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It would be tempting to assign the Mormons' success in business to some aspect of their theology. The absence of original sin might be seen as allowing them to move confidently and guiltlessly forward. But it seems more likely that both Mormonism's attractiveness to converts and its fiscal triumphs owe more to what Hinckley terms "sociability," an intensity of common purpose (and, some would add, adherence to authority) uncommon in the non-Mormon business or religious worlds. There is no other major American denomination that officially assigns two congregation members in good standing, as Mormonism does, to visit every household in their flock monthly. Perhaps in consequence, no other denomination can so consistently parade the social virtues most Americans have come around to saying they admire. The Rev. Jeffrey Silliman, of the same Presbyterian group that made the heresy charge, admits that Mormons "have a high moral standard on chastity, fidelity, honesty and hard work, and that's appealing."

There are limits to Mormon sociability. In 1993 the church capped a harsh campaign of intellectual purification against dozens of feminists and dissidents with the excommunication of D. Michael Quinn, a leading historian whose painstaking work documented Smith's involvement with the occult and church leaders' misrepresentation of some continued polygamy in the early 1900s. The current crackdown, some analysts believe, stems from fears of loss of control as the church becomes more international. Most think it will get worse if, as is likely, the church's hard-line No. 3 man, Boyd Packer, someday becomes President. Some wonder how the strict Mormon sense of hierarchy, along with the church's male-centered, white-dominated and abstemious nature, will play as the faith continues to spread past the naturally conservative mountain states.

Yet it is hard to argue with Mormon uniformity when a group takes care of its own so well. The church teaches that in hard times, a person's first duty is to solve his or her own problems and then ask for help from the extended family. Failing that, however, a bishop may provide him or her with cash or coupons redeemable at the 100 bishops' storehouse depots, with their Deseret-brand bounty. The largesse is not infinite: the system also includes 97 employment centers, and Mormon welfare officials report that a recipient generally stays on the dole between 10 and 12 weeks, at an average total cash value of $300. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the system is its funding, which does not, as one might expect, come out of tithes. Rather, once a month, church members are asked to go without two meals and contribute their value to the welfare system. The fast money is maintained and administered locally, so that each community can care for its own disadvantaged members.

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