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Mormons in media drive

The long-standing controversy surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith, better known as Mormons, could soon be over, thanks to a new initiative.

In what is by far the religion’s first major move to open themselves up to the general Ugandan public, Mormons have launched a website www.mormonnewsroom.ug which will publish all there is to know about the faith.

“This is now our official resource forum for anybody who seeks to find anything about the Mormon Church and its activities in Uganda,” said the church’s Director of Public Affairs Africa Southeast, Sean Donnelly, during the launch ceremony held at their Kololo church last week.

The religion, which came to Uganda in the late 1980s, has been accused of blasphemy. Mormon followers, nonetheless, insist they are Christians and believe in Jesus Christ as saviour. But they also believe in the teachings of the book of Mormon, a publication not recognized by other Christian denominations.

Donnelly said the website would throw more light on such and more controversies like the church’s view on the same gender attraction, racism, and their humanitarian drives among other issues that have accompanied the church since its founding in 1830 by an American named Joseph Smith. Smith is hailed as a prophet by Mormon followers.

“This is our answer to the growing global interest in the Mormon Church and its practices,” Donnelly explained. “We call upon Ugandan journalists and the general public to visit the website and get credible information about us.”

Although the church boasts over 400,000 followers across the African continent, they have only been running websites in two countries – South Africa and Kenya – keeping millions of Africans in the dark about the faith.

“Most of the websites and other resource centres we run are for our internal use. But now we are opening up ourselves to the Ugandan community,” said the head of the Uganda mission, Eric Jackson, whom believers refer to as ‘President’.

The website is, indeed, a vibrant resource centre, boasting of many informative features including video streaming, photos, news, articles and the church’s humanitarian projects.

Mormon life

Mormon faithfuls live a strict life of pureness and charity. The faith has a strong stance against cohabiting, alcoholism, pre-marital sex and homosexuality. Officials said Mormons have spearheaded multimillion dollar rehabilitation programmes for some of the world’s deadliest disasters including the 2004 Asian tsunami and New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina. But there are speculations about their source of wealth.

“Our money comes from tithe and farming. We have some of the largest farmlands in North America,” Jackson told guests, revealing Mormon believers spend the bigger part of their lives doing charity work.

He added: “We are very cooperative when it comes to giving aid. We work hand in hand with other agencies and religions mostly Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists.”

Coming to Uganda

The first Mormon convert in Uganda is believed to have been baptised in Lake Victoria in 1991. Previously, they had been to South Africa, Kenya and DRC among other few African countries. There are now over 12,000 Mormon believers in Uganda, with a total of 27 churches across the country. The number is on an increase, thanks to the work of young missionaries who trek the country spreading the gospel.

The young foot soldiers, however, usually face hostility from locals. But church bosses are optimistic the website will ease the boys’ work.

pkamukama@observer.ug

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