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.
No, that’s not Mormonism
To any Latter-day Saints who believe their faith and its top leaders support the cause of Christian nationalism, By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson has this blunt message:
“Christian nationalism (of any form),” he writes, “has no place in my religion.”
Yes, Latter-day Saints believe the U.S. Constitution is inspired, and, yes, the faith has mingled matters of church and state, but it does not preach that Christianity should enjoy some “privileged” position in governmental politics or policies.
“Look a little closer … and you can see church leaders expressly rejecting the idea of privileging Mormonism (or Christianity more broadly),” argues Brunson, a tax law professor at Chicago’s Loyola University, “and, in fact, expressly adopting a division between civil and religious authority and governance.”
In a major address recently in Rome, apostle Dallin Oaks, matter-of-factly stated that “religious rights cannot be absolute.”
“In a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs or disbeliefs,” said Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency and next in line to lead the global church, “government must sometimes limit the rights of some to act upon their beliefs when doing so is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of all.”
In calling for “interreligious coalitions” to push for religious liberty worldwide, Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, noted that such an effort “will be strengthened if we do not always seek total dominance for our own positions.”
Brunson pointed to church founder Joseph Smith’s defense of all religions and an 1841 ordinance from Nauvoo, Ill., then the faith’s headquarters, that proclaimed “Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopal[ian]s, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city.”
The church repeated that statement in late 2015, when it denounced Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
“I want it to be clear to other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Mormon movements,” Brunson concludes, “that [Christian nationalism] is equally incompatible with our history.”
The ERA and Roe
Kate Kelly, a human rights attorney and a co-founder of Ordain Women, sees a surefire way to secure abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s nullification of Roe v. Wade: Finalize the Equal Rights Amendment.
Roe relied on a right to privacy, a right not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, Kelly reasons in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed. But making the ERA the 28th Amendment would enshrine gender equality in the nation’s governing document and provide the “clearest path” toward guaranteeing abortion rights.
“If we at long last finalize the ERA,” she writes, “we can achieve abortion access based on equal citizenship.”
Kelly, who was excommunicated for her public advocacy in pushing to ordain women to the church’s all-male priesthood, insists the ERA already has met the requisite ratification from 38 states but notes the issue still faces a challenge in federal court.
You can hear Kelly discuss the long fight for the ERA and her book, “Ordinary Equality: The Fearless Women and Queer People Who Shaped the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment,” in this earlier “Mormon Land” podcast.
Scrum erupts over rainbow rugby jerseys
A 23-year-old Latter-day Saint rugby player in Australia joined a handful of teammates with “staunch religious beliefs” in refusing to wear rainbow-striped gay pride jerseys, according to the Daily Mail.
Haumole Olakau’atu and other Manly Sea Eagles opted to boycott a recent match rather than wear the “inclusive” jerseys, the news organization reported. More players later did the same.
Former Manly player Ian Roberts, the first high-profile professional rugby player to come out as gay, told Yahoo News the players’ stance was “sad and uncomfortable.”
Though some players balked at donning the pride uniforms, many fans didn’t. Media outlets said the club sold out all of its men’s and women’s sizes.
From The Tribune
• Joseph Smith once famously said, “No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it.” But Noah Van Sciver did and the result is his new graphic novel, “Joseph Smith and the Mormons.” On this week’s “Mormon Land,” the acclaimed cartoonist, who spent his childhood as a Latter-day Saint, discusses his work, what he learned, how he came to terms with his religious roots, and what he hopes readers take away from his book.
Listen to the podcast.
• The mother of all questions surrounding the purported daguerreotype of Joseph Smith: Is it really him? Some historians lean yes; others insist no, but all agree only time may tell.
Read the story.
• Historian Lachlan Mackay, a Community of Christ apostle, explains in last week’s “Mormon Land” how that photo was authenticated and why it reveals the “real” Joseph Smith.
• Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess argues the vigorous debate about the headline-grabbing photograph says less about Mormonism’s founder than it does about us.
Read her column.
• Dozens of young U.S. scholars went to Ghana this week to learn about the historical connections between the West African nation and the civil rights movement, thanks to the church’s partnership with the NAACP.
Read the story.
• A bankruptcy judge has rejected a plan for the church to pay $250 million to help settle child sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts.
Read the story.
• Pro golfer Tony Finau, a Latter-day Saint from Utah, won back-to-back PGA Tour events, capturing titles at the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Read the story.
• Police have made three arrests in the aftermath of a four-day vandalism spree that damaged 14 Latter-day Saint chapels in southwestern Utah.
Read the story.
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