The Mormon Land newsletter is a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whether preached from the pulpit or buzzed about on the back benches. Want Mormon Land in your inbox? Subscribe here.
This week’s podcast: The quest for gender equity
In her 2014 book, “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact,” Neylan McBaine examined the roles of Mormon women in their congregations and suggested paths toward more gender equity within the global faith.
Why not, for instance, have teenage girls hold the microphone at testimony meetings? How about letting young women take part in what was then called visiting teaching? Why shouldn’t mothers be allowed to hold their infants during formal baby blessings at church? And why aren’t husband-and-wife teams who oversee LDS missions co-presidents?
Well, some changes have occurred since the release of McBaine’s book. Lots of others, she says, are needed.
Hear her thoughts on feminism, Ordain Women, the Mormon #MeToo moment and more in the latest edition of “Mormon Land.”
Gay marriage is gaining LDS converts
Steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage may still be the position from the pulpit, but the views from Mormon pews are shifting — fast. A new Public Religion Research Institute poll shows opposition among Latter-day Saints to gay marriage, legalized in all 50 states in 2015, has dropped 15 percentage points — from 68 percent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2017. And that trend is expected to continue. After all, 52 percent of younger Mormons, ages 18 to 29, support allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.
Online sites now off limits at church
So, you’re sitting in sacrament meeting. The speaker, to your mind, is starting to drone on and on. Perfect time to break out your cellphone and pan the latest photos on Pinterest, catch Trump’s latest tirade on Twitter or even see what’s hot on Hulu.
Forget about it.
To enhance worship, the LDS Church is now blocking those sites, along with other social media outlets in its meetinghouses, the LDS Church News’ Marianne Holman Prescott reports.
“Non-church-related internet use in meetinghouses often creates difficulty for those who are trying to use it for church purposes,” the faith states in a notice sent local lay leaders.
According to the Church News, the blocked websites and apps are Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, MySpace, Twitter, Flixster, Xfinity TV, Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Soundcloud, Zynga, Kahoot, Clash of Clans, Big Fish Games and Gamespot.
You’ll note Facebook gets a pass.
Hotline a plus for bishops — if they use it
Critics long have argued that the LDS hotline for Mormon bishops simply instructs these lay leaders what to do but has nowhere for abused victims themselves to call.
But Emily Powers, writing in the LDS journal Square Two, applauds recent revisions in church guidelines for Mormon leaders when dealing with abuse. She also notes that the Utah-based faith “is not a professional mental health provider. It is not set up to conduct clinical therapy. However, when a bishop calls this hotline, they will have resources and recommendations of local clinical professionals who can provide therapy and assistance to those suffering the consequences of abuse. And if the individual cannot afford it, it is within the bishop’s purview to assist with covering those costs. This way the bishop becomes well positioned to help victims of abuse deal with any spiritual scars that have resulted, and assist the survivor to find those who can help heal the mental and emotional wounds that were left.”
Powers says the ultimate success of these changes “will depend on the skills of those who are answering the hotline and the willingness of bishops to take their advice.”
Cause for celebration: 40 years since end of priesthood ban
Black Mormons will take center stage June 1 when the LDS Church celebrates the 40th anniversary of the end of the ban on black males entering the priesthood and on black females entering Mormon temples. Black speakers, choirs and singers, including Gladys Knight and Alex Boyé, will perform at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City at 7:30 p.m. and a member of the faith’s governing First Presidency will speak. Free tickets available at BeOne.lds.org.
Transferred from Turkey
The LDS Church has pulled dozens of its “volunteers” — meaning missionaries — from Turkey as the country continues to grapple with civil unrest in advance of presidential elections.
Twenty young men, four young women and five senior couples were temporarily reassigned to other regions in Europe, Asia and North America, the church said in a news release. Four other volunteers, nearing the end of their service, were to return home.
The church, which lists about 550 members and eight congregations in Turkey, last removed volunteers from the county in 2016.
The LDS Church is being reshaped by its international growth, historian John Turner, associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University, writes in The Wall Street Journal.
“As Americans form a smaller percentage of Latter-day Saints, more top Mormon leaders will come from Asia, Africa and Latin America,” writes Turner, author of “The Mormon Jesus: A Biography.” “American Mormons will find themselves changed by the church that missionaries … helped create. Mormonism’s future is global.”
A green gospel
OK, so it’s no ‘Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical call to arms in defense of the planet. But the LDS Church did post a commentary, titled “In Honoring Creation, We Honor the Creator,” with a decidedly environmental bent.
“Latter-day Saint teachings are unequivocal,” it states. “We all have a responsibility to care for God’s majestic creation and to use its resources ‘with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion (D&C 59:20)’ … Excessive consumption sullies God’s seas; wanton waste blackens his air. The creation groans under the weight of recklessness and indulgence that neglects both the poor earth and the earth’s poor.”
The article doesn’t prescribe — or proscribe — any specific actions but instead preaches general principles to guide Mormons’ treatment of the environment while praising those committed to the cause.
“The environment. Nature. Conservation. These and other words carry political connotations. But God’s creation is bigger than politics,” it says. “Church teachings on this subject do not detail specific behavioral mandates, nor do such teachings proscribe which policies, parties, or causes one should support.”
A year ago, apostle Dallin H. Oaks, now the first counselor in the First Presidency, pointed to climate change as a major worry during a commencement address at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. “Seacoast cities are concerned with the rising level of the ocean, which will bring ocean tides to their doorsteps or over their thresholds. Global warming is also affecting agriculture and wildlife.”
The mission of MormonLeaks
KUTV-Channel 2’s Heidi Hatch interviewed the two driving forces behind MormonLeaks, the nonprofit WikiLeaks-type website dedicated to exposing inner secrets of the LDS Church. The site has published pay stubs of top Mormon authorities, an interview breaking open the sexual abuse scandal hounding a former Missionary Training Center president and other confidential church conversations and correspondence. Founder Ryan McKnight told KUTV he isn’t out to get the LDS Church, just to hold it “accountable” and allow Latter-day Saints to “make informed decisions on their membership.” Ethan Dodge, his partner in the transparency quest, echoed that sentiment. “I’m not a crazy ex-Mormon who wants everyone to leave the church and wants the church destroyed,” Dodge told KUTV. “ … Everyone can benefit from transparency especially from an organization like your religion that has so much control over your life.” The station also posted an interview with BYU associate journalism professor Joel Campbell examining the ethics of MormonLeaks’ practices.
Quote of the week (albeit from another century)
“Shall a man be paid higher wages than is paid to a woman for doing no better than she does the very same work? Shall the avenues for employment be multiplied to men and diminished to women by the mere dictum of selfishness of men … By what process of reasoning can it be shown that a woman standing at the head of a family with all the responsibility resting upon her to provide for them, should be deprived of the avenues and ways or means that a man in like circumstances may enjoy to provide for them? … Let them who will not enter into the door of equal rights and impartial suffrage step aside, and leave the passage clear for those who desire to enter.”
Joseph F. Smith, apostle and future church president
April 4, 1895, General Relief Society Conference
Quoted by Neylan McBaine at Square Two
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.