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Latest from Mormon Land: Will Arizona follow ‘the Utah way’ on LGBTQ rights?

Blogger suggests church reforms, including mandatory retirement for apostles.

(Ross D. Franklin | AP) The blur of car lights zip past the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, April 15, 2020. A coalition from the state is pushing a nondiscrimination bill backed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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.

Church backs nondiscrimination bill

While the chasm between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom may seem at times like a grand canyon, a Grand Canyon State alliance has crafted a solution it believes bridges that gap.

And Latter-day Saint leaders have given their blessing to the bipartisan push.

“The church is pleased to be part of a coalition of faith, business, LGBTQ people and community leaders who have worked together in a spirit of trust and mutual respect to address issues that matter to all members of our community,” it said in a news release. “It is our position that this bipartisan bill preserves the religious rights of individuals and communities of faith while protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQ community, consistent with the principles of fairness for all.”

The Salt Lake City-based faith endorsed a similar nondiscrimination effort in neighboring Utah in 2015 that shielded LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing and employment while safeguarding some religious liberties.

It represented a compromise approach that apostle Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, advocated in a landmark November speech at the University of Virginia.

“While the [Utah] law gave neither side all that it sought,” Oaks said, “its reconciliations did grant both sides significant benefits — a win-win outcome — that could not have been obtained without the balancing of interests made possible by the dynamics of the legislative process.”

On another Arizona matter, Mormon Women for Ethical Government voiced support for a recently defeated energy package that would have required electric utilities to cut their carbon emissions to combat climate change.

“Caring for the earth is caring for each other,” the grassroots group stated in a news release, “and we are expected to work together in cooperation and respect as stewards of God’s great creations.”

Another wish list of reforms

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Church leaders at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. A blogger is suggesting that the faith's apostles retire at a certain age instead of filling lifetime callings.

Last month, Salt Lake Tribune sports columnist Gordon Monson, a believing and practicing Latter-day Saint, revealed 20 changes he’d like to see in the church.

This month, Wheat & Tares blogger Hawkgrrrl came out with an even longer list. Here is a sampling:

• Eliminate Brigham Young University’s Honor Code Office save for academic cheating.

• Require apostles to retire at 72 (or 80?) or after 10 years of service. “Let’s keep things fresh with new blood,” Hawkgrrrl writes. “Obviously there should be women as well as men, but that’s a given since in this scenario, I’m one of them.” The average age of the current apostles: 77.5.

• Allow mixed-gender presidencies for Primary and Sunday school.

• De-emphasize temple attendance and building.

• Provide scholarships to Latter-day Saints no matter where they attend if they don’t get into BYU.

• Shorten General Conference to one two-hour session. “It’s too long,” the blogger laments. “Waaaay too long.”

• Equalize the number of female and male conference speakers.

• Make it easier for members to transfer to other wards (congregations).

“I realize that every solution is a ticket to a new problem, so despite what I might be trying to accomplish, there would doubtless be a downside,” Hawkgrrrl concedes. “My more inclusive church would probably mean members have a lower commitment level (but let’s be honest, the most committed ones are the scariest!), and there might be some who leave because they hate women, gay people, and think I’m a communist.”

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

• BYU religion professor Brad Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, apologized for remarks he made about Black members and the church’s past racist priesthood/temple ban.

Read the story.

• Couples who wed in their early 20s have marriages that are as satisfying and stable as those who marry at age 25 or older, according to a new study from BYU and the University of Virginia.

Read the story.

• Retired federal Judge Thomas Griffith, a Latter-day Saint convert, talks about why politics is a “religious activity” in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Listen to the show.

• James Huntsman filed his long-awaited appeal in his fraud case against the church over millions he paid in tithing. He says a jury, not a judge, needs to decide who is telling the truth about how donations were spent.

Read the story and his filing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Note • James Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, chairman of the nonprofit Tribune’s board of directors.

Temple updates

• After an extended hiatus — while the Mesa Temple and its surroundings underwent a major makeover — the temple’s “Jesus the Christ” Easter pageant will return April 6-9 and 12-16.

With a cast of 400 to 500, the show will come with a new stage, new props, new script and new score, Matt Riggs, pageant director explained in an Arizona Republic video.

• An April 9 groundbreaking is scheduled to launch work on the Bahía Blanca Temple.

The single-spired, single-story, 19,000-square-foot temple will be the fifth in Argentina, home to more than 470,000 members.

• See the latest photos and video of renovation work on the Salt Lake Temple and its surroundings as the project enters its third year.

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