Latest from Mormon Land: How not to single out singles and a Relief Society adieu

As they presumably prepare to leave, Jean Bingham and her counselors have spoken in General Conference less than once a year.

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.

200 candles

For those keeping score, this is our 200th Mormon Land newsletter. It perhaps is telling that the “Quote of the week” from that inaugural issue in April 2018 was the following from Genesis Group co-founder Darius Gray:

“The first step toward healing is the realization that the problem [of racism] exists, even among some of us in the church. ... We cannot fix that which we overlook or deny. Our attitudes toward others of a different race or of a different culture should not be considered a minor matter. Viewing them as such only affirms a willingness to stay unchanged.”

Those words remain relevant today.

Being singled out

It’s no secret that single Latter-day Saints — who make up the majority of adult members — sometimes struggle to feel at home in their marriage-focused, family-centered faith.

With that in mind, Exponent II blogger Trudy crafted a list of things NOT to say to single people at church. Here is sampling:

• “Why aren’t you married?”

“We all enter this world single; it’s the default state of humanity,” Trudy writes. “It doesn’t need justification or explanation. It just is.”

• “You can always get married in the afterlife.”

“When you say this, what we hear is that there’s nothing for us here and we’re better off dead,” the blogger states. “Just don’t. Please.”

• “My husband travels for work a lot, so that’s like being single.”

“No, it isn’t,” Trudy proclaims. “You get status in the church. You get a second paycheck…. You have a partner to share life’s challenges with. You get tax breaks!”

• “You’re too smart/accomplished/educated/wealthy to attract a man.”

“That’s kind of insulting to all the married women out there, isn’t it?” Trudy adds. “Plus, I don’t want a man I have to be small for. I want someone who loves me for who I am, not in spite of it.”

So what should members say? Turns out, it’s not that hard.

“Hello! How are you? What’s going on in your life? Have you read any good books/seen any good movies/started any fun hobbies lately?” Trudy concludes. “Basically anything you would say to a friend of any marital status. We’re people and we want to be talked to like people, not like some dreaded ‘other.’”

Apostle Gerrit Gong addressed the issue in his April 2021 General Conference speech — in which he noted that most adult Latter-day Saints are unmarried, widowed or divorced.

“Our standing before the Lord and in his church is not a matter of our marital status but of our becoming faithful and valiant disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Adults want to be seen as adults and to be responsible and contribute as adults.”

A Relief Society changing of the guard

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) General Relief Society President Jean Bingham, center, with her counselors, Sharon Eubank, left, and Reyna Aburto, at the women's session of General Conference in Salt Lake City, Saturday Sept. 23, 2017.

The current general Relief Society presidency is due to cycle out with this spring’s General Conference after logging the traditional five years of service.

It has been an eventful stretch for President Jean Bingham and her counselors, Sharon Eubank and Reyna Aburto. The three have led one of the world’s largest women’s organizations at a challenging and historic time — traveling virtually and in person to all corners of the globe — much of it during a devastating pandemic.

During their tenure so far, Bingham has spoken at General Conference (as the top Relief Society leader) three times, Eubank has done so four times and Aburto three times. That’s less than once a year in the church’s biannual gatherings.

That disappoints Times and Seasons blogger Chad Nielsen, who recently read through all their conference sermons.

“It was a depressingly short exercise, especially given the quality of materials presented,” he writes. “These talks proved to be very meaningful to me, and after reviewing them, I wish that the full Relief Society general presidency had been allowed to speak at every General Conference.”

Of course, with the women’s session returning in April, there’s a decent chance Bingham (and/or her counselors) will be speaking again.

Hoops history

The Brigham Young University men’s basketball team did more than snap a four-game losing streak last week, when it edged out Loyola Marymount. It broke a record before a single shot was taken.

The game was believed to represent the first time that the Cougars started four Black players and five non-Latter-day Saints as Te’Jon Lucas, Seneca Knight, Gideon George, Fousseyni Traore and Alex Barcello took the floor.

BYU sports blog Vanquish the Foe pointed out the historic lineup, citing the school’s official game notes.

From The Tribune

(Courtesy of the Nelson family in Tribune archives) Russell M. Nelson and Dantzel shortly before announcing their engagement in the summer of 1945.

• President Russell M. Nelson knows something about a broken heart. As a surgeon, he mended it. As a husband, he experienced it.

In a Valentine’s Day message, the 97-year-old leader recalls the deep grief and loneliness he endured after the death of his first wife.

Read the story.

• Prominent Latter-day Saint Gail Halvorsen, the famed “Berlin Candy Bomber,” who won hearts and fed souls by dropping treats to children during the postwar Berlin airlift, has died at 101.

Read his story.

Candy Bomber | Pat Bagley

• Brad Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, has issued a second apology for his recent remarks about Black members and the faith’s former priesthood/temple ban.

Read the story.

• Black Latter-day Saint scholar Janan Graham-Russell discusses Wilcox’s speech and the ongoing issue of racism among members on this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Listen here.

• The General Conference women’s session will be back — at least in April — as will in-person attendees, at least in a limited way.

Read the story.

• BYU has fired a longtime adjunct writing professor, who alleges her dismissal came as a result of her LGBTQ adovcacy.

Read the story.

• The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has dropped its investigation of BYU, saying religious exemptions allow the faith’s flagship school to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

Read the story.

• In another setback for LGBTQ students and allies at BYU, the Provo school’s speech clinic has stopped offering gender-affirming voice therapy to transgender clients.

Read the story.

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