Latest from Mormon Land: A possible solution to ‘bishop roulette’

Also: What Latter-day Saints can learn from Pride; a “mission” reunion for two “Book of Mormon” musical stars; and words of wisdom from a beloved late historian.

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.

When the church makes changes

So the church announces, say, a change to its “For the Strength of Youth” guidelines, or to the waiting period between civil marriages and temple sealings, or to who can serve as witnesses at baptisms.

But what if your bishop didn’t, in essence, get the memo, or didn’t read the memo, or didn’t heed the memo?

That’s where so-called “bishop roulette” can enter for Latter-day Saints. In some congregations, the old ways stay and the new ones stall.

“Part of the problem,” warns Ziff, the pen name for a writer at the Zelophehad’s Daughters website, “is that there’s little to no acknowledgment of change, but another part, I think, is that when something like getting tattoos exits the church’s list of discouraged practices, it typically moves to something that the church is neutral on rather than encouraged. And when the church is neutral on something, [general authorities] really don’t have reason to talk about it. This means that not only are the older teachings about the wickedness of tattoos still out there, but they aren’t even mixed with newer softer teachings that say they’re OK.”

Ziff suggests instead shining a brighter light on changes by disavowing and documenting old policies and preachings.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Lay bishops extend callings, or volunteer opportunities, to members as they guide their congregations. A blogger has suggested a way to ensure that local lay leaders stay up to date with current church teachings.

“I’d love it if outdated teachings were marked as outdated on the church website,” the blogger states. “Or if the church would come out and say we know thousands of you still own and refer to [Bruce R. McConkie’s] ‘Mormon Doctrine,’ but if you’re going to do so, please ignore the following articles.”

[We wrote in 2010 about how the late apostle’s popular but polarizing encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint theology quietly went out of print with no plans for its return.]

“If the church did this, it could put a real dent in leader roulette,” Ziff insists. “... It could at least be reduced if the church would make it harder for local leaders to stumble on out-of-date teachings and assume they’re current.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Remembering Kate

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Kate Holbrook, a historian in the Church History Department who died in 2022, appears in devotional with apostle Quentin L. Cook, left, and fellow historian Matt Grow, in 2018.

The voice and views of Latter-day Saint historian Kate Holbrook, who died last year, live on in her new book, “Both Things Are True.” Dr. Samuel Brown, her widowed husband, and Rosalynde Frandsen Welch, senior research fellow at BYU’s Maxwell Institute and host of its podcast, discuss Holbrook’s essays on history, belief, spirituality, community, even the beauty of housework and cooking. Listen to this touching, personal and poignant “Mormon Land” podcast.

Showing ‘pride’ at church

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Neca Allgood of the Mama Dragons support group gives out hugs at the Provo Pride Festival in 2017. Such embracing encounters are common at these celebrations.

Latter-day Saints could learn a thing or two — or eight, it turns out — from pride parades and festivals.

So argues Abby Maxwell Hansen in an Exponent II post in which she rattles off eight ways to make church more like a pride bash. For instance:

• “Shout your love to others.”

“What if we sat on our front porch,” the blogger writes, “and yelled at people walking past on the sidewalk, ‘You are fantastic! I love your outfit! I love your dog! I love you! Have an amazing night!’”

• “Make every stranger your friend.”

“Everyone is so open and friendly at pride, more than anywhere I have ever visited before. There’s no mandatory time you must know people before they open up with their life story,” Hansen states. “...Why doesn’t this happen at church? Have you ever sat by someone in Relief Society and opened your heart up to them before the opening prayer?”

• “Have more fun.”

“Church can be…kind of boring. Not always, but far too frequently,” Hansen concedes. “Pride is FUN. It is laughter and smiling and dancing and hugging and high-fives. Worship and feeling the spirit [don’t] have to always be quietly reverent or solemnly sitting. It could be a world where you laugh and wave across the room and clap your hands.”

• “Meet everyone where they’re at and don’t expect them to change to make you comfortable.”

“I often went to pride festivals [where, she notes, there is “a lot of glitter and a whoooole lot of skin”] in knee-length shorts or Sunday clothes. … Nobody told me I didn’t belong,” the blogger explains. “...We should learn to be comfortable with people showing up exactly as they choose to. Maybe they are women who wear pants to church. Maybe they are people who drank coffee on their way to the chapel that morning. … Let’s just meet them exactly where they are and accept and love them.”

Read the rest of Hansen’s list.

More LGBTQ stories

As Pride month concludes, we bring you a few more LGBTQ stories and podcasts from The Tribune worth revisiting.

• Can Latter-day Saints openly disagree with their church on same-sex marriage? The case of a missionary’s “lost wallet” offered some clues. Since then, of course, the faith itself has famously supported a federal law that codified such unions.

• Federal authorities cleared Brigham Young University in its treatment of LGBTQ students, but a higher-education administrator discussed on our podcast whether the church’s flagship school is truly in the clear. In an earlier podcast, he also pointed to potential consequences for BYU after apostle Jeffrey Holland’s “musket fire” speech.

‘Mission’ reunion

(Sara Krulwich | The New York Times) From left: Rema Webb, Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in "The Book of Mormon" musical at the Eugene O'Neil Theater in New York, March 17, 2011. Rannells and Gad will be teaming up again in “Gutenberg! The Musical!”

• Transfer day is approaching on Broadway, and Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad will once again be comedic companions.

After their star turns as Elders Price and Cunningham, misfit but well-meaning missionaries in “The Book of Mormon” musical, the dynamic duo will team up this fall, The New York Times reports, in “Gutenberg! The Musical!”

Holland’s return

• In his first public appearance since being sidelined by COVID-19 and other “serious health issues,” apostle Jeffrey Holland spoke last week at Provo’s Missionary Training Center.

The 82-year-old church leader thanked all those who pray for Latter-day Saint general authorities, the Church News reports, saying, “I am Exhibit A of the efficacy of those prayers.”

From The Tribune

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Latter-day Saint apostle Quentin L. Cook at the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Thursday, June 22, 2023, discusses the new edition of "Preach My Gospel" and the recent rise in the number of missionaries.

• Amid a “huge” spike in the number of missionaries, the church unveils a new edition of its primary proselytizing tool: “Preach My Gospel.”

• The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square returns from its warm welcome in Mexico to some unwelcome aftereffects. A number of singers come down with COVID-19 while others grapple with gastrointestinal ailments, enough so that the church’s premier performing troupe cancels a live taping of “Music and the Spoken Word.”

• The final volume of The Joseph Smith Papers project, released on the 179th anniversary of the church founder’s death, documents the last six weeks of his life.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Church Historian Kyle S. McKay talks about the final print volume in The Joseph Smith Papers at the Church History Library on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.

• Forensic evidence sheds new light on John Taylor’s ‘miracle’ at Carthage Jail, buttressing the belief that a pocket watch saved the future church president’s life from a bullet.

(Church History Department) John Taylor's watch shows damage from when he was in Carthage Jail the day Joseph and Hyrum Smith were gunned down. New forensic evidence suggests the damage to the timepiece was “more consistent" with being struck or grazed by a bullet than being crushed in a fall.

• In the wake of prodding by a number of British Latter-day Saints, Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess writes, the church starts to require members who work with children in the United Kingdom go undergo background checks.

• It isn’t easy for Latter-day Saints to switch political loyalties, Tribune guest columnist Ardis E. Parshall notes, but they have done so before and, given the First Presidency’s recent stance against straight-ticket voting, may have to do so again.