Latest from Mormon Land: Swearing off singles wards; greeting an African leader

Also: Church loses a trailblazing historian and call goes out for a new abuse “help line.”

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

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.

Just say no to singles wards

Most adult Latter-day Saints are single, a point emphasized in the April 2021 General Conference, so it’s hardly surprising that, in a marriage-focused faith, congregations catered to this growing population have emerged.

Not everyone, however, is doubling down on singles wards. Some, it seems, are zeroing them out.

“Singles wards,” writes Exponent II blogger Trudy, “are against my religion.”

She proceeds to list not one, not two, not three, but six reasons why she shuns singles wards. Here are several of them:

• Singles wards show youths that there’s no place for them if they don’t marry.

“If teenagers could see single members participate in the life of the ward and stake,” Trudy states, “then when they grow up to be single adults, they would see that there is a place for them in the church, and fewer of them would feel unwelcome and leave.”

• Singles wards deprive single members of opportunities in a diverse congregation.

“Diversity is essential to the proper operation of God’s kingdom,” the blogger explains. “God made people of all ages and all marital statuses. By segregating our congregations, we diminish God’s creation.”

Popular apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in fact, called diversity a “strength of this church.”

• Singles wards deprive other congregations of the talents of single members.

“Six days of the week, single adults are treated in our workplaces, schools, community organizations, and social circles as adults,” Trudy writes. “But on the seventh day, we are treated as overgrown adolescents who need to be supervised by married people. We have jobs. We have bills. We manage a household without the help of a partner. We are leaders in our communities. We would be assets to our wards if given the opportunity.”

Greeting Gambia’s first lady

President Russell M. Nelson meets Gambia's first lady, Fatoumatta Bah Barrow in Salt Lake City on Aug. 17, 2022.

Seven months after dedicating Gambia for missionary work and two months after establishing its first congregation there, the church hosted the West African nation’s first lady in Utah.

Fatoumatta Bah Barrow met with the governing First Presidency and apostle D. Todd Christofferson last week along with leaders of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations. She also toured the church’s Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square in Salt Lake City and attended a devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo.

“Though it’s a Muslim country, it’s one where religious freedom flourishes and [is] very open,” Christofferson said in a news release. “So, we talked a little about that and gratitude for their tradition of religious freedom.”

The first lady lauded the church’s welfare operations and its people.

“Everyone is smiling and it shows love, and you [have] already accepted us as family,” she said. “And that’s what we believe in The Gambia — we believe in family.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: A better ‘help line’

Laura Brignone, a Latter-day Saint visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studies technology and interventions for domestic violence and sexual assault, discusses how the church could partner with existing help lines to assist abuse victims and offers suggestions for enlarging the group of helpers. Listen here.

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Kate Holbrook, a historian in the Church History Department, discusses several topics based on questions from young adults throughout the world in a live Face to Face devotional Sept. 9, 2018. Apostle Quentin L. Cook is at left and fellow historian Matt Grow is at right. Holbrook died Aug. 20, 2022.

• Praise pours in for historian Kate Holbrook, who brought Latter-day Saint women’s voices to light and life. She died Aug. 20 at age 50.

• The church hits back even harder in its second rebuke of The Associated Press, citing “egregious errors” in the child sex abuse article. The news agency says it “stands by its story.”

• The church loses a round in court as a judge rules the faith must answer questions and turn over documents in that Arizona abuse case, declaring that “clergy-penitent” confidentiality cannot be applied in this matter.

• Scores of protesters at the Utah Capitol call on legislators to close a loophole within state law that allows clergy not to report suspected child abuse.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters gather at the Utah Capitol to call for removing the clergy exemption from mandatory reporting in cases of abuse and neglect on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.

• In excerpts from last week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, Pulitzer-winning reporter Michael Rezendes discusses the dearth of transparency in the church’s handling of child sex abuse cases, adding that the “entire operation of the help line … is enveloped in secrecy.”

• “The Good Shepherds,” a community musical about the church’s wealth, is being panned by some members — even before the production has opened.

• Latter-day Saints differ on what counts as “religious” and what counts as “political,” scholar Matthew Bowman writes, and that can complicate whether the church should speak out on an issue.

• Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson discusses the difference, for him, between faith and belief.

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