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: General Conference rumors

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Russell M. Nelson waves to the crowd at the end of the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference on April 1, 2018.

Mormon Land is alive with the sound of rumors.

Probably the only thing on the Latter-day Saint calendar as reliable as General Conference is the speculation, the chatter, the buzz in the weeks before about what will happen at the upcoming sessions.

On this week’s podcast, we unashamedly indulge the love for such gossip and talk about what members are talking about. Latter-day Saints may not know what’s going to occur at the Oct. 6-7 conference, but that never stopped a discussion about the possibilities.

Is the three-hour block toast? Will temple changes be announced? What about the missionary program, medical marijuana, women’s issues, the church’s name and more?

Helping with this conversation is Mormon writer, editor and blogger Emily Jensen.

Listen here.

What is the church ‘becoming’?

Click on Become.org or Worshipwithus.org and what do you get? Well, it turns out, Mormon.org.

What’s with that? Not surprisingly, it has to do with the faith’s efforts to steer away from use of the “Mormon” nickname.

“We are regularly testing different formats, content and names,” church spokesman Daniel Woodruff explained in an email. “We began testing several new URLs in the last few weeks including Become.org. We anticipate this to be an ongoing effort to help us understand which are of most interest.”

When President Russell M. Nelson pressed for the need to emphasize the church’s full name, he acknowledged headquarters has work to do, too, to bring its own house in order.

Next up: Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

Why Sam Young got the boot

Sam Young speaks during a news conference Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Young, a Mormon man who led a campaign criticizing the church's practice of allowing closed-door, one-on-one interviews of youths by lay leaders has been kicked out of the faith. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Steve Evans, an attorney and founder of the By Common Consent website, offers his reasoning behind the excommunication of former bishop Sam Young.

Bottom line: It wasn’t Young’s cause (bishops asking youths inappropriate sexual questions in one-on-one interviews). It wasn’t his activism — his petition, his protests, his hunger strike. No, Evans writes, “it was his refusal to stop when his local leaders asked him to stop.”

“This is the cardinal sin within Mormonism, for activists: failing to recognize the authority of leaders,” he adds. “You can say whatever you want, act as you please. But when your leaders call you to heel, you best step in line.”

Evans is sympathetic to Young’s quest. “His excommunication was stupid. Asking folks to obey authority like some Abrahamic test is stupid.” But the blogger also is “sympathetic to church leaders who want to protect the church and to help members.”

“Our church depends on this authority from top to bottom,” Evans says. “It is infused in our culture and our discourse.”

Fellow blogger Clark Goble of Times and Seasons further dissects Evans’ post, pointing to the reality of the faith’s authority structure while noting the desire among many members for a more democratic system.

“If liberal Mormons want change, it’s really hard to see how anti-authoritarianism brings it to them,” Goble writes. “Their best bet isn’t to agitate for change, but to persuade. … Agitation past a certain point really is no longer about persuasion but is more about hurting the church.”

By the way, the reason Young’s local lay leader gave for his ouster: “Conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church.”

Bloggers, billboards and a bill — on pot

(Lee Davidson|Salt Lake Tribune) A billboard opposing Proposition 2 by quoting the Mormon Word of Wisdom appears on the 600 South off ramp of Interstate 15 on Thursday, Sept. 20.

The church’s public affairs arm is inviting female bloggers to an informational meeting Sept. 29 to spell out the faith’s stance on medical marijuana (which it supports) and on Utah’s Proposition 2 (which it opposes).

“This is a general social issue,” Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations and a former Utah House speaker, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We thought we would use this to talk about what’s in the initiative and why the church has taken its position. ... We are not expecting the women to all promote the church’s position.”

The Salt Lake City-based faith has stated that it “supports medicinal use of marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place” — something, it argues, Prop 2 lacks.

Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke revealed that the church is working with Utah lawmakers and other parties on a medical marijuana bill. And pro-Prop 2 billboards quoting Latter-day Saint scripture have sprouted along Utah freeways. One references the church’s health code, the Word of Wisdom: “All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the … use of man.” Doctrine and Covenants 89:10.

Keep those tents, canteens and sleeping bags

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) BSA Camp Tracy employees James Jette, 18, and Hensley Ballamis paddle around Taylor Lake, Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Don’t fret, Latter-day Saint boys and girls, church-backed camping will continue for years to come — Scout’s honor.

Make that, perhaps, non-Scout’s honor.

Ever since the church announced plans to end its centurylong partnership with the Boy Scouts of America in 2020, many Mormon parents and youths have wondered if those camping trips will disappear as well.

They won’t.

“Camps and other outdoor activities will be an important part of gospel learning, building relationships, and strengthening faith in Jesus Christ,” the church assured in a news release. “Children and youth may participate in Primary day camps, Young Women camps, Young Men camps, and high-adventure activities.”

Making a case for gender equity

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune l-r Kate Zurcher, Ellen Welch, Kristie Lam, Summer Crockett, McKinney Voss and Daniela Rosbach are all first-year law students at Brigham Young University. For the first time in the school's history, BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School's incoming class has more women than men.

Brigham Young University’s law school marked a milestone this year: its first incoming class with more women (54) than men (50).

Is this a one-time statistical blip or is this achievement setting a precedent for more female-majority classes in coming years? The jury’s still out on that.

Presiding pianist?

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse gives a talk during the 187th Annual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Saturday, April 1, 2017.

The church’s moneyman is also a piano man.

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé joined Italian musician Nicolas Giusti in a two-piano duet at the Assembly Hall in downtown Salt Lake City on Sept. 25.

“We share the same passion for music,” Caussé told the Church News, “but he is a musical maestro while I am only a simple amateur.”

When he’s not at the keyboard, Caussé oversees the faith’s vast financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations.

Not so fast, Mormon women’s group tells Senate

Wait … investigate … then deliberate.

That’s the plea from Mormon Women for Ethical Government to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it weighs the sexual misconduct allegations facing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“Our mutual faith teaches that any sexual abuse or assault in any context is contemptible and worthy of the most severe condemnation,” the grass-roots group said in a statement. “If these accusations are proved false, an investigation will prevent harm to the court's legitimacy. If they are true, then Judge Kavanaugh must not be confirmed.”

The Judiciary Committee boasts its own little “ward council,” with four Latter-day Saint senators: Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Mormon Women for Ethical Government, which is not affiliated with the church, formed after President Donald Trump’s election. The nonpartisan organization has about 6,000 members.

Quote of the week

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Apostle Dale G. Renlund speaks during a news conference at the Church Office Building on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
“We know from all the statistics out there that someone in the ward [congregation] is hurting. Someone is having suicidal thoughts in your ward. And as we come together as families, as churches, in a community, we can do better than we’re doing now. … Heavenly Father is pleased when we reach out and help his children. I think he’s profoundly pleased.”
Apostle Dale G. Renlund

Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.