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.
At 101, he survived the coronavirus
Marcelo Vinicio Ulloa got the grim news in late March:
His 101-year-old father — a former branch president and patriarch who had been born during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago and now suffered from a bad cough and failing lungs — had COVID-19.
“I thought we were going to bury my dad and do it with no one around, or very few people,” the son told CTV News Toronto. “That’s what I was thinking about. I was thinking about his funeral. We even checked with the funeral home.”
But weeks later, after a hospital stay and a trip back home — supposedly to die near his family — Justiniano Anibal Ulloa remains very much alive and has been cleared by Canadian health officials of the coronavirus.
“Dad’s family doctor was surprised [Dad] was still alive and not requiring oxygen. It’s nothing short of the power of God keeping him going in a miraculous way,” Marcelo said in a church news release. “ … [This experience] is definitely one way that Heavenly Father is showing his great power and mercy by answering our collective prayers.”
Justiniano and his wife, Celinda Calderon, joined the church in 1971 in Ecuador. They eventually immigrated to Canada with their seven children, the release noted, and he served as the Spanish-language patriarch of the Toronto Ontario Stake for more than two decades, until he was 91.
He turns 102 in July.
This week’s podcast: A noted historian looks back
Richard E. Turley Jr. retired recently after nearly 30 years of working for the church, most of that time in the History and Family History departments. He has written or co-written several books, including the acclaimed “Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy” and “Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case.” Most recently, he served as the managing director of the faith’s Public Affairs Department. He reflects this week on his career, the highs, the lows, the memories and the milestones.
Shanghai Temple hits a snag
Plans to put a Latter-day Saint temple in Shanghai may have run into a bureaucratic barrier.
The Chinese city’s religious affairs overlords recently warned that they “knew nothing” about the planned temple and downplayed the church’s desire as “wishful thinking.”
The Shanghai authorities did not flatly state that the temple can’t or won’t be built, but some negotiating may yet have to take place.
“It is not unusual for the Western party to think they’ve got a deal and for the Chinese to deny it,” Stephen Markscheid, a business consultant in Chicago and a China expert, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It happens all the time.”
Church President Russell M. Nelson said from the start that this temple would be different.
“A modest, multipurpose meeting place will provide a way for Chinese members to continue to participate in ordinances of the temple … for them and their ancestors,” he said during the recent General Conference. “ … Because we respect the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, the church does not send proselyting missionaries there; nor will we do so now. … The Shanghai Temple will not be a temple for tourists from other countries.”
Welcome, welcome, Sabbath Zooming
Prayers are being offered. Sermons are being spoken. Songs are being sung. Scriptures are being discussed.
And they’re all happening online as Latter-day Saints around the globe flock to the internet for virtual Sunday gatherings — whether labeled as “messages,” “devotionals” or “firesides” — to supplement their home-centered gospel studies and fill in the congregational void left by the coronavirus canceling of Sabbath services.
Utah, where the faith is headquartered, appears to be the exception. Area President Craig C. Christensen sent a letter recently to the state’s lay leaders saying, “We have noted that some local leaders or members are attempting to hold sacrament meetings, Sunday school classes, and elders quorum and Relief Society meetings via technology.”
Such online gatherings “should not be held until the First Presidency lifts the directive to suspend those meetings,” Christensen wrote. “Accordingly, please counsel leaders and members against holding online Sunday meetings.”
Why the disparity? Church spokeswoman Irene Caso told The Tribune that circumstances are “constantly changing” and that “adaptations are made around the world based on local conditions.”
Choir gets a new look
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has a new set of pipes — in its logo, that is.
“The new emblem honors the visual heritage of the choir and orchestra using contemporary organ pipes,” choir President Ron Jarrett said. “The curve of the organ pipes recalls the domed roof of the Tabernacle, and the strong vertical thrust of the pipes points us toward God.”
The “rising and falling of the [seven] pipes” in the new logo “alludes to the rhythm of music,” music director Mack Wilberg explained, and the number seven is “spiritually significant… referring to a whole or complete unification of sounds.”
The new logo, the choir’s sixth since its founding, comes after the church unveiled a new symbol for the Utah-based faith that incorporates an image of the Christus statue.
The renowned singing troupe also delayed its summer tour of Scandinavia and the British Isles until next year.
The 2021 performances will include all the same cities planned for the original heritage trip. Those shows were set for Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki; Finland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Cardiff, Wales; and Edinburgh, Scotland.
New dates and details will be released later.
Due to the coronavirus, the choir has been airing reruns of its weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” shows, the longest continuously running network broadcast in radio history.
Churches can be sued for fraud, a federal judge noted, but not if the legal action requires a court to determine the veracity of a religion’s teachings.
For that reason, Legal Newsline reports, Judge Robert Shelby has thrown out a proposed class action lawsuit brought in Salt Lake City’s federal court against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a former member.
Plaintiff Laura Gaddy, who lives in North Carolina, had argued that the Utah-based faith misrepresented its history and “lied about material facts concerning the creation of key scripture.”
On March 31, however, Shelby dismissed the complaint, according to Legal Newsline.
“Churches can be liable for fraud claims like anyone else,” he wrote. “But the First Amendment bars such claims when they would require a court to consider the truth or falsity of a church’s religious doctrines.”
While tipping his gavel to Gaddy’s “well-pleaded factual allegations,” Shelby said judges cannot rule on a church’s religious beliefs.
Three Brigham Young University professors, in a study of group gender dynamics, discovered that, for women, having a seat at the table does not necessarily mean having a voice, according to a report in the school’s magazine.
Economics professor Olga Stoddard and political science colleagues Jessica Preece and Chris Karpowitz also spelled out ways to “elevate” women’s voices, views and influences by:
• Getting men to listen more and talk less.
• Persuading women to speak up more often and more confidently.
• Providing support for women by soliciting their input.
• Changing the rules when women are outnumbered — which they often are — and requiring a group to come to a unanimous decision.
• Jettisoning stereotypes. “Wards and families and couples need to be especially careful,” Preece said, “that they don’t dismiss women’s voices on topics often seen as masculine.”
• Setting an inclusive tone. “Occasionally you have a stake president or a bishop who isn’t really interested in counseling together,” Karpowitz said. “He already knows what he wants to do, and what he really wants is everyone to echo his preferences.”
• Leading by example at home. “Unless parents take the time to point out unhealthy dynamics,” Preece warned, “they’re likely to just assume that is the normal way things should be.”
• General authority Seventy Enrique R. Falabella participated in a virtual interfaith prayer for Peru’s front-line forces and all others engaged in the battle against the coronavirus.
“We love thee. We respect thee,” Falabella, president of the South America Northwest Area, prayed in the April 7 online offering. “We ask thee to please fill our hearts with faith, with trust, that ye will always be with us.”
The prayer, introduced by Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, included supplications from Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Greek Orthodox, Baha’i, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and evangelical participants.
View excerpts here.
• BYU’s Women’s Conference will live up to its theme, “Gather All Safely in Christ,” by going strictly digital this year.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Friday’s general session, which starts at 10 a.m. MDT, will be streamed live on the church’s website and YouTube channel. Speakers will include the faith’s top female leaders. Videos also will be archived on the church and BYU websites.
For more information, click here.
• The Second Harvest food bank in Spokane, Wash., was poised to receive a semitrailer full of canned goods, pasta, flour, butter and cheese this week from the church’s Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City, KXLY reported.
• Arkansas’ first Latter-day Saint temple now has a home. It will be on nearly 9 acres at 1101 McCollum Road in Bentonville.
The center-spired, single-story, 25,000-square-foot edifice will share the site with an existing meetinghouse, according to a news release. Exterior and interior renderings of the temple have not been released.
Arkansas has more than 32,000 members, and Bentonville, about 155 miles northwest of Little Rock, is known as the birthplace of Walmart.
• You can get a peek at what the interior of Utah’s Tooele Valley Temple will look like, thanks to renderings released this week.
The design — with no Angel Moroni statue atop — features a cast stone exterior with copper shingles, done in a pioneer style, Bill Williams, director of temple design, explained in a news release. Flowers native to the Tooele Valley, including cliff rose and silvery lupine, will be featured in several rooms, as well as on art glass and the exterior.
Utah is home to 17 established temples with seven more planned or under construction, bringing the Beehive State total to 24.
• A July 18 groundbreaking has been set for the Feather River Temple in Yuba City, Calif., the church announced.
The 38,000-square-foot structure will be the Golden State’s eighth temple.
Quote of the week
“Some of my most impressive students have been women here at BYU whose core interest is: How do I simultaneously prioritize my family and my scholarly work? I never hear male students talk like that. Ever. And yet that balance . . . ought to be just as important for men.”
Chris Karpowitz, BYU political science professor
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.