Mormon News Report: 14 September 2016

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Mormon News Report, 14 September 2016

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? What was supposed to be a brief break for some workshops I was conducting for work turned into a break to launch a major project we have been working on for work, which turned into an entire summer sabbatical. But the News Report is back, albeit with a few changes. First, the News Report is transitioning from a daily news recap to a thrice-weekly recap of Mormon News. Time permitting, it should arrive hot-and-fresh in your inbox on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Same length, same rants from me, just less frequently. Additionally, I’m introducing a new feature on Fridays – the BEST OF THE BLOGS. I track between 35-40 Mormon-related blogs on a daily basis, and on Friday’s we will include the best blog posts of the past week.

Enough with the rambling – on with the news!

  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at a five-day conference at Windsor Castle in England this past week called “Religious Persecution: The Driver for Forced Migration,” and had some strong words for how the world should be reacting to the stories of refugees: “The world needs to be more outraged than it is…when we read of the persecution, the violence, the sexual violence, the murder, the rape, the destruction of families and any social structure that these people have had — almost entire cultures being destroyed.” Tad Walch of the Deseret News reports “He pointed to religious freedom, belief and activity as keys to improving the plight of refugees. He shared research showing that high levels of religious freedom correlate with fewer incidents of armed conflict, high levels of health and earned income and better educational opportunities for women.”
  • For those of you in the Salt Lake City, clear your calendars for this Thursday night. The Daily Herald reports “As part of its ongoing events series, Evenings at the Museum, the Church History Museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will host “An Evening with Susan Easton Black and George Durrant” at 7 p.m., Thursday, at the Church History Museum Theater in Salt Lake City. The guest speakers will discuss Joseph Smith’s run for president of the United States in the 1844 election.”
  • Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes “told the Utah County Republican Women on Monday that it’s time to quit being afraid to vocally support the Republican presidential nominee, while acknowledging it is not necessarily a popular decision,” reports Katie England of the Daily Herald. “Hughes said many people who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are repulsed by Trump’s way of framing issues. “We value decorum,” Hughes said. “And we should. And on the levels of decorum, Donald Trump doesn’t do so well. But for me, that’s not my top-shelf concern in this country.””
  • There might be another high-profile Mormon-related case in front of the Supreme Court pretty soon. Brady McCombs of the Associated Press (via the Seattle Times) reports that the polygamous family from the TV show “Sister Wives” filed a request Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case for legalizing polygamy. McCombs writes “They face long odds. In recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has heard no more than 1 percent of the 7,500-plus cases appealed annually.” According to McCombs, “Kody Brown and his four wives want the high court to review an appeal court’s decision that upheld a unique provision of Utah’s polygamy law that bans cohabitation with other partners even if the man is legally married to just one woman. The ruling overturned a previous legal victory for the Browns in which a lower court ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom. The appeals court decided in April that the Browns can’t sue because they weren’t charged under the Utah law. It didn’t consider the constitutional issues.” I agree with McCombs. The odds are very long that the SCOTUS will hear the case, but with approximately 75 of the 7,500 cases appealed being heard, you’re telling me there’s a chance.
  • Tonight in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah campus, The Rev. Jason Wallace, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Magna will debate the question “Can you be Christian and gay?” The Tribune looks at some aspects of the question and preps for tonight’s discussion / debate. It would seem incomprehensible if the LDS Church isn’t brought up during the debate, whether by the debaters or the audience, considering not only the LDS Church’s presence in Utah but some of the strong stances the Church has taken in previous years.
  • The Illawarra Mecury reports tragedy today from West Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia: “A church community is reeling after thieves broke into and ransacked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Yellagong Street in West Wollongong…Bishop Trevor Stewart said the thieves may have been looking for money but only left with a projector, small LED television, some microphones plus cakes and juice in the fridge for a conference that morning.” Reporter Desirée Savage spoke with “High Councillor” Peter Stewart, who expressed dismay. “If they could return the children’s television at least, it’s just a terrible thing to do,” he said. I understand the television is expensive, and it does affect the children, but CAKES AND JUICE WERE STOLEN. This travesty must be rectified immediately.
  • The Kansas State University-run Collegian newspaper reports that BYU’s bid to join the Big XII has met new opposition in the form of the K-State Student Governing Association. “Three SGA leaders told the Collegian Monday they will consider writing a resolution opposing BYU’s possible acceptance into the Big 12 because of the university’s student Honor Code.” Jason Tidd of the Collegian also notes “The issue came to the forefront Wednesday when Iowa State University’s student government passed a resolution opposed to BYU joining the Big 12.” Trenton Kennedy, student body vice president at K-State, told the paper “When you’re in the Big 12, you’re expecting a standard of inclusion and a standard of acceptance and welcoming when we know that my fellow students, as student-athletes, are going to be traveling to those schools to participate in athletic events and competitions…So I believe that it should be an acceptable standard to know that my fellow students are going to go to an accepting and inclusive atmosphere when they travel for games.” I haven’t been tracking Mormon news as diligently as I should have on my sabbatical, but this story is one I have been following, and it’s probably not going to go away as the NCAA football season continues on.
  • RightWingWatch.org (a site “dedicated to monitoring and reporting on the activities of right-wing political organizations, in order to expose the agenda of the extreme Right,” so like, totally objective) has a story today with the following headline: “Anti-Gay, Anti-Catholic, Anti-Mormon Pastor Accuses Hillary Clinton Of ‘Hate Speech.'” So this should be fun. And…come to find out, it’s my buddy! The Toad Robert Jeffress (who should never be forgotten for one of the most influential moments of the 2012 Mormon Moment with Anderson Cooper). The piece notes “Among the Trump supporters slamming Clinton was Robert Jeffress, a pastor with a long record of anti-gay, anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic rhetoric, who accused Clinton of “hate speech” and “intolerance.”” The actual quote-in-question from Jeffress regarding today’s story is as follows, s told to conservative radio host Mike Gallagher: “I tell you, it reveals the hypocrisy of liberalism, and that is liberals who cry loudest for tolerance are usually the most intolerant people in the world when it comes to ideas with which they disagree…I mean, think about it, according to Clinton you’re a racist if you believe in secure borders, you’re xenophobic if you believe people ought to only be in this country legally and you’re homophobic if you believe in traditional marriage. The fact is, Hillary Clinton is exhibit A of intolerance and her comments Friday were nothing but hate speech.”
  • KUER reports on the very intriguing storyline of this year’s 2016 election – the struggle of predominantly conservative Republican Utah, the backlash against Republican nominee Donald Trump, and how the vote will shake out in the Beehive State. KUER’s Nicole Nixon reports on the “conversion efforts” some are leading in Utah to “convert Republican vote for Clinton”: “Numbers released by Public Policy Polling last month show that while 56% of Mormons surveyed had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump, 84% of Mormons had an unfavorable view of Clinton. And when it comes to casting a vote, 44% of Mormons say they would go with Trump, while only 12% would choose Clinton. When surveyed last month, 17% of Mormon voters were still undecided.”
  • The Recorder of Greenfield, MA has a profile piece today of Rev. Peter Naranjo, who went from a troubled youth to an early life of addiction, “then a rescue by the Mormon faith” and a return to the Catholic Church, where he was ordained into the priesthood later in life.
  • UtahPolicy.com released polling numbers today for the 2016 election and although the Trump question still looms large in Utah, Trump still reigns. Dan Jones & Associates ran the following survey question: “If the 2016 general election for president were held today and the candidates were the following, for whom would you likely vote?” Trump lead the polling with 39%, followed by Hillary Clinton at 24%, Gary Johnson at 13%, Evan McMullin at 9#, Don’t Know at 7%, Other (Mitt Romney holdouts?) at 6%, Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party at 2%, and Jill Stein of the Green Party at 0%. Interestingly, Trump’s numbers have gone up slowly but steadily since June 2016, where he has seen his lead over Hillary Clinton go from 9 points to 15 points in September. McMullin’s effect hasn’t seemed to strip votes away from Trump, but has instead pulled them from Clinton (who has gone steadily downward) and Libertarian Gary Johnson (who saw a 3 point drop from July to September).
  • Headline of the Week (Oh how I have missed these), courtesy of Bacon’s Rebellion (“Virginia’s leading politically non-aligned portal for news, opinions and analysis about state, regional and local public policy.”): Virginia Needs More Vikings and Mormons. Oh…have I got your attention now? No need for me to summarize this one – the title should be enough of a teaser.
  • There is some drama going on in Provo…and it is the best kind of drama. From Fox 13 News: “Last week….the cheer coach told all the girls someone had complained the uniforms worn on game day in class were distracting a boy, causing him to have impure thoughts. Instead of wearing their uniforms, the girls for their “best dressed” for game day. It didn’t sit well.” Because the typo makes it hard to understand, the suggestion was not for the girls to wear their cheers uniforms during class, but to wear their “best dressed” attire instead. The cheerleaders are, understandably, upset. “Forty-four girls are being controlled. We’re getting told what to do by this one boy,” said Georgia Bear, a Timpview cheerleader. “I kind of felt like it’s the school almost supporting a rape culture,” said JoAnna Johnson, a Timpview cheerleader. So where’s the Mormon connection? Well, Matt McDonald went investigating into the Mormon Stories Facebook page (a bastion of objectivity if I have ever seen one), and found that Nicole Wood, the older sister of a senior cheerleader at Timpview, posted her concerns, which lead to hundreds of comments (which I’m sure were totally objective). In her post, Woods wrote “I feel like this obsession with female modesty is just feeding into the rape culture that is far too prevalent in the area.” The Inquisitr website also picked up on the story, connecting this story to neighboring university BYU, which is going through their own crisis on sexual assault. I’m sure this story is just getting started.
  • Dating site OK Cupid knows how to get a mention in the Mormon News Report. Yesterday, they released a test – “Could you Date a Mormon?” It’s a thing. It’s not that witty or intelligent.
  • The Deseret News covered Elder Quentin L. Cook’s worldwide CES devotional on Sunday night, with his major theme being “Fear not.” “The world literally seems to be in commotion…There is a level of contention that is unprecedented. Peace of mind and feelings of security can seem elusive and even unobtainable. My message to you this evening is that we should not have fear even in a dangerous and troubled world.”
  • An editorial at the Deseret News looks at a recent report from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that found “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.” Chairman of the Commission Martin R. Castro wrote in his Commissioner’s Statement in the report “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” The editorial takes issue with Castro’s statements, and compares them to “the messages delivered Saturday by top leaders and lawyers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper.” I’ll be interested to see if both the statements this past weekend from the LDS Church regarding religious liberty as well as the coinciding editorials will get any traction online, or if most on the internet are moving on from the religious liberty rhetoric.
  • The Pacific Areas Presidency of the LDS Church encouraged all members in the South Pacific to obtain the education necessary to increase personal and family self-reliance in a video posted to Mormon Newsroom this past weekend. You can find it here.
  • On Saturday, Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke at a religious freedom conference in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, encouraging members to get involved “in a constructive way in the vital contest for religious freedom,” according to the Mormon Newsroom. Emphasizing messages he has shared previously, he counseled local Mormons to seek a cease-fire in the culture wars and to employ a “fairness for all” approach in defending religious freedom because our pluralistic world requires we “live peacefully” with each other. Elder Oaks was joined by Church general counsel Elder Lance B. Wickman and Elder Von G. Keetch of the Seventy. Their comments coincide with the creation of a religious freedom page on LDS.org. Elder Oaks said “literally everyone, from kindergarten children through the ranks of professionals and mothers and fathers and friends and neighbors can and should understand what religious freedom is and why it is important.”
  • FAIR president Scott Gordon, in podcast form, recaps the 2016 FairMormon Conference held at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, UT at the FairMormon Blog.
  • Bill Evans is probably a name not known to many people. Evans formerly served as one of the LDS Church’s point men for relations with the LGBT community and was a former employee of the LDS Church Public Affairs department. Fox 13 sat down with Evans to ask him the following questions: The LDS Church and LGBT community each hold core beliefs that are unlikely to change, what is it the two end up talking about? The relationship between the LDS Church and LGBT community often seems like “two steps forward, one step back”, what’s going on there? Where do you see this relationship between the LDS Church and LGBT community going in the future, 5 to 10 years from now?”
  • Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune has some very interesting data leading up to the 2016 election – “More than 60 percent of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in 2012 that they were Republicans; now 48 percent say the same, according to the Pew Research Center, which conducted interviews with 8,000 Americans for its study of voter identification.” Burr notes “Observers chalk up the change in party alignment to two things: The Romney factor and the Mormon concern with GOP nominee Donald Trump.” You can find the Tribune write-up here, and Pew’s latest findings here. Vox has their analysis here. This is my favorite kind of data.
  • Letter to the Editor! “Seek Middle Ground in Homecoming issue,” via the Herald Journal News (responding to a letter concerning Quentin L. Cook speaking at Logan High School Homecoming)
  • King5 News of Western Washington profiled Melinda Hannah, a Mormon painter who paints Mormon LGBT people and couples “to remind people how beautiful they are.” Hannah’s project, The Hero’s Journey, travels to Provo, UT next week.
  • The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple will be dedicated on September 18. The Philadelphia Business Journal reports today that more than 141,000 visitors toured the temple prior to dedication. “The church believes more than half were not members of the Mormon faith.”
  • Crosswalk, “a for-profit religious corporation dedicated to building up the Church, which is the Body of Christ,” has a provocative piece today – “How Do I Engage My Mormon Neighbor?” Their advice focuses on the scriptural precedent of “receiving someone into one’s house,” but ends with this: “As Christians, we are called to show grace and respect to all people. Believers should greet Mormons kindly, and be open to speaking with them about God and His word. However, 2 John stand as a reminder that dealing with false teachings can be dangerous, and showing someone hospitality does not mean giving them a platform. In all things, we must remember to put Christ first. For it is only by His grace that we are saved.” Well…it could have been worse?
  • Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess (I hope I can still call her a FotR, especially after my sabbatical) is back with some very interesting news – McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding’s book “Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families”, which is a book that “talks openly and unapologetically about Heavenly Mother as a deity who loves, leads, and guides us,” according to Riess. Jana spoke with McArthur about the impetus for the book, her feelings writing about Heavenly Mother, and what it’s like as a Mormon living in India.
  • The Daily Universe’s Laura Spilsbury has a piece today that might have been considered heresy 30 years ago – and might still be, in certain parts of the Mountain West. Titled “Mormons can learn from Mother Teresa’s canonization,” Spilsbury recounts the history behind one being canonized in the Catholic faith, and writes “Historically, saints have been martyrs or have shown great devotion to God in various ways. Mother Teresa is no exception. Though she was not of the LDS faith, she emulated many of the same principles members of the LDS church strive to live by. She was well-known for helping the poor and destitute and for loving unconditionally.”
  • Claire Lampen of Mic.com looks at the appeal of the polygamous Brown family to the Supreme Court, and “why that can never happen.” Lampen’s argument concludes with “The Browns argue that they are trying to change the image of polygamy as a veil for sex crimes, but overturning the ban would — and has — made flagrant offenses hard to prosecute. The ban exists to keep people safe. “This is not the prosecution to persecute a people,” prosecutor Eric Nichols explained during Warren Jeffs’ trial. “This is a prosecution to protect a people.””
  • Bad news from Elk Ridge (UT): Three Payson (UT) teenagers have been arrested after causing nearly $20,000 in damage to an LDS Church building in Elk Ridge. According to the Herald Extra, “The teens reportedly entered the church after 9 p.m. Sunday and spent several hours inside. A neighbor told deputies that several teenage boys dumped trash on his lawn the same night. The teenagers had reportedly thrown hymn books through ceiling tiles in a hallway and started small fires in a classroom. The fires were lit in garbage cans using hymn books and paper. They also reportedly stole candy, food, pens and pencils,and emptied three fire extinguishers, covering nearly the entire chapel.” I told my wife (a Payson native) this story, and her response sums up my feelings: “Idiots. Do you really have nothing better to do with your time than destroy a Church building?” My response: “Well…it is Payson, so…” She was not impressed.
  • There’s a very cool story today in the San Diego Union-Tribune looking at a part of the Mormon experience that doesn’t get very much attention – special-needs Mormons serving missions. “A new service mission program being test-piloted in San Diego and eight other U.S. cities offers young adults with special needs the opportunity to live at home with their families while doing volunteer work in their community. The Young Church-Service Missionary program, or YCSM, is designed for young men and women with physical disabilities, medical conditions or special circumstances that prohibit them from moving away. It’s also for “early release” missionaries who have been forced by health reasons to return home early…YCSM missionaries don’t preach the Gospel; they only work as much as their health allows, and their length of service is variable. Howard said he is planning to serve, full-time, for at least a year, and he’s grateful for the flexibility he’s been given to seek out other service work in the community…The program’s roll-out has been intentionally slow and limited in scope to give the Church time to work out all the kinks. San Diego and Sacramento are the only locations it’s been introduced in California. The other locations are in Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Georgia.”

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