Latest from Mormon Land: LDS image woes and a church/Jesus flap

Also: Two members to play key roles in the Super Bowl; author discusses “Living on the Inside of the Edge” of the faith; and BYU buzz.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Christus and the biblical apostles in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center.

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.

Church faces a P.R. challenge

If the results of a recent national survey are to be believed, the church has some public relations ground to make up.

A recent YouGov poll asked Americans their views of 35 religious groups, organizations and belief systems on a favorability scale, and the Utah-based faith finished with a net negative score of minus 21, just behind atheism and Wicca and just ahead of Islam and Christian Science.

At the top: Christianity (plus 34) and Protestantism (plus 15). At the bottom: Satanism and the Church of Scientology (both minus 49).

Among Americans who see religion as “very important” to them, the church’s rating rose to minus 11, while among the opposite camp, who don’t see religion as important, the score plunged to minus 41.

Democrats were more likely to view the church unfavorably than Republicans — not surprising, perhaps, in a GOP-leaning faith — but either way the scores ended on the negative side (minus 27 among blue partisans and minus 12 among red ones).

By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson was “surprised” to see that the church achieved a plus 4 among 18- to 29-year-olds and a dismal minus 36 among those 65 and older.

By race (and some small sample sizes), the church scored a minus 9 among Black respondents, a minus 23 among whites and a minus 30 among Hispanics. Women (minus 24) saw the faith more unfavorably than men (minus 18).

These results show “that we’re not doing a good job explaining to our neighbors the good things we’re doing,” Brunson wrote. “Maybe that’s because we’re not doing good things. Or maybe it’s because we’re not publicizing the good things.”

Image may be not everything, but it is something. It’s especially important in a missionary-minded church.

“If the church has something good, something that could benefit our neighbors, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to present it in a manner that our neighbors will look upon favorably,” the blogger stated. “Because otherwise, they won’t benefit from what we have to offer.”

See all the results (the overall poll had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points).

Come unto Jesus, er, uh, church

General authority Seventy Kevin S. Hamilton is taking flak for suggesting in a recent speech at Brigham Young University that members who oppose church policies or practices should “substitute the word ‘Savior’ or ‘Lord’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ in place of ‘the church.’”

“It … turns my stomach,” writes Wheat & Tares blogger Kristine A., “to think of worshipping and loving the church and its leaders like my Savior, a member of the godhead, the only perfect human to ever live.”

A fellow Wheat & Tares blogger, Jake C., even reconstructed the late apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s lyrics to a beloved Latter-day Saint hymn, “I Believe in Christ,” to match Hamilton’s advice.

Here are samples of the revised verses:

“I believe in Church; Church is my King!

With all my heart to Church I’ll sing.

I’ll raise my voice in praise and joy,

In grand amens my tongue employ.”


“I believe in Church; Church stands supreme!

From Church I’ll gain my fondest dream;

And once I’ve cleaned through grief and pain,

A recommend I shall obtain.”

‘Super’ members

(AP) Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, and Philadelphia Eagles punt returner Britain Covey.

When the Kansas City Chiefs’ Andy Reid, the winningest Latter-day Saint football coach in NFL history, tries to notch his second Super Bowl as a head coach on Feb. 12, he will face a familiar foe: the Philadelphia Eagles.

Reid, the only Latter-day Saint ever to win pro football’s biggest prize as head coach, led the Eagles for 14 years and took them to the 2005 Super Bowl.

At Super Bowl 57, the Philly roster will include another Latter-day Saint: Britain Covey, an unlikely, undersized and, for a rookie, overaged receiver-return specialist.

Relisten to our “Mormon Land” podcast with the returned missionary and former University of Utah star, whose affable, gregarious and lighthearted nature seems to belie the violent sport he so clearly loves.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Middle-way members

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Author Christian Kimball discusses his new book, “Living on the Inside of the Edge: A Survival Guide,” for members who aren’t all-in on church participation but aren’t all-out either. Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

BYU professors are being encouraged to use their academic platforms to advance Latter-day Saint tenets. Is this a case of scripture over scholarship? Can/should both coexist? Or does this guidance threaten the faculty’s academic freedom and endanger the school’s reputation?

Tribune columnist Gordon Monson argues BYU bosses and church higher-ups should allow professors to pursue truth wherever it leads them.

(Rich Pedroncelli |AP) Birth control pills are shown in 2016. DMBA, which insures employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, started covering contraception in February.

— After decades of trying, employees for the church and BYU now can get insurance coverage for birth control, thanks to a change that aligns DMBA policies with the faith’s teachings that permit such family planning.

— Food storage ain’t what it used to be. Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess explores how the Latter-day Saint practice of stocking up has been scaled down.