Summarized by Kent Larsen
'Mormon America' author gives personal opinions on the LDS Church
Walnut Creek CA Contra Costa Times 23Jan00 A4
By John Boudreau: Times Staff Writer
WALNUT CREEK, CALIFORNIA -- The Contra Costa Times interviewed Richard
N. Ostling, the AP religion writer who wrote "The Power and the Promise:
Mormon America" along with his wife Joan. The interview gives an
interesting view of Ostling's personal opinions about the Church and its
place in society, opinions that seem, like the book, admiring yet
Responding to one question, Ostling says "Mormonism is the most
persecuted, as well as the most successful, religion ever born in
America." And the TImes quotes Ostling in an interview elsewhere saying
that "Mormons are just at the beginning of becoming a national force.
They are sprouting new temples and ward buildings, little by little, all
over the place. They will have a new temple in Boston that will give
them visibility that they've never had in New England. They are building
a temple outside New York City. The Winter Olympics (in 2002) in Salt
Lake City will put a worldwide spotlight on Mormon culture."
Surprisingly, Ostling argues that the "intensely hierarchical and
secretive" church doesn't run counter to American nature, "The Mormon
church, whether by design or accident, is modeled after the modern
American corporation. An American corporation is very public about its
message. . . . . There is a lot of financial secrecy in the American
corporation. The structure is top down, authoritarian . . . ."
He then defends the Church's right to financially back California's
Proposition 22, the so-called Knight initiative, "They have a right to
petition the government. Name me one religion that has not taken a
strong stand on a public issue that they believe relates to the good of
society. The Mormons, rightly or wrongly, believe that the good of
society requires holding onto the traditional definition of marriage. .
. . The Mormons are doing nothing that violates the tax code."
But Ostling is likewise critical of the Church in some areas. When asked
about the Church's lawsuit against the Tanners over posting the Church's
Handbook of Instructions, he says, "They do not want the members of the
church to know what's in that. I think it's a foolish policy, to be
blunt. I think their financial secrecy is foolish. But it's a dearly
held prerogative of the top leadership of the church. . . . It's
incredible centralized control."
Ostling also describes what he says is the crux of the theological
differences between Mormons and other Christians are, "I would argue
that the great (theological) divide is the definition of God and the
nature of God. (In Mormon theology), God is an exalted man who rose from
manhood and progressed. Man becomes God. If I follow the Mormon faith,
expectations and rituals, I can aspire to reach the highest level of
heaven and become a God someday. It's a very, very American gospel. This
is at variance with what every Christian, Jew and Muslim has taught
about the nature of God for the last several thousand years."