Mormon News Report: 8 April 2016
1.) Oh Mormons. Sometimes you are incredibly silly, and then other times you do things silly but not horrible. This was one of those time. The YouTubers Joseph & Smith (heck of a name) have a parody of Adele’s “Hello,” the Mormon Missionary Version. As of this morning, it has been viewed 733,000 times since Tuesday when it was uploaded. It’s caught on. Big time. Perez Hilton called it “the smartest, best, most deserving parody we’ve ever seen,” Time Magazine featured it here, and the Huffington Post has it here. I know I can be harsh on Mormon silliness and it makes me seem like I have no sense of fun, but this just shows you how good we Mormons can be when we do it right, instead of the other inane kitsch out there.
2.) The earliest plot map of Salt Lake city “dating a few days after 19th-century Mormon pioneers arrived in the valley” (and believed by many to be the first of its kind) went on sale Thursday in New York City, according to Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Tribune. Historians feel it is the work of LDS surveyor Henry G. Sherwood, acting under the direction of Brigham Young to draw the plat of the Salt Lake Valley on July 28, 1847 on rolled-out sheepskin. The plat is currently on exhibit to the public for the first time at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair for for days, starting on Thursday. The big question – how much is it? – is still up for debate. Longtime collector Paul Cohen said it’s less than a “Book of Commandments,” which likely would command $1 million to $1.5 million. So basically, does anyone want to start a GoFundMe and have the map housed in the Mormon News Report home offices?
3.) An editorial today in the Daily Herald continues the theme of the refugee crisis, and gets into a few of my favorite themes within Mormonism – “Checking the Box” and “efficiency vs. effectiveness.” “It’s easy to say, “We’ll send you combs and toothpaste” (that are needed) while you stay where you are, instead of “Come join us; we’ll help you transition, get a job and contribute to society again.” The latter requires much more work.” In my mind, “sending combs and toothpaste” are checking the box and efficient, whereas that personal touch of helping a refugee to integrate into society is much more difficult and can be much more effective. And props to the Provo Daily Herald for acknowledging diversity: “It also might infringe on some who hold the vision of skewed dreams of a valley full of white picket fences with traditional families that inhabit them, experiencing only minor problems and plenty of no-bake cookies to go around. Rather than the reality, which is communities full of some traditional families, LGBTQ couples, singles, renters and minorities, and sufficient social issues and crimes most would rather pretend aren’t happening.” To someone not in Provo, this might seem like an innocuous editorial, but for Provo, this is boundary pushing. And we need more of it.
- Ryan C. Jenkins, author of the Cedar Fort-published book “The Assassination of Joseph Smith: Innocent Blood on the Banner of Liberty” has a post on his personal website today about the refugee crisis, and the emphasis by the LDS Church recently in General Conference addresses towards offering assistance. Jenkins acknowledges the political side of things, stating “It may be helpful to separate the issues of illegal immigration and the refugee crisis. Thankfully, before it got too political, Jenkins offers his take on the Church’s viewpoint of things: “But the humanitarian concerns should bluntly remind all of us that the Kingdom of God on earth has no geographical boundaries. If there are 60 million refugees in the world and half of them are children, we ought to seriously consider why a mother or a father would undertake to leave their motherland in dire circumstances without any guarantee they, or their children, will survive.” I’m extremely pleased to see how many are responding positively to the Church’s call for more humanitarian involvement regarding refugees.
- The SU Independent of Southern Utah has a review today by Adam Mast over the revamped 2016 version of “Saturday’s Warrior.” Mast gives the film 3 stars, acknowledging the nostalgia and kitsch but also wishing for something deeper: “There have been a handful of LDS-themed films that have proven to be thought-provoking and powerful (see “New York Doll” and “Saints and Soldiers”), but those particular movies transcended the LDS theme, leading to deeper, more universal messages about hope and faith. Again, “Saturday’s Warrior” certainly isn’t without its charms. But clearly, this is a movie that is most likely to appeal to its target demographic. Translation: This is really the kind of film meant to be watched during Family Home Evening. In short, “Saturday’s Warrior” is LDS comfort food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We all need our comfort food from time to time.”
- The end of the world was supposed to come and go on Wednesday, based on whispers from those close to Warren Jeffs. Ironically enough, it was supposed to occur on the 186th birthday of the LDS Church. Most of the apocalyptic statement from Jeffs had to do with a federal judge’s pending decision concerning keeping brother Lyle Jeffs in jail while he awaits trial over food stamp fraud. Ben Winslow’s report at Fox 13 is a very good read, including the different allegations and developments that have happened since Lyle Jeffs has been jailed, including more individuals from the FLDS Church willing to come forward.
- The Executive Board of Ordain Women published an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune today, recounting their experience attempting to gain an audience with top leaders in the LDS Church, and their stance that “We have been ignored.” Their action this past General Conference involved compiling “binder[s] of personal messages from women and men around the world expressing a desire to have women witness meaningful events in our faith.” The group requested an official church representative be present to receive them, which, from all reports I have received, did not happen. The Ordain Women board adds “We are disappointed that no church leader would meet with us to accept these messages. However, because we believe that these messages are important and that they will touch the hearts and minds of our leaders, we are having them delivered via Federal Express to the First Presidency, the Relief Society General Presidency, the Presiding Bishopric and the registered agent for service for the Corporation of The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Federal Express will deliver the messages on Thursday, April 7.” The Ordain Women Board is composed of Debra Jenson, chair, Julia Murphy, Bryndis Roberts, Leah Marie Silverman, Mark Barnes, Joanna Smith, Christy Clegg, Natasha Smith, Kristy Money, Lorie Winder and Danielle Kristine Mooney.
- ABC News reported yesterday that Elder Joseph “Dres” Empey has been released from the hospital on Thursday. According to the AP report “a large gathering of friends and family greeted Empey when he arrived to his house in Santa Clara (near St. George) on Wednesday.” The Deseret News has the video of Elder Empey returning home here.
- Utah Valley University will be hosting the 2016 Mormon Studies Conference April 11 – 13 in the University’s Library Lecture Hall. The focus for the conference is “Mormonism and the Art of Boundary Maintenance.” Speakers include Michael Otterson (LDS Church Managing Director of Public Affairs), Jana Riess (author, contributor at Religion News Service, and Friend-of-the-Report), Brian Birch (Director, Religious Studies Program at UVU), David Campbell (Professor, University of Notre Dame), Ryan Cragun (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Tampa), J. Spencer Fluhman (Editor, Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Maxwell Institute), Maxine Hanks, Mette Ivie Harrison (contributor at the Huffington Post, Author, and Friend-of-the-Report), well…basically all of the “Who’s Who” of Mormon studies. Sadly, I won’t be out there, but I’m hoping to have some coverage of the conference next week in the News Report. The conference will be live-streamed online at the UVU YouTube page, which is good news for me. More information on the conference can be found at the UVU website here.
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