This week in Mormon Land: Giving Machines give way to COVID; update on new hymnbooks; an Oz-like message to Trump

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.

Giving Machines are out, but giving is still in

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Giving Machines open at University Place Mall in Orem on Nov. 25, 2019. The machines will not be used this holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Add one more item to your how-this-Christmas-will-be-different list: There will be no Giving Machines.

Those large red vending machines — which raised more than $6 million last year by allowing people from London to Las Vegas and San Jose to Salt Lake City to buy and donate goods such as meals, vaccines, shoes and glasses — will be shelved this holiday season, due to COVID-19.

“Even though the Giving Machines are on hold, the #LightTheWorld initiative still provides many other opportunities to give and share the infinite hope, peace and love of our Savior Jesus Christ,” general authority Seventy Marcus B. Nash said in a news release. “We encourage people to be thoughtful as they decide the best way to give back this holiday season.”

Starting on Sunday, the release noted, LightTheWorld.org will provide service ideas, including:

• Volunteer opportunities through JustServe.org.

• Ways to donate directly to groups that team up with Latter-day Saint Charities, the church’s charitable arm.

• A daily calendar of 25 simple ways to help others.

• Daily texts or emails leading up to Christmas that people can opt in to receive.

Hold that note

(Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Two girls sing from a Latter-day Saint hymnbook.

You’ve probably heard this song before: The new hymnbook isn’t coming out anytime soon.

Ever since the church announced plans in June 2018 to publish a new hymnal and children’s songbook, members have been eagerly anticipating their arrival.

After receiving and reviewing nearly 50,000 suggestions from 66 countries, along with more than 16,000 original hymns, songs and texts, the work of winnowing continues.

“We consider every submission to be a sacred offering that members of the church have laid on the altar,” Cristina B. Franco, second counselor in the Primary general presidency and an adviser to the Children’s Songbook Committee, said in a news release. “And whether that offering is published or not, we know that it is an offering of the heart. For that reason, every hymn and song is reverently and prayerfully considered throughout the evaluation process.”

Apostle Ulisses Soares, another adviser, said the revision committees never expected such an overwhelming response from members.

“Their dedication and contributions are humbling,” Soares said in the release. But don’t expect to see the new books online or in the pews for “several” more years.

The governing First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will have the final say on which songs stay and which ones go.

So stay tuned.

Temple, politics and paint — oh my!

The glistening Washington, D.C., Temple often has been compared to the Emerald City of “Wizard of Oz” fame.

So perhaps it was no surprise that, in the waning days of the presidential campaign between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the Patch news site noted that a “Surrender Donald” sign popped up on a Beltway bridge near the iconic temple, which is undergoing renovation.

It’s hardly the first time that partisan message has appeared on the overpass. It also sprang up in 2018, the Washingtonian magazine reported.

Confronting racism

(Screengrab from BYUtv) Apostle Dallin H. Oaks addressed racism and Black lives matter at a Brigham Young University address on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Katie Rich, like many members, rejoiced when President Dallin H. Oaks emphatically stated during a Brigham Young University speech that black lives matter.

But the BYU graduate was less enthused with Oaks' reluctance to point out racism in the Bible and in past church practices.

“It’s possible that Oaks' fear of clearly identifying and analyzing racism in the Bible and in the practices of past church prophets is rooted in the fear of losing the practical belief of prophetic infallibility,” Rich writes in an Exponent II blog post. “Infallibility is not an official doctrine of the church, but the oft repeated claim that ‘the Lord will never permit the prophet to lead the church astray’ creates a functional belief in infallibility.”

Rich argues that clinging to the notion of infallibility makes it difficult to examine history honestly and repent of any racism.

“I’m glad that church leaders are beginning to speak about racial inequality more frequently and directly,” she concludes. “... However, actually achieving racial equality will require us to be willing to look at scripture and history and use terms that fit what we find. We must then abandon racism in our own hearts and minds and in our institutional policies and practices that lead to racial inequity.”

Celebrating suffrage

(Photo courtesy of the Church History Library) Emmeline B. Wells traveled to Washington, D.C., in January 1879 to attend the annual convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association. In her diary entry of Jan. 14, Wells noted, “This morn. went to Photo-gallery had pictures taken.” The photograph was taken at the Charles M. Bell studio in Washington.

A special issue of BYU Studies Quarterly commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote (though women of color still were routinely blocked from the polls), and the sesquicentennial of that right going to women in Utah.

It features, among other articles, stories about early Latter-day Saint leaders Emmeline B. Wells and Eliza R. Snow along with the part the Woman’s Exponent played in the suffrage cause.

“There’s still a long way to go toward fully seeing and honoring ­women’s contributions in history,” Katherine Kitterman, historical director for the nonprofit Better Days 2020, writes in her introduction to the quarterly. “Women’s stories matter, but they’re often missing in the archives, history books, and popular culture — and this is even more the case for women of color. It takes effort and care to recover women’s stories and restore them to their rightful place in the historical narrative.”

Young Women to celebrate sesquicentennial

(Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Bonnie H. Cordon, center, first counselor Michelle D. Craig, left, and second counselor Becky Craven make up the Young Women general presidency.

Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls around the world will tune in Sunday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Young Women organization.

Before they do, however, they’ve been challenged to respond to church President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel and post on social media how they have learned to hear the voice of the Lord.

Sunday’s Face to Face event at 4 p.m. MST will feature Young Women general President Bonnie H. Cordon and her counselors, Michelle Craig and Becky Craven.

Welcome to Instagram

Hey, Instagram fans, you now can follow the faith’s top nine female leaders on your favorite social media platform.

Yes, members of the general presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations all have Instagram accounts.

“I may not be the most interesting person in the world, but I do have some great stories about my favorite chickens, growing up on a farm, and some tips on how to be an average track athlete!” Young Women general President Bonnie H. Cordon wrote in her initial post. “I also know God is so aware of all of us, even when things don’t necessarily go our way. He loves you very, very much.”

In a news release, Cordon said she is excited to “connect with the Young Women where they are.” And the photo- and video-heavy Instagram is certainly a platform where young people are — millions of them across the globe.

Here are links for these leaders:

Relief Society Jean B. Bingham, Sharon Eubank, Reyna I. Aburto.

Young WomenBonnie H. Cordon, Michelle D. Craig, Becky Craven.

PrimaryJoy D. Jones, Lisa L. Harkness, Cristina B. Franco.

This week’s podcast: How Latter-day Saints voted

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) President-elect Joe Biden gestures to supporters Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Before the presidential election, some pollsters and pundits suggested that members might play a key role — despite their relatively small numbers.

Indeed, many members became actively involved on one side or the other, forming groups like Latter-day Saints for Trump and Latter-day Saints for Biden. They seemed especially visible in Western swing states like Nevada and Arizona.

So, for instance, did Latter-day Saints help turn the traditionally red Grand Canyon State blue? Quin Monson, a Brigham Young University political science professor who also is a partner at Y2 Analytics, gives a “qualified yes” to that question. He offers more insights on Latter-day Saint voters and how their partisan leanings have changed — and may change — on this week’s podcast.

Listen here.

Temple updates

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia, talk to media at the groundbreaking of the Red Cliffs Utah Temple on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

• Next week, 149 of the church’s temples will be providing marriage “sealings” under Phase 1 of a worldwide reopening plan. Of those, 128 temples also will be in Phase 2, offering “all temple ordinances for living individuals.” The Philadelphia Temple will return to Phase 1 after it moved to Phase 2 on Aug. 31. No temples have begun Phase 3, which would make “all living and limited proxy ordinances” available by appointment.

• St. George moved a step closer Saturday to having a second temple.

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, a native of the southern Utah city, presided over a socially distanced groundbreaking ceremony for the Red Cliffs Temple.

“It is a privilege and delight to be with you today,” Holland said in a news release." Surely you can imagine some of the emotions [wife] Pat and I feel as we get older and more nostalgic, with fewer and fewer trips to this land of our childhood."

In his site dedication, Holland, joined by his general authority son, Matthew S. Holland, saluted the “pioneers, who, with sacrifice and sweat, built just a mile or so away the beautiful St. George Temple that has provided a symbolic anchor of our faith in this part of the state.”

Named for its redrock surroundings, the three-story, 90,000-square-foot Red Cliffs Temple is one of 25 temples operating, under renovation, under construction or announced in Utah.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The St. George Temple under renovation. Precast walls of the new north entrance addition replicate the architecture of the pioneer-era temple, October 2020.

• Speaking of the St. George Temple, renovation work on the 1877 edifice recently reached the one-year mark.

Crews have begun erecting a new north entrance, which will more closely resemble the rest of the historic building. They also have shored up the temple’s foundation.

“This temple has lasted 142 years on the existing foundations,” Eric Jamison, field project manager for the church’s Special Projects Department, said in a news release. “After beefing this up, we’re going to be able to ensure that the foundations last far beyond that.”

Visitors will also notice lush landscaping. “This idea that St. George will blossom like a rose is a very important part of this community,” Emily Utt, historic sites curator for the Church History Department, said in the release. “This town is very proud of its landscape, of its trees, of its plantings.”

The renovation is scheduled to wrap up in 2022.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided at the groundbreaking remotely for the Bentonville Temple in Arkansas and offered the dedicatory prayer on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

• A groundbreaking Saturday launched work on the Bentonville Temple, Arkansas' first Latter-day Saint temple.

Apostle David A. Bednar, a former professor at the University of Arkansas, presided remotely over the ceremony.

“This is a moment that, for most of my life, I never could have imagined would occur even in this moment. I find it hard to believe what we’re celebrating and the service that we’re participating in today, and it’s also a moment that I wish would never end,” Bednar said in a news release. “... It is one of the great blessings and experiences of my life to have lived for about a third of my life in northwest Arkansas. As I stand here now and think of the faces. And the people that I love and the influence that they have had in my life, in [wife] Susan’s life and in the life of our family, I am filled with deep gratitude and I cannot say the smallest part of what I feel.”

The single-story, single-spired, 25,000-square-foot temple will serve more than 32,000 members in Arkansas.

Quote of the week

“Grace is the ability to change, not an excuse to avoid changing.”

Michael Austin, in a By Common Consent blog post

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