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 this newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.
This week’s podcast: Beyond the myths about Latter-day Saint women
Colleen McDannell has taught religious studies at the University of Utah for nearly three decades. She has written books about heaven, Catholic reforms and Christianity’s place in popular culture.
She turns her scholarly attention to the faith that calls Utah home with her latest volume, “Sister Saints: Mormon Women Since the End of Polygamy.”
The book punctures the stereotypes attached to Latter-day Saint women and reveals them as, at times, outspoken and progressive and, at other times, as insular and conflicted.
Either way, McDannell writes, “it will be women who determine whether the next generation remains committed in their faith — and precisely what shape that faith will take.”
Trib Talk: Church vows to fight for medicinal pot
As voter support for Utah’s Proposition 2, legalizing medical cannabis, diminishes, the fear among backers arises: If the ballot measure fails, will the church, an outspoken Prop 2 opponent, still push for medical marijuana legislation, as it has promised, before the Utah Legislature?
Marty Stephens, a former Utah House speaker and the faith’s main lobbyist on the issue, answers with an emphatic “yes, absolutely.”
“The purpose for the church’s engagement in this is we want to help relieve human pain and suffering,” Stephens said, “and we think it’s good public policy.”
He added that the church would like to see the legislation passed “before the end of the year.”
Hear his comments and those of other Prop 2 forces in the latest edition of “Trib Talk.”
Three nations down, two to go
Halfway through his nine-day, five-nation tour of South America, President Russell M. Nelson already has:
• Huddled in Lima with Latter-day Saint missionaries and held a devotional with thousands of Peruvian members.
• Visited a potential temple site in north Lima. It will be the city’s second temple and Peru’s fourth.
• Delivered a sermon in English and Spanish to thousands of Latter-day Saints in El Alto, Bolivia, where he invited the children in attendance to stand and sing “I Am a Child of God.”
"You've come great distances to be here tonight,” Nelson told the crowd, “and so have we.”
• Addressed Latter-day Saint young single adults, missionaries and members at large in three separate meetings in Asunción, Paraguay. “Teach your children about the Lord,” Nelson counseled, “and great shall be the peace of your children.”
The next stops for the 94-year-old leader and his wife, Wendy — along with apostle Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Lesa — will be in Uruguay and Chile, where the new Concepción temple will be dedicated on Sunday.
Earlier in the year, Nelson undertook a global tour that flew him to eight cities and several continents in 11 days. Since taking the church’s reins in January, he also has traveled to Canada (twice) along with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Something ‘Wicked’ this way comes
Talk about a pop-u-lar featured guest.
Kristin Chenoweth, the original Glinda from the smash Broadway hit “Wicked,” will sing at a Dec. 13-15 Christmas concert with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
"Kristin Chenoweth is larger than life; I just hope the Conference Center can contain her performance,” choir President Ron Jarrett said in a news release. “We have a very special concert planned to showcase her tour de force talents, which will ring in the Christmas spirit in an unforgettable way."
The Tony-winning Chenoweth is an activist for the LGBTQ community. In 2017, she was honored by the Trevor Project — which focuses on youth suicide prevention — with its Icon Award.
Arriving soon: a missionary-friendly airport
When the $3.6 billion rebuild of the Salt Lake City International Airport takes off in two years, families of Latter-day Saint missionaries will have a special place to land to greet their returning loved ones.
The new terminal will include a meet-and-greet reception area where larger crowds can welcome home, say, missionaries and military members.
“The church probably represents the largest single institutional travel base,” airport boss Bill Wyatt told the online newspaper Finance & Commerce. “ … They’re like any other really large institutional travel entity, you’re always going to be interested in what they’re doing, what they’re thinking and how we can serve them.”
Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff told the paper that some 30,000 Latter-day Saints travel through the airport every year on church business alone.
Right now, the airport reunions for missionaries can become so vast, so elaborate, so loud (banners, balloons, cowbells, even professional camera crews) that they pose problems for other travelers.
The fallibility of infallibility
Latter-day Saints are free to believe that their prophets are fallible, maintains By Common Consent guest blogger T.L Peterson, because President Russell M. Nelson himself forcefully preached in General Conference that his predecessors were wrong to embrace the “Mormon” nickname.
“President Nelson has set the precedent we need,” Peterson says, “to get beyond our spurious belief in prophetic infallibility.”
And that’s a good thing, the blogger adds.
“I’m convinced that when we act as if we believe in prophetic infallibility, it really is a problem. It stagnates us,” writes Peterson, an editor in Utah. “We are unwilling to do things that we fear might cast doubt on the callings of past prophets, so when we are faced with the need to change, our changes are incomplete.”
Peterson points, for instance, to “lingering” notions that give rise to racism within the church — even after the end to the ban on black men and boys bearing the priesthood and on women and girls entering temples.
“We have never acknowledged that [the ban] was wrong,” he says. “ … Our fear of criticizing prophets leaves creeping residue of error that distorts our present views. We try to change without fully changing. To put it more forcefully, we try to repent without really repenting.”
More than in name only
Brittney Hartley, in a guest post for Exponent II, sees a flip side to Nelson’s push to use the full name of the church — and the outcry against it from some quarters.
“My guess is that if President Nelson would have made the name correction and followed up with a focus on how we can better live up to [Christ’s] name, there would not have been such a negative reaction,” the Idaho history teacher writes. “If he would have said, we’re correcting our name and to better live up to it, we’re making changes in the church, there would have been absolute rejoicing.”
Hartley’s hope “is that the focus of the right name will one day reach a tipping point and give yield to the opposing idea: Christlike actions from the church are far more important than the name itself.”
Offering solace to hurricane victims
“There arose a great storm,” the Gospel of Mark records.
Two storms, in fact, if the New Testament writer were recording recent events in the Southeast, slammed by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
In the wake of those tempests, a church delegation headed by Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, visited North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida to comfort the victims and buoy up their hopes.
“Afflictions and obstacles are the reality of mortal life,” Oaks told Florida Latter-day Saints gathered Saturday in Tallahassee. “If we are faithful and prayerful, the Lord helps us get through them.”
Joining Oaks and his wife, Kristen, were fellow apostle David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan, and Jean B. Bingham, general president of the women’s Relief Society, and her husband, Bruce.
“Your faith strengthens our faith,” Bednar said, “and your devotion makes us want to be more devoted.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott stopped by the meeting to thank church members for their help with the cleanup, according to a church news release.
No room at the inns for the Word
At the same time Marriott brand hotels are adding copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon to some 300,000 guest rooms in newly acquired locations, inns affiliated with publicly funded organizations like universities are giving religious texts the heave-ho.
Dixie State University recently removed these scriptures from the rooms at the state-owned school’s inn after a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Utah State University beat the latest church-state criticism to the punch. The Logan school’s University Inn took religious volumes out of its guest rooms at least a year ago, The Herald Journal reports. Instead, the front desk makes donated religious texts available upon request.
The University of Utah’s Guest House Hotel says it never has had copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon in its guest rooms.
Bibles, often provided by Gideons International, are commonly found in guest rooms of privately owned hotels. Marriott, whose founders are Latter-day Saints, also supply the Book of Mormon, their faith’s foundational scripture.
Quote of the week
“It is a spiritually elevating experience to be with you. You have moved us to tears. It is you, the Saints of Bolivia, not the elevation, that take our breath away. It is you, the Saints of Bolivia, that take our spirits higher and higher."
— Wendy Nelson, wife of President Russell M. Nelson, speaking to members in El Alto, Bolivia, elevation 13,615 feet.
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.