This week in Mormon Land: Why church isn’t boring; a trailblazing bell; Scout lawsuit settlements

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A sacrament meeting in Africa.

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.

Bored at church? Look around.

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Homeless man pauses after sacrament meeting at a church service for the homeless at the Rio Grande LDS Branch, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

As the faithful endure their final three-hour block before switching to the long-anticipated, widely embraced and joyously welcomed two hours of Sabbath services, a Times and Seasons blogger delivers this simple yet sincere sermon: “Sunday meetings are not boring.”

No, Jonathan Green writes, “a hundred people seeking solace is not boring, any more than Puccini is boring.”

Green points to the range of people in the pews who together make up the symphony of his Latter-day Saint ward — those who have survived cancer or suffer from chronic illnesses, those who have lost loved ones or found faith, those running low on money in their pockets or running low on love in their homes.

“One brother sports an American flag lapel pin, and another sports a peace sign,” he notes. “Both are troubled by the direction our country has taken.”

When you take this cacophony of concerns and blend it into one community of faith, “it is,” Green says, “overpoweringly beautiful.”

Remember the nursery rhyme “here’s the church, here’s the steeple”? Well, the author seems to be inviting readers to “open the doors and really see all the people.”

Arizona, here they came

Courtesy | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mesa Arizona Temple

A historic bell may help ring in memories of the 19th-century Mormon migration to Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reports that a group wants to include the school bell that once hung at Lees Ferry, where early Latter-day Saints crossed the Colorado River from Utah into Arizona, in a proposed monument at the Arizona Capitol Mall.

“We just owe a lot of gratitude to those who came before us," state Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, told the newspaper. “It’s just amazing to me how strong and resilient these pioneer people were. They would take on anything.”

Cutting sister missionaries some slack, er, slacks

(Courtesy | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved revised dress guidelines, allowing full-time female missionaries to wear dress slacks at their discretion.

Female missionaries no longer will get a dressing-down for, well, dressing down.

The church announced a relaxed dress code allowing “sister” missionaries in all 407 of its missions around the world to ditch their dresses and wear pants — at “their own discretion” — when they proselytize.

The change will make it easier for missionaries to combat bugs, ride bikes and stay warm.

“I say HALLELUJAH and ABOUT TIME,” Kayla Bach, who returned last year from a mission in Santiago, Chile, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Facebook. “Pants are the WAY TO GO for female missionaries.”

Dresses and skirts are “truly optional,” Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, said in a news release. They remain mandatory, however, when female missionaries attend Latter-day Saint temples and Sunday services, along with mission conferences and baptismal services.

Scholar wins reprieve

Gina Colvin

She had been baptized into the Anglican Communion as part of her “continued Christian discipleship.” She had publicly criticized Latter-day Saint leaders, including President Russell M. Nelson, preferring Jesus to a “white man in Salt Lake City.” And she had been summoned to a bishop’s disciplinary council to face possible excommunication for alleged apostasy and “conduct unbecoming” a member.

But Gina Colvin wasn’t excommunicated, disfellowshipped or put on church probation.

Instead, her local lay leaders opted to take “no action” against the feminist scholar and writer from Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I was blessed,” Colvin said, “that everyone present was committed to creating a gentle and kind experience in which we all, in good faith, sought to deeply understand and give Christlike attention to each other’s wounds and concerns.”

Former bishop widens his work

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former bishop Sam Young speaks at a rally in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 30, 2018.

A former Latter-day Saint bishop, who was excommunicated for “publicly opposing the church” in his campaign to end bishops’ one-on-one youth interviews and the sometimes-intrusive sexual questions that are asked, is expanding his movement to prevent child abuse in all churches.

“In 2019, we will take up the noble cause to protect every child, regardless of religious affiliation,” Sam Young said at a news conference. “The abuse is ... everywhere.”

Strengthening Jewish ties

(Courtesy photo | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Rabbi Joseph Potasnik received the Visionary Leadership Award by the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association on Dec. 18, 2018. From left to right: Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Mary.

New York’s Latter-day Saint professionals honored a leading rabbi recently in Manhattan.

The group presented Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, with the Visionary Leadership Award for his community service.

“He's done wonderful things,” apostle Quentin L. Cook said in a news release. “He’s right at the heart of the rabbinical group in New York, and everybody respects him and everybody loves him.”

Said Potasnik: “If you're truly religious, you realize it's not enough to pray for your own people. It's not enough to pray for peace for your own community.”

Scout settlements

Nearly 30 men have sued the church and the Boy Scouts of America in Idaho, alleging that the two institutions knew of abuse taking place in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s but allowed it to continue.

Gilion Dumas, a Portland attorney representing the victims, told the Idaho Statesman that 19 cases have been settled, three are slated for trial, two have been dismissed and five are pending.

Settlement terms were not disclosed.

The church is scheduled to break ties with the BSA by 2020.

Let’s talk money

(Tribune file photo) D. Michael Quinn at the Church History Library on Aug. 9, 2013.

D. Michael Quinn has been “following the money” inside the church for decades, leading to his 2017 book, “Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power.”

The historian will discuss the world of church finances Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. in Weber State University’s Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall.

Quinn will speak about the faith’s top leadership with regard to income, personal wealth and institutional finances, according to a news release from the Ogden school.

The church’s rise from poverty to vast wealth “is an American success story without parallel,” Quinn told The Tribune in 2017. “No institution, no church, no business, no nonprofit organization in America has had this kind of history.”

Quote of the week

“I was a missionary in Norway, and it could have been very useful to wear pants — certainly much easier than five pairs of stockings to stay warm. Actually, after all the layering, women are really quite shapeless, so I think pants would have been better.”

Jane Haugsoen on change allowing sister missionaries to wear dress slacks

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