This week in Mormon Land: Yes to suffrage, no to ERA, and a measles outbreak disrupts church services

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.

Saluting sister suffragists

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) "Sisters for Suffrage: How Utah Women Won the Vote" exhibit at the Church History Museum, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.

A new exhibit at the Church History Museum works as a sweeping vote of thanks to Latter-day Saint women who pioneered the suffrage movement in Utah.

“Sisters for Suffrage: How Utah Women Won the Vote” tells the story through artifacts (including a copy of Susan B. Anthony’s biography) apparel (19th-century dresses) photographs (such as Martha Hughes Cannon, the nation’s first female state senator) and more.

“Utah women were very active in the early suffrage movement,” Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society, said. “From the time women in Utah received the right to vote, the Relief Society organization was involved in the fight for women’s suffrage on the national stage.”

The exhibit, which will be on display at the downtown Salt Lake City museum through January 2021, celebrates the 150th anniversary of Utah women becoming the first women to cast ballots in the United States.

“Historically, our state’s early achievements in women’s rights have gone unacknowledged,” said state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, “and until very recently, they’ve been largely forgotten.”

Next year also marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote across the country.

Church no longer MIA in ERA debate

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abby Guymon, left, and her twin sister, Kate, 10, join other local supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment for a rally at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, to encourage Utah to ratify the ERA.

The ERA may be DOA at the Utah Legislature after the church broke its recent silence on the issue and reaffirmed its historic opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment.

When asked earlier this year for its current position on the Equal Rights Amendment, the church declined to comment. Latter-day Saint feminists took heart in that response — or the lack of one — surmising that the faith may now be neutral on the decades-old measure seeking to guarantee equal rights regardless of sex.

But after a rally Tuesday at the Utah Capitol in a renewed and revved-up push for ratification of the ERA, the Salt Lake City-based faith, seen as the most powerful political force in the Beehive State, stated that its “position on this issue has been consistent for more than 40 years.”

Translation: The church remains opposed to the ERA.

In the 1970s and ’80s, when the issue was on the nation’s front burner, the church steadfastly, stridently and prominently fought the ERA. Latter-day Saint authorities (women and men) preached against it, published articles against it, distributed pamphlets against it, launched letter-writing campaigns against it, lobbied against it and urged its members to do the same.

“It’s disappointing,” Sara Vranes, a Utah leader of Mormons for ERA, said of the church’s latest statement.

Arizonan Anissa Rasheta, a national organizer for the group, told The Salt Lake Tribune she hopes that the church won’t use its resources — as it did years ago — to actively work against ratification.

God’s love awaits you, apostle says

Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo Apostle Dale G. Renlund speaks during a news conference at the Church Office Building on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

Apostle Dale G. Renlund, a cardiologist by profession, harked back to a time as a first-year student at Johns Hopkins Hospital when he had stopped praying every day, Provo’s Daily Herald reported.

“I had allowed my receptors for God’s love to become dull, so that the things of the Spirit were less urgent and less important,” Renlund told students at a Brigham Young University devotional this week.

“If you have dysfunction of your receptors for God’s love,” he said, “you can lose your way and succumb to dangers, such as hopelessness, helplessness and loneliness.”

The young medical student then vowed to change, the paper reported. He found time to read the Book of Mormon at the hospital and put prayer back in his daily diet.

Physical and mental illness also can block the ability to feel God’s love, said Renlund, urging sufferers of clinical anxiety and depression to get professional help.

Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, gave a widely praised sermon in the fall General Conference about depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

Response to measles outbreak

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apia Samoa Temple

A deadly measles outbreak in Samoa prompted Latter-day Saint leaders to take extraordinary measures to help prevent the spread of the disease.

For starters, only individuals age 19 and over could attend worship services Sunday. No other classes were held. The sacrament was to be taken in homes where possible.

The Apia Temple and church schools have been closed.

“In support of the government of Samoa’s declaration of a state of emergency, we have asked our members to not bring children or youth (up to 18) to church meetings,” K. Brett Nattress of the church’s Pacific Area Presidency said in a news release. “Our hearts and prayers are with those families who have lost loved ones. We are grateful for the many people who are ministering to these families and others during this difficult time.”

Samoa’s measles outbreak has killed at least 60 people and infected nearly 3,900 others, The New York Times reported.

Help to make the season bright

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Visitors take in the sights as Temple Square in Salt Lake City comes to life Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.

Lights, cameras, Christmas.

Yes, ’tis the season for hundreds of thousands of colorful LED bulbs to brighten the night at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.

Besides the panorama of lights, the holiday offerings include concerts, movies (such as the church’s new video “The Christ Child”) and a life-size Nativity display with narration by a familiar voice: that of church President Russell M. Nelson.

This week’s podcast: A year of change

This has been a remarkable year of change in the church.

It started way back on Jan. 2, with the introduction of retooled temple ceremonies, and continued throughout 2019.

The about-face on the LGBTQ policy, a widened stance on civil weddings, weekly calls home by missionaries, female witnesses at baptisms and temple sealings, a new program for children and youths — and that’s just the beginning.

Blogger Jenny Dye, co-host of “The Mormon News Report Podcast,” has been tracking and commenting on the developments. She joins this week’s show to talk about the deluge of adjustments, announcements, rescissions, reforms and reversals.

Listen here.

Remember refugees

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle M. Russell Ballard visits with a young man at a refugee shelter in Berlin, Germany, in 2015.

The governing First Presidency again urged Latter-day Saints to open their hearts, hamlets and homelands to the world’s refugees.

Members are “deeply committed to living the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. We feel tremendous joy in helping all of God’s children, no matter where they may live in this world,” the leaders wrote in a news release. “ ... We encourage church members and friends to respond appropriately and legally, to help create welcoming communities by volunteering their time, talents and friendship to individuals and families who are integrating into our societies.”

In an October General Conference sermon, church President Russell M. Nelson noted the refugee crisis gripping the globe as more than 70 million migrants flee “civil strife, the ravages of nature or religious persecution.”

Temple updates

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Andy Kirby, director, historic temple renovations in the special projects department, joins other representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by giving insights into plans for extensive temple renovations set to close the temple Dec. 29, 2019, through 2024. At left are renderings of the Garden Room and World Room.

• The church broke ground Saturday on what will be Mexico’s 14th Latter-day Saint temple. Church President Russell M. Nelson announced the Puebla Temple in October 2018.

• For the 5 million or so people who visit Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City every year, that experience is about to change.

When the Salt Lake Temple closes at month’s end to undergo a four-year renovation, the neighboring Tabernacle and Assembly Hall will stay open, but the Conference Center, across the street, will become the main venue for the Temple Square “guest experience,” Tanner Kay, manager for guest services, said at a Wednesday news conference.

Visitors will be able to see the progress of the temple makeover, which includes a seismic upgrade, from the center’s balcony and roof.

When the temple reopens in 2024, members will find spruced-up murals in the ordinance rooms. Live endowment sessions will continue, but screens will be added so the filmed version can be shown to those who speak a language besides English.

Quote of the week

“For all the things I find challenging about being part of this community — the heterosexism, the cultural imperialism, the gender discrimination and ossified leadership structure — there are so many others that feed my soul. What more can I say than this: If all I can accomplish by raising my children in this church is to teach them that we are all children of God, working and serving and loving together, saint and sinner, black and white, female and male, queer and straight, then I may have done what matters most.”

Christina Taber-Kewene in an Exponent II blog post

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