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.
Gay member of Tab Choir discusses his gift
He believes. He attends church. He speaks at singles wards. He sings in The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
And he’s openly gay.
“I’m currently celibate,” Alex Lindstrom tells Douglas Jessop in an installment of ABC 4 News’ “Jessop’s Journal.” “And my beliefs forbid sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman. And I intend to honor that.”
Lindstrom says he remains “open to other kinds of relationships, developing deep friendships.”
“It would be nice to even have a chaste companion someday,” he adds in the ABC 4 News interview. “... I have these boundaries with the gospel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love a man or several men or that I can’t experience ... nonsexual intimacy and vulnerability with people. I mean, we’re created for connection.”
Lindstrom, who says he ultimately accepted his sexual orientation at age 18, sees being gay as calling to “love in different ways” and as “a gift” that he is still trying to discover how best to use.
Back on track
While on his mission in northern Japan, Ben Thornock stayed focused on his faith, his scripture studies, his proselytizing.
Every once in a while, though, his mind would drift, he recently told The Salt Lake Tribune — not to his Utah home but rather some 800 miles to the west, to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics were unfolding. Who could blame him? After all, Thornock had the chance to be there — not as a spectator or volunteer but as a participant.
He shelved those athletic ambitions to fulfill another goal: serving a mission.
He has no regrets about his choice. But now the 22-year-old short-track speedskater has his eyes firmly fixed on another Asian city: Beijing, site of the 2022 Winter Games.
Thornock is back in intense training at the Utah Olympic Oval — dubbed the “fastest ice on Earth” — seeking a spot on the World Cup team and, eventually, the U.S. Olympic squad.
Stepping up to the (gold) plates
Philadelphia’s most famous Latter-day Saint, Phillies star right fielder Bryce Harper, doesn’t wear his faith on his baseball sleeve, but he doesn’t shy away from it either.
“I’m going to try to be the best person I can off the field [and promote my faith that way],” the 6-foot-3 slugger told
The Washington Times in 2013. “ … I try to be the best walking Book of Mormon as I can.”
Harper and his wife, Kayla, a former soccer standout at Brigham Young and Ohio State universities, were featured recently in FanBuzz.
Apostle Dale G. Renlund, a former cardiologist, is prescribing a healthy dose of revelation for Latter-day Saints as they make decisions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“God knows that all of us need personal revelation for our own circumstances,” Renlund told the Church News. “…As the leaders of the church seek revelation in the COVID-19 pandemic, we study. We study what the medical experts are saying and try to sort through how it will apply.”
He urged members to do the same, counseling the faithful to take reasonable precautions and heed public health guidelines.
“That way our prayers for safety and health are not disingenuous,” he told the Church News. “...To think that God will just simply reveal what we have not studied is naive and nonsensical.”
This week’s podcast: Elevating women’s voices
Women are gaining a higher profile in the church at both the local and general levels. But having women in the room — and usually vastly outnumbered by men when issues are discussed and decisions are made, often by the faith’s all-male priesthood — doesn’t necessarily mean these women are being heard, let alone heeded.
New research from three BYU professors — Olga Stoddard, Jessica Preece and Chris Karpowitz — sheds light on group gender dynamics.
On this week’s podcast, two of those researchers, Preece and Karpowitz, discuss their findings, and how women’s voices and views can be elevated not only in business, politics, government and academia but also in the church.
150 candles for Young Women
The Young Women organization is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year — it was formed under a different name on May 27, 1870 — with the crowning event to be a “Face to Face” devotional on Nov. 15.
“I hope you will join us as we celebrate 150 years of Young Women, as we add our names to the long and glorious list of young women committed to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ,” President Bonnie H. Cordon said in a news release. “The Young Women sesquicentennial celebration will be a beautiful reminder of what has been and a sacred rejoicing in what will be.”
(And, yes, the Young Women leader was referred to as “President Cordon” in the release. Joy D. Jones, who oversees the children’s Primary organization, was called “President Jones” in a recent headline for a Church News article. Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, referred to “sister presidents” in remarks during a 2018 General Conference, but the text of his talk later changed the phrase to “sister leaders.”)
Anyway, the church’s Young Women have been challenged to launch a personal activity to mark the sesquicentennial.
“Maybe you will choose to read 150 pages of scripture or index [family history] 150 names,” Michelle Craig, Cordon’s first counselor, said in the release. “You may decide to share 150 smiles or 150 encouraging texts or social media posts with friends who need a lift or a boost. Or maybe you’ll join with other youth in your ward and take 150 names to the temple for [proxy] baptisms as soon as we are able to return to those sacred spaces.”
BYU turns down federal relief
BYU was in line to receive $32.3 million, the most of any Utah college, in coronavirus relief from the federal government. But the Provo school has told the Department of Education to keep the money.
“BYU, like every private and public institution of higher education, has experienced and will continue to experience significant financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” school spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said in a statement. “Our students have also been affected. However, we believe we can assist our students without the [federal] funds.”
• A recent flight sent not only church humanitarian aid from the U.S. to Chile but also humans themselves.
More than 140 stranded Chileans returned to their homeland for free by tagging along with the supplies on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Santiago, a news release noted.
• Latter-day Saints also supplied face shields and children’s books in the Philippines, the release stated, masks in Texas, food for Muslims in Maryland, blood donations in Paraguay and refugee relief in Peru.
Switzerland boasts deep Latter-day Saint roots, with experienced leaders and securely planted operations, but growth has slowed and barely a third of members regularly attend worship services.
Two new stakes have sprouted there in the past 20 years and several branches have matured into wards, thanks largely to immigrant converts, according to independent researcher Matt Martinich’s updated profile of the nation that houses Europe’s first Latter-day Saint temple.
“Latter-day Saint populations appear much more stable in Switzerland than in many other Central European nations,” Martinich writes at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, “but little church growth will likely occur unless greater member involvement in missionary activity occurs, along with adapting proselytism and teaching approaches to nominal Christian and secular Swiss populations.”
• Come Monday, 66 of the church’s more than 160 temples around the world will be back in service on a limited basis.
These temples offer only marriage “sealings” by appointment for couples who already have been endowed. A few family members may attend, and all government and public health directives must be observed, including “the use of safety equipment such as masks.”
When the Vernal Temple reopens Monday, all 15 of Utah’s operational temples will be open under these restricted conditions.
For the status of all temples and which ones are part of these “Phase 1” reopenings amid the coronavirus pandemic, click here.
• A socially distanced groundbreaking for one of those planned Utah temples — this one in Layton — took place Saturday, a week before it was originally scheduled.
“The First Presidency assigned the Utah Area Presidency to conduct a small-scale groundbreaking,” church spokeswoman Irene Caso said in a news release, “ ... so that construction could proceed.”
The three-story, 87,000-square-foot temple is being built on an 11.8-acre site on the corner of Oak Hills Drive and Rosewood Lane in Layton.
• Exterior renderings are now available for two temples — one in Cobán, Guatemala, and the other in Okinawa, Japan.
The single-story, 8,800-square-foot Cobán Temple will be Guatemala’s third Latter-day Saint temple. The two-story, 10,000-square-foot Okinawa edifice will be Japan’s fourth temple.
Neither structure will have an Angel Moroni statue. More and more of the recently announced temples are being built without that iconic golden sculpture.
Quote of the week
“Not only are lepers not welcome in Mormon meetinghouses, but also anyone displaying signs of illness should stay home or risk a laying on of highly sanitized hands and being dragged from the building … Social distancing — known by Mormons as the law of chastity — will be strictly enforced. Members who attend meetings must refrain from getting too close. No sacrament meeting back rubs or nuzzling will be tolerated."
Robert Kirby, Tribune humor columnist
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.