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.
Preventing abuse through training
The church is requiring all those who work with the faith’s children or youths to complete a 30-minute online training course on how to prevent abuse.
The materials can be found at ProtectingChildren.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“The training is designed to increase awareness, highlight policies and identify best practices for supervising and interacting with children and youth,” a news release states. “It also helps leaders know how to prevent and respond to abuse.”
The “creation and evaluation of the training,” it noted, was done in consultation with “leaders and specialists from child protection organizations, family therapists and other professionals.”
Sam Young, a former bishop who was excommunicated after his push to end one-on-one interviews with lay leaders in which youths sometimes are asked sexually explicit questions, praised the new training as a “win for children” and a “good start.”
But, he added, “there’s much more to do.”
Wake up and smell (but don’t drink) the coffee
You could call it the Starbucks stunner.
The prevalence of coffee drinking among young Latter-day Saints surprised researcher Jana Riess. Her groundbreaking Next Mormons Survey showed that about 40 percent of millennial and Generation X members, including temple-recommend-carrying ones, had downed a cup of coffee in the previous six months — despite the Word of Wisdom’s long-standing prohibition against it. Starbucks even plans to open its first stand-alone store in Provo, right in front of the church’s Brigham Young University.
Perhaps those trends help explain the church’s recent reinforcement of the policy and why that advisory came out in the New Era, the faith’s youth magazine.
“The word coffee isn’t always in the name of coffee drinks,” the article states. “So, before you try what you think is just some new milkshake flavor, here are a couple of rules of thumb: (1) If you’re in a coffee shop (or any other shop that’s well-known for its coffee), the drink you’re ordering probably has coffee in it, so either never buy drinks at coffee shops or always ask if there’s coffee in it. (2) Drinks with names that include café or caffé, mocha, latte, espresso, or anything ending in -ccino are coffee and are against the Word of Wisdom.”
In short, Latter-day Saints, let this cup pass.
The pronouncement also denounced vaping, green tea and iced tea. It warned against taking opioids and marijuana unless done so “under the care of a competent physician, and then used only as prescribed.”
The church has stated it “supports medicinal use of marijuana so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place.”
Stakes are high in Lima
Salt Lake City, Orem, Ogden and — Lima?
Yes, the Peruvian capital ranks right up there with those Utah population centers, along with Phoenix and Los Angeles, for the number of Latter-day Saint stakes.
The church recently organized a new stake in Lima, the fifth this year alone, independent demographer Matt Martinich reports at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com.
Metropolitan Lima now boasts 49 stakes — more than any other metro area outside the U.S., Martinich notes. Only greater Salt Lake City (about 180 stakes in Salt Lake County), Orem (some 165 within Utah County), Phoenix (approximately 80); Ogden (about 80); and L.A. (about 65) have more.
This week’s podcast: Musical connections
The Tony-winning “Book of Mormon” musical is in Utah’s Zion for the third time, bringing its own brand of raunchy, raucous, yet oddly reverential satire back to the Salt Lake City stage.
But there may be more at play than meets the ear and eye when Elder Price joyously sings about getting his own planet and Elder Cunningham lovingly lies his way to convert after convert in the jungles of Uganda. In fact, Mormonism’s ties to musical theater — both from within the faith and without — run deep.
Jake Johnson, an assistant professor of musicology at Oklahoma City University, explores those connections in his new book, “Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America.” He shares his insights this week on “Mormon Land.”
How to keep LGBTQ members in the fold
In his letter coming out as gay, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart and a nationally recognized advocate for child safety, lamented that the church was no longer a place of “solace.”
So, what could the faith and the faithful do to better embrace LGBTQ members? The following ideas, among others, emerged:
• “Stop othering LGBTQ saints, especially with things like placing an asterisk beside their names on membership records,” Calvin Burke, an openly gay BYU student and active Latter-day Saint, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Stop assuming that being LGBTQ automatically means worthiness issues. Especially stop treating LGBTQ members as if they are pedophiles.”
• “Stop describing us as ‘suffering’ from ‘same-gender attraction,’” Burke added, “especially when the vast majority of LGBTQ saints don’t use those identifiers.”
• “Find ways to use LGBTQ members’ time and talents, rather than focusing on what’s ‘wrong with them,’" he advised, “or on how they must live lives of celibacy, with no hope of an eternal family.”
• “Quit trying to explain how LGBTQ attractions and identity will be fixed in the hereafter or by marrying a person of the opposite sex,” said Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen, clinical director at Flourish Therapy in Provo.
Of course, the biggest barrier remains the church’s opposition to same-sex relationships and marriage.
“At the heart of any inhospitality, said Kendall Wilcox, co-founder of the gay-friendly grassroots group Mormons Building Bridges, are the “core doctrines around chastity, marriage and family that many believe are eternal and unchangeable.”
Without revising, or at least expanding, those beliefs, Wilcox told The Tribune, the best tack church leaders can take is to “listen to us and try to empathize with us and then let that empathy unsettle their settled assumptions about the doctrine.”
Work is underway on Brazil’s latest temple after a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday in Belém.
“May the members of the church be inspired to find solutions to the problems and challenges that arise,” general authority Seventy Marcos A. Aidukaitis, a native Brazilian, prayed in dedicating the site. “May the neighbors feel the spirit of the work and may [they] be happy as they pass by, and may the temple contribute to the beautification of this beautiful city.”
Brazil, home to nearly 1.4 million Latter-day Saints, the most of any country after the U.S. and Mexico, has seven operating temples and plans for four more.
A new African HQ
The church announced this week that the new Africa Central Area will be headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
When the new area — home to more than 100,000 members — comes on line a year from now, a news release said, it will oversee church operations in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Seychelles and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Ask for it by name
A year after President Russell M. Nelson launched his push to erase “Mormon” as a nickname for the church and its members, the results among the wider populace have been, in a word, underwhelming.
Religion News Service senior columnist Jana Riess notes that Google searches of “Latter-day Saints” — the newly preferred term for members — are up, especially in Utah. But Google Trends data shows use of the faith’s full name has not changed much at all.
The Honor Code evolution — or is it a revolution? — continues at the church’s premier university.
In the latest change, BYU students will be told what misconduct they are accused of before they go in for questioning.
“This is a pretty big improvement,” Addison Jenkins, a former student, told The Tribune. “... BYU owes a huge debt of gratitude to the students who have organized and brought this to the community’s attention and kept up the dialogue and pressure to make sure things changed.”
That pressure has come in the form of prayers, pleas, protests and petitions.
The school announced previous changes in May and July, including giving students an early explanation of how an Honor Code inquiry will proceed, not presuming a student is guilty, and letting a student know the name of the person who reported the alleged violation.
In 2016, BYU granted amnesty for Honor Code violations to students reporting sexual assaults.
McKenna Denson’s lawsuit against the church remains stalled.
A federal judge is giving the Colorado woman, who alleges that a former president of the Missionary Training Center raped her 35 years ago at the Provo campus, six more weeks to find lawyers to represent her in the case.
“There aren’t that many firms that specialize in this kind of a case,” Denson told the judge, “so I have to be a little bit careful in who I ask to represent me.”
Denson alleges Joseph L. Bishop, who now lives in the Phoenix area, of raping her in 1984 at the faith’s flagship MTC when he was president there.
Bishop denied the allegations, and last year was dismissed as a defendant. A fraud assertion alleging a cover-up remains against the church.
Quote of the week
“We take Jesus Christ’s teachings about children and youth very seriously. He welcomed them into his presence and gave stern warnings against abusing, bullying or hurting them in any way. … His deep concern for children and youth must continue to be our deep concern.”
Joy D. Jones, general president of the Primary program
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.