By Jonathan D. Brown,Associated PressAssociated PressAUSTIN — With its mission to bring faith to the world, the Church is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, but it is facing its own challenges.
The church has become a target for critics, especially in recent years over how it treats gays, transgender people and other members of its largely white, male, evangelical congregation.
But its followers are finding new ways to live their faith in a world that often excludes many who don’t share its values, and some of those challenges may be on the horizon for a church that has been under fire for its handling of sexual abuse scandals.
For example, the church was a pioneer in pioneering and promoting LGBTQ equality in the U.S. but has since been a pioneer among some in the world of faith-based activism, with a growing number of faith groups and social movements embracing LGBTQ equality.
Some of those efforts are under way, however, and church leaders have made it clear that the church will not tolerate hate speech or discrimination of any kind.
Still, there are some areas where the church is making progress.
Last year, the U,S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a program to educate its 1.5 million members on LGBT issues, including the importance of respecting people’s religious freedom.
And the U.,S.
Supreme Court recently said that the UCC can continue to offer marriage equality to same-sex couples.
It’s been difficult to see where the churches progress in this regard will be reflected in their future efforts to combat discrimination and promote tolerance, said Laura Wesseling, a professor of church history at the University of North Texas and a former director of the church’s Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Studies.
The LDS Church in particular has struggled with some of the same problems it faced as a result of its history with slavery.
The church is considered a Christian denomination, but the history of its relationship to slavery, including its treatment of its black members, is controversial.
It was the first African-American church in the nation to formally acknowledge slavery, and the church also faced intense criticism when the church made public a letter from an overseer in 1851 that called black men to “repent and be converted” by marrying white women.
But many black people, including some who were members of the original church, were deeply offended by the statement.
That letter also said the church would “not permit its members to commit acts of rebellion” in defense of slavery.LDS leaders have since changed their stance, and it is no longer necessary for black members to repent for slavery to be allowed to join the church.
But some African-Americans have said that if they join the LDS church, they must renounce their slavery roots in order to be part of the faith.
Latter-day Saint churches and their congregations have historically had a very different history on slavery than some other religious denominations, said William Ritchie, author of the book “Slavery, Religion and the Black Church: The Untold Story.”
“In some ways, they’ve always been more tolerant than others,” he said.
For instance, the LDS Church has been outspoken in defending the church against criticism for its treatment, even as other Christian denominations have tried to distance themselves from its history of slavery and racism.
The Rev. George Gissler, a leader of the LDS faith, has defended his church’s history of anti-black racism, calling it a part of American history.
The LDS Church’s president, David O. McKay, has spoken out against racial segregation in the church and condemned the ULCB’s letter.
And members of other faiths have been outspoken about how they feel about LDS racism, said Matthew J. Grant, a Mormon historian who wrote the book about the church, “Saints in Black and White: The Mormons of the South in the Age of Jim Crow.”
For example: In 2007, a prominent LDS historian, David M. Martin, published a book on the church that argued that the Mormon church was founded on a “set of false, racist and sexist assumptions.”
Mormon historian David M Martin, left, and former church historian David B. Haynes discuss the church at a press conference in 2015.
Martin’s book, “A History of the Mormon Church: A Study in Black America,” was criticized for its conclusions.
(AP Photo/David E. Klutho)Some of that criticism has come from people who were part of other religious groups, including black members.
In 2006, a black Mormon scholar named Michael W. Nelson published a history of the UMC called “The Mormons in the South,” which concluded that the Mormons in South Carolina “held a deeply prejudiced and racist view of black people” and that the state’s “white supremacist