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.
The truth question
Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, had one burning issue for deity in 1820: which church of all the Christian sects at the time was true?
That is not the question today’s millennials are asking, says Religion New Service columnist Jana Riess.
Better ones, Riess writes, might be: “How does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bless the world?” “What experiences do we have to offer that will help individuals flourish?” “What hope does our religion provide people of a better life to come, even if they aren’t members of our faith?”
Speaking of truth claims
In this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, historian Matt Bowman, the newly installed Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon (there’s that word again) Studies at Claremont Graduate University, discusses what might be behind church President Russell M. Nelson’s push a year ago to drop “Mormon” in favor of the full name of the church.
Hint: It’s more than a question of branding or clarity.
Bowman mentions an earlier Latter-day Saint prophet with a similar mandate for a similar reason — he wanted everyone to capitalize “The” in the church’s full name.
End of an era
Riess also writes of her experience at the penultimate Hill Cumorah Pageant, due to be discontinued next year.
It was the RNS columnist’s first time to see the show, and she had a mixed review.
“The pageant feels at times like a large-scale diorama, impressive in scale but devoid of life,” Riess concludes. “Seeing it did not move me nearly as much as the conversations about the pageant did — about how participating in it through the years has brought families closer together and strengthened individuals’ faith.”
New era begins
Latter-day Saint leaders worldwide got a first look at the church’s program to replace Scouting. The descriptions are long on values to be instilled — gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development — and short on specifics.
On Sept. 29, the church will host a special satellite broadcast featuring a presentation by M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and send out “additional information on uniformity and adaptation and name changes for activities and meetings.”
Building a partnership
Church President Russell M. Nelson was invited to give a keynote speech at the 110th annual convention of the NAACP on Sunday in Detroit.
It was one more symbol of the growing collaboration between the historic civil rights organization and the Utah-based faith — an unexpected development that was begun last year after decades of alienation based on the faith’s now-discontinued ban on African American men and boys from the faith’s all-male priesthood and black women and girls from its temples.
At last year’s meeting, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said his organization looked forward to many collaborative activities with the church, serving as a model for how groups can unite to achieve common goals.
Mormon YouTube Influencers?
Consider twins Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight, 19, and younger sister Kamri Noel, 16, have been on YouTube for a decade. Combined, they have over 8 million subscribers.
“We’ve just kind of been showing our life [through YouTube] and our church is a big part of our life,” Kamri told The Daily Beast. “Whenever we’re at church, we are always vlogging [video blogging] after church.”
From one court to another
Utah’s Supreme Court issued a rare ruling this week on the case of a Latter-day Saint ward basketball injury. Was the harm intentional, as the plaintiff argued, or part of regular, if rough, contact?The justices sided with the referee, who declared the contact unintentional, warranting only a common foul.
Still, it is episodes like these that have earned church games the reputation as “the brawl that begins with prayer.”
Quote of the week
“The thing is, I basically have, like, modesty standards I’m trying to uphold, but still look cute.”
Utah native Marla Henry, better known by her YouTube alias “Marla Catherine,” The Daily Beast
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.