Latest from Mormon Land: How LDS scriptural warnings about dying democracies may apply to U.S.

Also: The church seeks authentic actors for its “Book of Mormon” videos.

(Julio Cortez | The Associated Press) In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, rioters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. A Latter-day Saint blogger cites an international report that identifies the Capitol siege as evidence of a "backsliding" democracy in the U.S. and points to a Book of Mormon warning about governments that ignore the vote of the people.

These are excerpts from The Salt Lake Tribune’s free Mormon Land newsletter, a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want this newsletter with additional items in your inbox? Subscribe here. You also can support Mormon Land with a donation at Patreon.com/mormonland, where you can access, among other exclusive gifts and content, transcripts from our “Mormon Land” podcasts.

A voice of warning

A global watchdog group has identified the United States and Brazil — two nations with the largest and third largest number, respectively, of Latter-day Saints — as “backsliding” democracies.

It marks the first time the U.S. has been listed as such by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

The organization’s “Global State of Democracy” report for 2021 points to a “historic turning point” when then-President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results by citing “baseless allegations of electoral fraud,” capped off by the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol.

This report worries By Common Consent blogger Michael Austin — even more so when viewed through the prism of Latter-day Saint scripture.

“Latter-day Saints should be especially concerned about what is happening to democracy in the current era because we have seen it all before,” Austin writes. “One of the main narrative arcs of our signature sacred text, the Book of Mormon, tells the story of an ancient democracy that destroyed itself when it ceased to respect ‘the voice of the people.’”

The scholar goes on to relay the governmental chaos that erupted during the book’s reign of the judges as vote results and peaceful transfers of power were replaced by rebellion and even murder.

“People have to accept the results of elections. The voice of the people has to be respected, or democracy can’t survive,” Austin warns. “And this is precisely what happens in the Book of Mormon. Democracy does not survive.”

Help wanted on ‘Book of Mormon’ set

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) In this "Book of Mormon" video scene, King Lamoni, a ruler over the Lamanites (an ancient American people), is taught about God by Ammon.

Lights, camera ... wait. Where are the actors?

The church is seeking more cast members as it continues filming its “Book of Mormon” video series.

“While we especially need seasoned actors, anyone of Indigenous American or Pacific Islander heritage is welcome to apply,” said a Nov. 18 email from the Presiding Bishopric’s office to general authorities and local lay leaders. “Members are encouraged to participate as well as those not of our faith and friendly to the church.”

An accompanying poster looking for “actors and extras” referred to “all ethnicities who physically resemble Native Americans of North, Central or South America; Pacific Islanders; or persons of Middle Eastern descent.”

The casting call also noted that “positions are paid.”

Those interested were invited to click on casting.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, where they could create a talent profile.

The deadline to audition was Dec. 1.

This week’s podcast: Best and worst of temple designs

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The current Provo temple, left, and a rendering of the planned reconstruction.

Temple work may have slowed due to the pandemic, but temple-building is moving forward at an unprecedented pace. With the church announcing multiple new temples at each General Conference, architects are busy designing these holy edifices for locales ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe and scores of places in between.

Besides creating new temples, the Utah-based faith is also renovating 10 existing ones, including the iconic Salt Lake Temple. Just last week, the church unveiled a new look for the 1970s-era Provo Temple and its Space Age design, one members have had a sort-of love-hate relationship with through the years.

On this week’s show, Allen Roberts — a retired Utah architect who specializes in preservation and has worked on Latter-day Saint chapels, tabernacles and temples — discusses designs for these sacred structures, each of which members view as a “House of the Lord.”

Listen here.

From The Tribune

• After seeing plans for remaking the Provo Temple, hundreds of Latter-day Saints are asking church leaders to go back to the drawing board by, in essence, not going back to the drawing board.

They want to stick with the temple’s current look — and they’ve signed a pair of petitions urging church leaders to do just that.

Read the story.

• The University of Southern California issued an apology Sunday for an “offensive chant” that came from its student section during church-owned BYU’s victory Saturday over the Trojans.

The chant appeared to contain an obscenity directed at Latter-day Saints. The USC team itself includes Latter-day Saints, including high-profile quarterback Jaxson Dart.

Read the story.

(Young Kwak | The Associated Press) USC quarterback Jaxson Dart throws a pass against Washington State in September. Dart is a Latter-day Saint.

• While viewing pornography may be gaining wider acceptance, it doesn’t mean the practice isn’t harming couples.

A poll from BYU’s Wheatley Institution and the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture shows 1 in 5 couples report conflict in their romantic relationships over the controversial form of entertainment. In addition, about a quarter of men report actively hiding their viewing from their partner.

Read the story.

• Days after the suicide of 10-year-old a Black and autistic Utah schoolgirl, the church sent an email urging members to “be inclusive, not just accepting.”

Some say the message represents yet another step by the Salt Lake City-based faith to confront racism more directly.

Read the story.

• The holiday lights are up and glowing at Salt Lake City’s Temple Square — albeit far fewer than usual, given that much of the space is undergoing renovation.

See the story and view the photos.

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