from TIME, AUGUST 11, 1997, VOL. 150, NO. 6


Your article on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was very well done. I have been a Mormon all my life, attending meetings, paying tithes and offerings, teaching children and adults in church classes, etc. We Mormons believe that the sacrifice of worldly goods is an important principle, requiring faith in God as it does, but we also believe in freedom to exercise moral agency--which means, as far as monetary contributions are concerned, each member is free to pay or not. Your report made it seem as if Mormons are under a great deal of pressure to pay their annual 10% tithe. I don't think there is much pressure, other than that of individual conscience, to pay tithes or other contributions.
BLAINE BORROWMAN Midvale, Utah

The Internal Revenue Service should study the Mormon church's use of power and guilt to collect a 10% tithe from its members. The IRS might find out what happens to church members who fall short of the 10%: privileges and positions are withheld; there is no admission to any temple; and they cannot reach the top rank of the three levels of heaven.
TRACY A. BREEDING Denton, Md.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global faith with a message that appeals to those who seek an anchor in a world of shifting values. However, leaders of the church were disappointed that you created a false impression of the church's income and wealth. Your estimates were greatly exaggerated. The church's income is not nearly what was reported. Also the church's assets are primarily money-consuming assets and not money-producing.
BRUCE L. OLSEN, Managing Director Public Affairs Department The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Salt Lake City, Utah

Mormonism isn't a religion; it is a corporate empire. The Kingdom of God comes in a poor second to the riches of this church.
DON RADEMACHER Glendale, Calif.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is wealthy because its people are basically honest, educated, industrious and unselfish. It sends out missionaries to share what its members have with other people. Don't mock that.
GLENN A. HANSEN Chicago

I converted to Mormonism 27 years ago; ultimately, I did not leave the church--it left me. Many of its questionable beliefs and practices are not revealed to converts before baptism. Like every other cult, Mormonism gains psychological control by undermining self-trust. Your photograph of the young celebrant with arms raised and fists clenched says it all. Imagine trying to discuss your personal problems with a guy like that.
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST Salt Lake City, Utah

As a fifth-generation Latter-day Saint, I read with interest your report on the church. It is amusing how the media are so intent on primarily examining the financial holdings of my church. My voluntary tithes and offerings stem from my sincere belief in the divine origins, doctrines and destiny of this religion. The real strength of the Mormon church can be found in what it offers mankind spiritually, not monetarily.
PETER W. MADSEN West Jordan, Utah

Mormons are "nice" only to people who agree with them. I am not a Mormon, but I have countless friends who have been badly hurt by this cultlike faith. Their crime? Daring to want a more sophisticated intellectual life than their religion allows. After being raised in the suffocating sweetness of family and faith, they find themselves cast out, and although they relish their escape and freedom, a part of them will always ache for that absolutist belonging. Next time you write about Mormonism, look at all sides of this unusual, politically powerful and often cruel religion.
SEAN GARDNER Santa Fe, N.M.

Ah, religion--man's answer to his spiritual hunger. Nourish the soul, find truth, find the meaning, find God. All religions seek to lead people through these searches to the ultimate answer. Unfortunately, along the way many religions, including Mormonism, have fallen prey to the "God in a box" syndrome--explanations that reduce the infinite to what mortal minds can comprehend and, possibly, equal. They can call this religion, but spirituality or faith, never!
NANCY SIGLER Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Your story read like a pitch for recruits to the Mormon church. The assertion that Joseph Smith was "a simple farm boy" who was given tablets of ancient scriptural writings that were "taken up again to heaven" cries out for some investigative reporting. And if God speaks directly to the Mormon leaders, why did it take him until 1978, two decades after the start of the civil rights movement and 115 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, to reveal to his chosen people what most others already knew--that racism is wrong?
LARS OPLAND Palmer, Alaska


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