This week in Mormon Land: A push to quote more female leaders, a plea to study even painful family history

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.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham, center, with her counselors, Sharon Eubank and Reyna I. Aburto, at the General Women's Session of the 187th Semiannual General Conference of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.

She said

Quickly finding a quote from a female church leader on, say, honesty or hope, isn’t as easy as locating one from a male authority.

That may be because so many more men speak at General Conference than women. In last month’s sessions, for instance, nearly six times as many sermons were delivered by men as by women (and this conference included a women’s session).

So Latter-day Saint blogger David Evans has created a website — Spiritual Thoughts by Women — devoted to quotes from female church leaders.

“I thought that a topical database of quotes by Latter-day Saint women would make it easier to incorporate women’s teachings into talks and lessons,” he writes in a Times and Seasons post, “so I’ve spent the last nine months going through every conference talk by a sister from the last 12 years and organizing them” on the site.

Evans says he so far has cataloged 500-plus quotes on 80 topics ranging from adversity to ministering to worthiness.

“Hopefully,” he writes, “this database will make it a little bit easier to highlight the wisdom and authority of all the members of our faith community.”

So Russell, Dallin and Dieter will be joined more often by Bonnie, Jean and Joy.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Tad R. Callister speaks during the morning session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.

In defense of the Book of Mormon

There is no “middle ground” when it comes to the church’s signature scripture, says the faith’s former Sunday school general president. The Book of Mormon is either “a fraud or it’s absolutely true.”

“Did the gold plates really contain the record of the Nephites and Lamanites — or is that a falsehood? Was Nephi a real prophet who lived in the Americas — or not?” Tad R. Callister tells Kurt Manwaring in a recent 10 questions interview. “Joseph Smith and the church claim that all those things were real. Either they are real or they’re a fraud. They’re not inspired fiction. They’re not claimed to be inspired fiction. They’re claimed to be as real as real can be.”

That doesn’t mean Callister never has questions. “I have lots of questions,” he says. “ … But I don’t think I’ve ever had a crisis of faith. I’ve always had a testimony of the Book of Mormon.”

His latest book — “A Case for the Book of Mormon” (which is “primarily apologetic in nature,” writes Times and Seasons blogger Chad Nielsen) — is a testament to Callister’s convictions.

Family connections

Family history can be rewarding, of course, but it also can be painful, especially for people of color.

“It can be hard for descendants of indigenous and African people to acknowledge that our white sixth great-grandfather may not have had the consent of our indigenous sixth great-grandmother,” Michelle Franzoni Thorley writes in a By Common Consent blog post. “We are the descendants of the master and the slave, the oppressor and the oppressed. We are a mix of both, and we still feel the shame and generational trauma of our family’s past.”

But this reluctance to explore family roots must stop, argues the Mexican American Latter-day Saint artist, because genealogy also can be hopeful, helpful and healing.

“When we are authentic to our family history story, we can become whole — not perfect but whole — and bring the past and future with us,” she writes. “Trauma disconnects families and shame keeps them disconnected. We know that disconnecting families is Satan’s plan. He has been disconnecting brown and black families for centuries with addiction, slavery and racism. How can we combat this? How can we create safe spaces for people with imperfect family histories? First, we can understand our own family stories, acknowledge the hard things and use empathy to liberate others.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune photo illustration)

Paychecks, piety and proselytizing

Can you have a Christus statue at your workstation? Can you invite a co-worker to a temple open house? Can you give a Book of Mormon to your boss? Can you refuse to work Sundays?

The answer to the above questions, at least under U.S. labor laws, is yes — but sometimes no.

In short, navigating the rightful place of religion in a secular workplace can be tricky.

The rules are “so vague,” Eugene Volokh, a UCLA professor who specializes in First Amendment and employment law, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Evangelism that comes across as too aggressive or offensive can be actionable.”

An LDS Church webpage on religious freedom on the job warns that “if a co-worker asks you not to talk with him or her about your faith, then you need to stop. Continuing could be harassment.”

Read The Tribune story and the church webpage for more discussion on this topic.

‘Sickening’ adoption scheme

If an Arizona elected official is convicted of running a multistate adoption scheme, he may find himself booted from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So said apostle Ronald A. Rasband of the prosecution of Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen.

“We're just as disgusted with it as anybody,” Rasband told The Arizona Republic. “The details of this case are sickening.”

The church plans to review Petersen”s membership after his criminal case concludes, the apostle said. The fact that he's a Latter-day Saint, Rasband added, does not exonerate him.

Petersen, who has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, is accused of violating laws in recruiting women from the Marshall Islands, where he served a Latter-day Saint mission, to give up their babies for adoption.

Rasband’s remarks represent the first time a high-level church official has commented on the case.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Historian Barbara Jones Brown talks on The Salt Lake Tribune's "Mormon Land" podcast, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.

This week’s podcast: The church’s historic ties to Mexico polygamy

When nine U.S. citizens were killed in a brutal attack in northern Mexico last week, much of the world learned for the first time about that area’s past and prevailing links to Mormon polygamy.

Those ties include a complex cast of characters and creeds — both mainstream Latter-day Saints and breakaway believers.

Helping to untangle and understand this web is historian Barbara Jones Brown, executive director of the Mormon History Association who has studied and written about post-1890 Mormon plural marriage.

Listen here.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Arequipa Temple in Peru.

Temple updates

Church President Russell M. Nelson is scheduled to dedicate the faith’s third Peruvian temple next month.

The Arequipa Temple will open its doors for free public tours from Nov. 15 through 30, according to a news release, followed by a youth devotional Dec. 14 and dedication Dec. 15.

Peru, with more than 605,000 Latter-day Saints, already has temples in Lima and Trujillo with a fourth, the Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple, under construction.

Quote of the week

“For every 100 questions I have, maybe for 70 I get answers, for 20 I find partial insights, and the balance I don’t have answers for. But I expect that. I expect that a mortal, who must have faith, is going to have some questions that he can’t answer. But when I weigh them in the balance, both intellectually and spiritually, I’ve always had this firm conviction that the gospel of Jesus Christ is as true as true can be.”

Tad R. Callister, former Sunday school general president

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