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.
A bible, a bible, missionaries to have a new bible
Latter-day Saint missionaries will be getting a new “white bible.”
Later this year, “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ,” the new handbook spelling out chapter and verse for proper missionary attire, conduct and procedures, will become available for tens of thousands of proselytizers across the globe.
For years, the faith’s young emissaries lovingly dubbed the white-covered handbook the “white bible.”
The new version, replacing the 2010 edition, is “more principle-based than prescription-based,” apostle Neil L. Andersen said in a news release. “It is an invitation to obedience, with more words of the Savior, more meaningful scripture references, and an opening letter from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.”
Newly named mission leaders received preview copies this week at training sessions that featured instructions from high-level authorities, including church President Russell M. Nelson
“Our missionaries collectively constitute the lifeblood of the next generation,” Nelson told the 164 couples. “The day will come when they will sit in chairs that we now occupy. They are the future leaders of the church. Please persuade them to become devout disciples of the Lord.”
Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who heads the Missionary Executive Council, pointed to recent changes in the faith’s proselytizing program — from relaxed dress codes to increased family communications and new safety videos.
“For the next three years, your opportunity and your great charge are to create a spirit of love, unity and high expectation in the mission where you have been called to serve God and his children,” Uchtdorf said. “You will do this by helping your beloved and precious missionaries to be filled with a love of God, with a desire to keep his commandments, and with an authentic love for all people.”
General President Bonnie H. Cordon, who heads the Young Women auxiliary, urged the new mission leaders to tend to their young charges. “You are those mission presidents and companions whom the mothers and fathers are praying and hoping will love their missionaries.”
If you can’t beat them …
Inside Manchester’s Palace Theatre, the Tony-winning “Book of Mormon” musical, with its pretend missionaries, is playing.
Outside, real-life missionaries, each packing a real Book of Mormon, are preaching.
Elders and sisters from the church’s Manchester Mission are taking up positions outside the Palace before and after performances to answer questions and discuss their faith, the Manchester Evening News reports.
“Our missionaries ... are a force for good,” mission President Stuart McReynolds told the newspaper. “ ... The positive impact they have each day is likely to be immeasurable.”
So what impact is this street scene having on theatergoers? That’s hard to measure, too, but Kevin Fletcher, of the church’s North West Branch, told the Evening News the response has been positive. The missionaries “actually met someone who ended up going to church after speaking to them.”
And borrowing a page from its script during previous runs of the mocking musical in New York, Chicago, Salt Lake City and elsewhere, the church placed an ad in the playbill that states: “You have seen the show, now read the book.”
Just step outside and ask for a copy.
Shopping for garments
Temple garments — the sacred, symbolic and standardized underwear devout members wear — can be bought only from the church’s Distribution Services.
But that wasn’t always the case.
In a column this week, Religion News Service senior columnist Jana Riess, with a major assist from historian Ardis Parshall’s blog, Keepapitchinin, returns to a time when stores made and sold the church-approved underclothes.
Riess shows ads that appeared in the early 20th century, when “competing retailers … hawked their wares in church publications right alongside ads for Jell-O (yes, that was apparently a Mormon obsession even then) and fire insurance.”
The first installment of the church’s emerging four-volume history ended with the Latter-day Saints worshipping in their freshly finished Nauvoo Temple even as they prepared to abandon it in an epic exodus.
“They were not leaping blindly into the dark. They had made covenants with God in the temple, strengthening their faith in his power to guide and sustain them on their journey,” conclude the authors in “Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth.” “Each trusted that somewhere to the west, across the summits of the Rocky Mountains, they would find a place to gather together, build another temple, and establish the kingdom of God on earth.”
That’s essentially where the narrative picks up in Volume 2, subtitled “No Unhallowed Hand” and now available online.
Additional chapters will be posted online each month, a news release states, until the entire book is published digitally and in print in February 2020.
Volume 1 — which, the church reports, has sold about 340,000 copies and drawn 834,000 readers online — covers 1815 to 1846. Volume 2 will stretch the church’s story to 1893.
‘We’ are the world
General authority Patrick Kearon knows just the person to change the world.
And … you get the picture.
“Influencing society always seems to be the job of someone else — someone with more power, more money, more time. Perhaps we expect some program or sponsor to take the lead. But when it comes to taking care of people, there is no ‘someone else,’” Kearon told a forum on religious freedom last week at Brigham Young University. “There is only us.”
A member of the faith’s Presidency of the Seventy, Kearon emphasized that religious liberty does not truly exist for anyone if it does not exist equally for everyone.
“Religious freedom means nothing if you protect your own religious practice while neglecting the practice of others,” he said. “It only works if you protect the rights of everyone.”
The world needs places of refuge where people of all religions can find liberty, added Kearon, who enthralled Latter-day Saints in 2016 with his impassioned General Conference plea urging members to help refugees.
“The test of a pluralistic society,” he said, “is to achieve unity without diminishing the diversity within it.”
This week’s podcast: Defending Muslims
With foundational beliefs in prophets, modesty, fasting and family values, Islam and Mormonism share some deeply rooted faith traditions.
This week’s guest, Carolyn Homer, knows more than a little about both religions. Homer is a civil rights attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and an active Latter-day Saint who makes a living defending Muslims.
Coming soon: ‘Preach’
A new podcast is coming on the faith front.
But KUER’s “Preach” promises to be different, with the host, award-winning religion reporter Lee Hale, “being open about my identity as a Mormon.”
“For a long time, I’ve been craving a different kind of faith conversation,” Hale, who graduated from BYU, writes in an email. “The stories you will hear on ‘Preach’ aren’t about religion per se, but the messy reality of faith and the experiences of people like you and me as we navigate life’s big questions.”
Listen for the debut of “Preach” in September.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong is putting his vast academic and professional credentials in global relations to practical use as an apostle.
The Asian American leader, who holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University and rose to key diplomatic positions with the U.S. State Department, met recently with the new president of Micronesia and the governor of Pohnpei, according to a news release.
Gong previously attended a G20 Interfaith Forum in Japan, where he discussed how religious values can help bring peace, prosperity and environmental protections to the world.
With the third LoveLoud Festival scheduled to take the stage Saturday at West Valley City’s Usana Amphitheatre,
Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, who founded the LGBTQ fundraising concert series, is popping up in media interviews and explaining his views on religion, relationships, rebellion and reconciling his faith with his social justice ambitions.
“I’m a very unique Mormon,” Reynolds told People magazine. “I hate that people have to be pigeonholed. Some days I don’t believe in anything — some days I’m probably more atheist than your atheist friend. And some days I want to pray to God.”
Quote of the week
“We are torn between having [the church’s humanitarian] efforts be private and letting that light shine in a way that will create awareness that we take our responsibility of contributing to society very seriously. We will probably need to talk more openly about these contributions, letting people know that at the heart of our faith is the desire to help our fellow human beings, wherever they are, people of faith and no faith at all. And that we do so without seeking converts in these most trying moments in people’s lives.”
Patrick Kearon, presidency of the Seventy, June 19 at BYU’s Religious Freedom Annual Review.
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.