Latest from Mormon Land: In culture wars, is the church stuck — or content — in the middle?

Will top leaders veer left or right, or stick to a centrist course?

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. The Times and Seasons blogger says the Utah-based faith charts a centrist course on most cultural issues.

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Charting a centrist course

Rather than CTR (choose the right) and CTL (choose the left), the church, as an institution, usually finds itself somewhere in the middle — at least when it comes to today’s cultural clashes.

Call it CTC (choose the center).

So argues Times and Seasons blogger Jonathan Green.

The church has voiced strong support for immigration and vaccination, he notes, while speaking out against racism and partnering with the NAACP.

It remains solidly against same-sex marriage but has softened its tone and cooperated on some LGBTQ issues. It has denounced elective abortions but has been largely silent in the post-Roe debates.

“While there are certainly LDS Trumpists,” Green states, “there is no equivalent of the full-throated institutional support for [Donald] Trump as divinely appointed leader.” (Dallin Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, even denounced and warned against post-election unrest, while the church congratulated, eventually, Joe Biden on his victory.)

Might the church steer more toward the left?

“Perhaps church leaders will decide that cultural power has shifted decisively toward progressive views of race, sexuality and gender,” Green writes. “To have any hope of still reaching people in the modern world or even of maintaining its institutional viability, the church may have to change as well. Through revelation, official decree or by policy change, the church could disavow … historical polygamy, ordain women and sanctify gay marriages.”

Could it veer toward the right?

“The next election may well cement an indefinite Republican hold on political power,” Green posits. “Rather than risk an environment without friends in power, the church could rejoin the culture war and hail Trump the mighty and strong as God’s instrument in these perilous times.”

Green doubts either of those scenarios will take place in this polarized period.

“What we’re most likely to see is basically what we see today: Everybody’s mad all the time,” with members on each side wishing top church leaders would side with their particular platforms.

Green’s advice: “Resist the instinct to displace your political outrage onto the church for what it fails to do or denounce. The church’s mission is not to do your protesting and political organizing for you.”

Oh, and learn to get along with everyone.

Harper watch

(Chris Szagola | AP) Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper celebrates his two-run home run during the first inning in Game 3 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Philadelphia.

Bryce Harper, the Phillies’ slugging star and highest-paid Latter-day Saint athlete, has already made a deep impact on the World Series.

Emphasis on deep.

On Tuesday night, he lofted a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning, teeing up a long-ball barrage from Philadelphia en route to a 7-0 rout of the Astros.

The Phillies’ loud bats fell silent Wednesday night, however, as Houston pitchers tossed the first combined no-hitter in World Series history to tie the best-of-seven Fall Classic at 2-2.

Even so, Harper, as of Thursday morning, was batting .368, with six homers and 13 RBIs in this year’s postseason.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Men and marriage

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A men's choir sings at an all-male priesthood session of General Conference in 2017. Holly Welker's new book, “Revising Eternity: 27 Latter-day Saint Men Reflect on Modern Relationships,” examines marriage, divorce, sexuality, illness, addiction, infidelity, infertility, sexual orientation, loss of faith, death and much more from a male perspective.

Holly Welker discusses her book “Revising Eternity: 27 Latter-day Saint Men Reflect on Modern Relationships,” and topics such as marriage, divorce, sexuality, illness, addiction, infidelity, infertility, sexual orientation, loss of faith, death and much more — all from a male perspective. Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Martha Alejandra Vera Rodriguez at a rehearsal for the annual celebration of Latin American culture, Luz de las Naciones," in Lehi on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.

• New questions are arising up north, in Canada, and Down Under, in Australia, about the church’s finances and charitable giving — and whether the faith is playing fast and loose with tax laws.

• Hundreds of Latin American performers are preparing to dazzle a packed house at the Conference Center for this year’s “Luz de las Naciones” celebration.

• While Joseph Smith’s marriage to a 14-year-old was “not a wise thing,” scholar Todd Compton says, the church founder was not a pedophile. Read excerpts from his comments on our “Mormon Land” podcast and listen to the full episode.

• The sheer age of the church’s top leaders provides some protection from the perils of celebrity culture, but Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess does worry about members going “overboard” in their reverence for their prophets and apostles.

• The discourses of Eliza Snow and the diaries of Emmeline Wells, two of the most powerful and influential women in church history, are now available online.