Latest from Mormon Land: A graphic novel about Joseph Smith and the spread of ‘dirty’ sodas

Also: New handbook warnings about online bullying, the expanding roles of women, and member support of COVID vaccines.

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.

Novel approach

The story of Mormon founder Joseph Smith appears in Latter-day Saint scripture, official church histories, scholarly biographies, even films.

In May, it will appear in a new graphic novel.

Joseph Smith and the Mormons,” from the mind and hand of Noah Van Sciver, is set for release in May 2022.

The critically acclaimed cartoonist, who was raised as a Latter-day Saint, will cover the “monumental moments” in Smith’s life, according to a description on Amazon, including translation of the faith’s foundational scripture, the Book of Mormon, anti-Mormon violence, the birth of polygamy, the church leader’s pursuit of the presidency, and his imprisonment and ultimate assassination.

“With a respectful and historical approach, and strikingly illustrated,” the blurb states, “this graphic novel is the ultimate book for those curious about the origins of the Mormon faith and the man who started it all.”

The Bleeding Cool news site offers an early peek, with illustrations that depict Smith explaining to his loved ones how he fended off attackers and why he cannot show them the gold plates from which he reported translating the Book of Mormon.

“You cannot see them ever!” the budding prophet proclaims. “I’ve been warned against it! If any of you should ever look upon this holy record, it would mean doom for you!”

Mixed drinks

(Rick Bowmer, The Associated Press) In this Aug. 4, 2016, file photo, Swig soda shop employee Avery Griffiths poses for a photo with a "dirty soda," in Bountiful, Utah.

It’s time to come clean about so-called dirty sodas: They’re not just a Utah or a Latter-day Saint craving.

While Dr Pepper spiked with vanilla, Coke laced with lime and Pepsi peppered with peppermint certainly proved popular in the Beehive State and with members of the dominant religion, these and other soda blends are turning, and tilting, heads across the nation.

In fact, soda shops are popping up outside the West’s Mormon Belt, The New York Times reports, in South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma.

It didn’t exactly hurt business among members, however, when Mitt Romney, the nation’s most famous Latter-day Saint politician, was pictured swigging a Diet Coke during his 2012 presidential run or when the church reaffirmed that pounding a Pepsi, downing a Dew or consuming any kind of caffeinated cola does not violate the faith’s Word of Wisdom health code.

From The Tribune

• That last batch of additions to the church’s General Handbook warns members against using “threatening, bullying, degrading, violent, or otherwise abusive language or images online.”

It also counsels members to avoid “all statements of prejudice toward others.”

Read the story.

• Sharon Eubank stands as a prominent example of the expanding role of women in the church. Still, some want to see more equity.

The 58-year-old Eubank is neither married nor a mother, yet she serves as first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and head of Latter-day Saint Charities, the church’s humanitarian arm.

“We’ve made mistakes in our history, and we’re still making mistakes,” Eubank told The Associated Press, “but the foundation is to try and always improve.”

Read the story.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, which is made up of all adult women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, poses for a photograph Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Though she isn’t the first single or child-free woman to hold a prominent role in the church, Eubank’s example is encouraging to other members during a time of growth for women’s roles in the faith nearly a decade after a key change for young women in its iconic missionary force. Still, some want to see a faster pace for progress.

• Those eager for the Salt Lake Temple to reopen will have to wait — and even longer than originally anticipated.

The church announced this week that the four-year renovation of the temple and the makeover of the surrounding square will take at least five years after “modifications and additions to the project and scope” pushed back the timeline for completion.

Read the story.

• Most Latter-day Saints (60%) see no valid religious reasons to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, a newly released poll shows. That’s a good thing, since the church says members cannot expect their bishops to sign a waiver from the shots.

Indeed, the Salt Lake City-based faith and its top authorities have wholeheartedly supported vaccination from the state.

Read the story.

• Two suspects have been arrested in the Dec. 3 shooting of an 18-year-old Latter-day Saint missionary serving in Alabama.

Meanwhile, Michael Fauber of Dayton, Ohio, is improving and is expected to recover from his wounds.

Read the story.

• Brigham Young’s grave and family cemetery in downtown Salt Lake City are being vandalized, so the church wants to heighten a fence and undertake other renovations.

But the effort is running into barriers with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission. And then there is the issue of newly discovered unmarked graves.

Read the story.

• A new monument under construction at Salt Lake City’s This Is the Place Heritage Park aims to recognize the contributions of Black pioneers during the Mormon migration.

“There are more stories, more men, more women who sacrificed so much,” principal advocate Mauli Junior Bonner said, “especially those who had to endure enslavement while being an early pioneer.”

Read the story.

• Utah Latter-day Saints may rank among the nation’s most reliably Republican voting blocs, but right now they are distinctly down on Donald Trump.

If the former president ran again, a new poll shows, barely a third (34%) would vote for him in a GOP primary.

Read the story.

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