Episode 16: The International Church

John Dehlininternational, LDS, mormon, Mormons 42 Comments

Today Ronan James Head, J. Nelson-Seawright and John Fowles discuss issues surrounding the international nature of the LDS Church.

Comments 42

  1. Finally! Some sincerity and recognition of the problems in Latin America, especially the playing around with democratic governments there -missioneros I’ve come across say ‘what, CIA never does anything wrong, show me some proof!’ And that US recognition of the military dictatorship that replaced Chavez for a week is going to be a (historical) classic blunder.

    On the CIA thing I recall that it was Pinochet in Chile who supposedly ‘discovered’ some CIA agents hiding as missionaries, but who knows -they are supposed to be spooks. Others think that the missionaries are there to steal the young women for polygamist families! And others think that the US is to blame for all the debt…..etc etc etc. It goes on and on.

    But most of all the church must stay out of politics and stick to religion because if it’s done as it is in the US (marriage lobby & ERA, Utah culture) then there are sure to be more problems in the future. Waiting for the ‘pink tide’ (?) to pass is probably the best option because reducing links to the US for the Mormon Church -nah, impossible!

    Also I’d note that there aren’t any US missionaries in Columbia due to the anti-American violence, so maybe making this a rule across the area would be a good move; it may even get rid of those baseball baptism there; also having local leadership do everything may be an advantage because why have US only area presidencies? I get the impressing that the 1st presidency doesn’t trust locals to be area presidencies even though there seems to be enough GA from Latin American (in numbers) I doubt it does any good but then the callings are made via inspiration so maybe it’s the Lord who needs to petitioned? (How can a Mormon do that? –also impossible I believe)

    I’d also like to point out that the ‘church service’ way of doing things seems to have grown out of an English way of doing things, so if your English commentator here in this discussion can feel somewhat out of place when using an American Hymn book, with its American flawed spelling, well how do you thing a Latin American feels? There are certainly some small things that need to change in the ‘International Church’

  2. Since it came up in the discussion, the German Enquiry Commission on (so-called) Sects and Psycho-groups, as well as the letter from six professors quoted from in the episode, can be found at the following links:

    German Final Report, html (posted on the CESNUR website);
    Official German Final Report, pdf (from German parliament’s website)
    Official English Translation of the Final Report, pdf (from cult-watcher website)
    Press Release of Six German Professors (from CESNUR website)

  3. yo, john f.,

    that thing is 448 pages long! thats longer than the book of mormon. is there a 6 discussion session for new cultists? seriously, there must be an abbreviated version of that thing.

    how does the german report compare to the french report?

  4. So long as we’re offering links, here’s the story of how being Mormon in Belgium can be a hassle:

    “Alessia” at Times and Seasons.

    Also, an example of Mormons finding themselves on the “good list” in Austria:

    State-recognized religions:

    Old Catholic Church
    Armenian Apostolic Church
    Protestant “Evangelische” Church
    Greek Orthodox Church
    Islamic Community in Austria
    Jewish Community in Austria
    Roman Catholic Church
    Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage (Mormonen)
    Coptic Orthodox Church
    Methodist Church
    New Apostolic Church
    Buddhist Community in Austria
    Syrian Orthodox Church

    There are a few other groups who have second-tier status.

    I should add that the fact that the LDS Church is on the “good list” doesn’t do much to change the public perception that it’s a “Sekte” but it does allow the church to avoid hassle from the state. It also gives it the right, as I mentioned on the podcast, to have a cemetery plot in the city cemetery in Vienna, among other things. Having a “Mormon” cemetery is quite an amazing thing, btw.

    Sorry the audio was poor my end. I blame George Bush.

  5. re # 3, how does the german report compare to the french report?

    That’s a good question. I am a little more familiar with the Belgian situation (and list of cults). I think they are pretty similar in that, internally, both reports are absolutely convinced that they mean no harm whatsoever to most of the religions (with a few notable exceptions, predominantly Scientology) identified as cults and that this is an essential service for the citizens of their countries. In their minds they are being completely tolerant — and maybe that is true after all: they barely tolerate the existence of minority religions but keep very close tabs on them.

    The distressing aspect really is that what these approaches do is create a body, center, or report that public officials can refer to in making policy or social decisions. For example, the most recent report of the Center created in Belgium to oversee the list of harmful sectarian organizations notes in its introduction that

    The credibility enjoyed by the Center in Belgium continues to extend beyond our borders to the point that our institution is cited as an example of what should be created in those countries where there still does not exist a public organ of information about harmful sectarian organizations.

    (La crédibilité dont bénéficie le Centre en Belgique continue à dépasser nos frontières au point que notre institution est citée en exemple de ce qui devrait être créé dans les pays oú il n’existe pas encore d’organe public d’information sur les organisations sectaires nuisibles.)

    This is distressing to members of the organizations that appear on the list of harmful sectarian organizations because an organ of the state is issuing judgments about those organizations to people and other public entities that call in with questions. For example, if some public agency official has some degree of latitude or discretion in performing a duty and encounters a Mormon or Jehova’s Witness, or the adherent of some other minority religion, and makes a call to the Center to get information, and the Center gives biased, negative, or outright false information, then that could really detriment individual’s lives. The 2005-2006 report notes that although 81.1% of the inquiries received by the Center come from the general public, 18.8% of the inquiries to the Center came from public authorities of various kinds, for example the police (34.6% and 17.5% from the courts/legal system) (pg. 16).

    Interestingly, whereas Mormons were the subject of 1.6% of the inquiries in the 2003-2004 report, the inquiries have dropped below a number worth representing on the charts in the 2005-2006 report. This could suggest a correlation of a weakening missionary program with a reduction in number of inquiries. Most likely, though, Mormons have simply been included with a bigger grouping, probably the category represented as “emanating or dissident from protestantism”.

  6. John F,

    specific to france, there is a youtube video where a mission president explains why the baptisms are low. if you havent seen it, you should find it. it was in Toulouse.

    i am still fascinated by this concept of classifying the church and other religions and sects or cults. john f, you suggest that it is biased and subjective. if you can make that charge, you must know what the criterions are for the classification. what are they? are there 10 items? more? how were they subjectively applied?

    if the classification is nothing more than a notice to the public that the church meets a series of basic criterion, what is there to fear? AA is described as a cult and meets most the definitions. that doesnt diminish its success. why cant the same be true for the Church?

    i think i know why. but, my response is subjective and biased.

    is it just me – or was that absolutely stunning irony to hear the discussion in the podcast about the use of the term “so-called”? wow. that blew me away. i am shocked that any of the four of you were willing to even mention that word on here.

  7. Mayan E: about that France Toulouse mission video, on YouTube, I’m kind of wondering if we have ‘discovered’ a new doctrine there; since in France and Europe they have only 2 to 4 odd baptism per month per mission while in Latin America they have 2 to 4 baptism PER COMPANIONSHIP, like 200 odd baptism per month per mission, does this prove that the missionaries in Europe are all Wankers while the ones in Latin America are all faithful non-Wankers who are full of the spirit?

    I guess this mission president has really come across something new here; or he is just completely out of line?

  8. is it just me – or was that absolutely stunning irony to hear the discussion in the podcast about the use of the term “so-called”? wow. that blew me away. i am shocked that any of the four of you were willing to even mention that word on here.

    I don’t understand this. What do you mean?

    The German Parliament gave a mandate to authorize an “enquiry” into the presence and nature of “Sects and Psycho-groups” in Germany. “Sects” in German (Sekte) does not mean “sect” in English but rather has more of the connotation of “cult”. The final report devotes some space to explaining that using the term “cult” was probably counterproductive because it’s meaning had become too vague in recent decades with the way it has been used in the press and public discourse. Instead of getting a new title, however, they opted to insert the word “So-called” before the original title “Sects and Psycho-groups”, and then in the body of the report alternatively switching between “so-called sects and psycho-groups” and “sects and psychogroups” to refer to the object of the report, and sometimes using the terminology that is more appropriate in U.S. academic discourse relating to other people’s religions that are relatively new in nature, “new religious movements”.

    “New religious movements” is much more respectful of the beliefs of adherent to minority religions than either “sects and psycho-groups” or “so-called sects and psycho-groups”.

    Also, your thoughts about subjective/objective criteria for designating new religious movements as cults was confusing — actually I did not really understand your point at all. The issue is that state-sponsored religions, such as the Catholic Church and the particular flavor of old-church Protestantism approved of in a given country are not included in the discussions of cults and psycho-groups or “harmful sectarian organizations” as Belgium describes new religious movements. By contrast, to take Belgium as an example, virtually all religious movements represented in the country besides Catholic, Reformed, Judaism, and (mainstream) Islam are on the list of “harmful sectarian organizations”. Thus, whether subjective or objective, the list of cults is capturing virtually all religions in the country except the state church and the state approved old religions. It does not take much analysis to see the problems with this approach.

    As for the adherent of a church having an interest in their government not labelling their church a “harmful cult”, that also should not take much explanation.

  9. John F,

    let me help you. maybe this will clear up why it was so surprising to hear you, and now read your commentary, regarding the use of “so-called.”

    from tolworthy/Wiki:

    Church leaders often use the phrase “so-called” as a way to denigrate intellectuals, science, history, etc. The implication is that these names are not appropriate in the given context. That is, the history is not really history, the science is not really science, and so on.

    These subjects are not always labelled so-called. And sometimes the label is used in a non-pejorative way, as when describing an unusual technical or legal usage of a word. But usually the context indicates that church leaders treat the subject with suspicion. This could therefore be seen as a list of dangerous topics for Mormons.

    so-called intellectuals

    (It has been suggested that the following examples sound amusing when spoken in the voice of Homer Simpson, and accompanied by resentful muttering)

    “so-called thinking people” (Boyd K. Packer, “From Such Turn Away,” Ensign May 1985)

    “so-called scholars” (Boyd K. Packer, Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, May 18, 1993)

    “so-called intellectuals” – Spencer W. Kimball, “Fortify Your Homes against Evil,” (Ensign, May 1979, 4)

    “so-called academic learning.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, as reported by his son-in-law, “The Soul of a Prophet,” Ensign, Aug 1972)

    “so-called higher criticism” (Dallin H. Oaks, The Historicity of the Book of Mormon, FARMS)

    “so-called learned people” (Richard C. Edgley, “Keep the Faith,” Ensign, May 1993, 11)

    “in the so-called name of learning” (Russell M. Nelson, “Protect the Spiritual Power Line,” Ensign, Nov 1984)

    “so-called experts” (Victor L. Brown, Jr., New Era, Nov. 1973, 36–37)

    “so-called science” (Joseph F. Smith, Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith” 39)

    “so-called educators” (David B. Haight, “Power of Evil,” Ensign, July 1973)

    “so-called sophisticated communities” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 59)

    “so-called social commentary” (“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, June 1997, 17)

    “our so-called intellect” (F. Enzio Busche, “Truth Is the Issue,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 24)

    “so-called wise men” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Language of the Spirit,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 104)

    “so-called (economic) solutions” (N. Eldon Tanner, “Constancy Amid Change,” Ensign, Nov 1979)

    so-called science and history

    “history, so-called, or geology or science, so-called” (Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary, LDS newsroom, 20 July 2007)

    “so-called modern civilization” and “so-called civilization” (Robert L. Simpson, “Do It,” New Era, Aug. 1977, 31)

    “‘so-called’ modern thought and modern progress. We take no such course.” (Howard W. Hunter, “Of the World or of the Kingdom?” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 53)

    “so-called problem of overpopulation” (John H. Groberg, “There Is the Light,” New Era, Mar. 1977, 45)

    and on the LDS church in particular…

    “so-called fundamentalists” (Church Response to Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, LDS newsroom, 27 June 2003)

    “so-called prophecy by someone outside the Church” (Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Food Storage,” Ensign, May 1976)

    “so-called atheist” (Boyd K. Packer, “What Every Freshman Should Know,” New Era October 1973)

    “so-called enlightened doctrine” (L. Tom Perry, “Back to Gospel Basics,” Ensign May 1993)

    “so-called riot in the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor.” (Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary, LDS newsroom, 20 July 2007)

    “so-called Mountain Meadows Massacre.” (Daniel C. Peterson, letter to the editor in the Weekly Standard, 9/15/2007, Volume 013, Issue 02)

    so-called Christian churches

    “so-called churches” (Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 25)

    “so-called Christian churches” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” New Era, Dec. 1980, 44)

    “so-called Christian ministers” (Donald Q. Cannon, “Who Is Jesus Christ?” New Era, Mar. 1978, 10)

    “so-called Christian scholars.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” New Era, Dec. 1980, 44)

    “so-called teachers of Christianity” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets,” Ensign, May 1977)

    “so-called Christian nations” (Harold B. Lee, “Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign, Aug. 1972, 2)

    “so-called Christian world” (Marion G. Romney, “Jesus—Savior and Redeemer,” New Era, Apr. 1984, 33)

    “so-called Christendom” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” Ensign, Jan 1973)

    “so-called major religions” (L. H. O. Stobbe, “On Making Appointments with Our God,” Ensign, Nov. 1972, 37)

    so-called culture

    “so-called culture” (Arthur Henry King, “Language in a World Church,” New Era, August 1974. Arthur Henry King was a highly literary convert and later London Temple president. he noted that “most so-called culture in the world is against the gospel, not for it”)

    “so-called entertainment” (H. Burke Peterson, “Leave It Alone,” New Era, Jan. 1995, 44)

    “so-called ways of the world” (L. Tom Perry, “Treasures of Testimony,” New Era, May 2005, 44)

    “so-called music” and “so-called art” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 97)

    “so-called acceptable motion picture” (Robert L. Simpson, “Pollution of the Mind,” Ensign, Jan 1973)

    “so-called chat-rooms” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Rise Up, O Men of God,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 59–61)

    “so-called stars” (M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign Nov 2003)

    “so-called balanced man” (Carlos E. Asay, “Be Men!” Ensign May 1992)

    so-called success

    “so-called success stories” (Boyd K. Packer, Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, May 18, 1993)

    “so-called temporal achievements” (Richard C. Edgley, “Keep the Faith,” Ensign, May 1993, 11)

    “so-called heroes” (Durrel A. Woolsey, “An Eternal Key,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 43)

    “so-called creative genius” (G. Homer Durham, “The Home as an Educational Institution,” Ensign, May 1979, 10)

    “so-called rewards” (OT Class Member Study Guide, 16: “I Cannot Go Beyond the Word of the Lord”, 11–12)

    “so-called security” (Charles Didier, “Spiritual Security,” Ensign, May 1987)

    “so-called “quality” time” (Barbara B. Smith, “Her Children Arise Up, and Call Her Blessed,” Ensign May 1982)

    so-called happiness

    “so-called happiness” (a reader, in “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Sep 2002, 16)

    “so-called fun and sociability” (N. Eldon Tanner, “Trusting the Lord’s Promise,” Ensign Aug 1981)

    “so-called pleasure” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Satan’s Thrust—Youth,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 53)

    “so-called comforts of life” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, Oct 1980)

    “so-called satisfaction” (Richard L. Evans, “The Spoken Word,” New Era, Nov. 1971, 46)

    “so-called good life” (Sheri L. Dew, “We Are Women of God,” New Era, Nov. 2000, 12)

    “our so-called image” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Meekness—A Dimension of True Discipleship,” Ensign, March 1983)

    “so-called honor.” (“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, July 1993, 17)

    so-called freedom

    “so-called alternative life-styles” (James E. Faust, “Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Liahona, Nov. 1995, 3)

    “so-called freedom” (Thomas S. Monson, “Come Follow Me,” Tambuli, Nov. 1988, 2)

    “so-called individual freedoms” (L. Tom Perry, “What Seek Ye?” Liahona May 2005)

    “so-called private choices” (James E. Faust, “Will I Be Happy?” Ensign, May 1987, 80)

    “so-called personal matters… so-called freedoms” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In Opposition to Evil,” Liahona, Sept. 2004)

    “so-called rights” (Thomas S. Monson, “Pornography—The Deadly Carrier,” Liahona, November 2001)

    “so-called opportunity” (H. Burke Peterson, “Mother, Catch the Vision of Your Call,” Ensign, May 1974)

    “so-called needs” (Lynn G. Robbins, “Tithing—a Commandment Even for the Destitute,” Liahona, May 2005)

    “so-called needs of women” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign May 1998)

    “so-called laws” (Theodore M. Burton, “In Defense of Faith,” New Era, Feb. 1975, 4, referring to the laws of science)

    so-called sexual freedom

    “so-called planned families” (John H. Groberg, “There Is the Light,” New Era, Mar. 1977, 45)

    “so-called freedom of the sexes” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Time to Labor Is Now,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 4)

    “so-called harmless meetings” (of boys and girls) (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Law of Chastity,” Ensign, Jan 1988)

    “so-called gays and lesbians” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 70)

    “so-called same gender marriage” (Lance B. Wickman, “Same-Gender Attraction,” LDS Newsroom Pulic Issues page, undated)

    “so-called “safe-sex” programs” (The Church Responds to HIV/AIDS A World AIDS Day Interview With Elder Robert C. Oaks, LDS newsroom, 1 December 2005)

    “so-called incompatibility” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Divorce,” Ensign, May 2007, 70–73)

    so-called reality

    “so-called realism” (Thomas S. Monson, “True to the Faith,” Ensign, May 2006, 18)

    “so-called real world” (Janette Hales Beckham, “Listen to the Whisper,” New Era, Aug. 1998, 46)

    “so-called real life” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Clean Voice of Youth,” New Era, Jan. 1976, 5)

    “so-called experience” (Boyd K. Packer, Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary, 20 July 2007 at LDS newsroom)

    so-called perfect testimony

    “so-called perfect testimony'” (Robert L. Simpson, “No Shortcuts,” Ensign, May 1987)

    “so-called sure sign from heaven.” (ibid)

    This category is interesting because it deals with gospel topics, not sins. It appears to be saying that nobody knows for sure if the church is true. The complete paragraph reads: “Now the third great question:

    “How can we be certain that the Church is true?” Can anyone gain a so-called perfect testimony here in mortality? I think all of us here are still in the never-ending process of a developing testimony. Youth of Zion, forget about receiving a miracle, or the so-called sure sign from heaven. There are no shortcuts to eternity. Thus, extreme patience becomes another key factor as we develop our testimony over a lifetime. It is simply “line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little,” just as the scriptures say (D&C 128:21).”

    Robert L. Simpson

    …and so on.

    Faced with the frequent use of “so-called,” many disaffected church members refer to the Mormon church as “The So-Called Church” or TSCC for short.

  10. Yes, for a long time I had no idea what TSCC actually stood for when exmormons or those who no longer believe used it, although it was clear that it referred pejoratively/mockingly to the Church.

    So, your point was that discussion of how the German parliament decided to insert “so-called” in front of “sect” after it had decided that “sect” was not an appropriate word in all cases rather than changing the title to remove the word “sect” altogether was ironic because Church leaders have overused the phrase “so-called”? I can see how that connection could be drawn, at least on the surface. There doesn’t seem to be a substantive connection but it is true that both use the word “so-called”.

  11. john f.

    let me see if i can be clear on this.

    you do not like that the church is classified as a “harmful sectarian [organization].”

    i am asking what standards were used in making that classification, and which of those standards were applied inappropriately. for example, if one of the standards is that a “harmful sect” requires members to chop off their left ear lobe then clearly, the LDS church is not a harmful sect. if one of the standards is that it considers itself the ONLY true church and that all other church are the whores of the earth, well, the government may have had some concerns.

    is your contention with the label that the church does not qualify under any standard? or that the church does not qualify under enough standards?

    as for you having an interest in the government not labeling the church a “harmful cult,” well, i dont suppose that your subjective thoughts, hopes, dreams or fantasies were a big factor in their decision. i would love to be described as the greatest closer in Major League Baseball, but for now, i cant be too disappointed to be described as a short fat guy.

  12. Mayan Elephant,

    I think John F’s point is that the government (German, Belgium) – with the help of state sponsored religion should not be making an assessment of the legitimacy of other religions. Even if they get every point correct their results would be called into question because they have an innate bias.


  13. To take this in a different direction, J. Nelson-Seawright, Dialogue published an article a few years ago, and Sunstone had some sessions which talked about poverty among church members. The Sunstone session that I attended said that the per capita amount spent from Fast Offerings in South America is far lower compared to the US than the difference in cost of living. The man who spoke talked about malnourished kids who are members of the church– but don’t receive help even for basic nutritional needs because the funds aren’t available to church leaders there. Do you have any other comments on that?

  14. as for you having an interest in the government not labeling the church a “harmful cult,” well, i dont suppose that your subjective thoughts, hopes, dreams or fantasies were a big factor in their decision. i would love to be described as the greatest closer in Major League Baseball, but for now, i cant be too disappointed to be described as a short fat guy.

    I’m not sure I understand the point in this statement or how it relates to the discussion.

    As for any “contention” I have with the German or Belgian governments about their cataloguing, labelling, and monitoring of minority religions, Keith B has captured the concern succinctly in comment 13. Representatives from the state churches formed part of the committees that steered the input that the parliamentary commissions received in formulating opinions and passing judgment on new religious movements. Based in part on input from state churches, 189 religious organizations found themselves on a government list titled “harmful sectarian organizations”. The state churches were not on the list. This is a very excessive government entanglement with religion.

    Of course, the German Final Report also notes that it invited representatives from certain groups being scrutinized in the investigation, including the Mormons, as well as former members of those organizations, including ex-Mormons, to participate in closed-door hearings (pg. 24 in the English translation). Thus, there was some opportunity for the Church to represent itself in the German case, which is of course desirable.

  15. John F,

    how can i make this more clear?

    by what standard was the church classified as a sect? are there any of those standards that were not appropriately applied?

    i read comment 13. i allow that there are biases, but how did that affect the application of the standards which you said were subjective.

    it looks to me as if you are saying the LDS church is not a harmful sectarian organization where the government is saying the LDS church is not a harmful sectarian organization.

    what were the standards that the government applied to come to an opposite conclusion?

    i understand your standard – a harmful sectarian organization is bad. the lds church is not bad. therefore, the church is not a harmful sectarian organization.

    what standard did the governments use? do you know? or, are you simply accusing them of being biased for coming to a different conclusion than yours?

  16. I would need to review the specific standards to analyze each one separately. The point is that the state churches do not appear on the list or as objects of scrutiny in the reports. However, the state churches sat on the committees that performed the investigations. That means that whatever criteria were used, it would have been pretty easy for the state churches to make sure that those criteria were drafted such that the state churches would not qualify.

    It seems uncontroversial to state that members of a religion have a legitimate concern when their government classifies their religion as a cult or a harmful sectarian organization. Stigma attaches; the population thereafter labels the religion a cult or views it as harmful, regardless of the actual criteria used by the government in the determination.

  17. Mayan Elephant,

    I have a difficult time accepting their conclusions because of the comments I made in my previous post. I am also biased because of my membership in the church. It is in fact too easy for me to disregard this report because of the methods and process of its creation – I also don’t speak German so it is impossible for me to actually read the report 🙂

    There was an open letter from some prominent German professors giving 10 points in there objection to the report it can be found here


    I hope that helps – I am not sure if John F. can read German so I will let him answer for himself

  18. Keith, see comment # 2 for links, including a link to the English translation of the German final report. The letter from six professors is also linked and was discussed in the podcast.

  19. Thanks for the link! I am not sure why I did not see it.

    I started reading through the report – I could not find were it calls out the LDS church specifically. Is it rapped under Fundamental Christianity?

  20. The German state churches approach the problems with their small competitors in a self-serving and self-righteous manner. If that is what you mean, John, then I agree with you.

    I do think, however, that there is a role for government in the regulation of religion. For example, it was great when a state court convicted Warren Jeffs as an accomplice of rape on Tuesday. By the same token, religious organizations ought to be responsible for the products that they market.

    If a religion proclaims to market medical remedies, for example, then they ought to pass the same standards as any other business. If a religion sells products then it is subject to consumer protection and liability law.

    If there is a concerted effort to eschew accountability by a group of religiously motivated people then the challenge of organized crime confronts society and the government has an obligation to respond accordingly. That includes nationwide criminal investigation and court reviewed surveillance.

    I never had a problem as a Mormon in Germany. I did hear stories about other people. Apparently, in the seventies there was a Mormon elementary school teacher in Rheno-Palatia who was admonished to only teach Catholic religious concepts. If that is true, it would have been blatantly unconstitutional.

    Although I can report that story only as hearsay, it is plausible that something like that would have happened and I would not be surprised if similar events continue to occur today.

    On the other hand, even the worst stories that I have heard about the discrimination of Mormons in Germany do not compare for the difficulties that, lets say a feminist teacher, will encounter in Utah. Utah is a much less hospitable region when it comes to religious differences.

    I did encounter some resistance in Germany but have always been able to deflect that within minutes. Although I am not a lawyer, I am pretty comfortable operating in bureaucratic environments and using rules, regulations, and the law to defend my liberty.

    Mormons who are less competent in bureaucratic environments might suffer serious discrimination. German state and society provide considerable resources with respect to minorities’ liberty but if you lack the ability to use them then your situation can be dire.

    As everywhere else in the world, being right and getting your rights are not the same thing. Rights are ultimately a matter of power.

  21. re # 20, I don’t have specific page numbers of the English report except for page 24 where it indicates that Mormons and former Mormons were given the opportunity to attend closed-door (in-camera) hearings to present their case.

    re # 21, On the other hand, even the worst stories that I have heard about the discrimination of Mormons in Germany do not compare for the difficulties that, lets say a feminist teacher, will encounter in Utah. Utah is a much less hospitable region when it comes to religious differences.

    As much as I love Germany, I don’t agree with this. Germany is far less tolerant of religions and religious differences than Utah. Of course, Germany is entirely tolerant of religious differences if the religions at issue are Catholicism of Lutheranism.

    Mormons who are less competent in bureaucratic environments might suffer serious discrimination. German state and society provide considerable resources with respect to minorities’ liberty but if you lack the ability to use them then your situation can be dire.

    Bingo. That is the crux of the problem. Where the state is making life difficult for people through giving bureacrats discretion to express their intolerance toward other people’s religious affiliations/beliefs, and those bureaucrats do that or are even encouraged to do that (through such things as lists labelling religions as cults or harmful sectarian organizations) then there is a serious problem.

  22. JohnF,

    Utah is off the charts when it comes to intolerance John. Dangerously intolerant. In fact, the government of Utah is willing to risk the public health in general and individual health because of a religious bias. want proof? check this out –

    On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health announced a $1 million gift to fund a public awareness campaign about the STD human papillomavirus (HPV) and its link to cervical cancer. The money, from industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr., will also go to purchase the HPV vaccine Gardasil for females.

    It is the second time in two years that private benefactors have financed public health concerns that the state Legislature has declined to address. Last year, after lawmakers cut the Medicaid dental program, James Sorenson and Intermountain Healthcare gave $1 million each to provide care to the poor and disabled.

    Rep. Karen Morgan (D-Salt Lake City) had asked the Legislature to spend $1 million to raise public awareness about HPV and provide Gardasil to under- and un-insured females. Fearing the vaccine would increase promiscuity, the lawmakers allotted only $25,000 for the effort. Morgan said she hoped Huntsman’s gift would show the Legislature “how great a need” there is for HPV education and Gardasil. She plans to ask the state for $1 million to $2 million next year.

    An advisory committee, including Hunstman, doctors, and health department employees, will determine how the money will be spent and which age group to target for vaccination. David Sundwall, executive director of the health department, said the committee must be sensitive so as not to give the impression that early sexual activity is advisable. However, he noted, “It’s absolutely irresponsible if we assume young people in Utah aren’t having sex.”

    john f, with all due respect, i dont think the discrimination effect is too great for members of a listed church when someone even as interested as you cant even answer what standards were or were not met in order to get on the list. in my opinion, it doesnt come close to a legislature refusing to fund a cancer vaccine based on their religious bias and deference to the leaders of a local religious institution.

  23. oh, and john f, i am already assuming that you do not understand the point in the previous statement or how it relates to the discussion. perhaps hellmut can translate it for me.

  24. re # 24, that example does not show that the government of Utah is intolerant of other people’s religions, so, actually, it doesn’t relate to this discussion. It is a policy decision by the Utah legislature that does not relate to an official state church passing judgment on other religions under the color of state law, and the consequences that such action has for the adherents of minority religions as citizens of the state.

    On another point, in other discussions you have argued forcefully against Latter-day Saints labelling people who are criticizing Mormons and their beliefs as “anti-mormons” or describing people who no longer believe in the truth claims of the Church as having “fallen away from the Church” based on the argument that it inhibits or completely shuts down discussion because it places people in a box from the outset of the discussion. It seems that this argument does not bring you to the same conclusion with labelling the Church a “cult” or “harmful sectarian organization”. I would be interested to know why not.

    With regard to your question to Hellmut about whether he has had the opportunity to read the German version of these documents, I would also be interested to know the reason for that question. I provided a link to the English translation of the German Final Report. That’s the official English translation done by the German Parliament, so you can read the document yourself. Your question to Hellmut implies that you think I am lying or being somehow deceitfult about the contents of the German-language documents at issue here. If that is the case, my question would be why you would assume that I am lying about something.

  25. Whoa whoa whoa there hardcharger. hang on there pal. whoa now.

    asking hellmut if he had read it had nothing whatsoever to do with my confidence in your reading ability. not at all. i just happen to have corresponded with hellmut for many years and trust his judgment on things, particularly cultural issues related to europe and germany. despite your confidence in official translations, i think that at times words and meanings, while perfectly translated, lose context. sect and cult, for all i know, have vastly different levels of severity in their translated equivalents. relax young pal. i was not insulting you.

    i made no assumption about you lying and for hell’s sake i never accused you of lying. i do think that you, on the other hand, made a huge assumption in your question and its less than subtle accusation.

    john f, you are exactly right about my claims regarding labels, specifically “anti mormon” and the equivalent use of the word “cult.” (despite my own use of the term as you have seen.) this will be a difficult balance to explain.

    cults have been studied and described by many groups, including states and scientists. within certain groups, there are agreed standards for determining what is a cult. admittedly, all those standards are not the same for all groups. it can become very subjective. just as alcoholics anonymous has been described as a cult based on the standards of measurement, i suspect there are certain aspects of mormonism that would meet those same standards.

    i do not think that i have ever ever ever condoned the classification of the church as a harmful sect. if i have, please point that out, please. what i have done is ask – what were the standards that were used in making that determination. if you and others are going to reject the label, i would like to know why. thats all.

    how does it compare to the anti-mormon label? hellifino. there are no standards for that label, other than arbitrary use of the word to describe anyone that wasnt at a mormon church last sunday. oaks described the forces behind the holocaust as being the same that are behind the critics of the church and the forces that chased the mormons out of missouri. so, i suspect anti-mormonism can be anything you want it to be.

    finally, to the top. the legislature.

    john f, you and i do not agree here. that example showed that the legislature would rather let people die than give them an immunization. and the reason they would rather have them die – they might have sex if we give them the vaccine. first of all, its just not proven that sex acts would increase if young women were vaccinated. secondly, while that was not a comprehensive report i posted, you can certainly examine the subject further to see that the judeo-christian, majority mormon representatives in the legislature were greatly biased by their own faith and that of their constituents.

    i am not going to try and convince you of this. i simply point out that legislatures make choices and i consider the choice to not fund a cancer vaccine to be a significantly greater issue than the choice to label a church as a sect (especially when the standards for that label may be harmless.) in fact, one i would say is blatanly evil and potentially fatal and the other is nothing more than a nuisance, even if it is wrong.

    and all this was posted in response to your comparison of utah and germany, which was first suggested in hellmuts post.

    do you understand?

  26. I really enjoyed this discussion. Thanks to John, John, Jay and Ronan. Ronan, I’m particularly glad to hear an English perspective on the Church. I served in the London mission from 99-01. While my memories of the mission itself aren’t what I’d call fond, my love of England and her people remain fond, and I wish I had more of a pipeline to hear more news on the Church in England.

  27. Interesting podcast although I would have like to have heard some discussion about church unit consolidations in SA by Holland and how that is affecting the church and/or FTM program. Maybe some commentary about missionary effectiveness in foreign countries would have been interesting too.

    Sorry, but I can’t fathom that some day GC addresses will be natively spoken in Spanish with English translations. If Spanish speakers make up such a large percentage of membership already, where are the proportionate non-American Spanish speaking GA’s? No disrespect to non-English speakers, but the power of this church is in SLC and that’s where it’s going to forever be. Not that I care either way, but that’s the true reality.


  28. This was a great podcast. One culture I have seen better integrate their traditions into the LDS meeting is the Polynesian culture. While I was visiting Hawaii it was great to hear Aloha at the beginning of people talking. Many folks were wearing sandals. It was a missionary farewell and after the meeting was over the departing missionary stood up front while many of the ward members brought up Lays to drape around his neck.

    I also noticed this visiting New Zealand where even the old tribal Pahs had pictures of the prophets and activities would be held at various pahs. I have heard there is more leeway with saints in Tonga and that they only meet for two hour blocks. Anyone else notice this?

  29. Lip: You are right with power staying in Salt Lake City and in English.

    Notice that today all GA’s from non-english speaking countries (Mexico, Germany, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina,…) deliver their GConference talks in English. Also note that ‘Preach my Gospel’ actually pressures missionaries to learn English during their missions.

    And, although I personally would prefer to see more Area Presidencies made up with locals, I don’t have a problem with the continuation of the US/SLC domination of church power. After all, those who founded the church and gave so much to it and suffered so much in the Mormon exodus and in building a state in the dessert, they actually deserve a lot more than, say, the members who joined the church in the post war era. All the people I know who where baptized in Latin America never went through anything like what the early Mormons did in Missouri or Nauvoo…..-those pioneers where a breed apart. After all being ridiculed for not drinking wine just isn’t the same as losing your kids in the snow in Wyoming or somewhere.

    So those pioneers, I think, have a case in asking God to let the church stay in their descendents hands, the majority of the church or the ‘Power of this Church’ as you put it. Or the opposite could also be true, that God sends most future GA’s to US families to honour the pioneers sacrifices.There may be an odd apostle or two who isn’t a pioneer descendant, like Utchdorf, but the majority will be, for me, at least until the second coming.

  30. Oh, I forgot to mention that those GA who can speak another language, like Elders Scott and Mickelsen, actually record their talks in Spanish themselves for general conference audiences in Spanish language areas. That is they don’t use a translator where possible. Others like Elder Abrea would rush through his talk in Spanish, recorded, and struggle in English in GC. Others such as Elder Nelson uses translators sparingly because his spanish is at an intermediate level (while the ex-missionaries are very good level).

    English is more of the ‘international language’ for the church, as it is for finance and air traffic control and diplomacy etc etc. (must be because English is such a simple and basic language!….j/k…………)

  31. Pingback: By Common Consent » The Gospel Anglosphere

  32. “So, is Mormon Matters dead, or just a victim of John’s overfilled schedule?”

    Seems dead now -since mormon stories keeps going.

    When’s the funeral?

  33. ‘Tis a pity Mormon Matters is dead/on hiatus/in between seasons/gone to sing with the choir eternal.
    I like this podcast about 22 times more than I like Mormon Stories.

  34. I’ve been living abroad for some 27 years now, mostly in Europe (Germany and Italy), but also in Asia (Japan, Cambodia, and Pakistan), and now in Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo). I’m now on my way out of the church, partly from seeing firsthand how the church is definitely NOT a “world church,” as is its claim and hope. (But mostly I’m walking because of the church’s inability to come to terms with its own history.)

    Regarding its inability to perform as a true world church is, I believe, the church’s genuine American history and leadership base, and the Americans’ general (can’t speak for everyone, of course, but trust me on this one) inabilty to function in an international setting, as well as Americans’ generally startling ignorance that there is a world beyond their own borders. And that maybe people think and act differently beyond those borders. Ach, nein! D’oh!, kann das eigentlich wahr sein? Vraiment? Porca madonna! Different languages AND different thought patterns?!

    Obviously I’m waxing cynical, for which I beg forgiveness. But the inability of the American-based square-peg-in-a-round-hole mentality to adopt and to adapt to other cultures, or to consciously prevent the church from adapting to other cultures, as it were, just inserts a great spanner into the works, and causes all kinds of bad feelings. These bad feelings are more openly voiced in other western cultures where people are world-savvy and more prone to speak out. The Germans, for instance, really resented visiting Americans who tried to inflict Utah on Frankfurt, and let everyone know it. The bewildered Congolese just stare blankly.

    It’s so sad on Sundays to see the impoverished and under-educated Congolese trudge though such foreign and contrived territory, and to see–at least on Sundays–their culture snuffed out in order to better squeeze themselves into that oddly shaped hole, all due to a church that values its American roots more than the roots of any others. Dommage. In their weak and vain effort to come off as a “world church,” it’s no wonder people are using the cynical “TSCC.”

    Thanks. You’re very kind.

  35. Pingback: The Gospel Anglosphere « By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog

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