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Latest from Mormon Land: President Russell Nelson says LDS can change Europe; star of AIDS film to speak at RootsTech

Also, a look at Tribune stories about David Archuleta’s inner struggle, missionary exits from Ukraine, and a civil rights leader’s futuristic appeal.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell. M. Nelson speaks from a studio on Temple Square to Latter-day Saints throughout Europe. The devotional aired on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022.

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 transcripts of our “Mormon Land” podcasts.

Changing Europe’s future

(Christophe Ena | The Associated Press) An aerial view of Paris in April 2020. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is urging members in Europe to share the faith's gospel.

Religion may be in retreat in Europe, but church President Russell M. Nelson believes Latter-day Saints can lead an advance that will restore faith in God across the Continent.

“Secularism is indeed flourishing in many parts of the world, and Europe is no exception,” Nelson said Sunday in a virtual devotional broadcast to 48 nations. “I am not naive about that reality. But, brothers and sisters, never forget that the restoration of the gospel commenced so that all men and women might know that it is true. … The gathering of Israel — foretold throughout scripture — is occurring right now in every nation. That includes those of Europe.”

According to a news release, the 97-year-old church leader encouraged members to “share the joy that you have in the gospel…. You are perfectly positioned to find the children of Israel who are living in or are coming to Europe.”

Europe, especially Great Britain, a source of strength in the faith’s early years, has seen stagnant growth and even declines in recent years among Latter-day Saints.

Nelson is convinced that can be reversed.

Spreading the word “will literally change the future of Europe,” he said. “I have complete faith in you, my dear brothers and sisters. You were born to do this. Europe has an unparalleled future — because of you.”

Earlier in the month, general authority Seventy Massimo De Feo, spoke at a high-level meeting as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

De Feo, an Italian native and the church’s president of the Europe Area, discussed climate change, according to a news release. “For people of faith,” he said, “protecting and preserving our planet is not just a matter of survival. It is our home, and we consider it a creation and a gift of God.”

He also voiced support for migrants and refugees, a topic increasingly dividing Europeans, urging member states to “avoid discrimination and respect the human dignity of every migrant.”

“As a church,” De Feo said, “we will continue to help and support refugees and migrants by partnering with governmental and nongovernmental organizations.”

Matthew Modine at RootsTech

(Eric Liebowitz | The WB) Matthew Modine.

Award-winning stage and screen actor Matthew Modine will headline the all-online RootsTech Connect 2022 conference March 3-5.

Modine, who starred in NetFlix’s “Stranger Things” and HBO’s widely acclaimed AIDS docudrama “And the Band Played On,” is the youngest of seven children, FamilySearch, the church’s genealogical arm, notes in a recent blog, and fell in love with film when his father managed a drive-in theater.

He also has become an environmental activist and launched a pro-cycling organization called Bicycle for a Day.

“Modine will talk about how he has chosen connection in his life,” the blog states. “Matthew says, ‘There are dozens of things each of us can do that have an immediate and positive impact [on others].’”

Besides Modine, apostle Ulisses Soares and his wife, Rosana, will speak to the virtual attendees on the conference’s final day, dubbed Family Discovery Day, from their native Brazil.

“Family history isn’t all about the distant past,” Elder Soares said in a news release. “You can look to your own recent experiences and stories or history as it unfolds right here in the present. You can establish your own traditions. It is a combination of the past and the present that makes you uniquely you.”

Registration is now open here for this free global celebration of family history.

From The Tribune

• Amid rising tensions in Ukraine, the church moved its missionaries out of the country.

Many are being reassigned to Moldova or elsewhere in Europe.

Read the story.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) David Archuleta performs at the inauguration of Gov. Spencer Cox, at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

• “American Idol” alum David Archuleta, who came out publicly as LGBTQ in June, explains his inner struggle to stay true to his faith and his own sexuality.

“There’s a greater likelihood for me to marry a guy,” says the 31-year-old returned missionary, “than a woman at this point.”

Read the story.

• “The Mission,” a documentary premiering this week at the all-virtual Sundance Film Festival, follows four Americans — two young men and two women — serving their missions in Finland.

Filmmaker Tania Anderson says she hopes that viewers will “feel what it’s like to be a [Latter-day Saint] missionary, and be in their shoes just for a few moments.”

Read the story.

• Dozens of passengers, mostly former missionaries, on a church-chartered flight to Kiribati tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the remote Pacific nation to implement masking and lockdown procedures.

All the passengers had been vaccinated and tested negative multiple times before boarding the flight from Fiji.

Read the story.

• Brigham Young University, the church’s flagship school, is under federal investigation for how it disciplines its LGBTQ students.

“It’s really significant that investigators are stepping in now,” says Michael Austin, a BYU alumnus and a vice president at Methodist school in Indiana. “It means there’s some reason to think the university has gone beyond the religious exemptions it has and is discriminating even beyond those.”

Read the story.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Amos C. Brown and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the announcement of new joint initiatives with the NAACP in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 14, 2021.

• The Rev. Amos Brown, a member of the NAACP board and a former student of the late Martin Luther King Jr., praises top Latter-day Saint leaders for their efforts in word and deed to move beyond the church’s racist past and embrace an inclusive and welcoming present and future.

“It’s true that the church has had challenges since [founder Joseph Smith’s call for an end to slavery] with race,” Brown writes. “...In recent years, I have stood arm-in-arm with President [Russell] Nelson to announce important joint initiatives of the church and the NAACP. … Nelson preaches a gospel of working ‘tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.’ … These are the actions and words of a faith moving forward and creating a better world.”

Read his commentary.

• Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess says the new documentary “Who Killed Joseph Smith?” — which asserts that murders of the church founder and his brother Hyrm were an inside job — misfires on multiple fronts.

“Actual professional historians — by which I mean people who have formally studied historical methodology and published peer-reviewed research in academic journals and books by university presses — are conspicuously absent from the scene,” she writes. “The documentary does give us screenshots of articles by both professional and amateur historians but only so that [film creator Justin] Griffin can dissect their various arguments and find them wanting. In other words, it’s amateur hour.”

Read her commentary.

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