Religion News Blog — If you follow religion news you can spend countless hours each day just trying to keep up with stories that involve Mormonism and the Mormon Church.
From among the ones we have read we’ve selected just five stories we think you might want to read:
Stung by revelations that its members have — against explicit LDS Church rules — been baptizing dead Jewish figures, such as Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl and the parents of Simon Wiesenthal, the Mormon Church has blocked whistle-blower Helen Radkey from accessing the Church’s database that chronicles so-called baptisms for the dead.
The Mormon Church, officially name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), has stipulated that its followers may not perform the proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims who are not related to a church member.
A 2010 pact between the LDS Church and Jewish leaders was supposed to halt the practice of baptizing Jews posthumously. [See: The Mormon/Jewish Controversy], but incidents keep occurring.
Oh, and it’s not just Jewish people who have been subjected to the practice. Radkey says Ghandi was baptized posthumously as well.
In case you’re wondering whether a future version of Helen Radkey will dig up your name from the LDS database, GQ’s asked its ‘resident Mormon,’ Dayna Clark, to “weigh in on media misrepresentations of Mitt Romney’s religious faith.”
There are very specific guidelines about whom a Mormon can submit, or recommend, for baptism by proxy. The deceased must either be an immediate family member, in your direct line of ancestors or part of any adoptive or foster family lines connected to your own family and your descendants. An official church document states, “Do not submit the names of persons who are not related to you, including names of famous people, or names gathered from unapproved extraction projects, such as victims of the Jewish Holocaust.” […]
So, the upshot: unless you’re distantly related to a Mormon either by blood or through marriage, you can probably rest assured that you’re not going to be baptized a Mormon when you’re six feet under. You’re safe. And by safe I mean you’re definitely going to burn in Hell. Good luck with that!
Mitt Romney doesn’t have to answer for every Mormon belief. But his own role deserves scrutiny — and answers, says Sarah Posner in Salon Magazine.
“In my perfect world, presidential candidates wouldn’t talk about their religion” Posner writes. “They would practice it freely, but they would neither use it to prop up their candidacy nor use their opponents’ (real or fabricated) religion to bring them down.”
There’s a difference between probing a candidate’s religious beliefs, and probing a candidate’s involvement in promoting or even acquiescing to the activities of a powerful religious institution. Should reporters ask Romney about his underwear, sacred garments that signify a Mormon’s covenant with God, and which devout Mormons believe protect them from evil? No, but a reporter can ask a Mormon scholar to explain this practice, like you might ask a Jewish studies professor to explain a yarmulke to the uninitiated. (Actually, on questions of Mormon culture, I’d recommend anything written by my colleague Joanna Brooks, who is quite frankly weary of the underwear question.)
On the latter subject, also see “Sacred Mormon Garments Work Like a Charm“:
Within the teachings of Mormonism, the “Garment of the Holy Priesthood” received during an LDS temple ceremony is not merely a reminder, but is also “a shield and a protection” to the faithful wearer (so says the LDS endowment ceremony). While LDS leaders today seem to promote the idea that the “shield and protection” is solely spiritual in nature, this hasn’t always been the case. Early LDS teachings touting the physical protection offered by these garments has given birth in these latter latter-days to Mormon folklore recounting stories of miraculous protection from harm and preservation of life for those wearing the garments.
Sarah Posner is the senior editor of Religion Dispatches, where she writes about politics. She is also the author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters.
Samuel Brown, a member of the LDS Church, writes:
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and the after-effects of a highly divisive campaign against gay marriage in California have brought intense media scrutiny to the Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the attention has been beneficial: Mormons are becoming better known, the academic study of Mormonism is finally taking off, and respected presses are publishing important new books on Mormonism.
The increased attention has also had a more controversial side. A variety of voices excoriate a church and religious tradition that they see as poisonous. These individuals descry in Mormonism dogmatic anti-intellectualism, shunning of dissatisfied or former members, dishonesty about institutional history, and even conspiracy theories that strain credulity. Those who love the LDS Church generally express outrage at these criticisms of the community they treasure. Some recount their own highly positive experiences in the Church, the warmth they have found in its embrace, the love of knowledge and wisdom and diversity they find there. The two groups seem to be talking past each other, unable to recognize the Mormonism the other is describing.
An interesting perspective from an insider.
While Mitt Romney, the leading contender for the Republican nomination for president, looks to lock up his nomination during the Super Tuesday Republican primary races, some members of the black community have concerns about Mormon literature that says “dark skinned people” are from “the seed of Cain.” Yet Romney, who has said he is proud of his Mormon faith, said the doctrine in question has not been followed for years and was glad to see the change. […]
Matthew Bowman, a Mormon and a professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, said the doctrine is something Mormon leaders believed in the past.
Whereas Christians believe that the Bible, God’s revelation to men, has been given once and for all — and that its doctrines cannot be changed over time, Mormons believe that God continues to change his mind — and communicates those changes to the Mormon apostles.
Among those who have documented changes in Mormon doctrine over time are Jerald and Sandra Tanner, whose book, “The Changing World of Mormonism,” can be read online.
Chapter 10 of the well-documented book is titled, “Changing the Anti-Black Doctrine”