Latest from Mormon Land: Why book bans have no place among Latter-day Saints

Also: Tim Ballard uproar reveals political divisions in the church; South Pacific nation has the highest percentage of members; exclusive pre-General Conference stories and more.

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, including pre-General Conference stories, and podcast transcripts.

Why good members don’t ban even ‘bad’ books

“Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom.”

Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.

So proclaims a volume of Latter-day Saint scripture.

“Of making many books there is no end.”

Ecclesiastes 12:12.

So states the Good Book.

What about “bad” books, though? Surely, they need not be sought, but should they be banned?

Absolutely not, argues By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson.

“Book bans are deeply un-Mormon,” states Brunson, a tax law professor. “We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, should not only avoid pushing for them, but we [also] should actively fight against them.”

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) A "read banned books" sign on the wall at Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City in 2020. Blogger Sam Brunson cites several reasons why Latter-day Saints shouldn't support book bans.

Though some members certainly do back book bans, Brunson cites three reasons they shouldn’t:

• Such prohibitions are unconstitutional and are treated unkindly by history.

• Latter-day Saints — and their theology — are big believers in agency, letting people decide for themselves what to think, do and, in this case, read.

• Let parents decide for themselves what their kids check out at the library or buy at a bookstore.

“I didn’t delegate authority to you,” Brunson writes, “to decide what my children can read, what they can experience, and how they exercise their agency.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: The Tim Ballard fallout

The angst some members expressed at the church’s stinging rebuke of anti-human-trafficking activist Tim Ballard is another example of the divisions emerging between the faith’s hierarchy and Latter-day Saints on the far right. Historian Benjamin Park explores this trend and its implications. Listen to the podcast.

Tonga on top

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Missionaries who helped to save lives in Tonga's tsunami in December 2021. The South Pacific nation has the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints.

• Tonga is home to the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints, with 64% of the South Pacific nation belonging to the church. Samoa ranks second, independent researcher Matt Martinich reports at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, with 39%, followed by American Samoa at 37%.

The U.S. percentage is 2%.

Angelic anniversary

• Church President Russell Nelson — marking last week’s 200th anniversary of a purported angelic visit that led founder Joseph Smith to the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon emerged — encouraged members to consider what the faith’s signature scripture is worth to them. “It is my hope,” he wrote on Instagram, “that each of us will see this book, today and always, as it really is: more precious than all the riches in the world.”

From The Tribune

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

• Check out stories and commentary from our pre-General Conference special section here. Topics include sex in heaven (yes, you read that correctly), the church mission that produced wine (again, your eyes aren’t deceiving you), young adult author sensation Shannon Hale (and her stand against book bans) along with columns by Gordon Monson, Natalie Brown, Eli McCann and Matthew Bowman.

Pat Bagley cartoon for Eli McCann tab column.

• The business of embattled anti-sex-trafficking activist Tim Ballard touted a senior apostle as a “silent partner” in his operations. So say former employees. Not true. So says the church. And when are official church spokespersons speaking for the faith? In short, always.

• His religion is central to outgoing Sen. Mitt Romney’s politics.

• Arguing that James Huntsman’s tithing lawsuit poses a “profound threat to religious liberty,” the church asks — again — a federal appeals court to throw out his multimillion-dollar fraud case.

• Historian Richard Bushman discusses his latest work, “Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History,” and the Book of Mormon, while his scholar-spouse, Claudia Bushman, talks about women’s issues and community building in our special “Mormon Land” live podcast. Read these excerpts, or, better still, hear the full podcast and view a video from the event, including an audience Q&A, on Patreon.

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