The purpose of commentaries on MormonNewsroom.org is to deepen conversations surrounding the Church, explain Latter-day Saint teachings and practices, and contextualize Mormon interactions with the broader society. These official commentaries are intended for a variety of audiences, including journalists, academics, opinion leaders and Church members in general.
Unity in Diversity, 25 March 2015
Can a church be unified and diverse at the same time? In a global world like ours, where people exchange ideas and culture easier than ever, the better question may be “How can a church survive without unity and diversity?” Far from a contradiction, the two complement each other, like sides of a coin.
The Humanitarian Impulse, 21 January 2015
The mettle of religious conviction is tested by how we respond to suffering. Human beings have a natural impulse to help those in need. And whether the problem is poverty, hunger or disease, people of faith feel a particular call to serve. Faith-based aid workers put a spiritual shine of meaning and care on their work. They create conditions for solidarity and empathy that outlast any practical good. This effort saves lives and eases suffering but also brings people together and increases social trust.
In Honor of Human Rights, 10 December 2014
In 1948 a document graced the world that set new horizons for human relations. It is called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was the first global expression of its kind. Leaders from different nations, cultures, religions and political systems came together to establish standards of humaneness that apply to everyone, everywhere. Every person, regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality, possesses fundamental rights simply by being human. These rights move us beyond the harmful idea that might makes right and play a vital role in managing the conflicts and differences so prevalent in our pluralistic world.
The Voice of Religious Conscience, 25 November 2014
In the end, our conscience is all we have. Everything else — material possessions, social status, wealth — can be taken away. But the beliefs and values that constitute our moral compass, the invisible space in our hearts that separates right from wrong, the meaning we attach to life and the internal goad that compels us to share our vision are the things that give us dignity. Without them, our other freedoms have little meaning.
Difference and Dignity, 24 October 2014
Societies are full of interest groups, political camps, cultural factions and religious organizations advancing their own vision of the good. And when we all have our own say, communities are better for it. Engaging our differences makes life harder, but also more worth living. We find meaning in human connection when we climb out of ourselves and discover the dignity of others, even if we disagree.
Civil Society and the Church, 19 September 2014
Drive through any city and you’ll see steeples or domes aspiring in the skyline. These houses of worship have a way of both standing out and fitting in. They join charities, associations, clubs and other nonprofit organizations in forming the voluntary sphere of life. It’s called a civil society and does a lot of the heavy lifting in communities.
Why Religion Matters: The Ground We Walk On, 22 May 2014
Every day we walk on ground we seldom notice. It’s just there, underneath us, supporting our feet as we go about our days learning, working and worshiping. Though often unseen, the ground of our lives is full of religious meaning.
Why Religion Matters: The Salt of Society, 24 April 2014
Religion seasons the interactions between strangers, adds flavor to our civic relations and preserves the dear things of our common existence. To be the salt of society means to savor its success.
Why Religion Matters: The Twinned Life of Family and Faith, 28 March 2014
The fortunes of family and faith will continue to ebb and flow, as they have in various periods throughout history, but experience shows they will do so joining hands. As the one rises or falls, so will the other. But the course of history is not predetermined; it is chosen. And those choices have long trajectories.
Why Religion Matters: Making Selves Out of Others, 7 March 2014
In this age of falling trust and social disintegration, a return to the sacred commitments of congregations will make our communities more cohesive. When the fabric of society begins to fray, religion with its layered threads of social capital can help bind it together.
Why Religion Matters: The Longing Within, 10 February 2014
Our modern world offers more choices and possibilities than ever before. Science and technology continually expand our knowledge, and the diversity of religious worldviews keeps growing. But in the end we remain the same spiritual creatures. Religion provides a space where purpose and meaning can be sought, found and passed on.
The Relevance of Religion, 25 July 2013
The broader questions of religion get lost in narrow cultural divisions. What does religion mean in the actual lives of people? What role does religion play in forming communities? And how do religious beliefs address life’s most difficult problems? Such matters cannot be reduced to mere politics; they are perennial concerns, deeply interwoven in humanity’s rich fabric.
We hear it all the time: “The family is the basic unit of society.” But do we, as a society, really think about what that means? The bonds between husband and wife, parents and children, are so firmly planted in history and experience that we often take them for granted — until, as happens from time to time, those bonds break down.
The Mormon Ethic of Community, 16 October 2012
A characteristic commonly attributed to Latter-day Saints is that they take care of their own. Though generally accepted as a compliment, this tells only half the story. Mormons look outward as well. The practice of cooperation among the Mormon people is being extended to larger communities and faith groups.
The Church and Its Financial Independence, 12 July 2012
The Church exists to improve the lives of people across the world by bringing them closer to Jesus Christ. The assets of the Church are used in ways to support that mission. Buildings are built for members to come together to worship God and to be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries are sent to invite people to come to Christ. Resources are used to provide food and clothing for the needy and to provide ways for people to lift themselves up and be self-reliant. What is important is not the cost but the outcome.
Mormon and Modern, 6 July 2012
Mormons welcome truth from whatever source and take the pragmatic view that where religion and science seem to clash, it is simply because there are insufficient data to reconcile the two. Latter-day Saints approach such tensions as challenges to learn, not contradictions to avoid.
What Religious Freedom Requires of Us, 26 March 2012
Religious freedom is as much a duty toward others as it is a right for oneself.
How Religion is Vital to Society, 12 March 2012
Religion is essential to a vibrant, democratic society.
Why Religious Freedom Matters to Mormons, 20 February 2012
Religious freedom is both a lesson of Mormons’ history and a principle of their faith.
Why We Need Religious Freedom, 3 February 2012
Religious freedom, or freedom of conscience, is critical to the health of a diverse society.
What Religious Freedom Means, 23 January 2012
Religious freedom is a fundamental freedom that runs deeper and reaches farther than many realize.
An Introduction to Religious Freedom, 3 January 2012
For many people in the world, there are few things more precious than freedom. Freedom — the power to live as one would choose — is one of the great sources of human dignity. Exercising freedom correctly is also one of the great responsibilities that humans hold. We continue to grapple with how to define our freedoms, how to understand them, and how they should be both cultivated and tempered. At the heart of these questions, we find one of the most fundamental of all freedoms: freedom of religion.
Divine Revelation in Modern Times, 12 December 2011
The idea that God communicates with mankind challenges some modern sensibilities. A distant God, the thinking goes, is a safe God. And though many religious people believe God spoke to prophets in antiquity, they often limit divine revelation to the past. This puts members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a unique position. Mormons believe “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and … that He will yet reveal many great and important things.”
Christianity: Following Jesus in Word and Deed, 3 November 2011
Anyone familiar with the history of Christianity knows that it has been quite a complicated matter. The word “Christian” was first used during New Testament times to describe the disciples who accepted the message and redemption of Jesus Christ. Now after two millennia, Christianity has weathered centuries of change and experienced periods of growth, persecution, reformation, schism, globalization and more. As a result, questions about who should be called a Christian and who should not continue to be discussed by some within the religious world.
Permanent Things: Toward an Understanding of Mormons, 27 June 2011
In this shifting religious environment it is easy to talk of the fleeting and superficial rather than the deeper foundations of spiritual life. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand their message to be the full gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Bible and other scriptures. What transcendent ideals do they aspire to? How do their beliefs answer the needs of contemporary religious seekers concerned about the great, permanent questions of human life?
Religious Values in the Public Square, 15 December 2010
The issue of religious participation in the public square is essentially a debate about the first principles of civic life: the coexistence between competing human interests, the self-determination of religious communities, the autonomy of individual conscience and the accommodation of diverse beliefs and opinions in public debate. The way we respond to these challenges establishes the parameters of civic interactions and sets the boundaries of our collective and individual identities.
The Diverse Voices of Mormonism, 28 September 2010
Close observers of the Church including scholars, journalists and bloggers have also begun to comment on a new phenomenon: the fact that Mormon membership, at least in the United States, appears to have reached a kind of critical mass. In fact, there are now roughly as many Mormons in the United States as Jews, although Mormon demographics are decidedly younger. Individual Mormon voices — or, rather, the voices of many diverse individuals who also happen to be Mormon — are increasingly heard.
Journalistic Integrity and the Compartmentalization of Ethics, 17 November 2009
An informed citizenry, it is often said, is the bulwark of democracy. The basic principles of journalistic integrity – objectivity in reporting, detachment from personal bias, and disinterested duty to the truth – are essential in facilitating public trust and civil discourse. All individuals and institutions, including churches, share an interest in contributing to these worthy goals.
The Mormon Ethic of Civility, 16 October 2009
So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture — ubiquitous media, anonymous and unsourced online participation, politicization of the routine, fractured community and family life — undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible. The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. Civility, then, becomes the measure of our collective and individual character as citizens of a democracy.
“A Record Kept”: Constructing Collective Memory, 11 June 2009
It is in the interests of the Church to play a constructive role in advancing the cathartic powers of honest and accurate history. In doing so, the Church strives to be relevant to contemporary audiences that operate under changing cultural assumptions and expectations. A careful, yet bold presentation of Church history, which delves into the contextual subtleties and nuances characteristic of serious historical writing, has become increasingly important. If a religion cannot explain its history, it cannot explain itself.
The Publicity Dilemma, 9 March 2009
Like other large faith groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes finds itself on the receiving end of attention from Hollywood or Broadway, television series or books, and the news media. Sometimes depictions of the Church and its people are quite accurate. Sometimes the images are false or play to stereotypes. Occasionally, they are in appallingly bad taste.
Community Life, 28 January 2009
Throughout earth’s history, humans have always organized themselves into communities of one kind or another. Joseph Smith understood that communities not only provide essential protection from danger, access to vital resources, and opportunities to develop human potential but also help define the core values and central identity of their respective members.
The Divine Institution of Marriage, 13 August 2008
Marriage between a man and a woman is central to the plan of salvation. The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation – to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world – is sacred and precious. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family and thereby weakens the social fabric. Strong families serve as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization.
Everyone Else Makes Such Lonely Heavens, 4 August 2008
The New Testament states unequivocally that, besides Jesus Christ, “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” And yet hundreds of millions of souls, probably the majority of all who have ever lived, were never taught about Christianity and perhaps never so much as heard the name of Jesus Christ. Are these millions of souls lost for the eternities? If so, can God be considered just, let alone merciful?
Proportion and Perspective on Polygamy Reporting, 10 July 2008
Distinctions matter, especially when a term like Mormon has come to mean a very specific thing to the public. Mormon is commonly used to describe a Mormon temple, Mormon missionaries or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These images have long been ingrained in the public consciousness. But when the term Mormon is stretched out of proportion to apply to any group, however large or small, aspiring to establish a church in the tradition of Joseph Smith, only confusion ensues.
The Grand Enterprise of Mormonism, 8 July 2008
The enterprise of Mormonism goes far beyond any passing media narrative or sensation of the moment. It aims higher by seeking to explain the ultimate questions of existence: what it means to be a human being and what it means to belong to the larger human family.
Protecting the Church’s Identity, 26 June 2008
Despite its rapid growth and increasing social prominence, The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints remains obscure in many ways to many people. In a world of multiple religions, it is natural for a busy public to mistake one for another. However, this does not mean that such mistakes should continue to be perpetuated without being challenged. In fact, maintaining the integrity of the Church’s identity requires constant attention.
Who Are the Mormons?, 19 June 2008
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, can be found at every level of society — in business and agriculture, education and the sciences, political parties and government, the entertainment industry and news media.
The Religious Experience of Mormonism, 1 June 2008
The religious experience of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on a spiritual witness from God that inspires both heart and mind, creating an interpersonal relationship directly with the divine. It does not require one to pass a rigorous theological test. Nor does it demand the extreme self-denial and seclusion of asceticism. Rather, this unique individual experience unfolds in the natural course of everyday living. Thus, the beliefs of Latter-day Saints are not rooted in concepts and principles, detached from the realities of life. They are grounded in a much deeper level of experience that motivates individuals to action.
Polygamy Then and Now, 5 May 2008
As thoughtful historians know, a serious study of history does not impose contemporary understandings and sensibilities onto an interpretation of earlier time periods.
Respect for Diversity of Faiths, 18 April 2008
Interfaith cooperation does not require doctrinal compromise. Though the Church asserts its ecclesiastical independence and recognizes its doctrinal differences, this does not prevent it from partnering with other faiths in charitable projects. These efforts are based on universal values. Latter-day Saints accept all sincere believers as equals in the pursuit of faith and in the great work of serving humanity.
Reverence for the Bible, 25 January 2008
The Church reveres the Bible as a sacred volume of scripture. Latter-day Saints cherish its teachings and engage in a lifelong study of its divine wisdom.
Looking Beyond Statistics: The Souls Behind the Numbers, 16 January 2008
In an age when so many aspects of life are measured by statistical formulas and metrics, the incalculable value of the human dimension — devotion, dedication, compassion — is often overlooked and underappreciated. How does this relate to statistics gathered by churches? It is impossible to fully measure the faith and commitment of any person of faith by statistics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes its statistics seriously but does not treat them as an end in themselves.
A Mormon Worldview, 8 January 2008
While so often the debate about Mormonism centers around the peculiar and controversial on the one hand and the banal and unimaginative on the other, Latter-day Saints are animated by a much grander vision of life. Journalists often ask what differentiates Latter-day Saints but rarely investigate what inspires, motivates and moves them. The transcendent side of Mormonism cannot be captured by caricature and stereotype.
Of Chapels and Temples: Explaining Mormon Worship Services, 15 November 2007
To account for the diversity of religious experience, many religions have traditionally made space in their worship practices for the public and the private, the common and the sacred, the routine and the exceptional, the wide and the narrow. Like other Christians, Latter-day Saints attend church every Sunday in chapels throughout the world. In addition to regular Sunday worship, Latter-days Saints also worship in temples.
Publicizing Good Works, 9 November 2007
Faced with the dilemma between publicizing the good works of its humanitarian efforts on the one hand and appearing self-promotional on the other, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attempts to find a balance and walk that fine line.
“Mormon Studies” and the Value of Education, 2 November 2007
The Church encourages a deeper and broader examination of its theology, history and culture on an intellectual level, and this is a wonderful opportunity to expand open dialogue and conversation between the Latter-day Saints and various scholarly and religious communities.
Real Differences, Real Similarities and Biblical Christianity, 11 October 2007
There are real doctrinal differences between Mormons and other Christians. But the fact that Latter-day Saints accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of all mankind, shows that there’s common ground for all Christians to occupy together.
Looking Beyond the Surface: A Scholar’s View on Mormonism, 5 October 2007
When only glancing at the surface of Latter-day Saint beliefs and the commitment of its members, some people see something curious, different and unusual. But those who look deeper into that very same set of beliefs can find understanding and satisfying explanations.
Approaching Mormon History, 5 July 2007
Since the birth and growth of the Church has taken place right before the public’s eyes these past two centuries, it cannot escape public scrutiny. Nevertheless, this scrutiny does not require that the Church compromise or hide from its history. Far from being a liability, Mormons view their history as one of the Church’s greatest assets.
Positioning Mormon Doctrine – How Mormons See Themselves, 15 June 2007
Covering the nuances of religious belief in the news media is no easy task. But it’s even more difficult when the doctrines of a faith group are reported and compared against some other set of beliefs, often with an overtone of conflict or controversy. In those cases, the very real impact of doctrine as a guidepost in the lives of believers is almost always lost.
Approaching Mormon Doctrine, 4 May 2007
The Church welcomes inquisitiveness, but the challenge of understanding Mormon doctrine is not merely a matter of accessing the abundant information available. Rather, it is a matter of how this information is approached and examined. The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context, and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them.
The Mormon Moment, 12 April 2007
Polls show that the public knows little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while Mormons themselves feel the church they belong to is not the same church they often hear and read about. This unfortunate reality need not persist.
An Invitation to Journalists, 26 March 2007
There is much valuable material and good scholarship available about the Church, but there is an enormous amount that ranges from the merely dubious to simple anti-Mormon polemics. In addition, all reporters face the challenge of deciding whether to define Latter-day Saints only in terms of their contrasts with other Christian faiths, or whether they should also include beliefs and practices by which Mormons define themselves.