Mormonism still raising questions among Americans, in New York Times forum

Published: Friday, Feb. 3 2012 1:00 p.m. MST

"When it comes to the social agenda, the Mormon Church does not respect separation of church and state," Barnes wrote for the New York Times forum. "What if the church illegally used its money and influence to defeat Roe v. Wade or to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment while Romney was president? Would he protest from the Oval Office? Or would he be a sheep?"

Again, Mormons would disagree that they don't respect church-state separation. The LDS Church maintains a strict political neutrality policy outlined on its website.

In a New York Times editorial, professor of American studies David S. Reynolds of the City University of New York said the growth of the church is what scares off evangelicals.

"The real issue for many evangelicals is Mormonism's remarkable success and rapid expansion," Reynolds said. "It is estimated to have missionaries in 162 countries and a global membership of some 14 million; it is also, from its base in the American West, making inroads into Hispanic communities. Put simply, the Baptists and Methodists, while still ahead of the Mormons numerically, are feeling the heat of competition from Joseph Smith's tireless progeny."

Mormons themselves recognize their peculiarities raise fears and have tried to become more mainstream with the launch of their "I'm a Mormon" campaign. However, leaders of the church recognize they will never fully fit into society. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a deceased apostle of the Church, told members back in 1996, "In a way, (the world) may admire us from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from our devotion."

EMAIL: jbolding@desnews.com

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