Clarifications to Religion Writers and Editors Regarding Newsweek Report / LDS Newsroom 2001

Clarifications to Religion Writers and Editors Regarding Newsweek Report

Newsweek 7 September 2001
To religion editors and writers:
Response from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Newsweek cover story, 10 September 2001 edition.

Explanatory note
This week’s cover story in Newsweek can be considered, overall, a reasonable attempt to explain the doctrine of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints to a primarily secular audience. The story draws some conclusions to which the Church takes exception, however, and the Church posted its official response to the article Sunday, 2 September. In addition, it sent the response to Newsweek for publication in its letters column.

Because such major articles tend to stay in the files of religion writers long after they appear, we felt we should provide you with some additional points with which we take issue. These points may be worth attaching to the hard copy of the magazine story if you intend to keep it on file. We will be happy to discuss these or other aspects of the story with you if that would be helpful.

Additional points from Newsweek story
“. . . zero tolerance for homosexuality . . .”
Such a statement does not give the full picture, and therefore unnecessarily creates misunderstanding, especially among those considering themselves homosexual. The Church teaches that all sexual relationships outside of the marriage covenant are morally wrong. It also teaches tolerance for the individual, as embodied in this statement from Church President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I (have) said . . . our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.”

“Business in Salt Lake is done the Mormon way or not at all?”
This superficial statement is easily refuted with economic development statistics and stories from numerous business magazines, available on request. Business magazines and surveys over the years have repeatedly placed Salt Lake City and Utah among the best locations in the United States for people to do business. Numerous major U.S. corporations have established operations in Salt Lake City.

“. . . readiness to press their temperance code on non-Mormon citizens”
Utah laws on alcohol, supported by the Church, enable those who drink to do so. Newsweek made no mention of the substantial health and safety benefits of existing state alcohol laws.

“. . . the church hopes to emphasize what Mormons share with historic Christianity, not what makes them different.”
This is misleading. When inquirers ask whether the Church is Christian, our Church spokesmen of course begin on common ground, citing those things we share with historic Christianity. They talk about the Bible, the commonly accepted view of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and so on. That has been the case from the inception of the Church.

Most importantly, our Church spokesmen emphasize our position that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Restoration of the ancient, biblical Church of Jesus Christ. The conviction among our Church members that this Restoration took place through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the early 1800s is so central to our thinking that no understanding of the Church is complete without it. A moment spent checking the Church’s media Web site (www.media.lds.org) will affirm that this message of a distinctive, restored Church, is a consistent one. Among the stories offered to journalists are such titles as “Christian, Yet Different,” “Restoration of the Ancient Church of Jesus Christ,” and “Joseph Smith: From Farm Boy to Prophet.”

These stories were posted some months ago precisely to make clear to journalists coming to the Olympics the distinctions between ourselves and other churches.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been growing at a substantial rate, especially for the past four decades. It is not doing so because it presents itself as similar to those Christian churches that are declining in membership. It is the differences that account for the growth, not the similarities.

“Mormon rhetoric is becoming more overtly evangelical . . the stress on grace and forgiveness of sins and on Jesus as atoning savior of the world sounds almost Methodist or even Southern Baptist.”
These Biblical concepts have always been an essential part of the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have been consistently preached for 170 years. The third of the official Articles of Faith, penned by Joseph Smith, states: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” A Book of Mormon verse reads: “. . . for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

“(God) also has a divine wife, whom Mormons call the Mother.”
“The Mother” is not a term that is used among Church members, in Church meetings, classes or lesson manuals. While the official Proclamation on the Family affirms that each human being is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents, there are no teachings about a Heavenly Mother in Latter-day Saint scripture.

“Mormons consider theirs the only church of Jesus Christ: all others are apostate.”
This overstates our position. While we affirm that only our Church has both the fulness of doctrine and priesthood authority efficacious beyond death, we teach that good and truth exist in all religions.

“Mormons have the only church structured like a corporation . . . almost every member of the Salt Lake hierarchy is a successful, politically conservative businessman”
Not true. While there are a few businessmen among the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, most of the senior leadership have professional backgrounds. Their numbers include educators, administrators, lawyers, a medical doctor and a nuclear engineer.

The fact that the Church leadership system is highly organized and effective does not make it “corporate.” Church leadership is spread throughout its members worldwide, and local leaders are chosen from a wide variety of trades and professions among local congregations.

“. . . when young Americans began experimenting with drugs and dropping out, Mormons began advertising their abstemious purity code . . .”
Not true. The Church has preached moral living and abstinence from harmful or addictive substances, virtually from its inception. The writer makes this longstanding position of the Church sound like a ploy to make it more respectable.

“. . . there’ll be reporters wondering what lies behind the church’s many veils.”
With the willingness of the Church to welcome reporters, invite journalists to temple open houses, and to develop its Web site in multiple languages for ease of use by media representatives, this seems to be one of those phrases that makes good copy but little sense.

Michael Otterson
Director, Media Relations
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Salt Lake City

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