Latest from Mormon Land: How chapels top temples; President Russell Nelson back in public

Also: Bay Area women discuss being removed from the stand at Sunday meetings; Utah gets new stakes; another abuse case makes headlines; a Moroni movies hits theaters.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Salt Lake Tribune) A temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saratoga Springs, and a meetinghouse in Kaysville. Chapels are more inclusive and temples more exclusive.

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 all Tribune religion content and podcast transcripts.

Chapels as community centers

Amid all the buzz about “home-centered, church-supported” programs, some Latter-day Saints fear and foresee a loss of community among members.

And a recent commentary points to possible evidence of this occurrence — namely the explosion in temple building vs. a slowdown in chapel building.

“Temples are far inferior to chapels as sites of building community,” argues Ziff, the pen name for a blogger at the Zelophehad’s Daughters website. After all, chapels are open to everyone (even nonmembers) and temples admit only recommend-carrying Latter-day Saints.

“Chapels are, at least potentially, at the center of community-building,” the writer states. “We not only go to worship there, but also to ward activities.”

Under Latter-day Saint theology, temples carry more eternal significance — tying together couples, families, even generations — and have become a cornerstone of church President Russell Nelson’s six-year administration. Of the faith’s 335 existing or planned temples, he has announced 153, or nearly 46%, of them — by far the most of any church president.

That impact is showing up. Check out, for instance, how the ratio of members per temple has shrunk in Utah alone, courtesy of this chart from independent researcher Matt Martinich:

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Blogger Ziff harks back to a 2019 book in which Nelson stated that “the only buildings that are absolutely essential are temples. Stake centers and chapels are a luxury.”

A luxury that may help link members in the here and now.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Women off the stand

The recent removal of women’s Relief Society leaders from routinely sitting on the stand during Sunday services in the Bay Area continues to cause a stir. We discuss the issue with women from the region — the fallout, the frustration, the pain, the push for a reversal and the hopes for a resolution.

Listen to the podcast.

Nelson’s first public appearance in three months

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson waves to attendees before the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Church President Russell Nelson attended the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on Sunday, his first public appearance since injuring his back in a fall in early September.

The 99-year-old leader also spoke, in a recorded message, at the Yule event in downtown Salt Lake City’s Conference Center.

“During the past few months, I have learned a lot more about pain and its refining influence,” Nelson said. “My heart has been drawn out to our Savior as I have tried to imagine the extent of his suffering. … We revere the babe of Bethlehem precisely because he later offered the incomprehensible, infinite sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency, speaks during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Other speakers included apostle Gerrit Gong, donning a scarlet scarf; Primary counselor Tracy Browning; and general authority Paul Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy.

Church expansions, contractions

Independent church tracker Matt Martinich reports at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com that leaders recently formed five new stakes in Utah (in South Jordan, American Fork, Lewiston and two in Lehi) and eliminated one (in West Valley City).

He notes that six Utah stakes (regional clusters of congregations) have been discontinued this year — the most in any year in the state — but 10 new stakes have been established.

The Beehive State is now home to 633 stakes.

Meanwhile, Martinich writes, the church created three new stakes in Chile, two in Ivory Coast and one apiece in California, Madagascar, Mexico, Missouri, Nigeria, South Carolina and Zimbabwe

In addition, church leaders announced 36 new missions last month, boosting the global total to 450. Martinich analyzes the new proselytizing outposts in Africa; Asia; and Europe.

From The Tribune

(Jason Dearen | AP Photo) Chelsea Goodrich poses for a portrait in Ketchum, Idaho, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Goodrich's father, a popular Idaho dentist and former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was excommunicated after sharing details about his relationship with her when she was a child during a religious confession.

• An Associated Press investigation uncovered recordings in an Idaho case that show how the church protects itself from child sex abuse claims.

• A new website on slavery in early Utah includes a fiery debate on race between Latter-day Saint prophet Brigham Young and fellow apostle Orson Pratt.

(The Abominable Slavery) A new database means the public can now access, among other documents, fiery speeches from church and state leaders Orson Pratt, left, and Brigham Young about slavery, race and voting rights — topics that often divided the two men.

• Deseret Book’s president, in excerpts from last week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, expounds on the new openness in telling the church’s history and the publisher’s push to showcase more works by women.

• A new movie — titled “The Oath” and set to be released nationwide this week — brings the Book of Mormon’s final prophet, Moroni, to the big screen, but some scholars see some big problems with it.

(Freestyle Releasing) Actors Nora Dale and Darin Scott co-star in "The Oath," a feature-length romance based on the Book of Mormon character Moroni.

• In this holiday season, our guest columnist Eli McCann explains how sacrifice can bring forth the blessings of gift-giving.

• In the wake of our recent story about Bay Area Relief Society leaders being removed from the stand at Sunday meetings, a guest commentary suggests that women stay away from services March 17, 2024, the 182nd anniversary of the female Relief Society’s founding.