Members respond to misunderstandings about Mormonism

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 11:08 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taking advantage of their respective positions in the media to provide insight into the LDS Church and its people, history and teachings.

In his posting "Mormons: Not necessarily who you think they are" on the Washington Post's "In Faith" blog site, Michael Otterson, director of public affairs for the LDS Church, takes on the notion that Mormons are all from Utah, and all Caucasian.

While Otterson acknowledges that Utah and other states in America's West still claim the heaviest concentrations of Latter-day Saints, he writes that "the church's demographics are changing rapidly, especially throughout the western hemisphere."

"What was once, by and large, an American church is now a genuinely international faith," he continues. "Today there are more Mormons outside the U.S. than in it. Today, Mormons are Bolivians, Ghanaians, Koreans and Russians, all an integral part of the church family."

Behind those statistics and demographics, Otterson notes, "are real people of incredible cultural and ethnic diversity."

The blog entry also features a series of church-produced graphics that illustrate Otterson's point that Mormonism has come "a long way from 1830 when the church was organized from a tiny and obscure group of believers in a New York hamlet."

In another story on the Washington Post website, LDS author/journalist/blogger Joanna Brooks writes to dispel "Five myths about Mormonism."

Brooks does not claim to speak for the LDS Church with her answers. Indeed, her website refers to her "Ask Mormon Girl" Q&A blog as a "source for unorthodox but friendly perspectives on Mormon thought and culture." Still, she expresses concern that "common caricatures" may be creating some confusion and misunderstanding "about how this faith can engage the world, whether on a mission or in the White House." So she utilizes the Post's bi-weekly "Five Myths" series to provide her own personal thoughts on polygamy, Mormon Christianity, the church's changing demographics (as noted above by Otterson), the status of women in the LDS Church and whether or not an LDS president would blur the line between church and state.

"It should be remembered that Mormons have held local, state and federal offices in America for more than a century," says Brooks, who also writes about Mormonism for the Religion Dispatches blog. "Fifteen Mormons now serve in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — and few seemed to worry that the LDS Church was influencing his debt-ceiling proposals."

Another Washington-based news outlet, the Washington Examiner, conducted a religiously oriented Q&A with Aaron Sherinian, a local resident who manages public relations for the United Nations Foundation and who is the subject of one of the LDS Church's "I'm a Mormon" videos.

Sherinian says he likes to "enthusiastically tell people I am a Mormon — exclamation point!" He adds that the thing he most appreciates about his faith is "the fact that it is a faith of action that encourages people to take their faith in relation to Jesus Christ and put it into practice every day, not just on Sunday, and not just when they're on their knees praying, but in how they approach their communities and workplace and how they can make relationships better."

Sherinian provides thoughtful answers to a variety of questions about the LDS Church from reporter Liz Essley, and then concludes by saying that "faith is something you do as much as you feel or think."

"I think service to people in your community and family is key to being a follower of Christ," he said. "I think putting family relationships at the top of everything and accepting everyone as a child of God are other keys."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS