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Mormonism spreads in Guatemala

July 13, 2004 at 3:28 PM

GUATEMALA CITY, July 13 (UPI) -- Guatemala remains primarily a Catholic country, but Mormon and Protestant denominations are growing, MSNBC reported Tuesday.

"In Latin America these are all churches who have given Catholicism a run for their money," said Manuel A. Vasquez, assistant professor of religion at the University of Florida, Gainesville. "And in large part the success of the Mormon Church in this region is because it is almost like a vicarious enjoyment when you go to church -- you escape the drudgery of every day life. It is almost like a catharsis."

Guatemala's Catholic community is still almost 75 percent of the population, but Protestant denominations and Mormonism have grown substantially since the early 1980s. By 1984, when the Mormon Guatemala City Temple was dedicated, membership had risen to 40,000 and by 1998, membership had quadrupled to 164,000.

According to the Mormon church, there are 12 million members worldwide with 4.5 million members in Latin America alone.

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