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: Where Mormon women stand
Religion News Service senior columnist Jana Riess joined us in March to talk about Latter-day Saint millennials, part of her groundbreaking multigenerational survey of Mormons and former Mormons.
Now, with her new book, “The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church,” due out in less than six months, she’s back to discuss more specifically what her research revealed about women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nelson goes deep at baseball park
When fans pack Seattle’s Safeco Field, they’re usually there to see ace hurler Felix Hernandez flirt with a no-hitter or slugger Nelson Cruz blast one over the left field wall.
But on Sept. 15, the 49,000-plus weren’t on hand to watch the Mariners navigate their way to victory but rather to hear church President Russell M. Nelson teach members how to navigate their way through life.
“We are living in the most crucial era in the history of the world,” Nelson said, according to a news release. “As a church, we need to be doing what the savior wishes us to do. And, as a people, we need to be looking and acting like true followers of Jesus Christ.”
The 94-year-old leader offered the following five lessons he has learned that could benefit Latter-day Saints:
• Hold onto the gospel.
• Prayerfully read daily from the Book of Mormon.
• Focus less on the “honors of men” in this life — including the “time-consuming allurements of your employment” — and more on the glory of God in the afterlife.
• Know that with heaven’s help, even the “impossible” is possible.
• Serve others.
Forever Young’s cause
Sam Young is out, but the fight is still on.
Latter-day Saint leaders in Houston have excommunicated the former bishop, but he is continuing his campaign against one-on-one interviews of youths by lay clergy and the sexually explicit questions that sometimes are asked.
“For our children’s sake,” an emotional Young said, “this whistleblower is not going to stop roaring.”
The 65-year-old Young read the verdict letter of his disciplinary council before hundreds of supporters outside the faith’s landmark temple in downtown Salt Lake City.
Officially, he got the boot for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church” and his “persistent, aggressive effort to persuade others to [his] point of view by repeatedly and deliberately attacking and publicly opposing the church and its leaders.”
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, commonly called SNAP, condemned the action.
“SNAP is appalled that a man who is only speaking up to protect children would be banned from his community,” the group’s Utah leader, Judy Larson, wrote in a news release. “The Mormon church should instead be thanking him for his care and concern for LDS children.”
The church declined to comment on Young’s excommunication due to the “personal nature of church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved.”
‘A place for me’
Sam Young’s ouster caused senior Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess to reflect on earlier church discipline of the “September Six” — a half-dozen scholars, historians, activists and feminists who were excommunicated or disfellowshipped 25 years ago this month.
That 1993 clampdown occurred at the same as Riess’ scheduled baptism into the LDS Church.
“Here I was, a feminist who was training to be a historian, about to commit myself to a religious tradition that was at that very moment singling out feminists and historians for censure,” she writes in an RNS column. “I prayed about it. Hard. The answer I received was that there would be a place for me in this church, not in spite of who I was and what I believed was right, but because of it.”
Riess went through with her conversion and, although she sometimes disagrees with church positions, she’s “never had serious cause to regret that decision.”
Church turns to guv, lawmakers on marijuana issue
What’s the latest on medicinal pot and the Prop 2 pendulum? Well, it’s swinging again after the latest shift from the church.
Now, the Salt Lake City-based faith is urging Utah’s governor to call a special session of the Legislature to pass a bill this year legalizing medical marijuana.
The church still opposes the state’s Proposition 2, but reaffirmed that it “supports medicinal marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place” — something it argues the fall ballot measure lacks.
Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations and a former Utah House speaker, says a “spirit of compromise” would be needed to push through legislation.
A bill would be needed, too, and right now there isn’t one. So Gov. Gary Herbert’s office says it’s too soon to talk about a special session.
Gun goes off at church
A .22-caliber revolver accidentally went off this past Sunday at a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Provo, police say, and the bullet went through a wall where teenage girls were meeting.
No one was injured.
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins noted that it is against the faith’s policy for anyone other than law enforcement officers to bring a lethal weapon, concealed or otherwise, into Latter-day Saint churches.
The MormonLeaks website released an audio recording of an unidentified church leader discussing the incident with the teenage girls in the ward.
“We'd rather have you not post [on social media], 'Hey, a gun went off today at church,’” the man said. “That will hit headline news.”
Well, the news got out, and, yes, as predicted, it did make headlines.
New Zealand premier gets her family history
Church leaders presented New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her family history — two volumes’ worth — this month at her office in Wellington.
“It was touching to see our prime minister reading through some of the pages of the history,” O. Vincent Haleck, a general authority Seventy, said in a news release. “I understand she is an avid reader, so I am sure she has many hours of fascinating reading ahead.”
14 women join general boards
The church has named 14 women to the general boards of its Relief Society (3), Young Women (7) and Primary (4) organizations.
All of the new appointees now call Utah home, according to a church news release, but most have lived extensively across the U.S. and in other countries.
The group includes educators, health care professionals, finance experts, a social worker, a counselor, a dance teacher and a well-known former Utah news anchor (Michelle King).
A By Common Consent blog also noted the list includes “two black women and a leader in BYU’s athletics department who has been part of the NCAA’s efforts to improve the experience of LGBT student-athletes at religious schools.”
A School of the Prophets in Salt Lake City?
A Times and Seasons blog recently shared Kurt Manwaring’s 10 questions interview with Mormon historian Devery S. Anderson, whose latest book, “Salt Lake School of the Prophets: 1867-1883,” is due out soon from Signature Books.
“The Salt Lake School of the Prophets was organized by Brigham Young in December 1867 and it ran uninterrupted until August 1872,” Anderson explains. “Young then rebooted the school in November of that same year, and it functioned until June 1874. The school was organized again, but only briefly, under John Taylor in 1883.”
Anderson, who also wrote the critically acclaimed “Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement,” noted that church founder Joseph Smith launched the first School of the Prophets in the early 1830s in Kirtland, Ohio.
“The school started out with 14 men. Joseph Smith ritually washed their feet, re-enacting Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples,” he said. “ … This created a sense of brotherhood among the men but also served a purpose of purification as he ‘pronounced them all clean from the blood of this generation.’”
Young revived and revamped the school in the Utah Territory, where it “reached nearly a thousand members at its peak, making it the largest organized body within the church,” Anderson said. Minutes show the meetings covered a range of topics — from apostasy to agriculture, doctrines to division, politics to polygamy.
Quote of the week
"If we’re impatient with someone who doesn’t seem to be progressing as fast as we think they might, I think it’s always good to look at our own journey and see how fast we’re progressing — either now or were at some point. And if I have those thoughts, it’s an instant check to prevent me from feeling that way about someone else, largely because I realize how extraordinarily patient our Father in Heaven is with me and with all of us.”
— Patrick Kearon, general authority Seventy
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.