Latest from Mormon Land: Latter-day Saint apostle Dieter Uchtdorf dons his diplomatic cap

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.

Ambassador Uchtdorf

Apostle Dieter Uchtdorf made the most of his recent trip to Washington, D.C., meeting with dignitaries from nine nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam — and U.S. senators from Utah and Idaho.

During one session, when Pakistan’s ambassador asked the Latter-day Saint leader to identify his faith’s “Mecca,” Uchtdorf had a ready answer.

“You might say we have many Meccas,” he responded, according to a news release. “Our temples are our places of most sacred worship.”

In talking with Vietnam’s ambassador, the apostle expressed thankfulness for the present peace between Hanoi and Washington and relief that past hostilities are growing ever more distant.

“It’s a wonderful example that after a bitter war in Southeastern Asia with all its suffering, the same nations and their citizens are now in a beautiful process of reconciliation,” Uchtdorf said. “We are grateful for the wonderful relationships we have with our friends in Asia.”

The German apostle and wife Harriet also placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Harriet, along with José A. Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Filomena, place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.

“We honor those who give their lives to make the world a better place,” said Uchtdorf, twice a refugee himself in Europe. “Through our own history, the Church of Jesus Christ can relate with deep emotion to those who stand up for their beliefs in the process of protecting the freedoms of all people worldwide.”

Helping in the Middle East

The church issued the following statement this week about how it is helping with humanitarian aid on all sides in light of the Israel-Hamas war:

“In line with its stated aim to provide humanitarian assistance around the world, including areas of conflict, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is collaborating with multiple international relief agencies in Gaza and Israel. The church is devoting significant financial resources for critical medical and mental health care, among other needs, to help alleviate suffering wherever it is found.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Our ‘sacred struggle’

(Courtesy photo) Melissa Inouye, author of “Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance."

Life is hard, and here’s the thing: It is meant to be. After all, an easy earthly existence, under Latter-day Saint theology, was Satan’s plan, not God’s. Divine design, scholar Melissa Inouye writes in her new book, “Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance,” calls instead for agency, personal growth, compassion and caring for others, and “living a life full of life” — the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the hopes and the hopelessness — as God’s children learn to be more like their Heavenly Parents by following and finding Jesus. On this week’s show, Inouye talks about this “sacred struggle” — including how she approaches the sometimes-problematic past in the church’s history, her hopes for women in the faith’s still-present patriarchy, and how she and other members can find holiness in imperfect lives, imperfect bodies, imperfect families, imperfect communities, an imperfect church and an imperfect world. Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is honored at the Utah Capitol in 2021. The church denied the apostle released tithing records to Operation Underground Railroad.

• A recent court filing states that a Utah prosecutor alleged he had “evidence” that senior apostle M. Russell Ballard and/or other “church authorities” provided tithing records to Operation Underground Railroad to help the nonprofit anti-sex-trafficking organization target large donors or wealthy Latter-day Saint congregations. After initially declining to comment, the church later declared that Ballard “has never released tithing records to Operation Underground Railroad or any other organization.”

• The 95-year-old Ballard also reported that he is recuperating at home after being treated at a hospital for respiratory issues.

• An Arizona judge has dismissed a high-profile child sexual abuse lawsuit against the church, citing clergy-penitent privilege, The Associated Press reports.

• A new private park planned in northern Utah to honor the Book of Mormon and the founding of the United States is raising questions about Christian nationalism.

(Monument of the Americas) Surgeon and artist Steven Neal is pictured working on a panel depicting Book of Mormon prophet Nephi along with Christopher Columbus, pilgrims, the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers. The piece is to become part of a sculpture garden.

• Tribune guest columnist Natalie Brown argues that it’s time to pay stay-at-home parents because, it turns out, children are assets for America.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson wants to see the growing number of Latter-day Saint missions and missionaries focus more on service and less on proselytizing.

• Tribune data columnist Andy Larsen digs into not only how religious but also how nonreligious Utah is.

• Bonnie Cordon, the church’s former Young Women general president, explains her vision as the new president of Southern Virginia University, which caters to Latter-day Saints.

• Tamarra Kemsley, our part-time-turned-full-time religion reporter, took second place among small and midsize newspapers nationwide in Religion News Assocation’s 2023 Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence. Earlier this year, the organization honored our senior religion reporter, Peggy Fletcher Stack, with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Congrats to Peggy and Tamarra.

Salt Lake Tribune religion reporters Peggy Fletcher Stack, left, and Tamarra Kemsley.