News / USA

    Reality of Mormon Life More Complex Than Romney Image

    Republican candidate Mitt Romney has avoided mentioning his religion for much of the presidential campaign.  But now he is emphasizing the close-knit nature of Mormon families and communities -- in the hope that it will help both him and his faith.

    Iconic temples, a world-famous choir, and clean-cut missionaries sent worldwide by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. But a visit to suburban Salt Lake City shows how members of the church, or Mormons, live out their faith at home.

    Tami Larsen says family is sacred to Latter-Day Saints. "We believe that we will be a family forever not just until death," says Larsen.
     
    The Larsens go every week to church, where even grownups attend Sunday school.

    Mormons spend three hours in church every Sunday. They don't smoke, and don't drink coffee, tea or alcohol.

    But there are rewards.

    This is "Welfare Square" where food is packaged and sent to enormous "Bishops' storehouses." They in turn supply cashier-less supermarkets like this one for families in need.

    Happy occasions can be celebrated  at the main temple in Salt Lake City, or one of many others around the world.

    "This is now the 139th temple," says the church elder William Walker.

    • Cardston, Alberta
    • Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Manhattan, New York, USA
    • Guayaquil, Ecuador
    • Manila, Philippines
    • Trujillo, Peru
    • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • The Hague, Netherlands
    • Seoul, South Korea
    • Salt Lake, Utah, USA
    • Porto Alegre, Brazil
    • Nukualofa, Tonga
    • Mesa, Arizona, USA
    • Melbourne, Australia
    • Washington, DC, USA
    And it was just built in Brigham City. Like all Mormon temples, the lavish interior is supposed to evoke being in heaven. 

    Mormon temples are modeled after the biblical Temple of Solomon. They are considered so sacred that non-Mormons may not set foot inside. But before this temple was dedicated, the public was allowed to visit. Still, they could not take pictures inside.

    Some of the beliefs and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church:

    Scripture - Mormons regard the Christian Bible as the word of God, but have another holy scripture called the Book of Mormon. It talks about Jesus appearing to ancient peoples on the American continent.

    God - Mormons consider Jesus to be Savior and the son of God. However, Mormon chapels do not have crosses because the faith emphasizes the "resurrected Christ."

    Beliefs - Mormons believe all people have a pre-earthly existence with God, and their mortal lives are a test to be able to rejoin Him in the afterlife.

    Worship - Mormons have 139 temples where they hold weddings, posthumous baptisms and endowment ceremonies. However, weekly worship is in a local chapel.

    Practices - Mormons' baptism of deceased ancestors and other non-Mormons has provoked controversy. However, the LDS church says souls in the afterlife are "completely free to accept or reject such a baptism."

    Polygamy - Early followers practiced plural marriage, which was disavowed in 1890 in order for Utah to become a U.S. state. Polygamy continues among some fundamentalist splinter groups.
    These Mormons may look like a portrait of the perfect family  - an image the Romneys also present.

    But church critic Tom Kimball says the reality is more complex.

    "We’re told to have these large families we can’t afford," he says. "And we’re supposed to be happy and supposed to be idealistic, clothes, manicured yards, and when we don’t - and most of us don’t - depression sets in."

    Kimball says the image of the Mormon community that the Romney campaign presents is also not entirely true. Several years ago, he began questioning his church leaders' conservative views.

    "As soon as I start saying 'no, I have a problem, I'm struggling here.' As soon as you start saying 'no' in the echo chamber, things start to come apart quickly," says Kimball.

    He says he is now banned from ceremonially blessing his own children.

    Kimball works at a publishing house that is reexamining early church history, when Mormons practiced polygamy.

    "Mormons from the 19th century and Mormons now could not have a cogent conversation with each other," says Kimball. "They wouldn't even be able to discuss Mormon topics. They would call each other heretics."

    Kimball says the current church leadership is trying hard to align the faith with the American religious mainstream. And it's hard to imagine what would help that effort more than having a Mormon as president of the United States.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.