Latest from Mormon Land: Elon Musk’s wingman is LDS; Dallin Oaks says to avoid extremism

Former local church leader who was on a sex offender registry in one state is convicted of assaulting a boy in another.

(Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP, File) Elon Musk, shown in this 2020 photo, employs a practicing Latter-day Saint as his chief money manager.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content, extended newsletters, podcast transcripts and more.

A Latter-day Saint at Elon Musk’s side

From the files of “Did You Know?” comes this morsel: Elon Musk’s main moneyman is a Latter-day Saint.

Yes, the SpaceX and Tesla tycoon, whose on-again-off-again Twitter takeover has been capturing headlines, employs a former missionary and Brigham Young University graduate to help handle his finances, according to the Insider business news website.

Jared Birchall, a former Morgan Stanley banker who runs Musk’s Excession family office, grew up in Modesto, Calif., as one of 11 children, the website reports. Known as a family man, Birchall now has five children of his own and stood out at one point for bringing his young son to the office.

“Jared’s the most straight-laced person you’ll ever meet,” a former colleague told Insider. “...He’s a very ethical and trustworthy guy, so I can see why Elon puts a lot of confidence in him.”

Oaks: Condemn racism, avoid extremism

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency addresses Ensign College students during a devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

In the wake of a deadly racist attack in Buffalo, President Dallin H. Oaks urged Latter-day Saints to condemn racism and “avoid extreme or polarizing positions and teachings that undermine the U.S. Constitution.”

“[The Constitution’s] inspired principles, including the freedoms of speech and religion and its authorized amendments, have allowed subsequent generations to continue to improve and strengthen the rights of all of its citizens,” Oaks, first counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, said in a speech this week to Ensign College students. “... A gospel-centered approach to combating racism empowers all parties to support, apply and teach the power and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, also voiced church support for initiatives that protect the rights for LGBTQ individuals in housing and health care.

“In seeking common ground, we encourage fair treatment and respect for others, and we ask the same for ourselves,” he said, adding that “does not mean we walk away from our beliefs and fundamental doctrine on the family.”

“Please remember the responsibility we members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Oaks said, according to a news release. “We must declare the truth as God has revealed it. We are not free to pick and choose which truths we will preach and defend.”

In continuing a theme from previous addresses, Oaks encouraged the students to find “common ground” and avoid overly contentious settings.

“Followers of Christ,” he said, “should be examples of civility.”

Apostle gets a rare opportunity

Apostle David A. Bednar will do something next week that no top church official has done in nearly a quarter century.

He will speak at the National Press Club.

According to a release from the prominent journalistic organization, Bednar will speak at a May 26 luncheon in Washington “about what the church is doing to address food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa, its response to the war in Ukraine, and how it educates nearly a million young people a year.”

In March 2000, then-President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared at the National Press Club. You can view that talk on a C-SPAN link.

Ex-elders quorum leader convicted

A former elders quorum president in a Minnesota congregation has been convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

The Star Tribune reports that a jury found 37-year-old Michael Davis guilty of two criminal sexual conduct charges and one count of indecent exposure.

Davis sexually assaulted the teen, a fellow Latter-day Saint, several times at the defendant’s home in 2018, according to court papers. Those records, the Star Tribune writes, also show Davis was on Utah’s sex offender registry before he moved to Minnesota.

From The Tribune

(Photo courtesy of UNICEF and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint Charities has supported global immunization initiatives led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Here, a woman receives a vaccination in Chad.

• Church President Russell M. Nelson tells young adults in a worldwide devotional that no label — be it nationality, political allegiance or other designation — is as important as this identifier: child of God.

Read the story.

• A new report shows the church spent $906 million on charity worldwide last year and provided 6.8 million volunteer hours in 188 nations and territories.

Read the story.

• On this week’s “Mormon Land,” an independent researcher discusses how, where and why church membership is booming in some places and dwindling in others.

Listen to the podcast.

• Latter-day Saint pop star David Archuleta, who has been detailing his struggles as an LGBTQ member, tells a LoveLoud concert crowd, “It’s a beautiful thing to be queer.”

Read the story.

• From tracting to TikTok? More and more missionaries are singing, dancing and preaching online. But do these tools work? It may hinge on whether the videos are meant to woo converts or wow the already converted.

Read the story.

• The church is teaming up with Utah’s largest homebuilder to bring more than 500 student housing units to the University of Utah on the site of a former meetinghouse.

Read the story.

• Six decades ago, the church united with other denominations in building a chapel at the Utah State Prison. Now, with the prison preparing to move, the state is working to preserve that worship space.

Read the story.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Inmates perform in the chapel at the Utah State Prison in 2017. The prison is relocating, and the state is seeking to preserve this worship space.

• Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson wonders why some members pretend to be believers — but aren’t.

Read his column.

• Utahn Alan Barnett, who holds a master’s degree in architectural preservation, advocates that the Provo Temple should be renovated without overhauling its appearance — as the church intends to do.

Read his commentary.

Want more?

Subscribe here to get these and additional newsletter items free in your inbox each week.