This week in Mormon Land: The curious case of premarital exams, religious mocking in Scotland

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

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.

Before exchanging vows

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) One of the sealing rooms in the Jordan River Temple.

KUER’s Lee Hale kicked off his “Latter-day” series — and its focus on Mormon culture — with a look at a present-day practice: the premarital exam.

These medical checks for women about to wed and have sex for the first time take place almost exclusively in Utah and the Intermountain West’s so-called Mormon Belt.

During the exam with a gynecologist, the bride-to-be can ask questions, Hale reports, and might receive a dilater to make intercourse less painful.

So, why aren’t such discussions taking place sooner. Of course, Utah has had a tortured history with sex education in schools, and many parents don’t touch the topic at home.

“Going to a doctor for a ‘premarital exam’ can be an option, but it’s not a requirement. It’s not a necessity,” Salt Lake County-based sex therapist Kristin Hodson told Hale. “Helping our kids navigate that earlier would be better.”

Hale’s new podcast, “Preach,” is poised to debut in September.

‘Mocking’ Mormonism

When a pro-Scottish independence daily joked that a member of Parliament “does not believe Scotland could be a successful independent state but does believe in angels,” that Latter-day Saint lawmaker cried foul.

The National columnist also satirically asked, “Why put the question of deal, no-deal or no Brexit to fallible parliamentarians — or the mere mortals they represent — when we could just ask God?” and wrote that church founder Joseph Smith hid the gold plates (of Book of Mormon fame) much like the government does with Brexit legal advice.

Stephen Kerr, a Tory from Stirling, filed a formal complaint of religious discrimination with an independent press watchdog group, arguing it was inappropriate for The National to “demean and ridicule him on the basis of his religious beliefs.”

For its part, the newspaper maintained that no one is “entitled to practice religion free from criticism,” reported the Press Gazette, a British media magazine.

The Independent Press Standards Organization sided with The National, the Press Gazette said, ruling that “mocking references … to the teachings of the church were not directed at the complainant personally, and were not framed in reference to him as an individual, but to the organization as a whole, and its beliefs.”

Step-by-step membership

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Writer Mette Harrison at her home in Layton. Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

In a guest commentary for Religion News Service, novelist Mette Harrison spells out what it takes to be a full-fledged, honest-to-goodness, recommend-carrying Latter-day Saint.

Getting baptized and confirmed may be enough to get on the covenant path, but there are more steps (try 73) to set foot on the cultural course.

Here are a few from Harrison’s list:

• Eat meat sparingly. (Actually, scratch that. It’s in the Word of Wisdom, but no one pays attention to it anyway, so bring on the burgers. You’re going to need to keep your strength up for keeping all the other rules.)

• Go to church every Sunday, even when you’re on vacation. God gives you extra credit for this.

• Show up for moving other people in and out of your ward. Lift with your legs! And keep plenty of ibuprofen on hand.

• Know how to make important knots with rope. No one knows why this matters, but it does.

• Play “wholesome” games as a family. (Yes, Monopoly counts. The prophet Ezra Taft Benson taught that capitalism is holy, so it’s best to start ’em young.)

• Know the stories of your pioneer ancestors, if you have them, to tell your children on Pioneer Day. (Don’t worry about the gruesome details — kids will love them!)

Read the rest here.

This week’s podcast: Ministering to the doubters

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Stories of members walking away from the church are legion. And plenty of books have been written in recent years documenting and addressing the concerns of these disaffected members.

But what can loved ones and leaders still in the faith do to help, to serve, to embrace these onetime believers?

That’s what David Ostler explores in his new book, “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.” A retired business executive, Ostler, who has lived on several continents and has served as a bishop, stake president and mission president, discusses his findings in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Listen here.

Double play

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle David A. Bednar throws the ceremonial first pitch at the Houston Astros game against the Oakland Athletics, July 22, 2019.

After Neil L. Andersen threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium last month, fellow apostle David A. Bednar joined the rotation several days later, hurling a strike at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

About 150 missionaries from the Houston South Mission also performed the national anthem, according to a news release.

March against abuse

(Alison Berg | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sam Young, founder of Protect Every Child, announces a national march to protest child abuse.

Sam Young is on the march — again — and this time he has more company.

The former bishop, who was excommunicated after his aggressive campaign to end bishops’ one-on-one interviews with minors, is uniting with other advocacy groups to hold the nation’s first march dedicated to ending child sex abuse.

“Child abuse is the most prevalent health problem children face. Yet we’re not talking about it, not addressing it,” Young said. “I encourage everybody that is concerned about child sex abuse, anybody that wants to eliminate what’s happening to children, to come to the march.”

It will take place in Salt Lake City on Oct. 5, starting at City Hall and ending at the Utah Capitol.

Quote of the week

“We need to take [disaffected members’] concerns seriously. These issues are very real to them and we should never try and minimize their concerns. We need to validate, even if we disagree. Later, after they know that we really care about their concerns and how it impacts them, perhaps we can discuss ways to think about the issue or even move forward without a clear resolution.”

David Ostler, in a Q&A on his new book, “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question”

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