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: Scouting’s future — does it even have one? — without the LDS Church
The LDS Church is divorcing itself from the Boy Scouts of America. This breakup is sure to have a profound impact not only on the faith — which was Scouting’s largest chartering sponsor, especially in Utah and the Intermountain West — but also on the longtime youth organization itself. How much smaller will Scouting get? Will LDS boys and girls stick with or join the program? How much will it cost? What happens to all those camps? Will Scouting even survive? Mark Griffin, a Scout executive with the Great Salt Lake Council, answers those question and more on “Mormon Land.”
Help not wanted
It’s not often that a charity tells potential donors: “Don’t give us any more money. We have enough.”
But that’s essentially what the LDS Church is urging members who want to contribute online to the faith’s Perpetual Education and Temple Patron Assistance funds.
When Mormons try to pay their tithing or make other donations through their accounts on lds.org, they will notice those two funds are missing from the list.
“The generosity of church members and others has led to sufficient levels of donated funds to the Perpetual Education Fund and the Temple Patron Assistance Fund,” states a message on the website. “As a result, members are encouraged to select other categories for their ongoing donations.”
Of course, Latter-day Saints can still kick in cash toward those programs through their wards and branches, but many members nowadays make their contributions via the internet.
The patron fund helps poor members cover costs associated with trying to reach sometimes-faraway temples to receive ordinances that can be administered only in those edifices.
The education account provides loans so low-income members can receive training and degrees to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Historic partnership with NAACP takes root
For decades, the LDS Church’s centurylong ban barring black men and boys from its all-male priesthood and women and girls from its temples kept the Utah-based faith at odds with the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
Now, nearly 40 years after that prohibition was lifted, the NAACP and the church are not only on speaking terms but friendly ones as well.
On May 17, the 64th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, top NAACP leaders met with the governing LDS First Presidency in a historic Salt Lake City summit.
The two groups vowed to work together on humanitarian and educational initiatives while calling on the world to exhibit more civility, harmony and mutual respect.
LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson invited “all people, organizations and governments to blot out “prejudice of all kinds” and focus on the “many areas and interests that we all have in common.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson praised the church’s “good-faith efforts to bless not only its members, but people throughout the United States and, indeed, the world. … We invite all people and organizations to follow our mutual example in coming together and finding ways to work in harmony.”
An intruder broke into the St. George LDS Temple through a window early May 12 and made his way up to the fifth floor, damaging artwork and furniture along the way, before he was contained by temple workers and arrested by police.
Jordan River Temple — it’s back
One of Mormonism’s busiest temples has been anything but that for more than two years. But business soon will pick up again.
The Jordan River Temple, closed since February 2016 to undergo an extensive makeover, will be rededicated May 20.
On May 12, thousands of LDS youths in the south Salt Lake Valley marched through the rain to the temple grounds as a warm-up to the reopening.
The Mother of all mothers
Mormon leaders rarely talk about their faith’s distinctive belief in a Heavenly Mother beyond noting that she exists. True, the church released an official essay in 2015 affirming this teaching, but tellingly it is by far the shortest (six paragraphs, barely 600 words) of 11 such articles on thornier issues in Mormonism.
In fact, even devout Latter-day Saints struggle to point to chapter-and-verse scriptural support for this doctrine.
But chapters and verses are precisely what Rachel Hunt Steenblik supplies in "Mother’s Milk,” a collection of poetic musings about God the Mother.
Pot and the pendulum
The LDS Church stepped up its push to tilt Utahns against a proposed ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana — even as polls have shown majority support for the measure.
This time, it released an analysis, prepared by the Salt Lake City law firm Kirton McConkie, that warned of legal consequences the Beehive State could face if voters greenlight medical marijuana. But a libertarian group sees the church’s legal analysis more as a political hit piece than a sincere effort to advance the public discourse.
New debate in MTC sexual abuse suit
McKenna Denson made headlines around the world when she sued the LDS Church and a former Missionary Training Center president, alleging that the MTC leader raped her while she was a missionary at the Provo facility in 1984. But attorneys for the church and Joseph L. Bishop, accused of the assault, argue that the suit should be tossed out. Why? She waited too long to sue; the statute of limitations has expired. Of course, Denson’s legal team sees it differently.
In God, not man, we trust
So how do Mormons keep their faith in their faith when a trusted LDS leader sexually abuses a member of his congregation? Truth is, they often don’t. McKenna Denson, for one, the accuser in the MTC case, lost hers. Others, though, manage to stick with their God and their church.
The key, therapists and survivors say, is retaining a love and trust in a perfect God in the face of the sins and shadiness of flawed men.
Vaughn J. Featherstone, 1931-2018
Vaughn J. Featherstone, a longtime LDS general authority who enthusiastically led Mormon youths, oversaw the church’s finances and wrote a dozen or so books designed to inspire rising generations, died at age 87.
Quote of the week
“Like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people, organizations and government representatives should come together to work through how to secure peace and happiness for all God’s children. Unitedly, we call on all people to work in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.”
—Derrick Johnson, NAACP president
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.