Latest from Mormon Land: Taking ‘pro-life’ beyond the womb; give General Conference talks a rest?

Also: Fewer Australians are self-identifying as Latter-day Saints.

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How to build a ‘truly pro-life society’

Anti-abortion forces celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as a “pro-life” victory. But the U.S. may be far from being a “pro-life” country.

“If we are to build a culture that celebrates life, we cannot stop at protecting the unborn,” civil rights attorney Carolyn Homer wrote in a By Common Consent blog post. “We must make sure every new baby, and continuing to every adult, receives societal support to stay alive and thrive.”

To help do so, Homer outlined dozens of policies that she argued could lead to a “truly ‘pro-life’ society.” Among them:

• Provide health care for all.

• End the death penalty.

• Prohibit assault weapons.

• Mandate and supply vaccines.

• Serve nutritious free meals in schools for all.

• Expand food stamps and related programs.

• Offer paid family leave.

• Provide quality assisted living facilities and elder care.

• Open doors to refugees.

• Generate abundant affordable housing.

These and a host of other measures would be needed, Homer said, to ensure lives are protected and nurtured from cradle to grave.

“As Latter-day Saints in particular, we proclaim that everyone is a beloved child of God, that the worth of every soul is great in the sight of God, and that our great Christian duty is to love one another,” Homer stated. “...If we are serious about supporting life, let us reallocate the energy spent trying to eliminate abortion to promoting these social goals.”

All talked out

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Amy A. Wright, second counselor and soon-to-be first counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks at General Conference in April. A blogger suggests that basing Sunday lessons and talks on General Conference sermons may not be the best approach, especially since so few women speak at those sessions.

General Conference may only come every six months, but the sermons delivered there live on in the days and weeks that follow — often as the basis for Sunday talks and lessons from members.

And that can pose problems.

How? Let Exponent II blogger Mindy Farmer step up to the microphone to explain:

For starters, talks on talks can be redundant. “One of the biggest complaints I hear from students about teachers is that they simply read from the textbook during class,” Farmer writes. “Having a teacher or speaker read large chunks of quotes from a conference talk has much the same feeling.” In short, been there, heard that.

Women inevitably get short shrift. Many women may be called, but few are chosen to give speeches at General Conference. Only a handful of female speakers usually are featured compared to dozens of men. “If we primarily quote from recent conference talks,” Farmer notes, “we will rarely hear words of wisdom and counsel from women.”

Finally, talks (and lessons) on talks can be tough to pull off. “How do you decide how much to review and summarize?” the blogger asks. “How many direct quotes do you use? Is it OK to use the talk as inspiration, but then choose your own focus?”

Farmer suggests the church tap its money and resources to assist speakers and teachers with more than a selection of talks from which to pick.

“Students need to come prepared, offer some grace, and supplement with their own experiences and study,” Farmer advises. “But students can also only be so engaged in the constant quoting of talks many of them have already heard.”

A down trend Down Under

(Rick Rycroft AP) Tourists gather in the 2020 photo taken with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as a backdrop in Sydney. Newly released census numbers show how many Australians self-identify as Latter-day Saints

Speaking of membership stats, Australia has released cultural diversity results from its 2021 census (which, unlike the U.S. census, asks about religious affiliation).

The new numbers show 57,868 of respondents self-identify as Latter-day Saints, independent demographer Matt Martinich reports at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, compared with the 155,383 on the church’s records.

That means nearly 63% of members on the faith’s rolls aren’t identifying as Latter-day Saints, up from 59% five years ago.

From The Tribune

• After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the church announced that its position on abortion “remains unchanged.”

“As states work to enact laws related to abortion,” the faith’s updated topic page explains, “church members may appropriately choose to participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty.”

Read the story.

• When Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified that he refused to go along with Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 election results, he cited his Latter-day Saint belief in a “divinely inspired” Constitution. Mormon studies scholar Matthew Bowman discusses that belief and more on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Listen to the podcast.

• In another piece, Bowman argues that religion is about more than belief in a certain theology. It’s also about “rituals and communities and moral code.”

Read his column.

• A missionary believes his reward for faithful service will be marrying a beautiful bride. Huh? Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess denounces this misguided, shallow, sexist thinking and the dangers it brings.

Read her column.

• “Mormon No More,” a new four-part documentary from Hulu and ABC News, focuses largely on two women who were faithful Latter-day Saints, married in the temple and were raising multiple children until they met and fell in love.

Read the story.

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