We are entirely normal people

translator note: not being familiar with Mormonese, there may be mistranslations with the jargon, such as "stake" or "temple certificate."

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
Interview with their Mannheim stake public relations person. Before the Olympics the "SZ" started a series whose first part involved the Mormons, especially the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. There were several reactions. Frank Heckmann (43), public relations representative of the Mannheim stake (like a diocese), answered questions from critics of the church.

Saabrueck, Germany
February 9, 2002
Saarbrücker Zeitung

Question: The Vatican has described your church as a sect, the Evangelical Church as an American neo-religion. What is your church really?

Heckmann: We are entirely normal people. We stress family life. We are a Christian church that has the status of "corporation of public rights" in Germany. We believe that after the apostle's death Jesus changed some of his teachings and the apostolic authority went away. In the 19th century the Church of Jesus Christ was re-established in its original form, as a continuation of the original church. We emphasize personal values like honesty, loyalty, readiness to help and moral purity.

Question: There are many statements from sect commissioners about the acquisition of the temple certificate and the temple ceremony. Former members of your church claim that until 1990 there was even the threat of death within the church if a baptismal candidate were to reveal details of the ceremony. Is that right?

Heckmann: No, there never was anything like the threat of the death penalty. The Church from the beginning took the view that a church punishment may never touch body, life or possessions, but could only be limited to the curtailment of church rights like the taking of Holy Communion or the right of voting in church decisions. We have congregation buildings and temples. While community events and worship services take place in the congregation buildings, which exist in ever major German city, the temple is reserved for holy actions, such as marriage for instance, which according to our belief continues after death. Of the over 100 temples worldwide, there are two in Germany. We do not talk about the temple ceremony outside the temple because it is holy to us.

Question: What are the basic differences from the major churches?

Heckmann: Those who want to be members of the Church have to believe in Christ and must be ready to convert and be baptized. We perform baptism by complete submersion of people who are capable of making decisions. Infants are not baptized. We believe that today there are living prophets and apostles of Christ. We are a revelation religion and believe that every person has the right to receive revelation and inspiration for his life from God.

Question: Your church, which first appeared in the 19th century has held a "baptism for the dead" for Martin Luther. Do you actually believe that people who are dead can still be baptized.

Heckmann: Yes, that comes from 1 Corinthians, chapter 15:29. We believe that all people continue to live after death and will resurrect. The Bible says that baptism is a condition of salvation. In the event people were not baptized on earth, then others can do it for them vicariously. But we believe that the deceased can accept or refuse this before his resurrection.

Question: Your members are indeed among the living and are on earth. Your Church uses high technical standards, but the young missionaries are encouraged not to use television or cell phones. Why?

Heckmann: The are supposed to dedicate themselves entirely to their missionary work and mature in it.

Question: The aggressive appearance of some missionaries is undisputed. Sect commissioners of the Catholic and Evangelical Churches report of complaints of severe harassment. How do you justify this procedure by which a clear "no" from the person address is not immediately respected?

Heckmann: I can't encourage that sort of thing. We all make mistakes. The problem is the translation of theory into practice. Next to the right to life, our highest human blessing is free will to make a decision. That should include missionaries.

Question: Those who become members have to give ten percent of their income. What does your church do with all the money?

Heckmann: We use 50 percent of the income for charitable purposes. The church teaches responsibility for self, avoidance of debt and personal foresight. We have created a welfare program to give people work so that they can have a sense of self-worth in that they can take care of their health and finances. We are also active as volunteers and want to be good neighbors. Volunteer service and community presence is part of our religion. In Utah we have, despite an larger than normal number of children, the lowest child poverty rate.

Question: How do you resolve the fact that the worldwide scandal about the acquisition of Mormon city Salt Lake City has been connected with your church?

Heckmann: I am affected by that. But this is about misconduct of individuals, some of whom are not even members of the Church, and I would like to mention here that the journalist who discovered the scandal is also a member of our church.

Question: During the Olympic winter games your church will have many opportunities worldwide to get coverage. In Germany your church has only 36,000 members, which is barely 0.5 percent of the population. Do you expect this to help with the missionary work?

Heckmann: Maybe now people will take the time to listen to us to learn about what our church offers.

interview by Guenther Wettlaufer

German Scientology News