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Three kinds of Mormons? Catholic priest is one kind of wrong

Published April 27, 2012 12:24 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This so-called "Mormon moment" has spawned lots of stories by folks who consider themselves experts on the Utah-based faith but may know very little.Take the case of Father Dwight Longenecker, priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, S.C.In a column posted at Catholic Online, the good father asks if "Mitt's Mormonism matters"?He starts by dividing the 14 million members in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into three categories: maniac, moderate and modernist.The maniacs, Longenecker writes, are "weird extremists" like convicted pedophile/polygamist FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. Note to Catholic columnists: Most Mormons do not consider Jeffs and the other "wide-eyed and wild fundamentalists" to be Mormons at all. They have, in fact, been barred from the Utah-based church to which Romney belongs.The moderates, he says, are nondrinking, tithe-paying followers of every edict given by church leaders who ask no questions about the faith's "laundered version of Mormon history."By contrast, Longenecker writes, modernist Mormons eschew the supernatural in favor of being "nice people, having good manners, helping the poor and doing good. ...This is the Mormonism of smiling families in slick advertising campaigns, clean-cut all-American values and an apple pie utopian dream of America as the prosperous and peaceful promised land."Modernist, he insists, is where Romney finds himself. And, given such logic, that is why the candidate's faith doesn't matter because, well, "it's not really a religion. It's a set of table manners. It's a part of a respectable facade."Sorry, Father. Those categories don't work for observers with a better sense of the Mormon population.If you want to come closer to understanding Latter-day Saints, check out Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby's "Five Kinds of Mormons."

They are: liberal Mormons, genuine Mormons, conservative Mormons, orthodox Mormons and Nazi Mormons.Those categories may exist in Catholicism, too, but Kirby would be unlikely to make such a claim.Peggy Fletcher Stack