What is acceptable Mormon music
Encyclopedia of the Dead
Little Cottonwood Canyon, 25 miles southeast of Salt Lake City: The mountains here are popular destinations for skiers and hikers. But hardly anyone knows that Granite Mountain is a unique storage facility for genealogical research. Locked by a 14-ton steel door, the names of over three billion people are stored in a mountain tunnel. Secured on 2.5 million rolls of microfilm, protected from acid rain, radioactive radiation and atomic bomb attacks. The world's largest collection of names helps scientists and amateur genealogists with their research: "If we have a strong family, we have a strong nation," says Tab Thompson of the Salt Lake City Family Search Center, "and if we have a strong nation, then we have one strong world with more peace. " A yellowish painted, earthquake-proof tunnel over 200 meters long leads into the granite mountain. Thousands of archive boxes stand here at 16 degrees Celsius and 30 percent humidity, protected in six underground vaulted rooms.
Almost all European countries are in the process of transferring archive holdings to backup film for posterity as part of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. But apart from Germany and Switzerland there is no one who has an underground storage facility - with the exception of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". This is the official name of the Mormon religious community.
The stored microfilms contain data on deceased people who lived before 1930. Three billion names of all nationalities have been compiled. An encyclopedia of the dead. By children, women and men of all ages and religions. But many Americans are concerned that the Church is influencing politics. According to the independent Salt Lake Tribune, the number of Mormons employees at the CIA is disproportionately high - not least because the Mormons speak many foreign languages through their missionary work abroad. Mormons hold important positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury.
The Genealogy Archive was established in 1894 to assist Church members in their genealogy. Family relationships are sacred to Mormons. But that alone is not the main reason the Mormons created this extensive register. According to their religious teaching, it is possible to subsequently baptize deceased ancestors and to accept them into the Mormon congregation. For this, however, the name, date of birth and death of a person must be known. So the ancestors are brought on the right path by means of baptism in the dead.
"When you research your ancestors, you find support and know that you are part of this world," explains Tab Thompson. The genealogist has been working in Salt Lake City for 22 years. The godly Mormon knows little about his own childhood. Thompson believes he was probably born in Germany and his mother is probably Serbian. After the end of World War II, US Mormons adopted him. Today genealogy for the Church of Jesus Christ is at the center of his life. Thompson, like all of her followers, believes that he will meet his ancestors again after death.
The Mormon name archive is unique in the world and an object of prestige. The research is free. Since 1938, the religious community has been collecting genealogical sources in over 110 countries, copying, evaluating and microfilming the data: birth, marriage and death certificates, census results, court records, property registers, confirmations of inheritance, lists of immigrants, family and city chronicles. This has also been successful in Germany, says Thompson: "We negotiate with the responsible authorities. We check the material and decide what has genealogical value. Then we make proposals for a contract. If that is accepted, we send our people with microfilm cameras and photograph the information. "
Today the archive contains tens of billions of stored data. If they were destroyed by earthquakes, paper crumbling or armed conflict, they would be irretrievably lost. In order to preserve this information in the event of a disaster, the underground Granite Mountain Vault was driven into the mountain in the early 1960s. The extensive construction work lasted six years, financed by the members of the Mormon Church, whose followers give up ten percent of their salary.
Aura of calculated religiosity
Here, in Salt Lake City, the city with the six-towered temple and home to the famous Mormon choir, the religious and political heart of the Church beats. In the convention center, which has an auditorium for 21,000 people, "Music and the spoken word" is broadcast every Sunday morning at 9:30 am on Mormon television, internet and radio. The directing selects individual singers who represent the peaceful coexistence of the races. Almost 50 simultaneous interpreters work in the vaults of the world's largest conference hall. The technical equipment would make any director of a broadcasting company pale. The "spoken word" of a lay preacher consists of literary quotations and Old Testament memorabilia. Everything has the aura of calculated religiosity.
What the Vatican is to Catholics, their tabernacle means to Mormons, a meeting room from 1869. This is where the leadership meets: the twelve apostles and the head chosen from among them. Right now, it's 80-year-old Thomas Spencer Monson who has replaced his recently deceased predecessor, 97-year-old Gordon Hinckley. The apostles consider themselves prophets. Theological decisions for the 13 million members can only be made collectively. This includes occasionally excommunicating Mormons who want to live like they did in the early days - isolated from the outside world, the men with several women. The religious community is conservative and performance-oriented. The Church has made polygamy a criminal offense since 1890, but some people continue to practice it unofficially. Homosexual partnerships, abortions, premarital and extramarital sexuality are rejected.
The name archive is now available to all laypeople - regardless of whether they are Mormons, Christians, Muslims or Hindus. Most visitors come from Europe, says Bärbel Bell from the family search center. As a genealogist, she is interested in ensuring that as many people as possible use the archive, and is thinking about building something similar to Wikipedia, "there you can find documents and other genealogical material".
Almost 2000 people come to the center, which is located in the city center, every day. Only about four percent of the microfilmed data has so far been digitized. The rest is researched by the more than 120 employees - for everyone who is looking for their roots.
In 1830, a farmer's son Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church. To this day, his followers believe that Smith was a prophet. This is not acceptable for Protestants and Catholics. The Mormons and their supposedly secretive organization arouse suspicion among many Americans. The consecrated temples remain closed to non-Mormons. Even the Mormons have to earn their "temple recommend" through a firm belief and an impeccable way of life. Today Mormons are accused less of polygamy than of their persistent solicitation of new members. Critics consider genealogy and missionary work to be suspect. Do you feel like an outsider? "Not really," says Tab Thompson, referring to September 11, 2001: "When the World Trade Center was destroyed and many people lost their lives, people didn't check their bank accounts. Many first wanted to know where their relatives and friends were Friends are. In America we live for the moment, but when it comes down to it, people know there's more to it than the feeling of being entertained. " (Michael Marek / DER STANDARD, print edition, October 25/26, 2008)
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