Latest from Mormon Land: Stars who resemble that purported Joseph Smith photo

Also: How Mexico’s census compares to LDS Church membership numbers; the Mormon History Association gets a new president; and an apostle’s sermon on the “mound.”

(AP) Clockwise from top left: Eddie Redmayne, Burt Lancaster, Grant Goodeve, Matthew McConaughey, Patrick Wilson and Gary Collins. Readers on social media have suggested that these actors resemble, to some degree, the purported photograph of church founder Joseph Smith.

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Joseph Smith look-alikes?

Setting aside the debate about whether that recently revealed daguerreotype is really a photograph of church founder Joseph Smith, is there a politician or celebrity — or maybe a family member or friend — who resembles the person in that picture?

We asked that question on social media, and here are some names that came back. Click on that purported image of Smith (we don’t have permission to republish it here) and see if you agree with any of these suggestions.

• Eddie Redmayne, the British actor who won an Oscar for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”

• Burt Lancaster, the late screen legend who earned an Academy Award playing a biblical con man in “Elmer Gantry.”

• Grant Goodeve, the eldest son on the late-1970s TV series “Eight Is Enough.

• Gary Collins, the late actor, daytime talk show host and master of ceremonies for the Miss America pageant.

• Patrick Wilson, the stage actor who earned Tony nominations for “The Full Monty” and “Oklahoma.”

• Matthew McConaughey, the Hollywood star who won an Oscar for his depiction of an AIDS patient in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

There were a few others, too, including actor Ed Harris (with hair, in this case) and Paul Newman (at least for those famous eyes).

Meanwhile, actor Nathan Mitchell portrayed the faith’s first leader in the church’s 2005 movie, “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Nathan Mitchell portrayed the Prophet Joseph Smith in the church's 2005 movie, "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration."

So it seems that, as with beauty, any likeness between the newly unveiled photo and a popular personality is in the eye of the beholder.

Do any other comparisons spring to your mind?

The church in Mexico

(Courtesy | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Mexico City Mexico Temple in 2015.

Go to the church’s statistical webpage for Mexico and you will find that the Latin American nation has the second most Latter-day Saints (nearly 1.5 million at the end of 2021) of any country — behind the U.S. (more than 6.7 million) and just ahead of Brazil (almost 1.46 million).

But Mexico’s 2020 census — which, unlike the U.S. census, asks about religious affiliation — shows 337,998 self-affiliated Latter-day Saints, independent demographer Matt Martinich reports at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com. That’s up 23,066, a 7.3% bump, from the 314,932 reported in the 2010 census.

During that same span, the church cited a membership jump of 246,985, Martinich states. So the increase in the number of census-reported Latter-day Saints was a mere 9.3% of the church-reported rise in membership over those 10 years.

“The church in Mexico has struggled for decades with low convert retention and member activity rates,” the researcher writes. “Probably only 20% of church-reported membership in Mexico regularly attends church — a percentage that has not appeared to have significantly changed in the past two decades.”

Consequently, Martinich notes, church leaders have trimmed scores of congregations since 2010 by consolidating wards with few active members.

Mormon History Association names new president

Matthew Bowman is Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. He is the new president of the Mormon History Association.

The Mormon History Association has a new president: Matthew Bowman, who heads Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.

Bowman is the author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith” and “Christian: The Politics of a Word in America.”

He recently appeared on “Mormon Land,” addressing the long-held Latter-day Saint view of a “divinely inspired” U.S. Constitution.

Bowman “has been attending MHA since 2005, when he presented a paper on LDS Bigfoot folklore,” the association’s website notes. “Ever since that paper was welcomed, MHA has been his favorite academic conference.”

And the last shall be first

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham, with her husband, Bruce, waves to paradegoers in Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 23, 2022. The Days of ’47 Parade is an annual event commemorating the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

President Jean Bingham scored a first in one of her last acts as worldwide leader of the women’s Relief Society:

She reportedly became the first female grand marshal of the Days of ‘47 Parade, the large July procession that celebrates the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.

After five years of service heading the women’s organization, Bingham and her counselors, Sharon Eubank and Reyna Aburto, will officially step aside in August for a new general Relief Society presidency, with Camille Johnson as president and J. Anette Dennis and Kristin M. Yee as counselors.

Renlund’s sermon on the mound

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Dale G. Renlund throws the first pitch during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints family night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on July 25, 2022.

Some 40 years ago, apostle Dale G. Renlund did his residency at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine en route to becoming a cardiologist.

He returned Monday to Baltimore, where the 69-year-old church leader traded in his stethoscope for a baseball, to toss out the ceremonial first pitch at the Orioles-Rays game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The event was part of Latter-day Saints Night, sponsored by the Baltimore Stake, at the big league game.

Renlund could practice no medicine on the mound, of course, since doctoring a baseball (think spitball) is strictly forbidden.

After completing his hurling duties, a news release notes, Renlund stayed to “enjoy the rest of the game,” one the hometown crowd certainly enjoyed as the Orioles topped Tampa Bay 5-1.

From The Tribune

• On this week’s “Mormon Land,” historian Lachlan Mackay, who also is an apostle for the Community of Christ, discusses the purported photograph of church founder Joseph Smith.

Listen to the podcast.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lachlan Mackay, an apostle with the Community of Christ, in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

• This Is the Place Heritage Park, honoring the arrival 175 years ago of Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley, now tells a more complete story of their epic journey, with the unveiling of monuments celebrating Black pioneers, namely Jane Manning James, Green Flake, Hark Wales and Oscar Smith.

Read the story and view photographs from the ceremony.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Descendants of Mormon pioneers Green Flake, left, Euridell Bankhead, Eldon Udell (hidden), Tamu Smith, Betty Juanita Jackson and Darryl Udell unveil the bronze statues of their ancestor and fellow Black pioneers.

• After a two-year pandemic pause, Jehovah’s Witnesses across the U.S. are returning to in-person proselytizing. Latter-day Saint missionaries have moved away from “tracting” but already have resumed in-person teaching and ministering.

Read the story.

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