This article was originally published in Religious News Service by Jana Reiss. Below is an excerpt.
David Conley Nelson has spent years researching the LDS Church during the Third Reich, resulting in the new book Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany.
Though it’s not officially out until February 26, the book will be launched at Sam Weller’s in Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, February 20.
It’s not right to say I “enjoyed” this book, because it was disturbing to discover how deeply some Mormons bought into Nazi ideology. But it’s required reading for anyone interested in Mormon history and the larger question of a religion’s responsibility to procure justice for the oppressed – even when it means putting that religion’s own institutional advancement at risk. — JKR
RNS: You note in the book that Mormons in the 1930s were not just tolerant of Hitler but downright enthusiastic about his policies, including things like getting rid of brothels and passing laws against homosexuality. Why were Mormons such strong supporters of Nazism?
David Conley Nelson: Ordinary Mormons were ordinary Germans. Hitler was very popular, so they supported the government. There’s nothing unusual about that. But also, the LDS mission presidents recognized the vulnerability that an American-led church had under this dictatorship, and they put together a program to formalize the church’s support of the government. By doing so, they resurrected the 12th Article of Faith, which the Mormons had not obeyed before during their history of missions in Germany. Between 1851 and 1918, Mormons had been banned in a lot of the German states, so to get around that they would register as English teachers, students, or commercial developers instead of as missionaries.
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