Latest from Mormon Land: Why all this fuss about temple steeples?

Also: Why the Kirtland Temple was worth the price; the case for a Latter-day Saint civil rights group; the perils of “leadership roulette” for same-sex couples; and pushing for a church apology.

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Tower power

Here’s the temple.

Here’s the steeple.

Unveil the plans.

See angry people.

That could be the mantra as the church runs into irate neighbors from time to time over its planned temples — in Nevada, Texas, Wyoming and Utah, for instance — especially in regards to the height of proposed spires.

Addressing that point, Latter-day Saint leaders have argued that “the height of the steeple is part of our religious observance,” symbolically “lifting our eyes and thoughts to heaven.”

The disputes have popped up enough that Ziff, the pen name for a blogger at the Zelophehad’s Daughters website, took a satirical stab at these vertical vexations, producing a parodic “Proclamation on the Steeple,” patterned after the faith’s family proclamation.

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that the building of temples is ordained of God,” it begins, “and that the steeple is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children.”

Parroting church defenses for these tall towers, the spoof states that “steeples are an essential characteristic of these temples. They point upward toward the heavens, reminding both member and nonmember alike to keep their focus on God rather than on Earth.”

The mock doc even gets biblical, quoting Psalm 61:3 — “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” — before blustering that “steeple-free temples … have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.”

Truth be told, of course, that while steeples (large or small) may seem like staples on Latter-day Saint temples, they are hardly required. After all, members view their spire-less edifices in Mesa, Arizona; Cardston, Alberta; Laie, Hawaii; and Hong Kong as just as heralded, just as hallowed and just as holy as the iconic six-steepled Salt Lake Temple or Thailand’s nine-spired Bangkok Temple.

So this “steeple” chase is a race that may need not be run — or won.

Was buying the Kirtland Temple a bargain?

(Salt Lake Tribune archives) The nine-figure price tag for Ohio's Kirtland Temple was worth the cost, according to the historian/recorder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cutting a check for nearly $200 million is no small transaction, even for an organization with an estimated worth that tops a quarter of a trillion dollars.

So it’s only natural, general authority Seventy Kyle McKay said last week, that some Latter-day Saints had questions about church leaders’ decision earlier this year to fork over that kind of cash on historic properties and artifacts, including the Kirtland Temple.

Speaking at this year’s annual Mormon History Association conference (which, as fate would have it, took place in and near Kirtland), McKay, the church’s historian/recorder, offered an explanation steeped in theology.

The 19th-century edifice, Mormonism’s first temple, isn’t just any historic building, he argued. Rather, Latter-day Saints believe it was within its walls that Jesus, Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared to church founder Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1836 and bestowed on them the “priesthood keys” necessary to conduct the faith’s saving rituals.

“I cannot think of a single day during the ongoing restoration,” McKay said, “when there was more restored than on” that day.

For the church, then, the Kirtland Temple is a pearl at any great price.

— Tamarra Kemsley

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: LDS civil rights

The editors of Public Square Magazine, an online publication written from a Latter-day Saint perspective, argue it’s time for church members to have their own civil rights organization to advocate for them in “political, legal and cultural spaces.”

Listen to the podcast.

A win out of Africa

The “restored church” has been restored in South Sudan.

Eleven years after losing its legal status and ceasing baptisms — amid a civil war in the East African nation — the Utah-based faith is once again officially registered in South Sudan, with a branch, or small congregation, in the capital of Juba.

“Love brought me into this church; love has kept me in this church,” Rebecca Amet said in a news release. “God has done something good for my family today. Now they can be baptized.”

From The Tribune

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Same-sex Latter-day Saint couples can find themselves at the mercy of local lay leaders in regards to their church memberships.

• “Leadership roulette” leaves same-sex Latter-day Saint couples wondering whether their memberships are safe. Turns out that, for some, they aren’t.

• Six years after a prankster issued a “fake apology” for the church’s former racist priesthood/temple ban against Black members, more and more Latter-day Saints are yearning for a real apology to help heal very real pain.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Darius Gray, shown in 2019, is speaking out on the call for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to apologize for its former priesthood/temple ban against Black members.

• Lloyd Newell, the host of “Music and the Spoken Word” for 34 years, delivered his final broadcast Sunday with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. His successor, Derrick Porter, will make his debut this Sunday.

• Apostle David Bednar dedicated the double-steepled, three-story Layton Temple on Sunday, giving Utah 20 functioning temples, with eight more in the works and two undergoing renovations.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saints attending the dedication make their way into the Layton Utah Temple before its dedication by apostle David A. Bednar on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

• Fellow apostle D. Todd Christofferson returned to his former missionary stomping grounds to dedicate Argentina’s Salta Temple.

• One of Utah’s planned temples, Deseret Peak in Tooele, is set to be dedicated Nov. 10 after a Sept. 26-Oct. 19 open house.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tooele's Deseret Peak Temple, shown in May 2024, will welcome public tours this fall.