent Sunday would surprise Americans who think of Mormons as young white missionaries in stiff white shirts, black ties and name tags.

Yes, there are white missionaries handing out bulletins at Washington’s Third Ward - what Mormons call their congregations - but there's also Ruth Williams, an elderly African-American woman, decked out in her Sunday best, doing the same.

White, black, Asian and Hispanic Mormons mingle before the service begins. As it gets under way, an African-American tween plays a video game on his smartphone in one pew as a 30-something white woman across the aisle taps away on her iPad.

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On this Sunday, the Sacrament - what Mormons call the remembrance of the Last Supper and what other Christians call Communion - is said in French, a nod to the area's burgeoning West African population.

It is not a special multicultural celebration Sunday. For this growing Mormon congregation in northeast Washington, it's just another weekend.

“It’s 30% Caucasian, 30% African-American, and the rest is a combination of first-generation immigrants from around the world,” says Bishop Robert Nelson, the lay leader of this congregation.

A diverse group of congregants from the Third Ward listens to a sermon.

Washington's Third Ward is a near mirror image of the diverse neighborhood it serves, jarring with the Mormon Church's image as a faith-based club for upper-class whites.

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And the Mormon Church, officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says the ward represents the diverse face of modern Mormonism, a message it has been trying to spread as part of a yearlong nationwide push to counter its lily-white image.

Since January, the LDS Church has spent millions on an "I'm a Mormon" advertising campaign that features television commercials, billboards and bus signs with Mormons from African-American, Asian, Latino and other ethnic backgrounds. Just last month, the campaign entered 11 new major media markets in Texas, Indiana, Nebraska, Washington, Georgia and Arizona, hitting cities like Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix.

(You won't be seeing the ads in Iowa, South Carolina or Florida. With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, both Mormon, competing in the Republican presidential primaries, the church says it wants to steer clear of politics.)

The Mormon Church even used the ad campaign to launch a shot across the bow of the hit Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," buying a digital "I'm a Mormon" billboard just down the street from the theater where the show is playing.

The musical satire, co-produced by the creators of the television show "South Park," shows earnest white American Mormon missionaries and their misadventures in proselytization in Africa.

But the billboard shows a very different face of Mormons. There is an African-American couple playing Frisbee on the beach, a Latino grandfather and granddaughter, a goateed motorcycle sculptor.

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An official church website, Mormon.org, lets those interested in the church search for Mormons from diverse ethnic backgrounds and features videos from the likes of black soul singer Gladys Knight and Brandon Flowers, frontman for the rock band The Killers.

"It's to say, 'We're like you,' " said Kathleen Flake, a religious scholar from Vanderbilt Divinity School. "It's an attempt to combat stereotypes so that absolutely people are more open to see the normalcy of Mormonism."

The LDS Church says its attempt at an image makeover is as much a reflection of demographic reality as it is a PR effort. While young white missionaries may still be Mormonism's public face in the United States, they are no longer fully representative of the Salt Lake City-based church.

“Our doctrine is we’re all sons and daughters of God," says Stephen Allen, managing director of the LDS Church's missionary department. "Skin color or anything else is not a significant issue to us.”

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As head of global missions, Allen supervises the 52,000 19- to 25-year-old missionaries knocking on doors around the world.

He's also executive director of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which began in nine markets this year.

“In terms of targeting, we’re not specifically targeting or avoiding any particular group," Allen says. "We send our missionaries all over the world to anywhere people will listen.”

As the church’s efforts to win converts has expanded internationally, “following the American flag around the world,” as Flake puts it, the LDS Church has grown more diverse.

“We’re in most of the free world right now,” Allen says. "We have a presence in Russia and Ukraine and the Baltic countries. We have a growing presence in Africa ... Nigeria, Kenya … then we have, Japan, Korea, Taiwan. There are small congregations in India, and the church is growing in those places.”

The church's membership has doubled since 1988, to 14.1 million Mormons worldwide.  Six million Mormons live in the United States. Many of the church's members live in the American West and Northwest, in some of the whitest states in the country.

But like many other churches, there has been explosive growth in the LDS Church in Latin America. There are more than a million Mormons in both Mexico and Brazil. There are nearly a million Mormons in Asia and 300,000 in Africa, according to church statistics.

“This attempt to emphasize diversity and to emphasize a wide range of people who are Mormon does reflect, in a lot of ways, what’s been going on in reality for a while,” says Matthew Bowman, an editor at a Mormon studies journal called Dialogue.

Even in the United States, the perception of who Mormons are has changed.

“We’ve done a lot of research to see what people think of us and what their perception is,” Allen says. “Twenty-five or 30 years ago, if you said, ‘When you think of the word Mormon, what comes to mind?’ the answer would have been Mormon Tabernacle choir, polygamists, racists, the Osmonds [singers Donny and Marie].”

While that's less the case today, Allen says many people still don't know what a Mormon looks like - or don't know that there are Mormons from minority backgrounds.

A spokesman for the church said it doesn't keep statistics on members' race or ethnicity.

But “it’s no longer just a predominantly white church,” Allen says. “In our early history, you know, it was founded in upstate New York in the United States and was very much a white congregation, but today it’s very diverse.”

The complexion of the average Mormon ward reflects the neighborhood where the building resides. “Mormon wards are not self-selecting,” says Richard Bushman, a visiting professor at the School of Religion of Claremont Graduate University. “In Mormon congregations, they are just geographical boundaries, and wherever you live, you go to church.”

There is no church shopping. Congregants can’t go to another ward if they don’t like the music or the doughnuts at the social hour, as in many other faith traditions.

In Washington's Third Ward, two new converts who had recently been baptized were welcomed into the church on a recent Sunday. Both women were young African-Americans. The men who formed a circle around them and prayed over them were all white.

Unlike the ward, the church's global leadership in Salt Lake City is mostly white.

It was not until 1978 that African-Americans could serve in priesthood positions in the church, a prohibition that extended back to Mormon leader Brigham Young in the 1850s.

"When you see in that ad campaign Mormons, including African-Americans, they are trying to  communicate against that stereotype that Mormons are racist, there's no question about this," says Vanderbilt's Flake. "They are trying to say, 'That's not fair. That is not who we are. Even if we were, we are not now.' "

Allen says the "I'm a Mormon" campaign was designed to assist the small army of young Mormon missionaries out knocking on doors.

"Our feeling was anything we could do to help them was really important," he says. "And helping them means softening people’s hearts.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Jon Huntsman • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics • United States

soundoff (2,530 Responses)
  1. Stephen

    I have been an active member in this Church for over 30 years. I am a very happy Mormon.
    I appreciate all of the comments I have read here. Very diverse in opinion.

    To anybody who is genuinely interested in knowing more about Mormons, please study your sources wisely.

    If you are curious about what we practice, visit a worship center.
    If you would like to know what is in the Book of Mormon, read it.
    If you would like to know more about our temples, visit an open house.
    If you would like to know more about who we are as a people, find us and get to know us.

    November 4, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  2. Abinadi

    Maybe one of you protestants can answer a question for me. The protestant churches are apostates from the Catholic church, right? Isn't that why they call you protestants? So, you have no claim to authority, right? So, how come you say you are the true church? That isn't logical, is it?

    November 4, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Korihor

      With a name like yours I'm going to assume you're a mormon. Yes, protestants are, in a way, apostates from the Catholic church. The name protestant comes from the fact that in 1517 Martin Luther PROTESTed catholic doctrine and practices in 95 theses, an act which started the Reformation.
      But onto the matter at hand. You stated that it isn't logical to not claim authority and simultaneously claim to be the true church. My question for you is this- since when did logic ever have a place in mormonism? Was it logical for God to choose a prophet (Joseph Smith) who would lie to the public and God's (supposed) church about his polygamous practices? Was it logical for God to command Joseph to consummate his marriages to teenagers, one as young as 14? Was it logical for God to remove all physical archaeological evidence of the book of mormon peoples, including but not limited to: horses, elephants, chariots, steel, wheat, barley, and Israelite DNA?
      I'm going to introduce you to a principle of logic. It's called Occam's razor. This philosophical tool can help us to determine the most likely course of events. It simply states that the simpler explanation is the probably the best one. Now, either Mormonism is true and God went through all the trouble of making his own church look ridiculous, or it's all just made up. Which is simpler, and thus the better explanation?
      Am I picking a fight with you, Abinidi? I hope you don't think so. It's just that mormonism gets me all riled up. And if you're up for some back-and-forth conversation, so am I.

      November 4, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Kev

      @Korihor, Have you even considered that the simplar explanation or the simplar way of doing things was not in God's plan to begin with. If that were the case, why not God just simply show himself to the world and create life before our very eyes. Wouldn't it be just more convient to do that. It sure would seem more logical to do it that way. Oh unless there is a reason why we have to relay on faith instead. That there may be a bigger lesson for us to learn that cannot be learned if it were just all handed to us?

      "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast beleived: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29 KJV)

      November 4, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Brad

      Are Mormons in Accord with the Catholic faith, then?

      November 4, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  3. tweedmeister

    I was not just a little surprised that the CNN moderator would have such a heavy hand and strike my whole thread today, complete with responses. So I'll try this again:

    All I did was point out the LDS fascination with skin color from its origins, and how that the church has a history of racism and various odd and more benign racist teachings. A true-believing Mormon argued with me when I pointed out that I was taught at BYU that Native Americans, who are "dark and loathsome," according to Mormon teachings, get lighter-skinned when they accept Mormonism. The person responding to my comment said that this was probably a teaching of a couple of rogue professors, after which I quoted the following from LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball: "The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter we represent, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather.... These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated."

    After I used this quote from Kimball, I believe the Mormon commenter then flagged my comment ("Report Abuse"), and the moderator deleted the whole thread chain. Mormons gotta get over this sensitivity to dialogue, if they want one of their own to be elected.

    November 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Excultgirl

      One of the reasons that I left this church was the very pervasive racism that plagues its past. It is the only religion I know that has canonized scripture claiming a whole race of people, Native Americans, or, Lamanites, as Mormons call them are cursed with a dark skin.

      Nephi 12:23 "became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."

      2 Nephi 5:21 "that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

      Alma 3:6 "skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion."

      Mormon 5:15 "shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us."

      It was a shocking realization that “the most correct book on earth” was replete with this notion that dark skin comes from God cursing an entire civilization. I became further disillusioned when I began reading past talks or sermons of early Mormon leaders.

      “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing of one his brethren [Cain] will be cursed the longest of any children of Adam. . . [T]he Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and the black skin.”

      (Brigham Young, "Journal of Discourses," vol. 7, 1859 p. 290)

      The modern Mormon church may be trying to distance itself from its horrible racist past, but they cannot deny it. They may have a few members here and there that aren’t white, but that doesn’t erase a century of vicious bigotry and canonized scripture that teaches God curses bad people with a “skin of blackness”.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  4. JJ

    Let me just say that I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church of God. I know the Book of Mormon is the true word of God. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God who by His power translated the Book of Mormon. I know that Thomas S Monson is a Prophet in these days. I know that Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins and that if we repent and follow Him we will live with Him again.
    I know this because I have taken the time to study it out. I've read some of the Bible, I've read the Book of Mormon several times, I took a four year Seminary class when I was in high school. And after all this I took the time to kneel down and pray to our Heavenly Father to ask Him is the things which I had read and studied were true; and I felt a resounding 'Yes.' If you have any questions about the LDS church I invite you to visit www. mormon .org and read up on what we believe. I invite you to read the Book of Mormon, you can request a free copy from mormon. org so all you need to do is take a little time to read it. And then, after doing these things, I invite you to, as it says in the NT, to "Ask of God" and I can promise you if you ask with real intent, truly wishing to know if those things are true, that you will receive an answer. As it says in the scriptures, "Ask and it shall be given you; knock and ye shall receive."

    November 3, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Dorothy

      I have answered the questions asked of me by a Mormon on this blog. But I still have not gotten a direct answer (not mor questions) to my questions. Here are a few more for you to consider, and i am still waiting for a direct answer from a member of the LDS to the questions I have raised.

      •President Brigham Young concluded his Adam-God sermon with these words: "Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation" (Journal of Discourses 1:51). Do you believe Adam is God? If not, aren't you treating these "doctrines" lightly or with indifference"? Wasn't Spencer Kimball treating Young's teaching with indifference when he called it a "false doctrine" (Church News 10/9/76)? If Young was correct, will Kimball be damned? If Kimball was correct, doesn't this prove LDS prophets can teach false doctrine?
      •If the "decrees of God are unalterable" (Alma 41:8), why has your church made so many corrections over the years (i.e. Declarations 1 and 2, changes in the temple endowment ceremony, changes in the birth control doctrine, etc.)?
      •Joseph Smith said, "We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). But the Book of Mormon says in Moroni 8:18, "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity." Did God change? Or was He always God?•When asked in a Time magazine interview if God the Father was once a man, President Gordon Hinckley said, "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it..." (8/4/97, p. 56). Was he telling the truth?

      November 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Kev

      The thing about the Journal of Discourses, is that though they are insightful, they're not designated as scripture by the Church. Those discourses were given at by those such as Brigham Young and others as being their personal insights and personal understandings, but those discourses were not the result of direct revelation from God to then pass on that information as being directly revelation. That's why one doesn't usually get regularly taught out of the Journal of Discources in Latter-Day-Saint Sunday School, because it's not actual scripture. When the prophet speaks as the prophet such as when the prophet speaks to the whole church in a broadcasted General Conference or in messages given in the church magazine called the "Ensign", then it is taken as designated scripture.

      And although it does seem contradictory for the church given in Official Declaration 1 regarding the church's ban on polygny, or from Official Declaration 2 giving all worthy males the preisthood no matter what their race is since the Church previously did the opposite, how is it that we say as Latter-Day-Saints that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

      Even though God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that his gospel is also that way, that doesn't mean that the Lord didn't change policies for his children to follow from time to time because the God's overall objective is the same. To paraphrase Ecclestiastes 3:1-8 To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven to be born, to die, to kill, to heal, to laugh, to weep, for war and for peace. Each action is opposite of each other but there is an appropriate time for each action to be used for the greater good.

      Such as the case with the Isrealites with the laws of Moses that were needed for the decendents of Israel, then after Jesus's ministry those laws were changed. When during the times of the Laws of Moses, only the worthy male Levites held the priesthood and then after Jesus's ministry a higher priesthood authority was given to his apostles and other disciples. When prior to Jesus's ministry and even during Jesus's ministry the gospel was only preached to the Israelites and then afterwards, the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached to all nations. The Lord has his own timetable as to what is to be done for a particular people at a particular time. But even so the goal, the overall big picture that God sees and wants for us is the same.

      This also includes time for polygny to have been practiced for certain Latter-Day-Saint families, and then there is a time to no longer practice it, as wellas there was a time when those of African descent could not hold the priesthood and then there is a time when they can.
      While even though some people have been excluded from performing certain types of service such as the priest, that in no way meant that one group of people was more privileged than another in the eyes of God.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  5. Dorothy

    If we look at the other apostolic writings issued as the period of the apostles was passing and some of them were already dying, we find the same pattern. In Peter's last instructions to the church, he warned that just as false prophets arose among the people in the past, false teachers would arise among the believers (2 Pet. 2:1). Peter says nothing about the church languishing into a general apostasy because of a lack of apostles or prophets. Nor does he suggest that the church will cease to exist. Instead, after speaking at length about the divine judgment awaiting false prophets and teachers (2 Pet. 2:1-22), Peter encourages his Christian readers to remember what the true prophets taught in what we call the Old Testament and what Christ taught through his apostles, which we have preserved for us now in the New Testament (2 Pet. 3:1-2). Notice here that Peter does not say anything about Christians needing the guidance of living prophets and apostles; no, what he says they will need is to remember what the prophets and apostles said.
    The apostle Jude's teaching in his short epistle closely parallels that of the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2-3. Jude encourages his Christian readers to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). They are to contend against false teachers who distort the gospel, people whose judgment is as sure as that brought on Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, and Korah (Jude 4-16). To avoid falling into such error, Jude tells us, "remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 17). Here again, the church is to maintain its integrity by remembering what the apostles said, not by waiting for apostles yet to come. While they await Christ's return, they are to build themselves up in the faith and be agents of God's mercy to others (Jude 18-23).

    November 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Dorothy, Acts 1:26 clearly shows that the church was intended to continue on with 12 apostles because after Judas died they replaced him with Matthias. You seem to be somewhat savvy about the scriptures. I can't believe you missed that. Dorothy, you are the false teacher the scriptures were talking about!

      November 3, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Ben Neb

      Ephesians 4:
      11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
      12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
      13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

      Dorothy: from this scripture it sounds like there will be apostles, prophets, etc. until we are all united in the faith. I don't think that has happened. What about Matthias? See Acts 1:15-26.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  6. Dorothy

    the New Testament does not teach that the church was to be run from the top down after the departure of the first-century apostles. Rather, the principle for the "changing of the guard" after their departure is found (for example) in 2 Timothy 2:2, which says that faithful men were to teach others to serve faithfully as they had done. This description of how the faith is to be perpetuated does not present a top-down, vertical, authoritarian model of church government. Instead, the model is "horizontal," of older Christians teaching younger ones who would then go on to teach the next generation of Christian leaders.
    Neither Paul nor the other apostles make any provision here or anywhere else in the New Testament for a succession of apostles or prophets to lead the church from the top down. The apostasy that was coming would not be a complete apostasy because of a lack of supposedly essential prophets, but would instead be a partial apostasy, a falling away of some (as Paul says explicitly) because they paid attention to prophets inspired by "deceitful spirits" or "demons" (1 Tim. 4:1). When difficult times came and many people professed faith but did not have its reality, the solution would not be to have the church start over with new apostles and prophets, but for truly godly people to continue basing their teaching and life on the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:1-17).

    November 3, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Yeah? Who says so? You? And what gives you the authority to interpret what the scriptures say?

      November 3, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Abinadi

      "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you," John 15:16. Dorothy, Christ did not choose you nor did he ordain you. You took this honor unto yourself just like Paul told you not to. Dorothy, you are the thief and robber that Christ spoke of in John 10:1-4 who is trying to sneak around back and jump over the back wall. You are the very person he was talking about when he said, "22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  7. Dorothy

    The true church of Jesus Christ, of which I am a member, is based on the foundation of the only apostles the Bible knows anything about–the original twelve (excluding Judas Iscariot and including Paul). And it is built on the Old Testament prophets, and on the rock that Jesus referred to in Matt. 16:17-18. This rock is none other than Jesus Himself, the chief cornerstone. Peter's name means "little rock" or small stone. When Jesus said " on this rock I will build my church" the word for rock there is different in the original language. It means "massive rock". Christ was not teaching that His church would be built on Peter, but rather on Himself, the Rock that is Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). The priest you referred to In Heb. 5 were part of the Old Testament sacrificial system, which was done away with in 70 a.d when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple has never been rebuilt and there is no more need for sacrifice because Christ our high priest has made the perfect sacrifice for us that cleanses from all sin. "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified" (See Heb. chapter 10)
    The New Testament speaks of the apostles as a first-generation, foundational ministry only (Eph. 2:20; 3:5; Heb. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:2; Jude 17). The danger that the church was going to face after the apostles died was not a lack of apostles or prophets, but the teachings of false apostles and prophets. For that reason, both Jesus and his apostles warned repeatedly about false apostles and prophets (Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1-6; Rev. 2:2; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10), but never once expressed concern about the church losing its way with a lack of apostles or prophets. Nor does the New Testament make any provision for a top-down worldwide church polity after the departure of the apostles.

    November 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Dorothy, I appreciate your attempt to wiggle out of this fix I put you in, but you just interpreting these scriptures your own way. That is precisely what is wrong with your church – you are uninspired and interpret the scriptures any old way you please that suites you. I am sorry, but you were not called by prophesy and the laying on of hands and you have no authority to speak or interpret any scriptures. What is the difference between you and the protestant church across the street? Only authoritative interpretation of the scriptures by a real prophet will pull us all out of the mess we are all in. The world has never needed a prophet more than it needs one today.

      November 3, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  8. James the Mormon Observer

    The LDS Church is no more a cult than any other church. However, it is filled with all kinds of fantastical ideas and often abuses its members psychologically. Most LDS members, if they were treated by their spouses the way they are treated by the church, would soon seek marital counseling (and their psychologically abusive spouse, Mr. Church, would refuse to attend).

    But they don't see it that way. They accept whatever abuses the church wants to dish out because they believe it's true. I feel bad for them. But I don't hate them, and I don't hate their church. I just observe it all with a sense of sublimnity.

    Here in Utah when I pointed out some of the reasons I didn't want to be part of the LDS church, a member told me, "But the church is perfect even if the people are not." I disagree with that LDS person. The LDS people are the humans and they are the most "perfect" kind of people, trying so hard to keep up with their church's demands.

    It is the church that is not perfect. It's the church that is inhuman(e). If Mormon leaders would see that, and take responsibility for it, the Church could truly be a wonderful religion for anyone to be a part of. The people are some of the best people I've ever known...but I believe only a tiny fraction of their goodness is because of their religion. The rest of their goodness is inspite of their religion.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • sfcanative

      Your last paragraph is spot on. Good and honorable people are drawn to Mormonism, believing it is everything professed in tracts, websites and advertising. Faithful Mormons are good people despite their religion. The reality is these people would be good and honorable no matter what they embraced as their religion. Mormonism is a theory, just like evolution. While flush with interesting ideas and noble wants, the religion can only be defined as a modern work by a handful of ambitious men.

      November 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Trying to understand you


      In you comment you said "often abuses its members psychologically." In fact you implied this several times. Can you please give actual examples in stead of general comments so we can understand where you are comeing from.

      November 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  9. sfcanative

    Active Mormons represent around half of the 14 million worldwide membership of their church. Membership growth vs. world population growth peaked for the Mormons in 1965. Since 1990, Mormon membership growth vs. world population growth has been on a steady decline. Year-over-year annual growth for the Mormons for the most recent year (2010) was the lowest it has been since 1947–despite 50,000 missionaries knocking on doors, multi-million dollar ad campaigns and the large family nexus promoted within Mormonism. Converts" only represent around 35% of the total membership increase each year.

    The 2.4% annual growth rate (10 year average) for Mormons, half of whom never remain active members, currently computes to around 336,000 new "members" every year. The world's population growth is fairly predictable at 1.2% (coincidentally identical to the Mormon growth rate for newly acquired "active" members). A 1.2% growth rate for the world's 7 billion people adds 84 million people to the world's population each year. This is hardly a religious movement taking the world by storm.

    November 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  10. John


    November 3, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  11. Reality

    From p. 36:

    Putting the final kibosh on religion to include Mormonism in less than 300 words: Priceless!!!

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves religions.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    November 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Ben Neb

      This doesn't make sense. There probably was no Abraham... ??? I say there definitely was. There was no Easter... ? What does that have to do with anything? God does exist and loves us more than we can know... even if we don't know it.

      November 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      November 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection/Easter Con/Disease:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  12. Brad

    Regarding works and faith we probably agree: "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" But surely the nature of Christ and the trinity are central to Christian beliefs?

    November 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Ray

      Christ also warned us that there would be many false prophets. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were two false prophets.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  13. Ray

    mormons DO NOT interpret the bible, they have the book of mormon. They believe God was a human being who now lives on planet KOLOB with his many wives. They also believe that if you are a good mormon, you will have your own planet someday. THIS IS NOT IN THE BIBLE.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Ray

      Mormons also have different levels of priesthood to which different levels of secrecy is revealed. why is it that one cannot enter their temple? only their "priests" can. That is where they have their secret ceremonies and events in their "celestial room" where only select can enter.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Reality

      Putting added kibosh on Christianity and Mormonism:

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

      November 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Discovega

      The LDS Church does so much good in the world with their humanitarian efforts. What to other Christian's do? If you would only compair the Moromn's with other so-called christian faiths, you would clearly see who is actually more Christ-like. To bad there are so many people so full of hate and bigotry that the Mormon's have to hire a PR firm to try to correct the message and get the truth out.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • TommyD

      You seriously need to learn some facts before you start attacking someone. You come off foolish, to those you are trying to insult.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Joyce Ellen Davis

      Ray, I'm sorry. You are an imbecile.

      November 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Reality

      "Kolob is a star or planet described in Mormon scripture. Reference to Kolob is found in the Book of Abraham, a work published by Latter Day Saint (LDS) prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. as translation from Egyptian papyri. According to this work, Kolob is the heavenly body nearest to the throne or residence of God. While the Book of Abraham refers to Kolob as a "star",[1] it also refers to planets as stars,[2] and therefore, some LDS commentators consider Kolob to be a planet.[3] Other Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons) consider Kolob to be a Christian metaphor."

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/kolob#ixzz1chhmLn3W

      November 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  14. Dorothy Becker

    If Mormons believe the Bible is the Word of God, why do so many of their teachings not "square" with the clear teachings of the Bible? Why is it that Mormons sight very few verses in the Bible to support their teachings, and the vast majority of verses stand in contradiction to their teachings? Psalm 119:89 says,"Forever, O Lord Your word is settled in heaven". Jesus Himself said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away". Did God the Father change His mind about the way of salvation taught in the Bible, i.e that salvation is through the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins for all who believe and receive Him as their personal Savior? After all the sufferings God the Father put His only begotten Son through for our redemption, did He change His mind and decide that, after all, the blood of His Son would only atone for original sin, not the sins we commit in this life, as the Mormons teach? Did He change His mind and decide that man would have to atone for His own sins through good works, which the Bible clearly teaches is impossible?

    November 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Lance

      @Dorothy. It's easy to interpret the Bible differently. That is why there are thousands of religions that claim it as their source text. Even the Old Testament beliefs differ significantly from the New Testament. Early Christians had to bend Old Testament symbolism and texts to make it fit their beliefs. The reality is that all religion fails to square with science and empirical evidence and so whether one religion squares more or less with your pastor's interpretation of the Bible seems relatively insignificant.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Nate

      Thanks for the comment Dorothy, although I encourage you to research more about what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how we are saved. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel (that Jesus Christ taught). We are accountable to God and grace alone will not save the sinner who does not repent.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Michael

      According to Mormon beliefs, the suffering of Jesus Christ atones for the original sin (so we are not responsible for adam's trangression but for our own sins) and also for our own sins through repentance. Atonement of our sins does not come through good works but by the atonement of Christ and repentance. Ultimately it is by grace that we are saved. Even as a Mormon, I do not profess to be all-knowing on mormon beliefs but I know enough to recognize when some of the things you've heard about mormons are not true.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • abinadi

      A question or two for you. Is your church based on a foundation of living apostles and prophets as was Christs's church as Paul directs in Ephesians 2? Is your chuch founded on the rock of revelation as Christ directs in Mathew 16:17-18? Do you have the priesthood in your church or do your ministers simply "taketh this honour unto himself" as Paul forbids in Hebrews 5:4? Is your church the true church of Jesus Christ or was it founded on men as Paul forbids in I Corinthians starting on verse 10? If Paul were alive today, which church would he belong to? Obviously, from the preceding verses, not the church of Luther, or Wycliff, or any of the protestant churches. He said himself that he would belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and if he were alive today he would belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-days. It's time to repent and return to the truth. Paul said, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism". I testify to you that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that one true faith and baptism! Why do you not teach the teachings of the Bible?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • abinadi

      James 2:20 said,"20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" You must believe the Bible, not just say you do.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Ray

      mormons DO NOT interpret the bible, they have the book of mormon. They believe God was a human being who now lives on planet KOLOB with his many wives. They also believe that if you are a good mormon, you will have your own planet someday. THIS IS NOT IN THE BIBLE.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  15. Cole

    sigh, why do people always persecute mormons. Even if we are cultists (which we are not) we are nice people. We dont rant about Catholics or Muslims or any other people

    November 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  16. Brad

    So, in sum, Mormons do believe that God is one, and God has from eternity been God. Also, that Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God – begotten of the Father before all worlds. Yet also, Jesus Christ has existed from eternity with God and is God. Also, Jesus Christ was incarnate once, died once and was resurrected once and through belief in this is full atonement for all sins for those who believe?

    November 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • abinadi

      Brad, James 2:20 said,"20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" You must believe the Bible, not just say you do.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Ray

      NO, Mormons believe god was once human and now lives on planet Kolob with his wives. THEY ARE NOT CHRISTIAN

      November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  17. JOYful ex-Mormon

    I left the LDS church, partly do to their racist teachings. I have children who are indegenous and I could not in good faith raise my children in a faith that taught that their brown skin was a "Curse" given to them years back by God, as the Book of Mormon teaches. Racism is alive and well in the LDS church. All one has to do is pick up a copy of the book of Mormon and see for yourselves.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Chris W

      Actually please do pick up a book of mormon and read it for yourself and see that it is not racist. It teaches the opposite all are children of God and he loves all no matter what Color anyone is.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Tasha

      I am brown and a mormon and have read the Book of Mormon several times. Racism is no more alive and well than in the broader society it's within. Mormons aren't perfect. I know a number of people within the faith have ignorant ideas. but then again, plenty have it outside the faith as well. I've never had a day as a mormon where I've felt out of place because of my skin tone and I have certainly NEVER felt that my skin was a curse. I'm grateful for the oppurtunity I've had to grow up in this faith, which has changed my life possitively.

      As for the Book of Mormon, I love it in part for the social dynamics found within it. To portray it as racist is disingenuous. the lesson I see indicates a socially dynamic people who faced struggles of sin and prejudice much like our own.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Blake Garten

      White and Delightsome or Pure and Delightsome? – A Look at 2 Nephi 30:6
      By Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
      at http://www.mrm.org/white-and-delightsome

      For much of its history, the Salt Lake City-based LDS Church edition of the Book of Mormon taught that dark-skinned Lamanites (Indians) would eventually experience a change in the color of their skin should they embrace the Book of Mormon. Except for a single edition (1840), 2 Nephi 30:6 has read:

      "...their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people."

      In 1981, the LDS Church decided to change what Joseph Smith called "the most correct of any book on earth" by reverting to the wording of the lone 1840 edition. The word "white" was replaced with the word "pure." Some Mormons insist that this was a clarification since the word was never meant to refer to a person with dark skin pigmentation who would magically turn white based upon a conversion to the Mormon gospel; rather, it is claimed that the change referred to a cleaner state of heart. This assumption fails to explain (or counter) other passages in the Book of Mormon that still make a connection with "iniquity" and skin color. For example, 2 Nephi 5:21 still says:

      "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

      3 Nephi 2:12-15 continues to teach that dark-skinned Lamanites who converted unto the Lord had their curse "taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites."

      That the context refers to skin color is verified by a number of LDS leaders including Joseph Smith. Mormon author George D. Smith notes that Joseph Smith was given a revelation which foretold of a day when intermarriage with the Lamanites would produce a white and delightsome posterity. George Smith wrote:

      "This unpublished 17 July 1831 revelation was described three decades later in an 1861 letter from W.W. Phelps to Brigham Young quoting Joseph Smith: `It is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity, may become white, delightsome and just.' In the 8 December 1831 Ohio Star, Ezra Booth wrote of a revelation directing Mormon elders to marry with the `natives'" (Sunstone, November 1993, footnote #5, pg. 52).

      November 3, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  18. Summer

    I will believe that the Mormon church is diverse when I see it fully reflected in their leadership. Until then, talk of diversity is just so much hot air.



    November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  19. peace be still

    I find it interesting that a church would need a public relations department and spend millions of dollars each year on add campaigns to increase membership and also to improve public image. As a Christian, I can not find any teaching of Christ Jesus that would favor such an approach. Is not the money best used to feed the hungry, home the homeless and reach the orphaned? The law of Christ is to love one another, not build up a corporation. That $$ could best be used in reaching the most vulnerable and not on improving their image. This is not Christianity, but the makings of a corporation. So far from what Christ taught. Peace,

    November 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Feeding the hungry

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a significant program to support the poor, and every member is asked to participate in it. Each member is asked to fast (go without food) for one day, and make a generous financial contribution. 100% of this money is used to help the poor, homeless, etc.

      Caring for the poor and needy is important, but there is a story in the Bible about Mary anointing Jesus with oil. Judas Iscariot complained, saying that the oil could have been sold, and the proceeds could have been given to the poor. There are other worthy causes for our money.

      Isn't missionary work, and proclaiming the gospel, in effect, Public Relations? Isn't that what Paul did for much of his converted life? Didn't Jesus tell his disciples to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature? This sounds a lot like what the "I'm a Mormon" campaign is doing.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Feeding the Hungry
      In Jan. 2006, from the Church PR department, (Deseret News Publishing Company): Edgley said, “that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries.” That averages to 37.5 million per year or about $3-$4 per Mormon member went to the poor.
      The total of $750 million in 22 years spent in cash in goods to people in need is less than HALF what the church is spending on buying and renovating shopping malls in Salt Lake City.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  20. maficmagma

    Does this mean BYU-Provo won't be full of neo-Nazi Hitler's youth anymore?

    November 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
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About this blog

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.