The Mormon Moment
Boom times for the once-persecuted Latter-day Saints
"The church has migrated from a provincial faith to a faith that can make itself at home in any space and every culture," said Jan Shipps, professor emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
Growth is strongest today in Latin America and West Africa-- ironic since blacks were not allowed to join the Mormon priesthood (a term used for virtually all male church members) until 1978.
"In those places it is a period of rapid cultural and economic change, and when that happens, there's always an openness to new movements," said Armand Mauss, professor emeritus of sociology and religion at Washington State University.
But growth brings its own challenges, and during these boom times, Mormons are debating everything from the place of dissent in their community to the long-term prospects for success of the Church's international missionary efforts.
Appealing to and making room for a worldwide following has been one challenge facing this quintessentially American church.
"One of the problems that the church has been coping with for some time is how it can disassociate itself from American culture and the American way of life and American foreign policy without denouncing those things," Mauss said.