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For week ended January 23, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

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 critical.

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."


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