Latest from Mormon Land: Will revived abortion debate divide members? Could tithing change?

Also: If the LDS Church no longer needs more money, would leaders ease up on donation requirements?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Anti-abortion supporters and abortion-rights backers square off at the Utah Capitol on July 2, 2022. Some Latter-day Saints worry that, in the wake of the end of Roe v. Wade, and abortion will become a divisive topic at church meetings.

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Congregational clashes?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson, the church announced that its position on abortion “remains unchanged” and then greenlighted members to “participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty.”

Of course, nothing was preventing Latter-day Saints from doing so previously. Church leaders have always encouraged members to be involved in civic affairs.

But with that extra endorsement for engagement from the church and as the hot-button abortion debate shifts to the states, the once-settled issue (Roe v. Wade had protected abortion as a constitutional right for nearly half a century) is now going to be front burner once again.

Add to that, fresh hints from the high court that the Obergefell ruling (legalizing same-sex marriage) could be the next to fall and even more policy polemics could be in the offing.

That polarizing prospect has a Wheat & Tares writer, for one, worried about these touchy topics spilling over into Latter-day Saint chapels and (further?) dividing members.

“This matters to me because mixing politics and church has been the worst thing to happen to my church experience,” Elisa writes in a recent blog post. “While I disagree with the institutional church on many issues, I’ve long felt that my local experience is pretty good and as long as I focus on Jesus and my own congregation, I can get by just fine.”

But will competing stances on these sensitive subjects now sneak into sacrament talks, Sunday lessons and foyer chats?

“A major benefit of Roe … and Obergefell for me has been that, although people at church might talk about abortion (sometimes) and gay marriage (often), there was comfort in knowing that their religious beliefs and political opinions couldn’t infringe on my own reproductive rights or my friends’ and families’ marriage equality,” Elisa states. “...Now that reproductive choice is an open issue again — subject to campaigning and convincing and sign-posting and legislating — my ward members’ beliefs about it are likely to impact my own reproductive rights and those of my sisters and daughters and friends…. So it’s no longer something I can just look away from or agree to disagree or live and let live. It’s very personal and it concretely impacts my own life and family.”

A new entry in the church’s General Handbook could help nip such meetinghouse friction.

“Political choices and affiliations should not be the subject of any teachings or advocating in church settings,” it cautions. “Leaders ensure that church meetings and activities focus on the Savior and his gospel. Members should not judge one another in political matters.”

The questions then become: Do abortion and same-sex marriage fit into this “political” rubric? And even if they do, will leaders and members heed the handbook’s counsel?

Optional tithing?

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

There is a wealth of news coverage about the church’s, well, wealth.

Billions in reserve accounts. Billions more in real estate. So has the day come when member tithing no longer is needed? And will the day come when tithing no longer is required?

Wheat & Tares blogger Bishop Bill wondered as much recently, especially after pointing to a statement from the church’s sixth president, Joseph F. Smith, who said during the spring General Conference of 1907 that Latter-day Saint leaders expect “to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God.”

When apostle David A. Bednar was asked during a Q&A in May at the National Press Club if church leaders ever discuss easing the tithing standard for Latter-day Saints living through war or poverty, he acknowledged that the denomination “doesn’t need their money” but quickly added that those members “need the blessings that come from obeying God’s commandments.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint apostle David A. Bednar addresses members of the National Press Club at a luncheon in Washington on Thursday, May 26, 2022. During a Q&A, he remarked that the Utah-based church “doesn’t need" tithing donations from financially struggling members but that those members “need the blessings that come from obeying God’s commandments.”

Two years ago, after word of the church’s vast reserve funds came to light, the head of Ensign Peak Advisors, the faith’s investment arm, told The Wall Street Journal that leaders kept the lid on those riches because they feared members would cease living that tenet.

Tithing “is more of a sense of commitment than it is the church needing the money,” he said at the time. “So [church leaders] never wanted to be in a position where people felt like, you know, they shouldn’t make a contribution.”

So it seems, in Latter-day Saint scriptural language, that “the day for the tithing of my people” is not past.

From The Tribune

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

• On this week’s “Mormon Land,” Gabrielle Blair talks about her soon-to-be-released book, “Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion,” and why she wants to reframe the discussion about sex, birth control, pregnancy and abortion.

Listen to the podcast.

• “There are times when having an abortion is all right, even part of God’s plan.” With those words, we look at Latter-day Saint women who have had abortions and discover that their experiences didn’t always match the church’s teachings on the topic.

Read the story.

• In addition, the terminology surrounding the end of a pregnancy can be confusing, turning what some see as a black-and-white issue into “3 trillion shades of gray.”

Read the story.

• Popular apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf holds dual German and American citizenships, but in a pre-Independence Day speech he pointed to a third “cherished” citizenship — one separate from any birthplace — as the key to fostering world peace.

Read the story.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaks during the Patriotic Service of America’s Freedom Festival in the Marriott Center in Provo on Sunday, July 3, 2022.

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