Why it’s time for the Mormon Church to revisit its diverse past

Religion News Service | 2/23/2012 | Benjamin Park
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(The Conversation) In an era where traditional church attendance has declined and the fastest-growing religious affiliation in America is the “nones” – those who claim no affiliation with an organized faith – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued to expand.

This growth in the LDS Church, commonly called the Mormons, is largely a result of the increasing numbers in the predominantly white congregations, as well as a large number of new Latino converts. Elsewhere, Mormon conversion rates have noticeably declined.

Perspective - Scholar - American - History - Streams

From my perspective as a scholar of American religious and political history, these two streams for growth signify a crucial tension at the heart of the Mormon experience: The Mormon community is struggling to keep its cultural identity while embracing multiple racial, ethnic and national backgrounds.

Cultural diversity has long been a part of the American experience. In the early 1850s, Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, found that an increasing number of converts to the LDS faith, mostly European immigrants, were having a hard time grasping the English language.

Brigham - Young

Brigham Young.

It was a dilemma indicative of an age of globalization. Of the total Utah population in 1880, around 60 percent came from immigrant families. The question before Young was, how could the Mormon people retain cultural solidarity as they became more diverse?

Young - Solution - Language - Path - Assimilation

Young’s solution was to reform the written language, so as to make the path of assimilation easier. In 1854, he announced that church leaders had “formed a new Alphabet,” which they believed would “prove highly beneficial” to foreign converts.

The resulting 38-character phonetic scheme, which they called the Deseret Alphabet, was an attempt to accommodate the faith’s European reach. But there were substantial costs for translating and reprinting necessary texts. And further, the language was never fully embraced outside the Church’s...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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