Latest from Mormon Land: Altar-ations — civil wedding first; temple sealing second

Also: A seventh missionary death; a live podcast with the Bushmans; a temple town scraps its alcohol ban; BYU’s new president; a new Joseph Smith bio; and troubles for Tim Ballard.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A sealing room in the St. George Temple, released Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Latter-day Saint couples are increasingly choosing to marry civilly first and then be sealed "for eternity" in temples.

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.

How weddings are changing

In May 2019, the church announced a family-friendly policy change: Couples in the U.S. and Canada no longer would have to wait a year between a civil wedding and a temple sealing.

The result: Latter-day Saints worldwide now can invite all their loved ones, member or not, to a civil ceremony and then be joined for eternity in front of temple-qualified family and friends.

Since then, that practice — civil wedding followed quickly by a temple sealing — has gained increasing favor among Latter-day Saints. Exponent II blogger Ann even sees it as the preferred route and is teaching that to her three daughters.

“I know that the Young Women program will emphasize getting married in the temple,” she writes. “But at home we talk about marriage differently. I tell them to NOT get married in the temple.”

Ann rattles off a number of reasons, including:

• Not excluding any loved ones from the wedding.

“When I was married, none of my siblings [all younger than her] could come to my wedding,” she notes, so “they didn’t witness one of the biggest events of my life.”

• The opportunity for couples to pen their own vows.

“I’m a writer, I love words,” Ann states. “I would have enjoyed writing my own vows that reflected my commitment and love to the man I’d chosen to spend my life with.”

• Prospective newlyweds may be ready for marriage but not for the temple.

“I want my girls to choose to go through the temple on their own timeline,” she says, “not because it’s coupled with something else.”

A seventh missionary dies this year

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Taylor Erin Maw, 20, of Snoqualmie, Wash., died Sunday, Sept. 17, in a hospital in the Philippines. She had been serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since June 2022.

A 20–year-old female missionary serving in the Philippines died Sunday in a hospital from an “undetermined” illness.

Taylor Erin Maw of Snoqualmie, Wash., had been serving in the Philippines Angeles Mission since June 2022.

“We express our love and sincere condolences to Sister Maw’s family, friends and the missionaries she was serving alongside,” church spokesperson Sam Penrod said in a news release. “We pray they will each feel the peace and comfort of the Savior as they mourn her passing and honor her faithful missionary service.”

Maw’s becomes the seventh publicly reported death of a full-time Latter-day Saint missionary this year.

A special ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: An evening with the Bushmans

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Scholar Claudia Bushman and historian Richard Bushman speak during a live taping of the "Mormon Land" podcast at the University of Utah, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.

To celebrate 300-plus episodes of “Mormon Land,” eminent scholars Richard and Claudia Bushman open up about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, gold plates, the evolution of women’s rights, the threats to Latter-day Saint community, the challenges and opportunities facing the global faith, why they think art is vital in the church, and a range of other topics. Listen to the podcast.

Canada dry? Not in this town.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Cardston Temple. The Alberta town has erased its blanket ban on alcohol sales.

Cardston, the southern Alberta town whose most prominent landmark is a historic Latter-day Saint temple, is dry no more. The Town Council has voted to end its blanket ban on alcohol sales, the Calgary Herald reports, in the wake of a nonbinding referendum showing narrow support for such a liquor loosening.

BYU’s new ‘moral and spiritual’ general

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) C. Shane Reese has been installed as the new president of Brigham Young University.

Amid much pomp and circumstance, C. Shane Reese officially became the 14th president of Brigham Young University on Tuesday, the Provo school’s Daily Universe reported, with a charge from apostle D. Todd Christofferson to be BYU’s “chief moral and spiritual officer.”

From The Tribune

• The governing First Presidency has given a Latter-day Saint historian a tough calling: Write a fresh biography of church founder Joseph Smith.

• In a rare public rebuke, the church has chastised Latter-day Saint Tim Ballard, ex-leader of an anti-human-trafficking organization, accusing him of “morally unacceptable” behavior and “betraying” the friendship of a senior apostle. For his part, Tim Ballard has questioned the veracity of the church statement condemning his activities.

(Haiyun Jiang | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks to reporters after announcing he would not seek reelection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

• The best-known Latter-day Saint politician is poised to retire from elected office. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has decided against seeking a second term. The 76-year-old made headlines and history in 2012 as the first Latter-day Saint to top a major party’s presidential ticket.

• Former child star Johnny Whitaker of “Family Affair” fame discusses his life and his journey back into church membership.

(Courtesy of Johnny Whitaker) Child star Johnny Whitaker then — alongside Anissa Jones on the sitcom "Family Affair," which ran from 1966 to 1971 — and now, at age 63.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson laments polygamy, a “strange” principle that confronts members on Earth today and spurs questions about heaven tomorrow.

• Although legal tussles remain, Cody, Wyo., has issued a building permit for a planned temple.