Mormon News Report, 9-December-2014
1.) Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess is back, looking into the value of “Mormon dissent.” In referencing an article by Professor Laurie Maffly-Kipp in the latest issue from the latest “Mormon Studies Review” from the Maxwell Institute, Maffly-Kipp (a non-Mormon who has pioneered teaching Mormon Studies at the university level) noted that “Many, she writes, come into the class with some personal experience of Mormons as people but with little to no knowledge of the institutional LDS Church. And what they do know is negative: “They assume Mormons do not think for themselves and conclude that church members are either gullible or misinformed.” Their encounters with Mormon missionaries and “faith-promoting history” only makes such stereotypes worse. What shatters the stereotypes is hearing faithful Mormons disagree.” She also notes “Students are willing to accept—or at least respect—a surprising variety of beliefs if they are convinced people are thinking for themselves. This is true even of some of the more controversial elements of the tradition. Indeed, airing internal dissent over the history of polygamy, racial discrimination, and women’s issues…helps students to see that believers wrestle with difficult issues in a variety of ways.” Riess also looks at her role as a Mormon and religion blogger: “As a blogger, I believe that open public debate about issues that affect Mormon life is vital in a healthy religious community. The more controversial the issue, the more important it is to have our discussions about it aloud in the public square.” Lots of good intellectual and religious fodder to chew and think on here.
2.) I’ve become a fan of Mark Saal over the past few months. We need more Mormon satirists who don’t take things too seriously (and don’t try too hard to be funny). Saal looks into the recent ad taken out by an anonymous middle-aged man in the SLC area called “a message to LDS Ute fans who dislike BYU.” Why am I starting to like Saal? “So, here’s the take-home lesson from this recent newspaper ad: Except when BYU and Utah are in direct competition, people like me should set aside the rivalry and cheer for the church’s flagship school. No word yet on whether this will eventually become a worthiness question in church interviews (“Do you sympathize with any apostate groups, including but not limited to the U of U Alumni Association and any retail stores not specifically named Deseret Book?”), or if we’ll have to start rooting for BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii, too…Because I predict that’s where the newspaper industry’s real growth potential is for the future — advocacy advertising. For far too long, newspaper advertising has been the realm of those selling retail products and services. But what about those who are selling their thoughts and ideas, who simply want their voices heard? What about those folks?…Got an opinion about the Obama presidency? Take out a full-page ad. Tired of Utah’s restrictive liquor laws? Buy an ad. Want a certain columnist to stop bloviating week after week? What you really want is an ad in that very same newspaper.” Keep on keepin’ on, Brother Saal. But note that BYU-Idaho got rid of their sports teams back in June of 2000.
3.) The crazy is out in full force, this time being drawn like magnets to LDS Temples. First, KCBD of Lubbock (TX) reports that a fatal crash occurred at the Lubbock LDS Temple. “Police say a male driver was pronounced dead at the scene. No witnesses saw him crash into the wall of the temple, but the car apparently crashed into the base of the west side of the structure…Lubbock police say he was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision.” Not to be outdone, the Tribune reports that an 18-year-old man was arrested and a juvenile was cited in a stabbing that happened across the street from the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City. Lougy says the confrontation began when two groups of people encountered each other near the reflecting pool in Temple Square. Police say the groups met up again across the street, and that’s where the stabbing happened. Don’t mess with the Utah-based Jets and Sharks. They might get into a dance-off involving snapping and fancy jumping moves.
- From the “OH UTAH” files – the Salt Lake Tribune reports today on Ellie Kaiser, a Skyline High School Senior who intended to volunteer at the annual Utah Festival of Trees at the South Towne Expo Center. According to Benjamin Wood of the Tribune, Kaiser was turned away “because her pantsuit was determined to be a violation of the event’s dress code…She was dressed professionally in slacks and a jacket, she said, but was told that pants are not allowed for female volunteers.” The annual fundraiser for Primary Children’s Hospital enforces a strict dress code for its volunteers, festival chairwoman Marie Partridge said Monday. Volunteers are expected to stand out from the crowd so visitors know whom to turn to for questions, Partridge said. That means a dress shirt, tie and slacks for men, and a skirt or dress for women. Kaiser said she was informed of the dress code, but she assumed the directive to wear a skirt or dress was because few of her high school-aged peers own pantsuits. The Festival of Trees, like Primary Children’s Hospital, has its roots in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the Festival of Trees website, a group of women was challenged by the hospital’s Men’s Endowment Board to find a way to raise funds, which led to the creation of the Women’s Endowment Committee and the annual festival nearly 50 years ago. The hospital now is owned by Intermountain Healthcare. The festival is independently organized by a volunteer board of 89 women who each lead a committee of 10 individuals, most of whom are female. I wonder what they think about the annual “Wear Pants to Church” day, which is coming up on December 14, 2014.
- The Hollywood Reporter looks into the lineup at Sunstone this year, and an uncomfortable documentary that will be premiering from director Amy Berg: “Equally controversial is this year’s documentary lineup…Berg’s Prophet’s Prey, which examines a Mormon leader’s justification of rape.” Here’s the description from the site: “When Warren Jeffs rose to prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he bridged the gap between sister wives and ecclesiastically justified rape, befuddling the moral compass of his entire congregation.” Really wish Hollywood Reporter would have clarified that it’s the Fundamentalist LDS Church, not the mainstream LDS Church.
- Angela Ellsworth, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Art, was profiled by ASU News yesterday. Ellsworth has been selected as one of about 100 American artists hand-picked for the show “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, Arkansas, through Jan. 19, 2015. “The exhibition includes two sculptural pieces by Ellsworth: a new piece called “Close to You,” which consists of two pioneer bonnets covered in pearl corsage pins, and one single bonnet covered in pins…The single bonnet is one of dozens she’s creating to stand in for the many wives of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church. “Although I’m not a practicing Mormon now, I’m very interested in that history,” Ellsworth explains. “I’m interested in, specifically, polygamy – the practice of polygamy and how that connects to queer culture and non-hetero normative relationships, now that states seem to be struggling over gay marriage specifically.” And within what Ellsworth describes as “that very patriarchal construct,” she is interested in reimagining “a group of the women and creating their own sort of community in a sense.”
- PBS’s “American Masters” TV show will be profiling Bing Crosby this Wednesday night at 8pm, hoping to capitalize on the annual showings of Crosby’s “White Christmas.” While Crosby was most known for his singing and acting, many may not know that he was also a part-owner in the Pittsburg Pirates from 1946 until the mid-1980’s. What does this have to do with Mormonism? “Bing Crosby was not a silent Pirates part-owner. Nathaniel [Crosby, his son] said his father had a hand in recruiting pitcher Vern Law out of high school in 1948. “He was from a Mormon family, which is how he earned the nickname ‘The Deacon,’ and dad told [the recruiter] to pass out Cuban cigars to all the other scouts, and sure enough they went into Law’s Mormon household smelling of tobacco and Vern Law signed with the Pirates,” Nathaniel Crosby recalled.” The Pittsburg Post-Gazette has more Crosby stories here.
- Utah governor Gary Herbert announced his “Healthy Utah” plan last week. The LDS Presiding Bishopric (along with other religious leaders) stood with him. But as KUER reports, it might not be a full endorsement: “After Presiding Bishop Gary Stevenson appeared at the governor’s announcement last week, the LDS Church issued a statement that stopped short of an endorsement of the Healthy Utah plan.” Local bishop David Heslington of the Salt Lake City 12th Ward thinks Healthy Utah would extend the reach of his efforts to help Mormons and others in his neighborhood. “Our resources are not unlimited,” Heslington told KUER, “and so this provides some additional support and coverage for a lot of people that would just give up.”
- There’s a lot of chatter of BYU joining the Big 12 NCAA conference, especially to be aligned with a Power 5 in hopes of making the new college football playoffs. Dylan Cannon of KSL looks at 4 reasons why BYU would be a good fit for the Big 12, and one of those reasons is THAT MORMON THING. “Also unique to the school is its connection to the LDS Church. This connection has made BYU’s sporting teams the favorite of numberless LDS families across the nation. With a national fan base, the school has historically traveled well and will bring that to the table.”
- Looking for some religious stocking stuffers? Lauren Markoe of the Salt Lake Tribune has you covered. Among notable items like a Pope Francis bracelet, a book entitled “Why Are You Atheists So Angry,” a Jesus toaster, and a Hanukkah onesie for grown-ups, she also has this nugget: “Book of Mormon bingo: Each square of the bingo boards represents a person, animal or object from the Book of Mormon.”
- The website GetReading (of Reading, UK) notes that on January 31, a fundraising variety show in aid of Ebola orphans will be staged at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in The Meadway.
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