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.
Where Latter-day Saints stand on the ‘big lie’
Mormonism was born from a young boy’s quest for religious truth, so it may seem odd that many of its followers are embracing a political lie.
But, according to recent data from PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) U.S. Latter-day Saints:
• Are more inclined than other religious followers — save for white evangelical Protestants — to believe the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Yes, 46% of Latter-day Saints believe the “big lie,” behind only white evangelical Protestants (61%) and ahead of white mainline Protestants (37%) and white Catholics (35%).
• Are the least likely to trust mainstream TV news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, local stations and public television, Religion News Service reports. Barely a quarter (28%) of Latter-day Saints say they trust these news sources. That’s lower than the 30% of white evangelicals who feel the same way. But 14% of Latter-day Saints say they do view Fox News as a go-to outlet for accurate information.
• May not watch a lot of TV news anyway. Some 44% of Latter-day Saints reported they do not tune in at all, compared with 37% of white evangelicals who skip those shows. At least half of Latter-day Saints, however, do say they watch Fox News, reports Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University.
Like father, like son
As one of the harshest critics of former President Donald Trump in a deeply divided Republican Party, Sen. Mitt Romney is following in the footsteps of someone very familiar to him: his dad.
As Michigan’s governor and a leading GOP moderate, George Romney spoke out for civil rights and against the Vietnam War and right-wing extremism, Matthew Rozsa writes in Salon, defying many in his political party during the 1960s and ’70s at a time when it wasn’t always popular or easy to do so.
His son, the only Latter-day Saint ever to win a major party’s presidential nomination, is treading on similar turf today, voting twice to convict Trump in Senate trials, refusing to embrace the “big lie” about the 2020 election, even marching with Black Lives Matter protesters.
“I saw in my father a person without guile,” the Utah Republican told Salon. “He acted from principle, not politics. He was a man driven by what he thought was right and did not worry about the consequences. His commitment to civil rights put him ahead of his time. Throughout my personal and political life, I have tried to live by the example he set.”
This week’s podcast: That ‘Mormon’ nickname
As we approach the third anniversary of President Russell M. Nelson’s plea for members, media, academics and all others to start using the church’s full name and stop using the term “Mormon,” an outside religious scholar is suggesting a, shall we say, different approach. In fact, an opposite approach.
Peter Thuesen, in a recent blog post, says the church should instead lean into the Mormon moniker. Use it. Admire it. Embrace it.
A religious studies professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Thuesen explains his reasoning and why the church should reconsider its well-known nickname.
A ‘natural’ missionary
Gone are the days of missionary-minded members asking their friends, acquaintances and strangers, “How much do you know about the Mormons? Would you like to know more?”
Instead, church leaders want Latter-day Saints to spread their religion in ways that are more conducive and less contrived by focusing on the principles of love, share and invite.
To that end, senior leaders will air a global broadcast June 26 for lay leaders and full-time missionaries about sharing the gospel “in ways that are natural, sincere and joyful,” according to a letter sent last week by the Missionary Department.
The training will be led by apostles M. Russell Ballard, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, David A. Bednar and Quentin L. Cook, along with Young Women general President Bonnie H. Cordon.
“Look for opportunities to bring up your faith in natural and normal ways with people — both in person as well as online,” Uchtdorf counseled Latter-day Saints in April 2019. “In whatever ways seem natural and normal to you, share with people why Jesus Christ and his church are important to you. Invite them to ‘come and see.’”
More missionary tips
Holly Miller has some advice of her own for missionaries:
For starters, the By Common Consent blogger writes, drop the churchy courtesy titles when teaching friends of members.
No Sister Jones. No President Brown.
“I prefer you to call me ‘Holly,’ especially when you’re teaching my friends,” Miller writes. “That’s what my friends call me, and so can you.”
In addition, don’t put contacts on the spot by asking them who should offer the prayer.
“Many of my friends have never seen anyone pray in a home setting,” she says. “...[They] don’t know how praying in such a setting might be accomplished, or who should do it, or how long it will last, or ANYTHING.”
Her suggestion: One missionary explains in a sentence or two what prayer is; the other offers a brief prayer.
And utter “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” like the distinct and separate words they are, Miller adds, not like seven words — “inthenameofJesusChristamen”— rolled into one.
MTCs are coming back
Hundreds of eager proselytizers-in-waiting will begin returning to the Provo Missionary Training Center and two other MTCs next month.
The flagship MTC near Brigham Young University will accept about 150 to 250 fully vaccinated missionaries a week from the U.S., according to a news release, while the Ghana and New Zealand facilities will accept about 50 local missionaries each.
The church’s 10 MTCs around the world shut down in-person classes last spring as a result of COVID-19. The prospective proselytizers shifted to online, at-home learning.
All the MTCs have been providing this virtual training during the pandemic, the release notes. The remaining seven centers — in Brazil, Colombia, England, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and South Africa — will resume their on-site training as conditions allow.
Talk of the Second Coming
The church’s 2020 bicentennial proclamation on the restoration is evidence that “millenarian thought” is alive and well within Mormonism.
So says Christopher Blythe, author of “Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse,” in a recent interview with Kurt Manwaring.
Blythe points out that the “proclamation concludes by reaffirming that the restoration’s purpose is ‘to prepare the world for the promised Second Coming of our Lord and Savior.’”
At the same time, the scholar notes, “if you were to compare this proclamation with a much older proclamation, the 1845 Proclamation of the Twelve, you would see how, we as a people, have come to deemphasize the apocalyptic.”
To hear more from Blythe about the “White Horse Prophecy,” Latter-day Saint politicians, and church President Russell M. Nelson, who frequently refers to the Second Coming, listen to the scholar’s July 2020 appearance on The Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast.
Forming bonds with Sudan
A government delegation from Sudan — a country in transition politically, economically and religiously — visited church headquarters last week in Salt Lake City.
The guests toured Temple Square, Welfare Square, the Humanitarian Center and the Bishops’ Central Storehouse, according to a news release. They met with the governing First Presidency, apostle David Bednar and members of the general Relief Society presidency.
They also visited the Khadeeja Islamic Center, a mosque in neighboring West Valley City.
“Sudan is a very diverse country in terms of faith and in terms of philosophies,” Naserldeen Mofarih, Sudan’s minister of endowment and religious affairs, said in the release. “Upon arrival of this new government, the constitutional document has claimed that religious freedom is a principle, and that the government shall treat all religions the same way…. There are shared values between Sudan and the church — the principle of freedom, the principles of equality, and the principles of helping others regardless of their faith.”
Along that line, the predominantly Muslim nation now recognizes Christmas and Easter — Christianity’s most sacred seasons — as official holidays.
“As a Christian in Sudan, I am very happy today to go into the new government,” delegation member Putrus Komi, Sudan’s adviser for Christian affairs, said. “The revolutionary government worked hard toward religious freedoms.”
The African representatives’ tour comes on the heels of the visit by Bednar and his wife, Susan, to Sudan in February 2020.
“What we’re doing right now is establishing friendships and deepening those friendships,” the apostle said, “and trying to find out the best ways we can be of assistance to the growth and the strengthening of Sudan.”
After Bednar’s historic visit as the first apostle to journey to the African country, Latter-day Saint Charities, the church’s humanitarian arm, partnered on a number of projects in Sudan.
“We’re doing flood relief; we’re doing refugee response. … They’re learning about us; we’re learning about Sudan, and we’re building our trust through these projects, and that really lays the foundation for future cooperation,” said Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.
“We’ve identified a number of basic needs, just pure water, medical assistance, very fundamental things,” Bednar added. “And there is an almost endless need in Sudan, so to be able to help in any way is a great blessing for us and for them.”
RIP, Sister Dottie
Utah’s theater community is mourning the death of Charles Lynn Frost, an activist, actor and playwright who gave life to a beloved character: Sister Dottie Dixon.
Frost’s creation, writes The Tribune’s Sean P. Means, “was a loyal, casserole-making member of the Spanish Fork (she pronounced it ‘fark’) Ward ... but sometimes found the church’s shunning of the LGBTQ community contrary to Jesus’ message to love thy neighbor.”
Frost showcased his mouthy Mormon mom on radio, the stage, the printed page and many a pride parade, sharing laughs and shedding light along the way.
“Art is one of the most powerful tools we have,” the actor said in 2009, “and comedy and parody is one of the most powerful parts of theater.”
Frost died May 19 after battling colon cancer. He was 67.
• The church announced it is ending a practice that dates back to its 19th-century origins — namely, “time-only marriages” in temples.
“Because of the eternal nature of the temple and the work that takes place there, it has been decided that time-only marriages in the temple will no longer be performed,” the First Presidency wrote. “In the case where a couple desires to be married civilly and where a sealing is not contemplated or possible, the couple is encouraged to invite their bishop or stake president — where it is legal — to officiate at the marriage ceremony.”
Matthew Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith,” said this move is “part and parcel of the recent removal of the one-year waiting period for American Saints who are married civilly and who wish to be sealed [without a long delay].”
• In June and July, 60 temples — including all 15 operating temples in Utah — are scheduled to shift to Phase 3 of the church’s reopening plan by offering limited vicarious ordinances for the dead, along with all living ordinances, to members who make online reservations, according to a news release this week.
Quote of the week
“There are several definitions of ‘true’ that we bring to the scriptures. One version of ‘true’ means ‘historically accurate.’ Another means something like ‘morally valuable.’ These are completely different concepts that may or may not be found in the same text. … If we find a moral truth (‘God doesn’t want us to commit genocide’) that conflicts with a historical truth (‘God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide’), we work very hard to revise the moral truth to support the historical fact claim. We automatically subordinate morality to history. And here’s the thing: Almost everything important about the scriptures makes more sense if we do it the other way around.”
— Michael Austin in a By Common Consent blog
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.