Latest from Mormon Land: Dallin Oaks ‘clarifies’ backing of Respect for Marriage Act. Did he really need to?

Also: Christian couples have more and better sex; how to pattern your marriage after that of Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father; and LDS Church finances face mounting federal scrutiny.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency speaks to church leaders and their spouses in Wilmette, Ill., 14 miles north of downtown Chicago, on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023.

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‘A big step forward’

Lest anyone thinks the church’s support of the recently enacted Respect for Marriage Act was a sign that it was wavering in its opposition to same-sex marriage, President Dallin H. Oaks removed all doubt this past weekend.

The first counselor in the governing First Presidency said the faith’s surprising endorsement of the new law — which codified same-sex marriage — was all about one goal: protecting religious liberty.

“The focus of the church’s efforts was not on same-sex marriage but on ensuring the act contained the necessary protections for religious freedom,” the 90-year-old Oaks, next in line to lead the global faith, told Latter-day Saint leaders meeting in Chicago. “...In the end, the total law ensures that religious organizations, religious schools and their staff do not have to perform or host same-sex marriages or celebrations.”

Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, said he felt the need to “clarify” the church’s position — saying “some of our members have expressed concerns that the new national Respect for Marriage law is in conflict with the church’s teachings” — though that stance seemed clear from the start. After all, the first sentence in the church’s initial November news release voicing support for the act stated that its doctrine “related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency speaks to church leaders and their spouses in Wilmette, Ill., 14 miles north of downtown Chicago, on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023.

Leaders doubled down on that bedrock bottom line when President Joe Biden signed the bill into law at a December White House ceremony attended by church representatives, noting that the measure ensures the faith’s views against same-sex marriage “are due proper respect.”

“Putting such protections in the federal law was a big step forward,” Oaks said in Chicago, where he once taught law. “We will be alert to proposed future state action and legislation as we continue our defense of religious freedom.”

A fierce fighter for faith freedoms — he won the Canterbury Medal from Becket in 2013 for his advocacy — Oaks has nonetheless called for compromise and argued that Congress, not the courts, is the best place to balance religious liberty and LGBTQ rights.

“Courts are ... ill-suited to the overarching, complex and comprehensive policymaking that is required in a circumstance like the current conflict between two great values,” Oaks said in a landmark 2021 speech at the University of Virginia. “Notwithstanding my years of working with judicial opinions, I prefer the initial route of legislative lawmaking on big questions.”

Many LGBTQ individuals and their allies within and without the church cheered its backing of the marriage act. They likely are less enthused with Oaks’ clarification.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: A Valentine’s special

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

We discuss how Latter-day couples can model their marriages after that of the perfect pairing: Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The forces behind the new book, “In the Image of Our Heavenly Parents: A Couple’s Guide to Creating a More Divine Marriage,” discuss how earthly couples can build heavenly marriages. Listen to the podcast.

Christian couples have more sex

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

A couple of family life experts put it bluntly in regards to married Christian couples and sex: Hollywood gets it wrong.

Rather than being stuck in dull, repressed or even nonexistent sex lives, these devout duos are having better and more frequent sex.

Studies show highly religious married couples are having significantly more satisfying sex than their less religious or secular peers,” Misha Crawford and Mark H. Butler write in Public Square Magazine. “...When couples believe that sexuality is designed by God to help couples bond, experience pleasure, and enhance their commitment to each other and their family, religion is a positive force that increases sexual satisfaction for both women and men.”

As the church’s General Handbook states: “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is intended to be beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife.”

And a recent New York Times opinion piece laments that couples nationally are actually having less sex.

“Sex,” the article notes, “reduces pain, relieves stress, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure and strengthens heart health.”

‘Super’ Saints

(AP) Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, and Philadelphia Eagles punt returner Britain Covey during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz.

Andy Reid, the winningest Latter-day Saint football coach in NFL history, secured his second Super Bowl title as a head coach Sunday when his Kansas Chiefs edged his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a 38-35 comeback victory.

For the Eagles, Latter-day Saint Britain Covey, a former missionary and University of Utah star, returned two punts, including one for 27 yards.

From The Tribune

(Pat Bagley | The Salt Lake Tribune

* Pioneer children just sang as they walked and walked and walked — and they never murmured or griped? Even as a Primary child, guest Tribune columnist Eli McCann knew that was a load of hooey.

* Questions surrounding the church’s finances continued to mount. First, a whistleblower called on the powerful U.S. Senate Finance Committee to investigate the faith’s investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, for alleged tax fraud. Then came word that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Ensign Peak for reportedly concealing its multibillion-dollar portfolio for years, the first public indication that it is under federal investigation.

* For at least the second time in four years, the church has made significant changes to temple ceremonies, placing an enhanced emphasis on Jesus Christ, boosting gender equity and providing more explanations of the promises participants make to God.

* Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess explores and applauds the temple revisions.

* A new study shows Latter-day Saints are more inclined toward Christian nationalism than the overall U.S. population. That stat worries Latter-day Saint scholar Taylor Petrey.

* The estate of the celebrated Latter-day Saint artist Minerva Teichert is suing the church, Deseret Book, Brigham Young University and others, accusing them of illegally reproducing and profiting off of her work. At issue: Who really owns the paintings?