Latest from Mormon Land: How accessible are temples? A tithing change in Australia?

Also: A constitutional controversy; a Minerva Teichert art exhibit; and Indiana Jones with a Book of Mormon twist.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Oakland Temple shines on the hillside above the Bay Area. Some of the faith's temples are far away from city centers and can be difficult — or even impossible — to reach by public transit.

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Have temple, will travel

How do you get to the temple? Well, you need a recommend. That means you need to have a testimony, heed the Word of Wisdom, pay tithing, obey the law of chastity and …

No, how do you physically get to the temple? By bus, boat, bike, train, plane or foot?

Well, it sure helps to have a car.

So shows a data analysis by Zatch, the pen name for a blogger at the Zelophehad’s Daughters website, who examined the travel times and accessibility issues for reaching the faith’s temples.

From city centers — and given certain caveats for crunching the numbers — the writer discovered that more than a third (35%) of temples worldwide have no public transit options. That’s the case for 75% of the temples in Africa, Zatch writes, compared with 7% for those in Europe, where a “strong public infrastructure extends to all but one temple.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Rome Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. European temples are generally accessible from public transit, but the travel times can be long.

Car remains the quickest way universally to get to a temple — even as the faith strives to build more and more temples closer and closer to where members live. Globally, it takes an average of nearly 16 minutes to travel by automobile to a House of the Lord from a city center for the named temple and nearly an hour to do so by public transit (if that means is even available), according to the blogger. The shortest transit times were in temple-rich Utah (17 minutes) and the longest were in eastern and western North America (not counting the Beehive State or Mexico) at 91–plus minutes and 59–plus minutes, respectively.

“Temples in Europe and North America… are, on average, twice as far from the city center as temples in the rest of the world,” Zatch states. “...I understand there are good reasons for not building temples near city centers. For instance, there may just not be space. But I think [the church] could make a better effort to locate temples in places that are easier to access without a car.”

Like the children’s Primary song says, members “love to see the temple,” but “going there someday” can be a logistical challenge. Turns out, those structures gleaming majestically on suburban hillsides may look inviting, but picturesque perches can make for cumbersome commutes.

And walking to a temple? Forget about it. In most places outside of Utah, it would take hours upon hours to do so.

What’s up Down Under?

(Rick Rycroft | AP) The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are shown in 2020. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has drawn scrutiny for the way it administers tithing in Australia.

The church appears to be pulling back from a controversial financial structure in Australia that funneled tithing and donations to a charitable trust, allowing members to claim hundreds of millions of dollars in deductions in possible violation of tax laws, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia does not allow tax write-offs for church contributions, but it does permit generous deductions for charitable giving.

LDS Charities Australia, which received $90 million in donations in 2021, the newspaper reports, saw that figure plunge to $30 million last year amid increased scrutiny of its operations.

A church spokesperson declined to answer the paper’s questions about the drop-off, stating that Latter-day Saints “continue to generously donate through paying tithes and other offerings. These funds are utilized in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.”

A high-ranking Australian tax official refused to say whether the church was under investigation but stated matter-of-factly that tithing “is not eligible for deductibility.”

The Morning Herald previously reported that the global church overstated its charitable contributions by more than $1 billion between 2008 and 2020.

Indiana Jones and the Plates of Nephi?

(Lucasfilm | Paramount Pictures) Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The Babylon Bee's latest satirical story says the adventuring archaeologist will next pursue the Book of Mormon's Plates of Nephi.

• The Ark of the Covenant. The Holy Grail. The Plates of Nephi.

The latter will be Indiana Jones’ next archaeological adventure, The Babylon Bee jokes in its latest satirical tale.

After a visit from Latter-day Saint missionaries, reports The Onion-like website, “Indiana Jones is going to trade in his signature hat for a bicycle helmet. … After guiding a few teenagers through their Eagle Scout projects, Mr. Jones will set out on a daring quest to find the plates of Nephi — or the copies of the plates of Nephi — or whatever it is those Mormons are looking for.”

From The Tribune

(National Archives via AP) This photo made available by the U.S. National Archives shows the Constitution. The Utah Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is urging members in the Beehive State to participate in American Founders Month and to learn more about the Constitution.

• In the wake of the Salt Lake City-based church’s updated commitment to political neutrality, the Utah Area Presidency’s official backing of a group advocating education about the Constitution is spurring questions, given key participants’ ties to ultraconservative causes.

• A new exhibit tells the “great Mormon story” through the work of celebrated artist Minerva Teichert and includes paintings at the center of continuing lawsuits.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) “With This Covenant in My Heart: The Art and Faith of Minerva Teichert,” an exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 6, 2023.

• The final buzzer has sounded for the Liberty Wells Center — at least as a longtime home to church-sponsored basketball games as the one-time Salt Lake City gym gives way to affordable apartments.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson ponders tithing. Should members, he asks, have to pay their 10% to get into a temple or heaven?

“Run, that ye may obtain,” the Apostle Paul wrote. That’s what Brigham Young University’s Kenneth Rooks did — even after falling earlier in the race — to win the U.S. title in the men’s steeplechase. Forrest Gump would be proud.

(Ashley Landis | AP) Kenneth Rooks crosses the finish line to win the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase final during the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, July 8, 2023.