This week in Mormon Land: The missing women in Zion; the ‘other’ bigotry in ‘Book of Mormon’ musical; the bad water at camp

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings during the morning session of General Conference on March 31, 2018.

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 sexist Zion?

“And the Lord called his people Zion,” declares a Latter-day Saint scripture, “because they were of one heart and one mind.”

And one sex?

That’s how it read to feminist author Valerie Hudson Cassler when she analyzed two seminal works on the subject — “Approaching Zion” by Hugh Nibley and “Working Toward Zion” by James W. Lucas and Warner P. Woodworth.

“Where are the women?” Cassler asks in a Square Two post. “ … Is it not true that every community is comprised of men and women, with about half of humanity being male and half being female? If so, how does this bear upon Zion? These authors provide no clue. … If we are going to talk about Zion, we had better be prepared to talk about the fundamental unit of Zion: the man and the woman.”

Thumbs down for ‘Book of Mormon’ musical

(Courtesy Joan Marcus) A traveling production of the Broadway smash musical "The Book of Mormon."

The Tony-winning “Book of Mormon” musical has brought smiles, chuckles, even sidesplitting howls to crowds around the world for more than eight years.

But, as the production comes to Auckland, Melissa Inouye isn’t laughing.

The religious scholar writes at Newsroom, an independent New Zealand-based news site, that it’s “never” OK to mock people’s religious beliefs.

But just as troubling, says Inouye, author of the recently published “Crossings,” is the show’s “racist depictions of Ugandans and, more broadly, Africans and indigenous peoples.”

The Latter-day Saint academic insists she can take a joke. “Now that I have seen the musical, however, I am astonished by its racism and ethnocentrism in its depiction of indigenous peoples. I cannot accept it. People who value faith and abhor racism should not pay money to support this show.”

This week’s podcast: Religion’s ‘messy’ middle

(Courtesy photo) Lee Hale, host of KUER's "Preach" podcast.

Award-winning KUER reporter Lee Hale said his new “Preach” podcast would be a “different kind of faith conversation.”

A two-minute promotion for the show, which debuts Sept. 6, provides a clue. It begins with Hale briefly describing his time knocking on doors in Minnesota as a missionary and how, a decade later, he finds his own beliefs are “evolving.”

Yes, Hale is opting to be open about his identity as a Latter-day Saint. He talks about that choice and his podcast, which will focus on, in his words, “the messy middle” of faith on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Listen here.

Mission president dies; missionaries wounded

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Bradley Wayne Kirk, president of the Philippines Naga Mission, died Wednesday morning. He is shown here with his wife, Shirley.

A 61-year-old mission president died this week in the Philippines from a stroke.

Bradley Wayne Kirk, a resident of Clovis, Calif., was overseeing the church’s Naga Mission, according to a news release. He and his wife, Shirley, had been serving there since July.

“We find comfort that he passed while doing what he loved — serving the Lord in a place dear to his heart amongst a people he loved, with his lifelong sweetheart by his side,” the family said in a statement. “... His love for family, music, the outdoors, and our savior Jesus Christ will never be forgotten.”

Meanwhile, KMVU FOX 26 reported that two Latter-day Saint missionaries were wounded when a gun accidentally went off during a work project in Klamath Falls, Ore.

A homeowner removed a gun from a display case to show to six missionaries when it discharged, police told the station. A bullet struck the owner’s hand and then ricocheted and hit two missionaries.

None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening.

Bad water at camp

High Country News reports that Utah regulators routinely ignored tests that showed the water at a church-operated girls’ camp east of Salt Lake City was tainted.

“The spring from which Aspencrest draws its drinking water has a history of bacterial contamination,” writes Emma Penrod, a former Salt Lake Tribune reporter. “... Tests reveal that the bacteria were still present as of June.”

Penrod notes that state watchdogs also “turned a blind eye” to potential health risks at Latter-day Saint chapel in Dugway in western Utah.

Read the full story here.

Asian outreach

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Joy D. Jones and Michelle D. Craig are greeted by church members in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Two top female Latter-day Saint leaders visited Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan last month, hoping to learn from the members there so they can improve the church everywhere.

“It is a worldwide church,” Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said in a news release. “We are here to learn the challenges, the opportunities and the strengths of the people here, and as we go back to church headquarters, we can take what we’ve learned and incorporate into some of the decisions that are being made.”

Joy D. Jones, general president of the children’s Primary, said that while the size of church classes may be smaller in Asia than in, say, Utah, the biggest issue remains each individual child.

“Love them,” she advised in the release. “And remember the importance of ministering to ‘the one.’”

U.N.? You bet.

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé praised the United Nations and its partners last week for the work they do to “make this world a better place to live for all.”

“Just as protecting our planet requires worthy forms of personal sacrifice," the French native said in a news release, “so too we can sacrifice to sustain and include those around us, whoever they may be.”

Caussé, who oversees the church’s real estate, investment and financial operations, also encouraged young people to be examples for their elders in global causes.

“Show us the way; carry the baton; maintain the flame; channel your enthusiasm," he said during the closing session of the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City. "Find ways to serve in your neighborhoods, in your communities, in your cities, countries and congregations. Serve at home and abroad. In doing so, those you reach will be blessed, but so too will you.”

Brazilian bounce

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) “Some of these children you have are some of the brightest children that the Lord has ever let come to planet Earth,” said President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he wrapped up his nine-day Latin America ministry, in São Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 1, 2019.

Even at age 94 (95 next Monday), church President Russell M. Nelson says he “can hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning.”

Providing that eager energy is the “accelerated pace” of change in the church, Nelson said as he wrapped up his five-nation Latin American tour with a couple of stops in Brazil.

In the capital of Brasilia, he revealed that more temples and other news will be announced at next month’s General Conference. Since taking the church’s reins nearly 20 months ago, Nelson has announced 27 additional temples.

In Sao Paulo, speaking to his largest crowd ever outside the United States, he urged more than 37,000 Brazilians to teach their children and help them achieve the “highest blessings” in the temples.

Temple updates

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saints are ready to attend the Port-Au-Prince Temple dedication. Apostle David A. Bednar dedicated Haiti’s first temple on Sept. 1, 2019.

Farther north in Latin America, apostle David A. Bednar dedicated the faith’s first temple in Haiti.

“The house of the Lord is the place where members receive the highest and most important ordinances and covenants. They produce changes in individuals. [They] change communities, nations, starting with individuals," he said in a news release. "In these ordinances, the power of divinity is manifested. [It] strengthens people, gives them a vision of who they are and why we are here; it gives them hope.”

With the 10,396-square-foot temple in the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, one of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nations with a poverty rate approaching 60 percent, now can offer its more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints their faith’s richest blessings.

In Europe, Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, toured the Lisbon Temple.

The country’s first such edifice, a 49-foot-tall structure with a 134-foot gold-leafed spire topped by an Angel Moroni, will be dedicated Sept. 15, according to a news release. Portugal has more than 45,000 Latter-day Saints.

Quote of the week

(Courtesy photo) Melissa Inouye

“[The Book of Mormon musical’s] zingy jokes about Latter-day Saint missionary culture often hit the mark, but comedy in exchange for soft religious bigotry and racist caricatures of indigenous peoples is too high a price to pay.”

Melissa Inouye, author of “Crossings: A Bald Asian American Latter-day Saint Woman Scholar’s Ventures Through Life, Death, Cancer and Motherhood (Not Necessarily in That Order)

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