Mormon marriage and Catholic celibacy

"The Roman Catholic Church and the Latter-day Saints (LDS) are working together as never before," was the message from Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City's Temple Square and at Brigham Young University, where I recently delivered an address. Because it places the LDS church within mainstream American religious ecumenism, this cooperation might be a bigger deal for the Mormons than for Catholics. The skeptic suspects this might be only a tactical alliance by bishops anxious to campaign against same-sex marriage with the efficiency of the LDS Church that spent millions for California's Proposition 8. Such motives aside, Mormons have a lot to teach Catholics about emphasizing marriage as a God-given vocation.

Such was not always the case. Catholics are not going to believe that Joseph Smith in the early 19th Century was given a new scriptural revelation in the Book of Mormon. Moreover, the LDS doesn't talk about polygamy in its past anymore than Catholics today talk about clerical pedophilia. But the promise of a successful marriage is central to the Mormon message. It was a key in the 19th Century -- despite the shadows cast by polygamy -- and it remains a basis for LDS success today. It is as if 150 years of aging has produced a fine wine.

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