The Mormon Stem-Cell Choir

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 3 2001 3:00 AM

The Mormon Stem-Cell Choir

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Again, theology explains the difference in emphasis and the importance that Mormons, as opposed to Catholics, have attached to opposing same-gender marriages in California and elsewhere. Where Catholics see the priestly life of celibacy as valid and holy, Mormons view marriage between a man and woman as necessary to progress in the eternal world after death—and part of a God-given commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.

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Mormons and Catholics also differ on Bush's plan to fund faith-based social service organizations. The Conference of Catholic Bishops is pushing the Bush plan, whereas Hinckley voiced skepticism that federal money would come without strings attached and declared that the LDS Church would not seek to participate. The string problem surfaced recently when the Salvation Army, hoping to get some of the money, nevertheless sought an exemption from state laws that prohibit discrimination against gays. The Mormons' aversion to such church-state entanglements doesn't stem from their views about sexuality. It stems from their persecution in the 19th century, their escape to the West, and their success at running their own welfare program modeled on LDS teachings.

As they prepare for the spotlight of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Hinckley and other LDS leaders have been emphasizing what they have in common with the rest of the Christian world. The outreach isn't always reciprocated. In July, the Vatican declared that Mormons, unlike Protestants, must be rebaptized when they convert to Catholicism. A spokesman for the LDS Church, which requires rebaptism of all converts, said that the Mormons took no offense. As the stem-cell debate illustrates, the two churches won't always see eye to eye. And the Mormons won't always be the losers.

Drew Clark is a senior writer at National Journal'sTechnology Daily.