Mormon News Report: 19 April 2016
After a week of deadlines at work, the mighty Mormon News Report has returned to it’s regularly scheduled schedule of whenever I can fit it in before work. We should be uninterrupted for another month (more on that as we get closer), so grab your Postum / Diet Coke / energizing beverage of choice, nestle in, and bask in the warm glow of the Report!
1.) A big news story last week involved BYU, the reporting of sexual assault on campus, and the forwarding of those reports to the Honor Code Office. According to one of the original write-ups by Steve Evans at By Common Consent, at the Rape Awareness conference a few weeks back, “representatives of BYU’s administration spoke regarding the role of the Honor Code Office with respect to both sexual offenders and victims. In the event of a report of sexual assault, the BYU police department reviews the report and then may provide that report to the Honor Code Office, depending in part upon the activities of the survivor in the event. BYU representatives reportedly made it clear that the Honor Code remains a primary rule of conduct at the university, and “we do not apologize for that.”” This report was confirmed by many others, and much of the news last week debated this issue. In an official statement on the official BYU site, in their news section, the university announced “We understand the concerns that have been expressed about the reporting of sexual assaults to our Title IX Office, and we care deeply about the safety of our students. We have decided to study these issues, including potential structural changes within the university, the process for determining whether and how information is used, and the relationship between the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office. Under the direction of the university president, the issues will be closely studied. He will call on resources both inside and outside of the university to study all aspects of our process.” Annie Knox of the Salt Lake Tribune covers the latest developments, but also has the story of Madi Barney, who started a petition last week “demanding the school grant immunity from Honor Code discipline to students who are victims of sexual violence,” which currently stands at 60,000 signatures. Knox writes “After Barney reported her assault to Provo police last year, BYU obtained the police records and launched an Honor Code investigation, according to court records, though the alleged attacker was not a student. “We have received information that you have been a victim of behavior that is addressed in the university Sexual Misconduct Policy. We have also received information that you have engaged in behavior that violates the BYU Honor Code,” a BYU Title IX coordinator wrote to Barney in December. “I would like to meet with you and provide you with the information that we have received and give you an opportunity to respond.” The coordinator told Barney that she could request that they stop looking into the sexual misconduct, at which point the Title IX Office would turn over the “remaining information” to the Honor Code Office.” KSL has the story of Madeline MacDonald, another sexual assault survivor, who said her report to the Title IX office was turned over to the Honor Code office “within hours.” MacDonald said “I couldn’t believe how short the time was from when they first heard my story to when they started treating me like that I was the guilty one.” MacDonald was never found in violation of the Honor Code, she said, but “the fact that I was investigated tells so much.” The Inquisitr’s Patricia Ramirez also has another personal story about the issue today at their site. This is a very sensitive and hot-button issue. However one feels about BYU or the LDS Church, put those feelings aside and think a bit more about those victims. There’s plenty of other issues to get into faith politics about. This shouldn’t be one of them. I really hope BYU is serious in their statement about re-evaluating things, though it is telling that their re-examination doesn’t happen until it is a media crap-storm.
2.) From the “It’s a Thing” files: Jeremy Runnells, author of disaffected Mormon scripture “Letter to a CES Director,” posted a “news release” (adorable) informing the many interested mass media outlets that he was facing a disciplinary council again, after having been postponed earlier this year. On Sunday, Runnells had his disciplinary council, which included a candlelight vigil (disaffected Mormons do love their vigils). The verdict of the council? I’ll quote from Jeremy himself: “A decision has been made. I have excommunicated the LDS church (laughter), President Ivins, and their kangaroo court from my life. I handed my resignation to President Ivins just a few minutes ago. My membership evaporated the second that I gave President Ivins my resignation letter. I am no longer a member of this church.” Welp. And of course, if you want to actually watch it, it’s on YouTube here, with 4,700 views as of this morning (because why not, and this TOTALLY wasn’t planned from the beginning!). The Salt Lake Tribune has 168 words on the event? incident? resignation? whatever you want to call it here (which is about 118 words too many), and Gephardt Daily seems to have a transcription of Runnells’ comments here (if you don’t want to give him the views on YouTube). Brian Whitney of Worlds Without End (one of my favorite Mormon blogs) has a great piece today looking at the Runnells situation, but also how to put the “Letter to a CES Director” in perspective. Spoiler alert: I’m with Brian. It’s no smoking gun, and people have been debating many of the issues in the CES Letter for 50+ years in credible scholarly publications. That doesn’t mean everything is answered quickly and cleanly – there’s a lot of messiness. The problem is the CES Letter has become disaffected scripture, and there’s an uncomfortable mirror effect of those in the disaffected community being the type of exMormon they were when they were a Mormon. Oh, and Daniel C. Peterson weighed in here. Old-school Mormon apologetics really isn’t a way to go about winning friends and influencing people, but old habits die hard I guess.
3.) More news is coming out about the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday in Ecuador, as Tad Walsch of the Deseret News reports six members of the LDS Church have died and five more are injured. Among those are a “local leader who died with his wife and youngest daughter, according to Mormon Newsroom Ecuador. LDS Church spokeswoman Kristen Howey said Sunday in a statement to the Deseret News that hundreds of LDS missionaries are safe and accounted for after the earthquake: “We are grateful to report that all of our missionaries in the region have been contacted and are safe.” I wonder if Elder Dallin H. Oaks would rephrase his statements in the April General Conference after hearing this news.
- The HBO show “Big Love,” following the life and times of an underground Mormon polygamous family in modern-day Utah, debuted 10 years ago. The Hidden Remote has a retrospective with 10 reasons to celebrate the 10th anniversary. Warning: There is one small picture that is similar to LDS temple clothing on the website, taken from a scene in the series. All in all, it’s a thing.
- Friend-of-the-Report Mette Harrison is back at Huffington Post Religion to respond to Michael Otterson’s comments at the Utah Valley University Mormon Studies conference. Otterson’s comments can be found here. Harrison said she “appreciated some of the efforts he made to talk about the many wonderful things the church is doing,” but also thought “he was dismissive in some of the areas of…LGBT Mormons and feminist complaints towards the church.” As a side-note, the Mormon Studies conference was VERY good. I live-streamed almost the entire thing (a big thank you to Conference organizers Boyd Petersen and Brian Birch). The video for the event should be available on April 22, 2016, and trust me – the whole thing is worth it to watch.
- Karen Sloan at the National Law Journal writes today that the American Bar Association is “moving forward with an inquiry into whether the expulsion of ex-Mormons by Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School violates ABA accreditation standards.” FreeBYU director Brad Levin was informed by letter “that the complaint survived an initial review by ABA administrators and has been referred to the organization’s accreditation committee for consideration.” Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, declined to comment on the status of Levin’s complaint, citing ABA confidentiality rules. But he cautioned against reading too much into his referral of the complaint to the accreditation committee. “It would be premature to come to any conclusions about whether this complaint is meritorious or not,” he said.
- Richard Norby, an LDS missionary injured during the Brussels bombing, has returned home to Utah. Local News 8 reports that the 66-year-old Norby was admitted to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and will continue receiving care for burns and shrapnel wounds. Norby was standing with three young missionaries of the LDS Church when the bombs went off.
- So does anyone want to start crowdfunding with me for this one? Outdoor Hub recently announced that Brigham Young’s personal Colt Model 1849 pocket percussion revolver is up for auction. The gun is owned currently by several of his direct descendants. The gun is backed with a letter of provenance from Young’s great-grandson. The Rock Island Auction Company puts the estimated price at $550,000 – $850,000.
- One year ago, Elizabeth Salgado disappeared in broad daylight on the streets of Provo, Utah. Salgado was new to Utah, and a recently returned LDS missionary from Mexico. Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart made a plea for information and tips regarding Salgado, according to KUTV, and said “I have faith in humanity and this community and that we can bring her home, you brought me home. Why can’t it happen again? Why can’t another miracle happen?..Please, if you know anything, if you’ve seen anything, don’t give up; there is a very good chance that she is still alive.” Provo Police still have a full-time detective assigned to the case, but say the stream of tips has drastically slowed from this time last year. There is a $50,000 reward offered for Salgado’s safe return.
- NativeTimes.com reports “A Utah town will erect a memorial to 30 men, women and children from the Paiute tribe who were slaughtered by Mormon settlers 150 years ago. The memorial will be dedicated in Circleville on April 22, the apparent date of the dark moment in Utah history…The massacre was prompted by a Fort Stanford dispatch that said two formerly friendly tribal members had shot a Utah militia man. The dispatch failed to say one of the Paiutes had been shot and killed with a soldier’s rifle, according to information from the Utah Division of State History.”
- From the “Mormons Behaving Badly” files come A LIST from Heavy.com of five things you might not know about Kathleen Antonia Capitano. Capitano was arrested by Fairfax county police and the FBI on Saturday and charged with four felony counts of use of communications systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children under 15 years of age. Capitano is accused of travelling to a Herndon, Virginia hotel to sexually assault a 13-year old boy she met while she was a student teacher. And then there’s this: “Capitano was also a private tutor and a babysitter, through Care.com, during her time at George Mason. From 2010 to 2011 she volunteered as a primary teacher at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. “I taught 4 five year-olds and 6 four year-olds every Sunday. I taught reading, writing, crafts, songs, and provided fun activities regarding our topic of discussion,” she wrote on Linkedin.”
- Peter Meurs, described in the Deseret News as a “millionaire Mormon mining executive” stepped down from his job Monday as he transitions from business to General Authority for the LDS church. This created quite a stir with Australian media. The Deseret News has coverage here.
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