Latest from Mormon Land: The woman who ran interference for David O. McKay

BYU scholarship honoring the late historian Kate Holbrook is in place; six new missions have been created; and six new temple sites have been selected.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Then-church President David O. McKay, right, outside Buckingham Palace in London with his family and secretary Clare Middlemiss, left, during a Tabernacle Choir tour of Europe in August 1955.

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 the full newsletter, exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

David and Clare

(Utah State Historical Society) David O. McKay is seen on the day he was ordained president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1951.

In recent interview for Kurt Manwaring’s “From the Desk,” David O. McKay biographer Gregory Prince outlined the influence and impact Clare Middlemiss, the Latter-day Saint leader’s personal secretary, had on the church’s ninth prophet-president.

She became the first woman ever to work as personal secretary to a sitting church president, Prince explained, and served as a key “gatekeeper” in determining who could — and couldn’t — meet with McKay.

“She wielded that power to the extent that some of his counselors in the [governing] First Presidency, particularly Hugh Brown,” he said, “couldn’t get in to see the president.”

As such, during a tug of war between conservative and progressive forces in the leadership, she and Brown frequently were at odds.

“Her friendship with [apostle Ezra Taft] Benson and her animosity towards Brown related to her own political leanings,” Prince added, “as she was a fervent supporter of the John Birch Society, while not an active member [of the right-wing group].”

She was, nonetheless, a “superb secretary,” adept at “shorthand and typing, hardworking and very well organized.”

Prince and co-writer Wm. Robert Wright, Middlemiss’ nephew, dedicated their seminal biography, “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism,” to this invaluable aide, writing:

“In memory of Clare Middlemiss, for creating the record.”

That record included about 40,000 pages of typescript diary she dutifully compiled and more than 200 scrapbooks.

Kate Holbrook scholarship moves forward

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kate Holbrook speaks in 2018. The beloved historian died in the summer. A scholarship fund has been establish in her honor at BYU.

The Kate Holbrook Endowed Scholarship is now fully funded and fully ready to meet its mission.

The beloved historian, who died this past summer at age 50, and her family set up the scholarship at Brigham Young University to assist primary caregivers of young children who pursue graduate work in the humanities.

“We’re delighted with the broad support from throughout the community for Kate and her wonderful legacy,” her brother-in-law Peter Conti-Brown wrote this week in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. “While we will continue to accept gifts at the same link, we will launch the scholarship shortly and begin to create new generations of scholars in the humanities who strive, as Kate did, to balance the beautiful challenges and opportunities as parents who create knowledge and meaning about the world.”

So let the learning start, and let that legacy never end.

Go here to contribute.

New missions created

The church has announced that it will open the following six new missions next year — five of them in Africa and all of them carved from existing missions:

• In Nigeria, the Aba and Abuja missions.

• In Ivory Coast, the Abidjan North Mission.

• In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kananga Mission.

• In South Africa, the Pretoria Mission.

• And, in Romania, the Bucharest Mission.

Independent demographer Matt Martinich, who tracks such developments at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, said the move “likely reflects increasing numbers of African members serving full-time missions as well as good opportunities to expand missionary outreach in nations with populations that have exhibited strong receptivity to the Latter-day Saint gospel message.”

Martinich pointed out that Nigeria will have nine missions, the Democratic Republic of Congo five and Ivory Coast four.

When the new missions come on line in July, the church will have 416 missions across the globe.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Respect for Marriage Act

The church’s support of the Respect for Marriage Act, designed to codify same-sex marriage while shielding religious organizations from fully embracing such unions, delighted many members and dismayed others. Erika Munson, a co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges, a grassroots group seeking to unite Latter-day Saints and queer individuals, and Addison Graham, a BYU student eager to see further policy shifts on LGBTQ issues, discuss what this stance may mean for the church, its members, its teachings, its policies and its place in society — now and in the future. Listen to the podcast.

Temple updates

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The San Juan Puerto Rico Temple is welcoming visitors in advance of its dedication.

• A ceremonial groundbreaking Saturday launched official construction of the Managua Temple, the first Latter-day Saint temple in Nicaragua.

• Puerto Rico’s first temple opened its doors to the public this week. The single-spired, single-story, 6,988-square-foot San Juan Temple will greet visitors through Dec. 17 in advance of a scheduled Jan. 15 dedication by apostle D. Todd Christofferson.

• The First Presidency also announced locations for the following six temples (half of them in Brazil):

• Kaohsiung Taiwan Temple.

• Ribeirão Prêto Brazil Temple.

• Santos Brazil Temple.

• Londrina Brazil Temple.

• Santa Cruz Bolivia Temple.

• Wellington New Zealand Temple.

From The Tribune

BYU-Idaho instructors are being fired for failing to gain “ecclesiastical clearance,” even though their bishops signed off on their employment.

• Is pushing for change within the church helpful or hurtful to the faith? A top leader’s talk sets off a debate about activism versus discipleship.

• A decades-old epicenter of anti-Mormonism in Salt Lake City soon will bite the dust.

• See why a 15-foot bronze statue of Joseph Smith has been erected in the world’s largest Hindu nation, which has fewer than 15,000 Latter-day Saints.

• Some anomalies turn up in the new U.S. Religion Census. For instance, the numbers show one Utah county has more Latter-day Saints than overall residents. How can that be?

• Given the location of its Granite Mountain vault — housing the world’s largest collection of genealogical records — the church will have a lot to say about whether a proposed gondola is built up a canyon east of the Salt Lake Valley.

• A queer student at BYU is exploring the intersection of her sexuality and spirituality in an art display at the Provo school.

• Salt Lake City’s Temple Square is still undergoing a massive makeover, but parts are still decked out in Christmas lights.

• Those closures and renovations in and around Temple Square, meanwhile, are poised to expand. Next year, the Beehive House, Lion House and Joseph Smith Memorial Building will shut down to the public to undergo upgrades.