Latest from Mormon Land: Got a church gripe? Who you gonna call?

Latter-day Saint law professor suggests an ombudsperson — or office — to field members’ concerns. Also: President Russell Nelson shares a holiday video, and opening prayers return to Sunday’s second hour.

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

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A clearinghouse for complaints

Here’s one from the suggestion box: an ombudsperson for the church.

This person (or, more correctly, office) would handle the queries, concerns and complaints from any of the faith’s 16.8 million members. Right now, Latter-day Saints are counseled to communicate through their local lay leaders.

“Church members are discouraged from calling, emailing, or writing letters to general authorities about doctrinal questions, personal challenges, or requests,” the General Handbook explains. “Responding personally would make it difficult for general authorities to fulfill their duties. Members are encouraged to reach out to their local leaders, including their Relief Society or elders quorum president, when seeking spiritual guidance. In most cases, correspondence from members to general authorities will be referred back to local leaders.”

But what if those leaders are the problem?

“For members, it means that they have no clear way to solve problems they’re facing, especially when the problems involve local leadership,” By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson writes. “If a person’s stake [regional] president is exercising some type of unrighteous dominion but any letter complaining of that will be sent right back to that person’s stake president, they’re not going to get their problem solved and potentially will face negative repercussions (social or ecclesiastical).”

Brunson, a Latter-day Saint and a tax law professor at Loyola University Chicago, suggests a remedy: an ombudsperson (akin to the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service).

Such a model would help meet members’ needs and allow their voices to be heard, Brunson states, while keeping top leaders informed on grassroots issues.

Pray On

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A young man offers a prayer in a priesthood quorum meeting in Paris.

Prayers — preferably “brief” and “simple” — are back for the start of all second-hour meetings during Sunday services.

Beginning with this weekend, a Wednesday news release announced, the church has directed local lay leaders to resume opening prayers before Sunday school, Relief Society, priesthood and Young Women classes.

In 2018, when the Sabbath block was shortened from three hours to two, only closing prayers were to be given in those gatherings. (The children’s Primary continued to have opening prayers.)

The notice to reinstate the practice across the board pointed to the church’s General Handbook, which counsels that “prayers in church meetings should be brief, simple and directed by the Spirit.”

Those favoring short supplications in public no doubt would say “amen” to that advice.

Russell Nelson’s holiday message

In a newly released YouTube video, church President Russell Nelson urged viewers to share the light of Jesus Christ by lifting and loving others this holiday season and, in so doing, making their world and this world better.

“Today, we need his light — the light of Jesus Christ — more than ever. We need men and women who reflect his light by being peacemakers willing to reason with others rather than to contend with them,” said the 98-year-old leader. “...We need more wise men and women who seek the Lord, who serve the Lord, who reflect his light.”

The video had more than 20 million views as of Wednesday evening.

Wrote one commenter: “I am not a Mormon, but I love Mormons and President Russell Nelson. Thank you for the beautiful message.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Season of giving

Caring for the poor remains central to the church’s mission and a principle that has been a principal part of Warner Woodworth’s life. At this holiday season, the emeritus Brigham Young University professor discusses his latest book, “Radiant Mormonism: Using Our Faith in Christ to Power World-Changing Service,” and how it truly is “more blessed to give than to receive.” Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Broadway singer and two-time Disney princess Lea Salonga joins The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at Thursday's Christmas concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Dec. 15, 2022.

• Tribune guest columnist Eli McCann shows how a couple of “godless heathens” can bask in a Christmas tradition long on Jesus and even longer on love.

• This may not surprise members of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, but Mack Wilberg is a demanding director, says two-time Disney princess Lea Salonga, one of the stars of this year’s Christmas concerts.

• See how an Orthodox rabbi and his family have raised Jewish awareness and identity in a Latter-day Saint Zion.

• Tithing, writes Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess, should be about more than “checking a box that says you support an insanely wealthy institution with yet more wealth.”