Are the Mormons a harmful sectarian organization?

The access to the Belgian territory is scrutinized according to a number of criteria. In April 2000, the Belgian Consulate refused to issue visas for Mormon missionaries to enter the country for missionary work although similar visas had been issued for decades without problems. The Belgian Government explained that this change of policy was an unintended result of the Foreign Worker’s Act of 1999 that required religious workers to obtain work permits before applying for a visa to enter the country for religious work. However, the Act specifically exempted workers for the six recognized religions from this requirement. Mormon missionaries were told that they should reapply for visas after obtaining the appropriate work permits. However, since Mormon missionaries are strictly volunteers who pay their own way and receive no salary or subsidy from the Church, they do not qualify for the required work permit. Negotiations between representatives of the Mormons and the Ministry of Interior, facilitated by the U.S. Embassy, led to a resumption of the issuance of visas in July 2000 under special temporary procedures. Visas are now being issued on a regular basis, although at a much slower pace than in the past. (1)

On 24 October 2000, Mr E. Schewebach, director of the Office for Foreigners, asked the Centre if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was a harmful sectarian organization. Here is the answer that was provided by the Centre on 31 May 2001 (2):

Considering generally that

official reports of the enquiry commissions in Belgium, France, Switzerland (Germany, Canada) do not contain negative elements against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints;

in European countries, so far as the Centre knows, there are no court decisions which condemned the movement on the basis of an offence against the law;

Considering that on some controversial points debated in public

the social and religious control does not seem to be such that all the young members of the Church are obliged to perform a missionary internship during two years. Statistics show that only 33% of the young men and 5% of the young women carry out such a work. According to Mormon internet websites, it is a free choice;

the founding texts of the Church contain statements that can be described as racist but practice shows that these remarks are no longer used (i.e. the attitude towards the "blacks");

the attitude towards woman does not come within the scope of the European and international trend regarding equality between men and women;

on the issue of polygamy, in its early days, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints accepted and promoted its practice and after (sometimes violent) conflicts with the American states, the Church banned polygamy (and its practice) and made it a reason for excommunication. Nevertheless, individuals or dissident movements remain attached to this practice condemned by the Church;

Although in its early days the movement has promoted a clearly theocratic model, the movement has with the time adapted to and fitted into the democratic system of the United States, and other democratic countries;

the official doctrine practises a fundamentalist reading of the founding texts and does not allow historical criticism of the sources (i.e. their opinions on the origin of the world, the rejection of evolutionism, the origin of the movement, the expulsion of some historians from the movement).

On the basis of these findings, the Information and Advice Centre on Harmful Sectarian Organizations believes that, in the present circumstances, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not present a particular risk with regard to article 2 of the 2 June 1998 law creating an Information and Advice Centre on Harmful Sectarian Organizations and an Administrative Agency Coordinating the Fight against Harmful Sectarian Organizations (Moniteur belge/ Official Journal, 25 November 1998).

U.S. Department of State Report 2001

HRWF translation of the advice joined to the Centre Biennial Report 1999-2000