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: Pioneer myths
By all accounts, the Mormon migration from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley was a monumental journey, one that helped shape the LDS Church and the American West.
But through the years, the truth about the trek, as with many epic events, has gotten twisted and turned.
In a special Pioneer Day edition of “Mormon Land,” historian Ardis Parshall helps separate the fact from the fiction.
Breastfeed a child in church, lose your recommend
A northern Utah mother has been denied a recommend for entry into LDS temples not because she violated any of the beliefs and behaviors spelled out in the firmly established (and not to be veered from) interview questions.
Nope. Her “sin” — breastfeeding her 18-month-old child in the foyer of her Mormon meetinghouse without a cover.
The woman’s stake president brought up the issue during her recommend interview.
“He quoted from the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet, told her ‘it’s a modesty issue’ and blamed her for the men and boys having impure thoughts,” a recent Exponent II blog reported. “… When the sister insisted that ‘this isn’t my problem,’ he rebutted, ‘It is your problem. And if you do it again, we’re going to kick you out of the building’”
To be clear, the LDS Church has no written policy regarding breastfeeding in its buildings. A spokesman told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2013 that “countless thousands of mothers have been accommodated in church for generations, simply by everyone observing common sense, discretion and respect.”
The big question about LGBTQ Mormons and suicide
Few, if any, would argue that many LGBTQ Mormons aren’t hurting. They may struggle to find a place in their faith, in their families or with their LDS friends.
But are Mormon doctrines (eternal marriage between a man and a woman) and policies (like the November 2015 bombshell declaring same-sex LDS couples “apostates”) actually to blame for the rising suicide rates in Utah and elsewhere in the West’s so-called Mormon Belt?
The short answer: There’s no proof of that. But there are factors worth exploring — as this story from KUER’s Lee Hale, an accompanying “RadioWest” program with Doug Fabrizio and a 2016 Tribune article reveal.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-8255 — offers 24/7 help.
Youth parade reaches end of the road
After 80 years, the Days of ’47 Youth Parade has reached the end of the line. Saturday marked the final march in downtown Salt Lake City of this Pioneer Day staple.
Why has the youthful procession hit a dead end? It was putting too much strain, organizers say, on Mormon congregations, which also provide floats on a rotating basis for the holiday’s primary (not LDS Primary) event, the big Days of ’47 Parade.
Happy holiday, says commander in chief
President Donald Trump sent holiday wishes to Utahns celebrating Pioneer Day, praising the Mormon migrants for their “ingenuity, industry and unwavering” faith.
“Their stories and accomplishments are lasting reminders of the importance of religious freedom,” he said, “and the enduring strength and spirit of the American people.”
Later, Trump’s Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, offered his well-wishes in person — at the Days of ’47 rodeo in Salt Lake City — and expounded on the need for faith liberties, an issue of importance to current Mormon leaders.
“Utah also understands that freedom of religion is a cornerstone of American exceptionalism,” Zinke said. “ … Today we have a man in the White House who respects religious freedom.”
Emphasizing the ‘world’ in the Mormon world
The 16 million-member LDS Church was birthed in the United States and is based in Utah, but the religion is lengthening its stride in a quest to become a truly global faith.
It’s not quite there yet, insiders say.
Ignacio Garcia, a professor of history at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, says Mormon multiculturalism can occur only “if saints of color have their history told, are empowered by their religious identity, and have an institutional role. If we don’t, then Mormonism — a faith many of us love dearly — remains a white religion with shades of color in which Latinos and others remain governed and acted upon and not agents unto themselves.”
But that shift is happening fast, especially under the faith’s new president.
“Virtually every change that has been made under President [Russell M.] Nelson’s tenure has clearly been with the global church front and center in his and the leadership’s minds,” says Patrick Mason, a Mormon historian at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California. “Nelson clearly has an authentically global outlook.”
Fatal shooting at Mormon services
A deadly shooting rocked Sunday’s services at a Mormon meetinghouse in western Nevada.
A gunman burst into the building and opened fire, killing one man and wounding the victim’s brother. Police in Fallon still were searching for a motive.
Barely a month after taking the church’s reins, Nelson lamented U.S. laws “that allow guns to go to people who shouldn’t have them.” His comments to Mormon millennials in Las Vegas came in the wake of the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed the life of a Mormon girl and 16 others.
Called to … stay away
The tens of thousands who attended this year’s Hill Cumorah Pageant may have noticed something missing: full-time Mormon missionaries.
Yes, for the first time since its debut in 1937, the spectacle, which started as a missionary tool, had no full-time LDS proselytizers acting in the show, passing out pamphlets or attending performances with potential converts.
The mission president in nearby Rochester forbid his young charges from attending the pageant.
That missionary responsibility shifted to area Latter-day Saints.
“Members are encouraged to invite nonmember friends to the pageant,” a church spokesman said, “while missionaries play a critical role in preparing those people to have meaningful experiences there.”
An LGBTQ change at BYU
BYU’s unofficial LGBTQ club has officially changed its name — from Understanding Same-Gender Attraction to Understanding Sexuality, Gender, and Allyship.
Same acronym. Different words. Expanded vision.
“The previous name hasn’t really felt like it fit the organization for quite a while now,” said Liza Holdaway, the group’s president. “It just hasn’t been very accurate of who we are.”
The organization still hopes to win recognition from the Provo school and hold its meetings on campus.
Kirby’s take on the ‘block’
So, you’re tired of the three-hour block (who isn’t?). Well, you don’t have to plead with the bishop, write to the prophet or pray to the heavens to shorten your time in church.
You can do that right now, says Tribune columnist Robert Kirby, by leaving whenever you feel like you’ve had enough church on any given Sunday.
Quote of the week
“God’s message is one of hope, and we want our LGBT brothers and sisters to know that they are loved, valued and needed in his church.”
LDS Church statement from July 18, 2018
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.