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.
A blue ripple
There’s a new shade of blue emerging among Latter-day Saints.
It’s not Cougar blue. It’s Democratic blue.
Brigham Young University sociology professor Jacob Rugh studied voting patterns and education levels in heavily LDS communities, The Daily Universe reported, and discovered that highly educated church members are leaning more Democratic.
Rugh, in a presentation to a Global Women’s Studies Colloquium this month, noted that parts of Provo and downtown Salt Lake City with concentrations of BYU professors and church leaders were tilting more Democratic, the paper stated, along with Boise and highly LDS suburbs around Phoenix.
Although the bulk of U.S. Latter-day Saints remain rock-red Republicans, new hues of blue are peeking through, especially among younger people. Rugh said millennials and Gen Zers are projected to vote Democratic at nearly double the percentage of baby boomers.
Andy Reid’s not-so Super Bowl
Andy Reid, the winningest Latter-day Saint football coach in NFL history and the only member ever to win a Super Bowl as head coach, fell way short this week in his shot at a repeat.
Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs lost to Tampa Bay — in the Buccaneers’ home stadium — 31-9 in Sunday’s big game.
“I could have done a better job of putting our guys in better position,” Reid told reporters. “... I’m not going to lay it on the offensive line. When we lose, we all lose together on this.”
Reid’s 35-year-old son, Britt Reid, an outside linebackers coach for the Chiefs, was involved in a three-car crash three nights before the Super Bowl that left two children injured, one of them critically. The younger Reid told police he had “two or three drinks” before the accident, according to a search warrant. The team placed him on administrative leave.
“My heart bleeds for everyone involved” in the crash, Andy Reid said after Sunday’s blowout defeat.
In a pregame Religion News Service story, Joseph Stuart, a doctoral student in history at the University of Utah, discussed how football helped Latter-day Saints assimilate into the wider U.S. culture.
“Mormons were trying to Americanize,” Stuart told RNS. “... And sports is one of the easiest ways to do that.”
New help for temple newbies
Some members are so stressed and full of questions when they go through a Latter-day Saint temple for the first time — “What will I say?” “What will I do?” “What will I wear?” — that it becomes impossible for them to relax and let the temple, as it were, go through them.
Rosemary Card’s new digital book seeks to calm those fears. “House of Light: Your Guide to the Temple” offers principled and practical instruction — without revealing the specific language templegoers are asked to keep confidential — to help members prepare to participate in their faith’s most sacred ceremonies.
“There is so much confusion about what we can and can’t talk about,” Card tells The Salt Lake Tribune. The reality is “we can talk about most of it as long as we are respectful.”
Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess and an Exponent II reviewer were especially grateful for Card’s advice that patrons need not memorize anything — that there will always be someone there to help whether it’s a member’s first time in the temple or 50th.
The church itself has opened up in recent years about the temple experience. Last month, it added a section to its General Handbook that spells out the promises participants make.
The Utah-based faith even drew back the curtain to explain the clothes faithful members don inside the temple and the undergarments they continue to wear outside it — complete with photos and videos.
A 2018 YouTube video, running less than two minutes, explains the temple endowment, a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and humankind’s mortal journey and ultimate return to God’s presence.
“The endowment is full of symbolism,” the narrator states. “Like all temple ceremonies, everyone is dressed in white temple clothing, which represents purity and equality before God.”
The video, which has amassed more than 335,000 views, shows the white robes, white caps and green aprons members put on for the endowment.
A second video, lasting barely a minute, compares the garment to the religious attire donned by believers of other faiths, including “the nun’s habit, the Jewish prayer shawl and the monk’s robes.”
“Similar to ordinary modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as the temple garment,” the YouTube video states. “… They serve as a private and personal reminder of our relationship to God and our commitment to live good, honorable lives.”
Barely 100 years ago, then-apostle David O. McKay was on a world tour and stopped in Hawaii.
On Feb. 7, 1921, he attended a flag-raising ceremony at an LDS elementary school that included children from various ethnic backgrounds and was “profoundly moved,” according to the volume “BYU Hawaii: Prophetic Destiny.” “Born within his soul was a conviction that Laie would be the educational and spiritual center of the church in the islands.”
That vision came to fruition 34 years later, when McKay, as church president, returned in February 1955 to dedicate the site for what would be the Church College of Hawaii.
The flag-raising epiphany is memorialized in a mosaic atop the entryway to the BYU-Hawaii campus.
Social media’s risk to girls
Warning: Too much time on Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and the like could be dangerous to a teenage girl’s mental health.
A study at church-owned BYU discovered that girls who spend more time on social media are at higher risk of suicide.
The 10-year study showed that teenage girls who used social media for at least two to three hours a day at the start of the study, and then increased that use over time, were at higher risk for suicide.
Time on these internet platforms did not have the same impact on teenage boys.
“At 13, girls are just starting to be ready to handle the darker underbelly of social media, such as FOMO (fear of missing out), constant comparisons and cyberbullying,” BYU professor Sarah Coyne, lead author of the study, said in a news release. “A 13-year-old is probably not developmentally ready for three hours of social media a day.”
The answer, however, may not be to bar teens from social media. Coyne suggested instead that parents set boundaries and talk with their kids about what they see there.
“The goal is to teach them to be healthy users of social media,” she said, “to use it in a way that helps them feel good about themselves and connect with other people, which is its real purpose.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
More can attend Utah services
Up to 150 congregants now can attend a Utah sacrament meeting in person as long as they heed safety protocols such as physical distancing and mask-wearing.
COVID-19 cases remain high in the Beehive State, however, so these services also will continue to be streamed to ward members in their homes.
Second-hour classes — ranging from Sunday school to male priesthood meetings, women’s Relief Society, Young Women, and children’s Primary — will remain virtual as well for most congregations, the Utah Area Presidency said in its updated guidelines, “unless specific exceptions can be made safely.”
Young Single Adult congregations may hold in-person second-hour meetings, the leaders added, if church facilities “are large enough to allow for social distancing and steps are taken to avoid excessive mingling between meetings.
“Our program method ensures the food being distributed is used in a responsible and strategic way that invests in the lives of those eating and does not create dependency or hurt local markets,” Convoy of Hope Procurement Director Paul Holzer said in a news release. “...Because of the relationships with the schools we serve, the Convoy of Hope teams in the field have been successful in maintaining the flow of critical food to students through take-home rations.”
Of course, more donations will be needed.
“Our humanitarian contributions are ongoing, needed and welcomed in vulnerable areas such as Somalia, Yemen, [Democratic Republic of] Congo, Haiti and Zimbabwe,” apostle Gerrit W. Gong said in the release, “and in conflict regions in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, DR Congo and Africa’s Sahel region, among others.”
• The church sponsored hundreds of blood drives across 14 states in the north-central U.S.
“The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need,” Leslie Schaffer, a Red Cross executive in Iowa said in a news release. “...The [church] response was heartwarming. I had never experienced such an outpouring of care and concern for the greater good.”
• Eight temples are in Phase 3 of the church’s reopening plan, offering limited vicarious ordinances for the dead, along with all living ordinances, during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release.
On Feb. 22, six more temples are scheduled to join them. They are in Guatemala City, Guatemala; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Mérida, Mexico; Oaxaca, Mexico; Sydney, Australia; and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico.
Meanwhile, 21 temples have “paused” operations due to “local COVID-19 restrictions.”
See this list for the status of all temples.
Quote of the week
“I went to BYU. Every down’s a throwing down.”
— Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs head coach, on why his team passed on a critical fourth-and-1 play
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.