Oops! USA Today goofs in cover story about LDS beliefs

Published: Friday, Jan. 27 2012 3:39 p.m. MST

In a front-page story that made a sincere attempt to clarify the beliefs and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, USA Today this week made a few unfortunate errors:

"Some adult Mormons in good standing with the church do wear a simple cotton T-shirt and fitted pants that have been blessed by the church." While some may quibble about the language USA Today uses to describe the sacred undergarment worn by many LDS adults, the notion that the garment has been "blessed by the church" suggests a "kosher"-type blessing by a church official that simply does not happen.

"And in 1978, then-LDS president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley overturned the church's old interpretation of Scripture that black men bore the mark of Cain and were banned from the temple. Hinckley announced that all Mormon men, black or white, were eligible for the priesthood." There are several problems here. First, the president of the LDS Church in 1978 was Spencer W. Kimball. And second, what President Kimball announced in 1978 was not a new interpretation of scripture, but what he called a revelation from God. And third, it has never been the official position of the LDS Church that black men bore the mark of Cain.

And in the text box the newspaper created to outline the key theological differences between Latter-day Saints and other Christian religions, it indicates that Mormons believe "God and Jesus both had physical bodies." Latter-day Saints would use the word "have" instead of "had," which may seem like a small difference to some, but it has broad theological meaning to Mormons.

All of which may mean little or nothing to non-LDS readers. The article quotes Warren Cole Smith, an evangelical blogger who has written extensively in opposition to the LDS Church: "The vast majority of Americans won't care about these theological implications. Indeed, Americans are generally tone-deaf to theological nuances."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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