This week in Mormon Land: Church’s growing Mesa development, travelin' man Uchtdorf, sacrament-passing girls and banished books

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: All about ‘correlation’

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Church Office Building, located at 50 E. North Temple, Salt Lake City, is home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In some respects, the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City is a 28-story monument to a program called “correlation.”

In the 1960s, church authorities introduced in earnest a more consistent approach to the faith that came to be known as correlation. The sweeping effort attempted to make every congregation, class and calling the same across all regions, climates and cultures.

These days, critics see correlation as a hindrance. It made the church more patriarchal, they argue, and more bureaucratic. Supporters counter that the undertaking helped the church achieve and accommodate phenomenal growth. It did more to unite the members than divide them, they say, and the fruits of it will be evident at this weekend’s General Conference.

Few historians know as much about correlation as Matthew Bowman, an associate professor of history at Henderson State University and author of the critically acclaimed “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.” Bowman, who is researching a new book about correlation, discusses his findings on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Listen here.

Mesa makeover is expanding

(Courtesy Intellectual Reserve Inc.) Plans have been announced to redevelop 8.2 acres of land near the Mesa Arizona Temple. This rendering offers a southeast view of the mixed-use community.

More old homes will go down and more new housing will go up as the makeover near the church’s historic temple in Mesa, Ariz., spreads out.

The church’s real estate arm has announced plans to nearly double the size of its redevelopment project, expanding it from 4.5 acres to 8.2 acres, according to the East Valley Tribune.

That means six more World War II bungalows will bite the dust in addition to the seven historic homes already slated for demolition.

The project is scheduled to wrap up in two years, along with a major renovation of the currently closed temple and its grounds.

Housing is becoming a major part of the church’s real estate ventures. The Utah-based faith recently bought a 40-story apartment tower in Chicago’s South Loop and erected a 30-plus-story apartment building across the street from its temple in Philadelphia. Of course, the church also built multiple apartment and condominium high-rises near its Salt Lake City headquarters as part of City Creek Center.

Uchtdorf in Europe — again

(Courtesy photo of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf makes history as the first apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit the people of Gdansk, Poland. He and his wife, Harriet, made an 11-day ministry tour to Europe and Eastern Europe in September 2018.

As the church’s chief point person for Europe, apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a former pilot and airline executive, is racking up more frequent-flyer miles.

Last month, he spent nearly two weeks visiting congregations in Poland, Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

His itinerary included the first-ever stop by a Latter-day Saint apostle in the Polish port city of Gdansk (formerly Danzig, Germany), home to only 50 church members.

“In our sharing the message … it doesn’t really matter if it’s many or it’s few, because we focus on the one,” Uchtdorf said in a news release. “I like the wonderful translation in Russian where the ministering word is translated into ‘serving with care.’ I hope in Polish it’s the same.”

Uchtdorf noted the region is close to his heart. The 77-year-old apostle, whose family converted to Mormonism while living in Germany, was a refugee twice — once while leaving Czechoslovakia, where he was born, and again when fleeing then-East Germany to West Germany.

This year, Uchtdorf also has journeyed to Germany; Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia; and Tallinn, Estonia.

And they came to pass … the sacrament

They don’t have the priesthood, but who says they can’t carry the sacrament trays?

Not the bishop. And not church headquarters.

Turns out, a Hyde Park congregation in Chicago is assigning teenage girls to pass the bread and water — which count as Communion in Latter-day Saint services — to the women in the mother’s lounge, where male priesthood bearers can’t enter.

“It is appropriate for a sister to assist by carrying the sacrament tray into the mother’s lounge,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement, “just as it is common for members to pass the sacrament tray to one another in the chapel.”

It only makes sense, says Neylan McBaine, author of “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact.”

“In the sacrament, the prayer said over the bread or water is scripturally mandated. Who then holds the tray and passes it around the congregation is not,” McBaine said. “This seems like an appropriate area to examine whether or not we have needlessly overextended the necessity of the priesthood.”

Christofferson, Eubank in Argentina

(Courtesy photo of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder D. Todd Christofferson speaks at the 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 26, 2018.

Apostle D. Todd Christofferson and Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities and first counselor in the female Relief Society’s general presidency, represented the church at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

During the gathering, according to a news release, Christofferson:

• Noted the “church and its members have given more than $2 billion in assistance to people in 195 countries and territories” the past three decades.

• Pointed out that the faith’s 3-year-old self-reliance initiative — which provides instruction on a variety of employment and financial topics — operates in 130 countries and has schooled 700,000 participants.

• Advocated for religious freedom, stating that “very often religion does the hard work of inculcating the habits and mores necessary for free and democratic societies to exist.”

In her remarks, Eubank:

• Focused on how religious communities can help protect and empower women. “When a courageous woman emerges to participate at any level, from the barrio to the boardroom, we must do all we can both personally and institutionally to defend her basic rights and help her cause.”

• Declared that “religion is the great motivation that helps people make ... positive changes in their lives.”

Out of Africa, a fourth temple

(Courtesy photo of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.

It’s the continent with a fast-growing church membership (more than 578,000) and, save for Antarctica, the fewest temples (three).

That number will grow to four April 14, when the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is dedicated.

Four other African temples are in the works.

“The three … temples currently operating are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Accra, Ghana; and Aba, Nigeria,” the church reports in a news release. The Durban South Africa Temple is under construction. Plans have been announced to build temples in Harare, Zimbabwe; Nairobi, Kenya; and the Abidjan Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire).”

Apostle’s wife dies

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Elder M. Russell Ballard waves as he leaves the stand with his wife, Barbara Ballard, after the Saturday morning session of the188th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Saturday, March 31, 2018.

M. Russell Ballard met his future bride, Barbara Bowen, at a University of Utah dance.

“I danced with her 30 seconds before I was tagged out,” Ballard recalled in his biography on the church’s website. “That was the beginning of a courtship of 11 months” and, eventually, a 67-year marriage.

Barbara Ballard died Oct. 1 at home surrounded by her family at age 86. She had battled several health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, according to a news release, with her “characteristic grace and sense of humor.”

“I married the right daughter of God,” M. Russell Ballard, the acting president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles who will turn 90 on Oct. 8, said in the release. “Without the help and direction of Barbara, our family relationships would not have been as happy and fulfilling as they were. Barbara is a treasure for our family forever.”

The couple had seven children, 43 grandchildren and 90 great-grandchildren.

Banished books

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) The Book of Mormon is shown Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, Salt Lake City. Sheraton, Westin and other Starwood hotels are finding their religion. Marriott International, which bought Starwood two years ago, has begun putting copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon in Sheratons, Westins and other hotels in the Starwood family.

And it came to pass that the Book of Mormon and the Bible were evicted.

Dixie State University removed copies of those religious texts from the guest rooms at the state-owned school’s inn after a complaint lodged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“The university doesn’t want either the appearance or the reality of advancing one religion over another,” said the St. George school’s spokeswoman.

Bibles, often supplied by Gideons International, are commonly found in privately owned hotels. Marriott International, whose founders are Latter-day Saints, bought Starwood (which includes Sheraton and Westin outlets) two years ago and plans to place copies of the Bible and Book of Mormon in 300,000 rooms in its newly acquired hotels by year’s end, according to The Associated Press.

Special section

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The Salt Lake Tribune published a special 28-page section in advance of the Oct. 6-7 General Conference that explored a range of topics on Latter-day Saint theology and culture, including:

• The faith’s exalted view of sex within marriage and how some couples struggle with that after exchanging vows.

• President Russell M. Nelson’s eager embrace of revelation and his role as heaven’s spokesman on earth.

• How R-rated movies became forbidden fruit for many members and how that may be changing.

• The unfamiliar (read: yucky) meals missionaries sometimes stomach in their pursuit of converts.

• The “Mormon moment” on TV’s hit show “Young Sheldon.”

• Interviews with two BYU zealots who “converted” and now star for the University of Utah football team.

Columnist Ann Cannon’s plea that Latter-day Saints who aren’t all-in the faith need not be all-out. (A related story also examines how more and more millennials are finding a middle way in Mormonism, especially in regards to temple attendance and Word of Wisdom adherence.)

More missionaries coming home early

Another tidbit from Jana Riess’ Next Mormons Survey: Although increasing numbers of millennials, especially women, are serving missions, more of these proselytizers are returning early.

Their reasons for coming home before their two-year (for men) or 18-month (for women) service is up aren’t easy to quantify, but Riess, a Religion News Service senior columnist, argues “Mormon culture needs to learn to deal with [them] in a more loving and responsible way.”

Trio in the running for USU’s Mormon post

The finalists for the chair of the Leonard J. Arrington Chair in Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University are Patrick Mason, Sara Patterson and John Turner.

And then there were three.

Utah State University has narrowed its search for a new head of Mormon studies to a trio of finalists:

Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California and author of “Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt.”

Sara Patterson, associate professor of theological studies at Hanover College in Indiana, whose forthcoming book “Pioneers in the Attic: Place and Memory Along the Mormon Trail” is being published by Oxford University Press.

John Turner, associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University in Virginia and author of the award-winning biography “Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet” as well as “The Mormon Jesus: A Biography.”

Quote of the week

(Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Sharon Eubank, center, director of LDS Charities and first counselor in the church’s Relief Society general presidency, at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 27, 2018.

“There’s tremendous potential for people in their everyday lives to work together with their neighbors and their friends and communities of other faiths. Get to know them, find community things that you can do and find ways to interact with people who may be different from you.”

Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency

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