The Mormon Land newsletter is a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whether heralded in headlines, preached from the pulpit or buzzed about on the back benches. Want Mormon Land in your inbox? Subscribe here.
This week’s podcast: the life of a black Mormon
The year after the LDS Church lifted its ban on black men and boys holding its all-male priesthood and on black women and girls entering its temples, Cathy Stokes became a Mormon.
As the Utah-based faith prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the end of that priesthood/temple ban, this black Latter-day Saint discusses her conversion on Chicago’s South Side and the state of race relations inside and outside the faith. Listen here.
New ‘Jane and Emma’ film explores an old friendship
Many have heard of early black Mormon Jane Manning James — her conversion, her courage, her devotion, her hardships. But they may not know who was one of her biggest fans: Emma Smith.
Yes, that Emma, wife of church founder Joseph Smith.
A new movie, tentatively titled “Jane & Emma,” due out later this year, examines their Nauvoo friendship, an unlikely and undying alliance that could serve as a model for strengthening ties between today’s black and white Latter-day Saints.
Documenting Mormonism’s black history
Speaking of Jane Manning James, her photograph and her early 1900s autobiography are on display through June 9 at the LDS Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City, along with other documents from the lives of trailblazing black Mormons.
The free exhibit also includes the priesthood ordination record of black pioneer Elijah Able and a history of the Genesis Group, a nearly 50-year-old support organization for black Latter-day Saints.
It was Brigham’s ban
A former Salt Lake Tribune editorial writer praises the strides the LDS Church has made in battling racism but argues the religion is not yet ready to plant a victory flag.
For starters, Quist says, the church should acknowledge the role its second president, pioneer-prophet Brigham Young, had in implementing the longtime priesthood/temple ban (lifted 40 years ago next week).
Ban was God’s will? Really?
In a provocative post on the blog By Common Consent, J. Stapley challenges the notion that the LDS Church’s priesthood/ temple restriction was ever “God’s will” by reviewing the history of the ban, the now-disavowed theological reasons justifying it and the explanations still touted in some quarters attempting to explain it.
“The only real reason for believing the restriction was God’s will,” Stapley writes, “appears to be the maintenance of a measure of infallibility within the ecclesiology of the church.”
LDS culture can be hard on sexual assault survivors
Sexual assault survivors and a Brigham Young University professor are condemning what they say are the harmful metaphors many LDS leaders continue to use to caution against premarital intimacy.
“Fear-based” metaphors, including a “bubble gum analogy” — which compares those who have sex before marriage to chewed pieces of gum — can be “devastating to sexual assault survivors,” BYU professor Jason Carroll told The Daily Universe, BYU’s student newspaper.
They send a “damaged goods” message to survivors, said Carroll, who teaches marriage and family studies, rather offering hope that they can recover.
So do “abstinence-based metaphors,” he said.
“These teach a delayed-gratification pattern, such as not eating chocolate chip cookies on fast Sunday,” said the story by Kaitlyn Bancroft. “While they’re less damaging than fear-based metaphors, Carroll said one of the biggest problems they create is the idea that chastity is behavioral.”
Carroll noted the problem isn’t with the church or its doctrines but rather with leaders and teachers misapplying those beliefs. The LDS Church has repeatedly reminded its members that “victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent.”
Chastity, Carroll told the BYU paper, is “fundamentally something that no one can take from you.”
Just lose all the metaphors, he counseled.
“If church leaders and members addressed chastity in healthier ways,” the article said, “there would be a better platform to help abuse and assault survivors.”
Go West, young Islanders
The dry, dusty desolation of Utah’s West Desert would never be confused with the temperate, tropical tranquility of Hawaii’s balmy beaches.
But for hundreds of late-19th-century Mormons from the Pacific paradise, an isolated outpost in Tooele County served as home.
Saints made their annual pilgrimage 60 miles west of Salt Lake City to trim the graves of the dead and share memories with living at long-since-abandoned Iosepa (Hawaiian for “Joseph” after the LDS Church’s sixth president, Joseph F. Smith).
Quote of the week
I’ve been called every name in the book. When that happens, it hurts. But it hurts more when it happens at church — in a place where we should know better. Since joining the church in 1983, there have been certain instances where I have felt misjudged, betrayed, or belittled based on my color. … Not everyone in the church has a problem with racism; it’s just a few. But racism exists everywhere. … To be his people, we must be one in Christ. But our relationship with Christ is individual before it can be collective. … As we individually come closer to Christ, we come closer together as a ward, as a stake and as a church.”
—Fred A. “Tony” Parker of the Seventy
North America Southeast Area
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.