Latest from Mormon Land: The temple change that few noticed

Also: Teeing up General Conference; more on the Relief Society “priesthood power” speech; the “Book of Mormon Videos” finale; another big check for the Red Cross; and a new church attendance study.

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, podcast transcripts and exclusive access to all Tribune religion content.

Special offer for General Conference

In addition to the above perks, get early access to all of The Tribune’s General Conference content, including a special collection of subscriber-only religion reporting, when you join Mormon Land on Patreon. You’ll find stories about the past, present and future of the Kirtland Temple; Relief Society women who didn’t make headlines but did make a difference; a former apostle’s bid to join a segregationist’s presidential ticket; and a Utah ranch that was rumored to have been the one-time home of Adam and Eve (yes, that Adam and Eve).

A younger temple crowd

While the speech about women having priesthood power sucked up most of the social media oxygen after the recent Relief Society devotional, one step toward gender equity went largely unnoticed.

President Camille Johnson, head of the church’s nearly 8 million-strong global women’s organization, announced that women as young as 18 could receive their temple endowment without waiting for a pending marriage or mission — as has been the common practice.

To be eligible, women must:

• Be at least age 18.

• Be worthy of a temple recommend.

• Have completed or are no longer attending high school or secondary school.

• Have been a church member for at least a year.

• “Feel a desire to receive and honor temple covenants throughout their lives.”

The move represented a shift unveiled by a woman to a worldwide audience of women.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Camille Johnson, who heads up the worldwide Relief Society, speaks in a recorded message for the March 17, 2024, Relief Society commemoration.

Exponent II blogger Kaylee conceded it’s a “crumb of change,” but it was a morsel she’ll gladly consume.

“I am under no illusion that a woman gave the final approval for this policy,” she wrote. “...The temple, like the rest of the church, is a male-controlled space. Women have simply been given more autonomy to decide when they will enter this male-controlled space. …But I’m a spiritually starving dog, so I’ll eat it.”

It also marked the latest movement toward more female-friendly temple experiences, coming on the heels of major alterations in 2023 and 2019 to rituals performed in the faith’s holiest places.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: What women want

Two leading Latter-day Saint voices explore what women want in today’s — and tomorrow’s — church, especially in the wake of that controversial sermon about priesthood power.

Listen to the podcast.

Book of Mormon — the series

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) As the only surviving Nephite, a people of the ancient Americas, Moroni finishes writing about his people’s destruction in this scene from the "Book of Mormon Videos" series.

Just in time for members’ 2024 study of their faith’s signature scripture, the final 11 installments in the 45-episode “Book of Mormon Videos” will emerge throughout the year.

Altogether, this visual journey will take viewers from Nephi’s opening words to Moroni’s final farewell. See the publishing schedule here.

Aiding the Red Cross

The American Red Cross, one of the world’s leading relief agencies, got some relief of its own earlier this month, thanks to a $7.35 million donation from the church.

This check comes after an $8.7 million gift last year and $5.1 million in 2022 from the Utah-based faith, which remains the largest contributor to Red Cross blood drives.

From The Tribune

(Young family) Dwan Young water skiing at age 92 in August 2023.

• She helped shape today’s Primary. She sneaked behind the Iron Curtain. And, at age 92, she still water-skis. Meet Dwan Jacobsen Young.

• Latter-day Saints top the nation in church attendance, a new study shows, but the numbers may be hard to believe. Go figure.

• Under new ownership, the Kirtland Temple reopens to public tours. Meanwhile, enthralling artifacts — including church founder Joseph Smith’s last letter to wife Emma, penned on the day of his death — go on display in Salt Lake City.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Letter from Joseph Smith that was recently transferred from Community of Christ is on display at the Church History Museum on Monday, March 25, 2024.

• Other faith groups amp up the legal fight against James Huntsman’s tithing case targeting the church, arguing the lawsuit endangers religious freedoms.

• In spelling out the church’s guidelines for artificial intelligence, apostle Gerrit Gong warns that the ever-evolving technology can be used for evil or good.

• The church reports spending $1.3 billion last year on humanitarian relief around the world, an effort the governing First Presidency calls “a duty and a joyful privilege.”

• A Bountiful bishop will take over the “spoken word” part of “Music and the Spoken Word,” becoming only the fourth host ever for The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s record-breaking radio show.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Red Cliffs Temple, left, was dedicated March 24, 2024. The nearby historic St. George Temple was rededicated Dec. 10, 2023.

• With Sunday’s dedication of the Red Cliffs Temple, St. George becomes the fourth city in the world with two Latter-day Saint temples.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson says the church is a work in progress, so it’s natural, even healthy, to ask questions and seek changes.