Latest from Mormon Land: Missions are winners for women; ‘white’ Jesus need not apply

Pushing for more diverse art of Christ and answering the call to save the Great Salt Lake.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Latter-day Saint missionaries cheer at the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City in 2021. A new study reveals the value of young women serving missions.

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How missions help young women

Lifelong benefits may await those Latter-day Saint women who opt to serve a religious mission during their college years, a new study from Utah State University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project suggests.

Based on a sample of more than 17,000 female students enrolled at Brigham Young University, the paper identified not only personal but also educational and financial benefits for those who donned black nametags.

Among the more notable of the findings: A third of those who served missions ended up transferring to majors with higher earning potential afterward. Those who struggled with school, meanwhile, seemed to have an easier time getting accepted into competitive academic programs upon their return.

“We found that 96% of the women who took gap time for missions returned to college after their time away,” Maggie Marchant, one of two report authors and assistant librarian at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library, said in a news release. “Returning to school following gap time increases the chances of academic success, which in turn influences employment opportunities and future income.”

The researchers caution, however, that the decision to delay or pause schooling also comes with drawbacks. Missions can be costly and necessarily delay graduation. The study also found that women who took gap time for missions were 10% less likely to graduate in eight years compared with their peers who remained behind — even after adjusting for “personal characteristics.”

“The study showed that gap time experiences have the potential to change a person’s life trajectory and boost their understanding of themselves and the world,” said Jocelyn Wikle, a report author and assistant professor at BYU’s School of Family Life. “Our study findings and recommendations will help individuals, families and higher education institutions understand the impact of gap experiences, and offer appropriate support to Utah students as they face decisions about embarking on gap-time experiences.”

The bottom line, the authors concluded: Women should consider the choice of whether to enlist in a mission carefully, recognizing that every person’s experience will differ.

In search of a brown Jesus

(Gerald Herbert | AP) A Black Jesus is depicted in this painting in a Catholic establishment in New Orleans in 2020. Latter-day Saint artists have united in a push to create more diverse depictions of Christ.

Nearly three years ago, the governing First Presidency declared that artwork of Jesus — and only of Jesus — should adorn the foyers and entryways of the church’s meetinghouses.

Leaders even provided a list of nearly two dozen paintings approved for such use and reportedly are working to expand those offerings for a more diverse representation of Christ.

Aiming to give that effort a nudge, women and artists from a range of races and cultural backgrounds have banded together in hopes of filling Latter-day Saint buildings with a “Meetinghouse Mosaic” of pieces that depict Jesus more accurately.

“Christ historically had brown skin,” the group’s website states, “and that is the depiction we believe needs to be shared on our walls, in our manuals, on our bulletin boards, in our lessons and be the standard amongst all of us.”

A gallery showcasing new artwork of Jesus is planned for a year from now, in February 2024, at Provo’s Writ & Vision, according to a By Common Consent blog.

“Jurors will not accept white depictions of Christ for this show,” the post adds. “The goal of this show is to broaden the vision of how Christ, the Savior of the world, can be depicted and spotlight the religious artworks of people of color.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: A new mission — save the Great Salt Lake

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The shrinking Great Salt Lake looms in the distance from the Bountiful Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As with the church’s name, the Great Salt Lake is in its latter days and could disappear in five years, giving rise to toxic dust storms that threaten the faith’s headquarters. A BYU ecologist spells out how the church and its members can help prevent that from happening, and why this cause fits with Mormonism’s mission. Listen to the podcast, and read a deeper exploration of this topic.

From The Tribune

— Christian Kimball, author of the new Mormonism bestseller “Living on the Inside of the Edge: A Survival Guide,” says conducting temple recommend interviews as a bishop ultimately led him to become a “backbencher” at church. Find out why in these excerpts for our “Mormon Land” interview or listen to the full podcast.

— Institutions like churches matter even as more Americans pursue more individualized paths, says Latter-day Saint scholar Matthew Bowman.

— Tribune columnist Gordon Monson has finally found a cinematic Savior he can embrace as the Messiah: Jonathan Roumie’s Redeemer in “The Chosen.”

("The Chosen") Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Simon the Zealot (Alaa Safi) feed the 5,000 in a scene from Season Three of "The Chosen."