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 free newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.
Lehi lands on video
And Lehi “dwelt in a tent” — and in the first episode of the new Book of Mormon Videos.
Released on Friday, this initial installment covers the first two chapters of the faith’s signature scripture in which God commands the prophet Lehi — with his family in tow — to flee an increasingly wicked Jerusalem.
Additional episodes will become available every Friday through year’s end, according to a news release, with more to come in 2020 and 2021.
On deck in Episode 2: Lehi’s son Nephi is led by the Spirit to obtain the brass plates.
Speak up, speak out — civilly
To make the world a better place, it’s better to get in the game than sit on the sidelines, said the female leader of the children’s program for the global church.
“In the beautiful rough-and-tumble of a republic, there is no option for religious people to retreat, only a call to engage,” Primary general President Joy D. Jones told a group of Latter-day Saints this week in the Salt Lake Valley at an event organized by Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law Society. " … It takes faith to speak with both conviction and civility. The two are not mutually exclusive. Let’s find the right degree of firmness and cooperation to fit what the moment calls for.”
Jones noted that the “noise” in today’s society “seems to be getting more and more secular.” But, she added, “we’ve never lived in a time when so many fascinating and unique religious practices live side by side. This pluralism of religious experience is simply a fact of our changing society, and we have the pleasure of learning how to navigate it.”
Jones also pointed to the responsibilities Latter-day Saints have when speaking out in the public square, depending on whether they are in the majority (as in Utah) or the minority (virtually everywhere else).
“Majorities have the moral responsibility to treat their outnumbered brothers and sisters with respect as well as kindness. We, as Latter-day Saints, often view ourselves as being on the receiving end of mistreatment, but we can be on the offending end, too,” she said. “Don’t let the power of being in a majority make you complacent, and don’t let the imbalance of being in a minority make you resentful. In either situation, we can act as disciples of Jesus Christ. We can connect with those who disagree, be firm in our rights, empathize with those around us, and develop a broader perspective.”
See a transcript of her address — titled “Conversation, Conviction and Civility: Sharing Religious Values in Schools and the Public Square” — here.
Four centuries of data
The Catholic Church in the Philippines now has digitized records from its dioceses and parishes dating back to the 1600s, courtesy of the LDS Church.
FamilySearch, the Utah-based faith’s genealogical arm, recently handed over 14 million images — including birth, marriage and death certificates — to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Auckland Magazine reported. The documents date from 1614 to 2014.
“[From] the point of view of safeguarding [important church records],” a delighted Archbishop Romulo Valles said, “this is of great help to us.”
‘Mormon Land’ live: The Russell Nelson era
To mark the 100th episode of our “Mormon Land” podcast, an expert panel will discuss how the 95-year-old leader is reshaping the church, overhauling prominent policies and sacred ceremonies, loosening some rules while tightening others, even changing how people refer to the religion.
The free event will take place Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Nancy Tessman Auditorium of Salt Lake City’s downtown library, 210 E. 400 South.
The guest panel:
Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.
Jana Riess, Religion News Service senior columnist and author of “The Next Mormons.”
Tamu Smith of “Sistas in Zion” fame and co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons.”
Uniting against suicide
The church has given $150,000 — matching a previous donation — toward a suicide-prevention campaign in Utah.
Uniting with political, civic, business, medical and other religious leaders, Latter-day Saint general authority Seventy Craig C. Christensen said everyone can and must do better at watching for warning signs among family and friends.
“We need to encourage them they’re not alone,” Christensen said, “and they’re never alone.”
If you or someone you know is at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255. The church also offers suicide-prevention resources at Suicide.ChurchOfJesusChrist.org.
Another MTC to close
The contraction of Missionary Training Centers continues.
The church announced last week that the MTC in Guatemala City, Guatemala, would shut down come January, the fifth such closure in recent years.
“This decision comes as part of a long process of learning, planning and determining the best use of resources worldwide according to the needs and demands of each area,” church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said in a news release.
The Mexico City MTC is expected to take over much of the load for prospective proselytizers learning Spanish.
So, by next year, the number of MTCs worldwide will be 10, led by Provo’s flagship center, where new missionaries undergo intensive language study and gospel grounding before embarking on their service.
Unrest near Haiti’s temple
Crippling gasoline shortages are fueling protests that have rocked Haiti and crept closer to the church’s new temple in the capital.
“Some demonstrations are occurring near the newly dedicated Port-au-Prince Temple,” church spokeswoman Irene Caso wrote in an email. “Church personnel and temple staff are observing necessary safety and security measures.”
Apostle David A. Bednar dedicated the 10,396-square-foot temple Sept. 1, the first in Haiti, home to more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints.
Sharon Eubank returned to Finland this month without the nametag of a full-time missionary but with the name recognition that comes with being a high-level church leader and a full-time humanitarian.
Eubank, head of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the female Relief Society’s general presidency, delivered the keynote address at a church-sponsored women’s conference in Tampere that drew hundreds of participants from as far away as the Baltics and western Russia.
“We want to serve those in greatest need without respect to belief or political persuasion or nationality or orientation,” Eubank said in a news release. “And the work is to relieve suffering, build stability, promote dignity, and strengthen families.”
Eubank encouraged women young and old to serve God and others.
“You can serve the Lord in any situation in any time period in anything going on in your life,” she said. “... If you’re feeling stuck, if you’re feeling that this is a tough time in your life, take heart because the Lord can be with you, and he will help you get through that.”
Eubank, who served a proselytizing mission in Finland in the mid-1980s, also visited with several agencies in Helsinki that aid refugees.
“I’m just thrilled to be going back to this country that I adore, to people that I love and to serve in this culture and country that I just feel so strongly about.”
Temple updates in North Carolina, Mexico and Utah
The Tar Heel temple is back.
An open house is underway at the newly remodeled temple in Raleigh, N.C. It will be rededicated Oct. 13.
The 20-year-old edifice now includes an enclosed portico, a news release noted, and an Angel Moroni-topped steeple that stands 10 feet taller than the original.
North Carolina is home to more than 88,000 Latter-day Saints.
Farther south, ground will be broken Nov. 30 on the Puebla Mexico Temple. Announced a year ago by church President Russell M. Nelson, the building will be Mexico’s 14th Latter-day Saint temple.
Mexico has more than 1.45 million members, the most of any nation outside the U.S.
In Utah, the church also announced the location of the Tooele Valley Temple.
The three-story, 70,000-square-foot building will be located northwest of the intersection of Erda Way and Highway 36 in Erda, just north of Tooele City.
Exterior and interior renderings are not yet available.
Once this temple is completed — along with ones planned in Layton, Saratoga Springs and Washington County — Utah will have 21 temples.
Prominent playwright dies
Playwright Eric Samuelsen, a “straight, married Mormon guy” who reached out to LGBTQ individuals through his personal words and his professional works, has died of a rare muscle disease.
He was 63.
Samuelsen, who steered Brigham Young University’s playwriting program from 1999 to 2011, “was a fantastic amalgam of intellect, heart, wit and artistic generosity,” University of Utah theater professor Tim Slover said. “He was and will remain an inspiration to all whom he taught and all who aspire to write for the stage, especially those of us who try to dramatize belief and frailty.”
Quote of the week
“To really understand a people, a nation or a neighbor, you have to understand their religion. We call this religious literacy. This greater understanding and appreciation will broaden our perspective and equip us to handle societal dialogue much more deeply. It will also inspire people to have more respect for us.”
— Joy D. Jones, Primary general president
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.