Latest from Mormon Land: LDS Dems praise Republican Romney; conference recap

Also: Church faces tithing scrutiny in Australia and an apostle shares Ramadan message.

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LDS support for court nominee

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah won praise from Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris this week for publicly backing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is particularly apt that Senator Romney announced his support for this historic nominee on the day we remember the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Robert Taber, the group’s national director, wrote Monday. “We agree with Senator Romney that Judge Jackson ‘more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity’” expected of a Supreme Court justice.

Taber also pointed to the endorsement Jackson, who stands to become the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court, won from retired federal Judge Thomas Griffith, a Latter-day Saint Republican who served with Jackson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Taber took to task Sen. Mike Lee, another Latter-day Saint Republican from Utah, for opposing her nomination.

Taxing questions in Australia

An investigation by media outlets raises questions about whether the church has been evading taxes in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the church essentially has been funneling donations and members’ tithing to a charitable trust.

Australia does not allow tax deductions for tithing or church donations. But it does allow generous write-offs for charitable giving.

Members “have been able to draw on $400 million in tax deductions,” the paper reports, “not available to followers of other religions or denominations.”

The church maintains it heeds the tax laws.

Conference recap

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dallin H. Oaks, left Russell M. Nelson and Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency sit on the rostrum before General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 3, 2022.

It’s a wrap. Spring General Conference is over. Here are the highlights:

• At 97, President Russell M. Nelson already has passed one century mark, announcing 17 new temples and putting the tally at 100 during his tenure.

• New leaders were named to oversee the women’s Relief Society and children’s Primary, including a historic pick: the first Black woman to serve in a churchwide presidency.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Newly called Primary General President Susan H. Porter, left, and second counselor Tracy Y. Browning shake hands with church leaders after the afternoon session of General Conference on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

• Leaders repeatedly urged members to go on full-time missions, with Nelson calling it a “priesthood responsibility” for young men and an “optional opportunity” for women.

• Worldwide church membership surpassed 16.8 million last year as growth rebounded from a dismal 2020, but that 0.8% bump remained below pre-pandemic levels.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

• During the women’s session, apostle Dale G. Renlund repeated an earlier refrain in which he counseled members not to pray to Heavenly Mother and cautioned against speculating about her.

• President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, also returned to a familiar theme, insisting that the church will not retreat from its opposition to same-sex marriage and stating that the 1995 family proclamation is “founded on irrevocable doctrine.”

• In his major address, Nelson lamented the war in Eastern Europe — “I have been to Ukraine and Russia many times,” he said. “I love those lands, the people and their languages” — and invited members to end a conflict in their personal lives.

• In a moving message, Patrick Kearon of the presidency of the Seventy reminded abuse survivors of God’s love, while emphatically stating “the abuse was not, is not and never will be your fault.”

• Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland also weighed in on a tender topic, saying that “death by suicide is manifestly not the answer” and pleading with any who are suffering to “talk to someone. Ask for help. You are loved and valued and needed.”

• President Jean B. Bingham delivered her final General Conference address as head of the Relief Society — she will stop down come August — saying that members can anchor themselves to Christ by honoring their covenants.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The outgoing Relief Society General Presidency of Sharon Eubank, left, Jean B. Bingham and Reyna Aburto, visit with general authorities after the afternoon session of General Conference on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

• In addition, Tribune columnist Gordon Monson and Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess chimed in on their conference likes and dislikes.

There’s much, much more conference coverage at sltrib.com/religion, and we’ll do it all again in six months.

Bednar on Ramadan

Apostle David A. Bednar wished Muslims around the world a “blessed Ramadan” as they began their holy month of fasting, prayer, scripture reading and charitable giving.

“To the followers of Islam,” he said in a video message (with Arabic subtitles), “we express our profound respect for your devotion to God and your generosity to those in need.”

Also from The Tribune

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kate Kelly, left, and Sonia Johnson speak at an event launching Kelly's new book, "Ordinary Equality," at the Clubhouse in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, March 31, 2022.

• Feminists Sonia Johnson and Kate Kelly, both excommunicated from the church, discuss the continuing quest to ratify the Equal Rights Amendent on “Mormon Land.”

Listen here.

• A new database, released by the Truth & Transparency Foundation, shows the church owns at least 1.7 million acres in the U.S. valued at nearly $16 billion, making it the nation’s fifth largest private landowner.

Read it and search the list and maps here.

• In fact, this data dump from Truth & Transparency — an outgrowth of MormonLeaks — is its swan song. The foundation is shutting down.

Read it here.

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