This week in Mormon Land: Christmas concert clash, border battle, name game quest, Parliament’s missionary moment and more

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Tabernacle Choir Christmas extravaganza kicks off with Broadway star Sutton Foster and "Downton Abbey's" Hugh Bonneville at the Conference Center on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

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: Green is good

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Ty Markham is a co-founder of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance. Sept. 9, 2015.

The federal government recently released a sweeping scientific report filled with dire predictions if climate change is left unchecked, but President Donald Trump is doubting his own administration’s findings.

The White House’s perplexing response set off fresh conversations this week about the perils of a warming climate. As that debate, like the planet itself, heats up, we invited Ty Markham, a co-founder of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, to discuss her grass-roots activism and how her Latter-day Saint faith informs it.

Listen here.

Christmas concert controversy

(Courtesy photo) Broadway Star Kristin Chenoweth.

LGBTQ activist Fred Karger, a thorn in the church’s side for more than a decade over the faith’s finances and its opposition to gay marriage, is leading another cause.

He is urging Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth to bow out of her featured appearance at next month’s Christmas concert with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

How, Karger wonders in a Tribune op-ed, can Chenoweth, a noted LGBTQ advocate, sing with a choir tied to a church with anti-gay-rights policies?

“Her mere presence with the Tabernacle Choir gives her a giant stamp of approval to the church’s homophobic policies of bigotry, hate and shaming,” he writes. “Surely, the LGBTQ community can expect better from its allies.”

No word — as of Thursday night — from Chenoweth, the original Glinda from the smash-hit “Wicked.”

Church vs. hierarchy

Pointing to the spate of unflattering headlines tying the Catholic Church to sexual abuse by priests, Religion News Service columnist Thomas Reese argues that it’s time to differentiate between the church as whole and its hierarchy.

“Saying that the Catholic Church did not protect children is ... wrong. It was the bishops. It was the hierarchy,” he writes. “We should not blame the people of God for the sins of the hierarchy.”

The LDS Church has endured its share of embarrassing headlines as well. Could — or should — the same logic be applied in those cases, too?

Thai temple progress

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Rendering of the Bangkok Thailand Temple.

Thailand moved one step closer to getting its first Latter-day Saint temple when the church announced plans for a Jan. 26 groundbreaking in Bangkok.

The temple will serve Thailand’s 22,000-plus members and those from surrounding nations.

Nevadan dies in first week of his mission

(Photo courtesy | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Zane Lamping

Zane Lamping, from Moapa, Nev., had been on his mission for less than a week when he died after collapsing while exercising at the South African Missionary Training Center.

His stake president, Brandon Leavitt, said there was no earlier indication that the 19-year-old missionary suffered from any health ailments.

“Zane was an exceptional young man,” Leavitt said. “He had a smile that was contagious.”

Called to serve in the Johannesburg Mission, Lamping had entered the MTC on Thanksgiving Day.

‘The next Mark Hofmann?’

A 29-year-old Utah man has been charged with stealing a photograph of an early 20th-century Latter-day Saint apostle from Utah State University’s special collections.

Kevin Schuwer also is accused of peddling fake artifacts and ripping off people in deals involving other early Mormon documents.

One rare-documents expert has called him “the next Mark Hofmann,” a reference to the nefarious “Mormon bomber,” who killed two people in trying to cover up his forgeries.

A plea for migrants

(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) Migrants run from tear gas launched by U.S. agents, amid photojournalists covering the Mexico-U.S. border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.

U.S. border agents are under fire after they shot tear gas into Mexico at a crowd of marchers and migrants near Tijuana.

The critics include Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

“The images and stories of mothers trying to protect their small children from the choking fumes have spread around the world, to the horror of compassionate people everywhere,” the group wrote on its website. “ … Jesus Christ was abundantly clear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and that no man-made lines should define our reach. Whatever efforts we make to appropriately secure our borders and protect our national interests cannot supersede our moral obligation to care for one another as sisters and brothers, children of the same God.”

The nonpartisan organization, which sprang up after the 2016 presidential election and is not formally affiliated with the church, is urging U.S. officials to find “creative, compassionate, bipartisan solutions” on immigration issues.

Back in January, the church’s first major policy statement under President Russell M. Nelson also touched on immigration, urging Congress to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers,” whose undocumented parents brought them to the United States as children.

Seek a new name and ye shall find — eventually

Add FairMormon to the growing tally of Latter-day Saint-related groups seeking a new name to align with church President Russell M. Nelson’s plea to erase “Mormon” as a nickname. But pulling off the switch isn’t always easy.

“We intend to follow the prophet, but making changes to a 501(c)(3) organization takes time,” Scott Gordon, president of the apologetics group, writes in a November newsletter. “Our name FairMormon is licensed to us by the church — as is our logo with the image of the Salt Lake Temple. We are discussing the issue and will carefully make the necessary changes.”

Ty Markham, co-founder of the independent Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, said on a Tribune podcast that her group also is considering a name shift, though she conceded she would hate to lose the MESA acronym.

Romney Republicans vs. Trump

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mitt Romney gives his victory speech at Romney Headquarters in Orem,on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Utahns, looking for a politician to stand up to President Donald Trump, have a simple answer: Get Mitt.

An AP VoteCast survey shows 64 percent of Beehive State voters want Mitt Romney, their newly elected senator and the first Latter-day Saint to be a major presidential nominee, to confront Trump.

The poll also found that 67 percent of Latter-day Saint voters cast ballots for Republicans, but only 56 percent approve of the president’s performance.

Writer’s suit settled

Marianne Monson, a Latter-day Saint author of “Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women,” has settled her lawsuit against her former employer: Portland Community College.

The Portland Tribune reports that the school, without acknowledging wrongdoing, agreed to pay nearly $100,000 in lost wages and other legal costs.

Monson had alleged that the college wrongly dismissed her after she complained of threatening treatment from a student. She also said the school discriminated against her partly because of her gender and her faith.

Holland hands out scriptures

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle gives copies of the Book of Mormon at United Kingdom Parliament. Stephen Kerr MP, left; House of Commons Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland; sister Patricia T. Holland; and Yvonne Kerr.

Handing out copies of the Book of Mormon is a standard missionary practice. An apostle giving the text as gifts to senior government leaders? Well, that’s not so common.

But that’s what Jeffrey R. Holland did recently, a news release states, presenting specially bound copies of his faith’s signature scripture to British Prime Minister Theresa May and three other Parliament leaders in London.

Quote of the week

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference on April 1, 2018.

“As we look back on where we’ve been, I hope we can see more than just modified policies, new programs, and revised manuals. The Lord’s work has always been ultimately about people, not programs. Whatever changes He directs in an organization or a schedule or a curriculum, what He’s really hoping to change is you and me. He wants to change our hearts and enhance our future.”

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland

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