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For week ended March 19, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 14Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church often still misunderstood
Fort Worth TX Star-Telegram (Arizona Republic) 13Mar00 N6
By Maureen Jenkins: The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- The exclusion of LDS Church members from the January 15th Festival of Faith 2000 event in Phoenix's Bank One Ballpark led Arizona Republic reporter Maureen Jenkins to examine why the LDS Church is "still so maligned and little understood within some Christian circles." Initially the festival planned to include the LDS Church, but some conservative evangelicals objected to the LDS Church's presence, claiming that Latter-day Saints are not Christian. Jenkins reviews history and theology to find out why.

The Rev. Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council and a Festival of Faith lead organizer, says that the exclusion of the LDS Church was an unfortunate necessity, "In an ideal world, there would be total acceptance, total understanding, total love. But unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world and therefore, in our desire to make the Christian church more understanding of each group, there are first steps we must take, then the second step, the third step, the fourth step." He says that simply getting Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians to meet with each other was difficult enough to justify it as a first step. Broadening the group to include the LDS Church and other nontraditional denominations is another step.

The LDS Church, of course, claims to be Christian. Phoenix metro area spokesman Wilford Anderson told Jenkins, "I think people understand we can respectfully disagree on matters of Christian doctrine, but should never disagree on Christian conduct. There certainly are some (churches) who find it difficult to work together with us, and I respect that as long as we don't have ill will toward each other and as long as we don't have misinformation."

Jenkins says that misinformation is the "crux of the rift between Mormons and evangelical Christians." Citing AP writer Richard N. Ostling, co-author of the accliamed recent book "Mormon America," she says that the LDS Church's "sweeping policy of secrecy" contributes to the misunderstandings, "Any time you have this situation, it creates rumors, speculations, misinformation," said Ostling, who wrote "Mormon America" with his wife, Joan K. Ostling. "There is room for a lot of confusion."

Ostling points out that most of the disagreement between Mormons and Evangelicals is doctrinal, not moral, political or cultural. "The fundamental issues between Mormonism and traditional Christianity are the nature of God, the doctrine of Christ, the Bible's authority, and the doctrine of humanity and relating to God." He adds that since both evangelicals and Mormons target the same group of potential converts, it is not surprising that they would conflict. BYU sociology professor Marie Cornwall agrees, "If you can use that marketplace language, both Evangelicals and Mormons share the same target: the unchurched. We compete in the marketplace of religion, and evangelicals want to make sure their targets realize Mormons are different."

Jenkins also points out that the 1997 book "How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation" by Denver Seminary professor Craig L. Blomberg and BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson examines the problem, detailing the differences without dwelling on trying to prove the other wrong.

And she notes that the Church has sought opportunities to work with other faiths in humanitarian efforts, noting that in the Phoenix area, Church members belong to the InterFaith Action Coalition of Arizona. She credits President Hinckley with spurring some local interfaith efforts due to the public relations-savvy of his administration, which has sought to build bridges while highlighting positive aspects of Mormon life.

Cornwall sites President Hinckley's latest book, "Standing for Something" as an example of these efforts. "Mormons want to be both different and the same (as other Americans)," Cornwall said. "Different in the sense we know our faith is different from other faiths, but the same in that we want people to see that we can be as successful as anybody else."

See also:


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Standing for Something More about "Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes" at

How Wide the Divide More about "How Wide the Divide: A Mormon &Evangelical in Conversation" at

Mormon America More about "Mormon America: The Power &The Promise" at

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information