Latest from Mormon Land: Why temple garments could change again; President Russell Nelson nears 99

Also: Connections between UFOs and Latter-day Saint theology; a renovated St. George Temple reopens; church president donates his medical memories; and revisiting the “September Six.”

(Salt Lake Tribune archives) Devout Mormons buy their temple garments at distribution centers like this. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has posted videos and photos explaining the garments, which faithful members where beneath their clothes.

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The symbolism is what counts

We wrote recently about the difficulty devout Latter-day Saint women face finding dresses that accommodate their temple garments. And we hosted a “Mormon Land” podcast this summer on women’s likes and dislikes about this sacred underclothing.

It’s important to note that the church itself has published videos (one of them racked up 193,000 views), photographs and explanations of garments for members and the general public to see and read. The faith also surveys Latter-day Saints from time to time about garments, whose fabrics and designs have evolved through the years.

They may change yet again. After all, the governing First Presidency views “the symbolism of the garment” as “more important than the style,” according to “Saints, Volume 3,” the latest edition of the church’s official history.

“The existing garment pattern, which stretched to the ankles and wrists and had string ties and a collar, was ill-suited for the types of clothing worn in the 1920s,” the book explains. So top church leaders “instructed that a shortened and simplified garment be made available.”

Russell Nelson’s 99 candles

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson admires cards and letters he received marking his 98th birthday last year. He will turn 99 on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023

Russell Nelson, the church’s oldest-ever prophet-president, will inch a year closer to the century mark this week.

He will turn 99 on Saturday.

Nelson was born in 1924, the year the first Winter Olympics took place in France, the Macy’s Parade debuted in New York and Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin died.

Church membership back then stood just short of 600,000; today, it tops 17 million. There were six operating temples. Now, there are 179 dedicated temples, with another 136 in the works. Of the 315 planned or existing temples, Nelson has announced 133, or 42%, of the total, since he took the faith’s helm in January 2018.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: ‘E.T.’ meets Joseph Smith

Latter-day Saint historian Matthew Bowman’s new book, “The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill: Alien Encounters, Civil Rights, and the New Age in America,” explores the intersection between UFOs and society, including religion. Listen to the podcast.

Nelson’s gift to U.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson, center, his wife Wendy, left, and University of Utah President Taylor Randall stand near the church leader's medical journals at the Church Administration Building on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.

Before he became a global religious leader, church President Russell Nelson worked as a world-renowned heart surgeon. And now he has donated the artifacts of his distinguished medical career to his alma mater.

The 98-year-old Nelson handed over dozens of medical journals — including 30 books documenting more than 7,000 surgeries — to the University of Utah last week.

“I kept copies of all my operative records from 1954 to 1984,” said Nelson, who earned his medical degree from the U. before returning to serve for 17 years as the school’s director of the thoracic surgery residency. “...I am deeply grateful for the important role the University of Utah played in my education and surgical career.”

Nelson gained international acclaim as part of a research team that developed the heart-lung machine, which made possible the first human open-heart surgery in 1951.

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The St. George Temple, released Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

• The renovated St. George Temple, the church’s oldest existing temple and the first to debut in Utah, has reopened to the public.

• This month marks 30 years since the “September Six” purge. The crackdown silenced many scholars, but some fear the recent “retrenchment” at BYU could spread to the overall church. Also” Who were the September Six, why were they disciplined and where are they now?

• A controversial Christian nationalist speaker will not be giving his keynote address for Utah’s Constitution Month at a building owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — as originally planned. Critics are relieved, saying the venue shift aligns with the faith’s neutrality policy.