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This week’s “Mormon Land” podcast
What constitutes a real apology? What is the value of forgiveness? Those questions emerged after the recent LDS General Conference during which several Mormon leaders focused on forgiveness, a noteworthy subject amid this Mormon #MeToo moment. Marybeth Raynes, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Salt Lake City, discusses apologies and forgiveness — for individuals and institutions, including churches — in this week’s “Mormon Land.”
Goes he into all the world
Russell M. Nelson, fresh from a historic and reform-minded General Conference, is halfway through a global tour, his first trip outside the United States since being named the LDS Church’s 17th prophet. He told Mormons in London that the Prince of Peace is the key to navigating turbulent times, testified of Christ at Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center during an abbreviated stay in the Holy Land and paid tribute to Kenya’s pioneering Mormons in Nairobi. He wrapped up his African journey with an emotional appearance in Zimbabwe. The next stops for the 93-year-old president will be in India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii.
A Mormon #MeToo movement? Maybe not
There have been several high-profile abuse cases involving Mormons — former White House staffer Rob Porter, accused of domestic violence, and Joseph L. Bishop, former Missionary Training Center president, admitting some sexual misconduct with a sister missionary — but it hasn’t risen to the level of the #MeToo movement, according to KUER reporter Lee Hale. “There isn’t the same cascade of stories being shared. They’re out there, most just aren’t getting traction,” Hale says. “And these stories haven’t been getting the same kind of results. … People in power aren’t being punished and there haven’t been any major systemic changes.”
One factor is Mormons’ inherent trust in LDS leaders and the fear that coming forward to report abuse — especially at the hands of one of the faith’s volunteer clergy — may seem like criticizing the church.
Building a better Mormon, courtesy of other religions
Nate Sharp, president of the College Station Texas LDS stake and an associate professor in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, spells out what he has learned from Evangelical Christianity’s “focus on grace,” Catholicism’s “beautiful antiquity,” Judaism’s “strength and contributions to humanity,” Buddhism’s “kindness and respect for others” and Islam’s “devotion to God and family.” Much of what he knows about how to be a devoted Latter-day Saint “comes from lessons I have learned from those outside my faith,” Sharp writes in the Houston Chronicle. “I have been strengthened by the virtues and values reflected in the lives of the followers of many religious faiths.”
As Mormons prepare to celebrate in June the 40th anniversary of the end to a long-standing ban on black men and boys being ordained to the church’s all-male priesthood and on black women entering its temples, the LDS Church published an essay by a prominent African-American member, Darius Gray, about how to “heal the wounds of racism.” Gray details steps Mormons can take toward that goal: Acknowledge the problem of racism, recognize it in themselves, learn a new approach, and listen to black members who were affected by the racial ban — “their lives, their histories, their families, their hopes and their pains.”
A new home teaching checklist?
By Common Consent blogger Emily Jensen describes what LDS historian Matthew Bowman said on a recent “Mormon Land” podcast about changes to the church’s home and visiting teaching programs. Bowman “noted that perhaps the new ministering program will allow for needed flexibility so that people can cater the ministration as the [Holy] Spirit dictates.” Jensen then contrasts that with a speech the following week by LDS apostle Neil L. Andersen at Brigham Young University in which he “laid out a list of what roommates, in ministering capacities, should do.”
The list includes noticing fellow students wearing inappropriate clothes, smelling alcohol or marijuana in their cars, seeing them playing video games rather than discussing Mormon principles, recognizing that they sometimes skip Sunday services or no longer attend the temple, or hearing them speak critically of the church and its leaders.
“Is this how general authorities want the ministering program to run?” Jensen asks. “I hope that these sorts of inclinations … will be quashed … [in favor of just] being there for those to whom one ministers.” She points out that President Nelson called for a “holier approach” to ministering, not a “holier-than-thou” one.
The grass is always greener when Kirby …
Days after the LDS Church’s governing First Presidency issued a statement voicing concerns about a ballot proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Utah, Robert Kirby, The Tribune’s resident humorist, lampooner, curmudgeon and cannoneer, riffed about Rx reefers, too, pointing to the Colorado cannabis cream he sold — for two bits — to help a sister in his ward relieve the pain in her hands. It worked.
Calling all Mormon seniors
The LDS Church is looking to expand its pool of senior couples willing to be full- or part-time missionaries and using a new website to show them how easy and flexible it can be to find service opportunities that match their needs and abilities. Retired couples can list how long they want to serve, how much they can afford to spend each month (costs are borne by the couples themselves), language skills, preferred assignments and any medical conditions that could limit the service. Users can then “browse lists of available service opportunities that match the detailed criteria,” according to a release on Mormon Newsroom. Ultimately, though, the call to serve “comes from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
From Russia with love
Blogger Bethany Packard writes at Mormon Women Stand about what a miracle it will be to see an LDS temple rise in Russia. “[It] will be to us as watching the Red Sea part was to the children of Israel.” Packard, with her husband, served a mission in Russia, a nation that has clamped down on proselytizing by overseas religions and prompted the LDS Church to dub its missionaries there “volunteers.” Even so, President Nelson declared in the recent General Conference that a Russian temple would be built in “a major city yet to be determined” — to the delight of the 23,000-plus Latter-day Saints in that country and the astonishment of millions more around the globe. “There are no words to express what I felt,” Packard writes of her reaction to the announcement. “My husband says I literally jumped in my seat, and I know that I made a loud gasp. I wept.” She tells of a statement Nelson made as an apostle years earlier when asked about LDS leaders’ determination to grow Mormonism in Eastern Europe despite all the difficulties. “The Lord is the master of the unlikely,” he said, “and expects the impossible.” Well, onward mission impossible.
New life for funeral potatoes
A mainstay at Mormon funerals is going mainstream. Funeral potatoes — those cheesy, soupy casserole concoctions that have become frequent comfort foods offered by Relief Society do-gooders to grieving families — will be sold by Walmart in dehydrated form. They’re “to die for,” touts Augason Farms, the Utah company making the product. The dish turned out to be a head scratcher for many consumers. Funeral potatoes? Huh? The confusion prompted this advice on Twitter from LatterDay Left: “We need [to] up our missionary efforts.” At least to match the calorie count.
Quote of the week
“The first step toward healing is the realization that the problem [of racism] exists, even among some of us in the church. … We cannot fix that which we overlook or deny. Our attitudes toward others of a different race or of a different culture should not be considered a minor matter. Viewing them as such only affirms a willingness to stay unchanged.”
—Darius Gray, “Healing the Wounds of Racism”
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.