This week in Mormon Land: Two fears about the two-hour block, a third MTC to shut down, a less-LDS Zion

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two Latter-day Saint chapels built adjacent to each other on Angel Street, in Kaysville. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.

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: This is the place for nonmembers

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Salt Lake County is home to the church’s headquarters, its famous tabernacle and its landmark temple.

But the county is no longer populated mostly by Latter-day Saints. The latest membership numbers, supplied by the church itself, show that Utah’s most populous county is now 48.91 percent Latter-day Saint. In fact, the member tally statewide has fallen below 62 percent.

This continuing demographic shift is more than a statistical footnote. It carries with it sweeping implications for schools, politics, neighborhoods and the church itself.

Jim McConkie, a Salt Lake City attorney, former Latter-day Saint bishop and an ex-congressional candidate, has witnessed this transformation firsthand. He sees opportunities for the heart of Mormonism to become more cohesive and inclusive even as it grows more diverse and increasingly non-Mormon.

Listen here.

A third MTC to close

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Dominican Republic MTC, located in Santo Domingo.

The church soon will be down to a dozen Missionary Training Centers.

Next month, the MTC in the Dominican Republic will close.

“This decision comes as church leaders continue to seek the best use of resources worldwide according to the needs and demands of each area,” a news release states. “Plans for future use of this space are still being determined.”

In March, Latter-day Saint leaders announced that the MTCs in Chile and Spain would shut down come 2019 as well.

MTCs, including the flagship facility in Provo, are boot camps, of sorts, where new missionaries undergo intensive language study and gospel grounding before embarking on their proselytizing service.

Colombia gets a second temple

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Barranquilla Colombia Temple.

Nearly 20 years after getting its first Latter-day Saint temple, Colombia welcomed its second one on Sunday.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, dedicated the Barranquilla Temple in three sessions.

In a devotional the day before, Oaks urged young Colombians to study the scriptures daily.

“Reading should be first on your list of what you do each day to learn the gospel and keep the commandments,” he said in a news release. “The importance of the Book of Mormon is related to the testimony of Jesus Christ and his atonement.”

A fellow apostle, Ulisses Soares, encouraged the youths to attend the temple. “We are all transformed,” the native Brazilian said, “when we go to the temple.”

Colombia’s first Latter-day Saint temple opened in the capital of Bogota in 1999, more than 15 years after it was announced. South America now has 19 such temples.

The great and dreadful day of ‘Deadpool’

(Photo courtesy Fox) "Once Upon a Deadpool" is now playing in theaters.

A poster promoting the movie “Once Upon a Deadpool” — a PG-13 version of “Deadpool 2” — is getting double takes from Latter-day Saints.

Turns out, it looks an awful lot like a famous church-commissioned painting depicting the Second Coming, the one by Seventh-day Adventist artist Harry Anderson showing a white-robed Christ descending from the heavens while surrounded by trumpet-blowing angels.

You could call the ad the second coming of “Deadpool 2.”

But tens of thousands of online petition signers are calling it “religious discrimination” and urging that the poster not be used or posted.

For his part, By Common Consent blogger Michael Austin sees the whole kerfuffle as another internet-manufactured P.R. stunt.

(Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Harry Anderson painted "The Second Coming."

Stumbling blocks

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Two Latter-day Saint chapels built adjacent to each other on Angel Street, in Kaysville. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.

The countdown to the two-hour meeting block has By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson musing about two “potential pitfalls” in the shortened Sunday services:

  • Barriers to “building Zion.”

  • Less religious instruction.

Brunson fears that more time with families in the home will translate into less interaction with fellow members at church.

“We can build Zion on several levels, but if we limit our Zion-building to our own homes,” he writes, “we’ve abdicated our responsibility to the larger body of Christ and the larger world around us.”

The blogger, a tax law scholar in Chicago, also worries that many Latter-day Saints will not be in a position to enhance their gospel study at home.

“I’ll be able to — my wife, kids, and I attend church and share roughly the same religious convictions. But not every family does,” Brunson notes. “I’ll go so far as to say, some families are hostile toward the church and religious discussion at home.”

Then there are those who are single, divorced, widowed or otherwise alone in their homes.

“Those individuals,” he adds “ ... are left without the community, without the discussion, that they enjoy at church.”

A choir girl’s dream comes true

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kristin Chenoweth, the guest artist and narrator at The Tabernacle Choir's annual Christmas concert this year appears alongside choir President Ron Jarrett, left, and music director Mack Wilberg during a news conference at the Relief Society Building on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

Win a Tony? Check. Win an Emmy? Check. Sing with the Tabernacle Choir? Check, finally.

Yes, Kristin Chenoweth’s “bucket list” will get shorter this week when she headlines with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for three Christmas concerts at a packed Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“Two of my aunts are flying in from Oklahoma to see the show," she said, “and that’s going to be extremely special for me.”

Chenoweth, an award-winning gay rights activist, had been encouraged to drop out of the performances because of the church’s policies on some LGBTQ issues, but she refused, seeing her participation as a way to build bridges during the holiday season.

“I do think music is a healer,” she told The Tribune, “and brings people together who might not normally see eye to eye.”

USU gets its man

Matt Cashore | University of Notre Dame Patrick Mason

Latter-day Saint scholar Patrick Mason is swapping sunny Southern California for cold Cache.

Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, will become the Leonard J. Arrington Endowed Chair of Mormon History and Culture at USU’s Logan campus in July.

He replaces Phil Barlow, who is joining Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Quote of the week

Kristin Chenoweth during taping of the special “A Very Wicked Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years on Broadway.”

“It’s been a long time going, and all I want to do is celebrate the reason for the season.”

— Kristin Chenoweth, on singing with the Tabernacle Choir at Christmastime

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