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Bryce blasts off
Bryce Harper, the highest-paid Latter-day Saint athlete, enjoyed his grandest moment this week on his grandest stage — so far.
On Sunday night, the Philadelphia slugger belted the biggest home run of his career, a two-strike, two-run, opposite-field blast in the eighth inning that propelled his Phillies to a 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres and into the World Series.
“Give me all of it, give me all of it,” Harper urged his teammates during the clubhouse celebration, ESPN reported, allowing beer to be rained on him from all sides.
For his heroics in the deciding game and the previous four (he batted .400 with two homers, three doubles and five RBIs in five games), he was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series.
So what was running through the mind of Philly’s new favorite son as he approached the plate Sunday night with his team trailing by one run?
“We all think in our backyard it’s the World Series, right?” Harper said on the Phillies website. “I think the opportunity is huge, but you’re grateful for that opportunity. I think if you go in with gratitude in the at-bat, it doesn’t matter what happens.”
No doubt the City of Brotherly Love is grateful that Harper signed that 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019.
As for his religion, the future Hall of Famer is no “Phanatic” (apologies to Philly’s famed mascot). He doesn’t wear it on his baseball sleeve.
“I’m going to try to be the best person I can off the field [and promote my faith that way],” he told The Washington Times in 2013. " … I try to be the best walking Book of Mormon as I can.”
Harper and Kayla Varner, a former soccer standout at Brigham Young and Ohio State universities, married in December 2016 in the San Diego Temple. The couple have a son and a daughter.
Next up for Harper and the Phillies: The American League champion Astros in the World Series, which begins Friday in Houston.
“You dream about it, but you also dream about that next step,” Harper said on the Phillies website. “...I’m looking forward to the next one. This is great. To be the last National League team standing right now, the Philadelphia Phillies, we’re here. We’re ready to go in that next round. We’ve got four more.”
What might he do for an encore?
Is ‘The Chosen’ too Mormon?
Back in the spring, producers of “The Chosen” had to fend off evangelical critics who accused the popular Christian drama of being too tight with Latter-day Saints.
Well, that debate has been born again.
After the show’s Season Three trailer hit the internet, the ChurchLeaders website reports, some alleged that Jesus delivers a line (“I am the law of Moses”) that paraphrases a Book of Mormon verse (“I am the law, and the light,” from 3 Nephi).
“This is a direct bowing to Mormon theology (Mormons put a lot into the series) which is against biblical Christianity,” the article quotes a Twitter user as writing. “Jesus fulfills the law and as God gave it, but he is not the law.”
Dallas Jenkins, the driving force behind “The Chosen,” flatly rejected the criticism as part of a YouTube presentation Tuesday touting the approaching season.
“It’s not a direct quote from the Book of Mormon,” he stated. “...I have never read the Book of Mormon, to be honest with you. I’ve read some of it if people will share it with me.”
Either way, Jenkins added, “it’s in the show because I believe it’s a really great line, and I believe it’s also theologically plausible.”
The crowdfunded series does indeed have Latter-day Saint ties. It has filmed scenes at the faith’s “little Jerusalem” set in Utah. It has partnered with Angel Studios, co-founded by a pair of Latter-day Saints. And many members certainly can be counted as devoted fans. But it is not produced by, or affiliated with, the Utah-based church.
In May, Jenkins explained in a YouTube video that he has close Latter-day Saint friends who “absolutely love the same Jesus that I do.”
But he added: “It would be just as dumb for me to say that all LDS are Christians as it would be to say that all evangelicals are Christians….And it would also be dumb of me to say that none are.”
The first two episodes of highly anticipated Season 3 will be screened in theaters Nov. 18.
The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Joseph’s wives
Scholar Todd Compton, author of the recently released “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents,” discusses the “secret” plural wives of Joseph Smith — what their marriages were like, their level of intimacy, whether any children resulted from these unions and more. Listen here.
From The Tribune
• A new digital catalog reveals the visual variety in Book of Mormon art and helps members view the faith’s foundational text in “new and fruitful ways.”
• The final resting place for pioneer-prophet Brigham Young and some of his wives has been renovated and rededicated.
• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson reminds Latter-day Saints to treat those who leave the faith with kindness, respect and love.
• Lea Salonga, a two-time Disney princess, will sing with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in this year’s Christmas concerts.
• The Provo studio behind “The Chosen” is producing its first feature film: a sci-fi flick based on the biblical Book of Job by a Latter-day Saint writer, director.
• Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack was named the nation’s top religion reporter among midsize newspapers for the fifth time.
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