Mormon News Report: 7 October 2016

Mormon News Report: 7 October 2016

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Leaked Videos Pull Back Curtain on Mormon Leadership (New York Times)
I was just talking to someone today who told me they were surprised that the leaked videos of committee meetings including members of the Quorum of the Twelve wasn’t making national news. Well, here you go. Laurie Goodstein, religion reporter for the New York Times, details the leak and the videos. Goodstein spoke with Ryan McKnight, who posted the videos to YouTube (but was not the leaker), and the one interesting bit that she was able to learn was about the leaker: “[McKnight] said that when he tried to contact the source by email later on Sunday, the email address he had used before was no longer functioning.” Kathleen Flake, a professor of American religious history, said “Mormonism has a reputation for secrecy and political power. I think these tapes probably fit that story, and explains the delight that people are taking in their leakage.” I would also add that some of those reputations don’t go away easily, and are still accurate.

I’m intrigued in following two things: First, is the New York Times finally covering the story going to be the “door-opening” that other outlets are going to need? I can see there being a possibility of this, but it almost seems to be old news by this point. Additionally, I’m not sure who has 7 spare hours to watch committee meetings from 5+ years ago. Second, I’m intrigued to see if this is the end of the document leaks (at least for this round), or if there is more out there. McKnight acknowledged that the individual who sent him the videos appears to have vanished. The MormonDocuments leaker from Reddit appears to have slowed down in his posts (last post was from 3 days ago, and last leak was from 5 days ago). Who knows where this will lead.

Mormon Videos Spur Question: Should aging LDS Apostles be able to retire: (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Peggy Fletcher Stack follows up on the very fascinating interview conducted by Doug Fabrizio on Radiowest (and if you haven’t listened, you absolutely should – it was phenomenal) regarding age and leadership within the LDS Church. Stack talked with Greg Prince (author of 2 must-read books about modern LDS history: David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, and Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History), who has a very intriguing article coming out in the fall 2016 issue of Dialogue regarding age and LDS leadership. Prince writes “A power vacuum at the top, caused by the incapacitation of the church president, can put the entire church at risk of damage that might otherwise be prevented by a competent president…Service until death is a tradition but not a scripturally based doctrine…Although the tradition has remained in place for nearly two centuries for the [top 15], it was abandoned after nearly a century-and-a-half for [the Seventy].” As usual, Peggy’s articles are thought-provoking and can cause quite a reaction among all strides in the Mormon spectrum, and I cannot wait for my fall issue of Dialogue to get here to read Prince’s article.

Neon Trees’ Frontman Tyler Glenn is ‘Shameless’ in Provocative New Video: Exclusive Premiere (Billboard)
We have covered Tyler Glenn’s latest album “Excommunication” a few times in the past (including the infamous “Trash” music video, which was a direct shot at the LDS Church), and today Billboard has an interview with Glenn covering his exMormonism, his sexuality, and the album. The interview touches on a few themes in the “Trash” video, including the ExMormon Subreddit fascination with watching the video like a piece of literature…or, as I phrased it in a private Facebook thread, like a group of 14-year olds first discovering “The Catcher and the Rye,” and thinking they are quite deep and intellectual. It’s a quick interesting read.

Vote Hillary Clinton For Family Values (Huffington Post)
Friend-of-the-Report Mette Ivie Harrison discusses the current situation with Mormons and the 2016 election, noting that the traditionally conservative-republican voting bloc might not be the case this year. Harrison makes her case for Hillary being the “family values” candidate, stating “specifically because I believe she upholds many of the family values that I believe are core to Mormonism including: a pro-immigration stance, attention to women’s health care issues, keeping same-sex marriage legal, decreasing poverty, and improving education access for all.” I have been monitoring Utah polling data quite closely, and although polling data isn’t always the best indicator of the outcome (thanks, Nate Silver), it’s really becoming quite interesting to watch. FiveThirtyEight predicts Trump will win (50.6% to Clinton’s 35.2% and Johnson’s 12.0%). The latest polling data I can find is from Sept. 12-19 (published by the Tribune on Sept. 25), showing Trump at 34%, Clinton at 25%, Johnson at 13%, and McMullin at 12%. Personally, I still think Utah will swing Republican and go for Trump, but I think it’s going to be a very tight race.

Boyack – Maybe it’s time to vote on privatizing the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Salt Lake Tribune)
To non-Utahns like myself, hearing about the DABC is quite humorous. Wait, there’s a “Zion’s Curtain” to make sure that restaurant bartenders don’t prepare alcoholic drinks in front of customers? That’s…weird. And that’s the tip of the iceberg for a control state like Utah (one of 18 in the United States)..and this is coming from a practicing Mormon who is a non-alcohol drinker! Well, Connor Boyack, president of The Libertas Institute (a libertarian think tank) offers his take on the DABC in an op-ed at the Salt Lake Tribune and, as libertarians are wont to do, says “Government does a poor job of running a business. Poor management, poor pay and poor morale are all ingrained as part of the DABC, even after several high-profile reboots. The idea that government can somehow fix the very problems that it has created stretches credulity to the breaking point.” Boyack points out that Utah ahs the lowest DUI rate in the nation, but clarifies “not because of forced obedience by government, but because of our core values and our own exercise of liberty.” For those of you who track these things, it’s an interesting take. For the rest of us, it’s the same weird fascination we get when we go into an exotic pet store to gawk at the animals.

Mormon Newsroom highlights social media reaction from members to General Conference (Mormon Newsroom)
From Instagram to Twitter, Mormon Newsroom highlights some of the warm fuzzies people posted during General Conference weekend. Sadly, my commentary and analysis at @TheMormonNews was not featured. Maybe next year, folks.

Faith, U.S. Constitution justify Malheur takeover, Ammon Bundy testifies (The Seattle Times)
In yet another story that won’t seem to die, Ammon Bundy has taken the stand for the second day in his own defense regarding the Jan. 2 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in U.S. District Court. And, in true Bundy form, he let the Mormonism flow freely: “Bundy on Wednesday testified that, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he viewed the U.S. Constitution as a divinely inspired document. While on the witness stand, he kept a pocket copy tucked into his blue prison shirt.” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported “U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown did not allow Bundy to read from scripture when he asked to, but Bundy was allowed to talk about his beliefs that the Constitution is a divinely inspired document created for the “benefit of mankind.””

Mormon Third Party Candidate Pitches Conservative Agenda to Big Utah Crowd (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Zoe Woolf McGinn of the Tribune reports on Wednesday that third-party Presidential candidate Evan McMullin spoke to a “packed library ballroom with over a thousand attendees and more out the door” in Provo. Spoiler alert – he doesn’t like Hillary and, while getting choked up, that he saw “a lack of willingness of Republican leaders to stand up to Donald Trump even as he attacked people of different races and religions, people with disabilities, and anybody else who he found to be vulnerable.” McMullin “Utah-born and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, studied at Brigham Young University before working for the CIA, Goldman Sachs, and the House Republicans in Washington as a senior adviser on national security and, eventually, chief policy director.”

BYU enrollment returns to pre-missionary age change numbers (Daily Herald)
According to Braley Dodson, “BYU’s enrollment has returned to what it was in the fall of 2012, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it was lowering the age required for men and women to serve church missions. Enrollment dropped 10 percent after the announcement. In the fall of 2012, there were 33,336 students enrolled. This fall semester, it is back up at 33,363 students.”

LDS Church influence on Utah lawmakers subtle but significant (Fox13)
Max Roth of Fox13 Salt Lake City covered a recent forum at the Hinckley Institute of Politics discussing the influence of Mormonism on the state of Utah. Two Republican state senators, a Democratic state representative and a Democratic candidate for the State House (all members of the LDS Church) participated in the forum. Try as they might to stay out of politics, State Sen. Todd Weiler and Rep. Brian King both acknowledged that the LDS Church has contacted the men regarding certain issues. Weiler said “I have been a state senator for five sessions, and I can count on both of my hands how many times I’ve been contacted by the LDS Church’s public affairs division,” noting that the three main issues he has been contacted about are gambling, alcohol, and adoption.

True story of “Mormon Yankee” missionary basketball team in Australia in 1950s comes to big screen (KUTV CBS2)
This is a really cool story, and while I could quote from it extensively, you should just read it.

Worldwide, only 25 percent of young single Mormons are active in the LDS Church (Flunking Sainthood)
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess is back with a deeper look inside the Mormon video leaks of high-ranking officials, and like so many others, articulates my thoughts better than I can: “I’m not going to comment on the videos as a whole, except to say that while I am generally an “information wants to be free” kind of person, I oppose the underhanded nature of these videos’ release. It is unfair to have videos of our private conversations released to the world for public consumption without our permission. That’s true for anyone, not just church leaders. That’s just basic.” But the purpose of her column on Wednesday was something that was discovered in one of the videos, specifically regarding the activity rate of young single adults. Riess details some of the stats, and then look a bit more into the “back and forth” of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve in “considering what to do.” Riess makes an astute point: “The other reason I found the back-and-forth depressing is that it seemed clear that the Brethren were promoting bureaucratic solutions to the problem…rather than actually listening to what they have to say about why they are not interested in attending.”

Misty Snow, Utah Democratic Candidate for Senate, says Sen. Mike Lee’s First Amendment Defense Act Puts Faith Before Marriage (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate called the First Amendment Defense Act (S.1598). This bill “[p]rohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” The Tribune’s Matt Canham talked with Lee, who said he “came up with the bill after attending the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage. Justice Samuel Alito, whom Lee once clerked for, asked the solicitor general if the case could result in a religious organization having its tax-exempt status revoked, the way the court had said a university could lose its favored tax status for denying access to interracial couples… Lee immediately thought of Brigham Young University. His bill would stop the federal government from taking action pertaining not just to tax-exempt status, but also to grants, loans, benefits or employment, which would protect student aid for the LDS Church-owned university.” Canham also talked with Misty Snow, Lee’s Utah Democratic rival (and the first transgendered person running for a U.S. Senate seat from a major party), told the “I support religious freedom, but I don’t support discrimination in the name of religion…There is a big difference between those two.” Snow feels this is a basic question of equality: “If you are going to serve somebody, if you are going to open a business, you should treat all of your customers equally or you should probably consider a different career choice.” As of right now, both the Senate version and House version of this bill have only been introduced.

Scout building named for President Thomas S. Monson (Deseret News)
On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America dedicated the Thomas S. Monson Lodge, located at the Hinckley Scout Ranch in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. Previously named the Hinckley Scout Ranch (in honor of Bryant Stringham Hinckley), the newly dedicated $5.5 million , 18,000 square-foot building was made possible by several donors, including the Sorensen Legacy Foundation (primary donor). The DesNews’ Jason Swenson writes “Government, business and religious leaders gathered at the sprawling Uinta Mountains campground Wednesday to dedicate the Thomas S. Monson Lodge. President Monson was unable to attend, but he shared his thoughts about the building and its purposes in a brief recorded message. “May all of us who serve in Scouting be reminded of the need to provide solid foundations upon which our youth can build their lives and serve God, country and their fellow men,” he said.” This is the second building named after President Monson from the Boy Scouts of America, with the first being the Thomas S. Monson Leadership Excellence Complex at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. This facility is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Campaign checks roll in for Utah school board races, including donation from a Mormon apostle’s son (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Because it’s the political season, we get a lot of politics stories. Like this, from Benjamin Wood of the Tribune: “All but two of the 16 school board candidates added to their campaign coffers between June’s primary election and Sept. 30, according to disclosures released on Friday, with most collecting the bulk of their cash contributions during that period. Among the contributors is Quentin L. Cook, of Sandy, who gave $2,500 to District 11 candidate Erin Preston. Cook shares the same name as his father, Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Wood notes “General Authorities of the LDS Church are told not to personally participate in political campaigns — which includes making financial contributions — but that restriction does not apply to local church leaders or members of an apostle’s family, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said.

Michigan State’s Mufi Hill-Hunt embracing ‘God’s plan’ after Mormon mission cut short (
Warning: Homer alert (kinda). Mufi Hill-Hunt is a scout-team player for the Michigan State Spartans football team. Hill-Hunt is also a fellow Mormon who committed to the Spartans on National Signing Day in 2015, with the intention of serving a two-year mission prior to playing. Matt Wenzel of Mlive writes “However, a knee injury suffered before the mission was aggravated while he was serving in Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C. “I hurt myself before, but I thought it was like a bruise,” said Hill-Hunt, who couldn’t watch TV during his mission to keep up with the Spartans. “Then I went on my mission and because I was walking everywhere, it just made it worse. Then one day my knee just (swelled) real bad. Then I got sent home.” Hill-Hunt said his posterior cruciate ligament was completely gone and his medial collateral ligament torn as well. He had surgery in July 2015 – which included using part of his hamstring to make a new PCL – and was given an honorable release from his mission, clearing the path for him to enroll at Michigan State in January and continue his rehabilitation.” The Spartans play BYU this Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ABC and ESPN2

‘Spirit of the Game’ delivers on half its title’s promise (movie review, Daily Herald)
So with the cool story behind the Mormon Yankees depicted in ‘Spirit of the Game’ coming out this week, what do the reviews say? Well, Derrick Clements of the Daily Herald says it’s above average, giving it a C+. Clements writes “’Spirit of the Game’ belongs in the category of Mormon cinema that strives more to tell a story about Mormon characters than it does to convey a sermon for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or to make fun of its peculiarities. It’s a subgenre that seems to be getting more entries lately (as a reviewer and interested observer of this genre, I feel like I’m repeating myself a bit), and it’s a trend I celebrate, but in the unique case of “Spirit of the Game,” the movie’s broadness and its prioritization of culture over dogma actually fuels the movie’s surprise weakness: By skipping the sermons in a movie about missionaries, the characters’ motivations are often muddled, and the result is a movie that has plenty of game, but very little spirit.” Clements also said that the film “lacks the sensitivity those films had in portraying Mormon feelings and motivations.” While I haven’t seen the movie yet (those take a while to come to my neck of the woods, and a 2.5 yr old and a 5 mo. old aren’t condusive to first-run movie reviews), I’m intrigued, because the way Clements describes the movie seems like it might be something I’m interested in. For example, he says “It’s refreshing to see a Mormon movie that doesn’t make fun of missionaries or gloss over the little, tangible hardships they experience daily. It’s a welcome thing to see conflict within a Mormon community, not just between it and the outside world.” That’s a positive in my book, especially compared to some of the earlier cornier films. But he also notes that the Mormon aspect seems to be missing from a lot of it. I wonder if it’s because this film was possibly made for a more mainstream audience?

Man and Wife and Wife: The Dark World of Polygamous Wedding Ceremonies (Broadly via Vice)
Molly Oswaks has been covering Mormon Fundamentalists (and religious fundamentalists) a lot this last year for Vice, and wrote one of the more disturbing articles I have read when she looked into the FLDS baby graveyards back in May. This one has a lot of the same chilling behind-the-scenes details of what life is like for a woman who will be marrying a man in The Order (also known as the Latter Day Church of Christ, or more commonly known as the Kingston Clan). It’s one thing to hear general terms – underage brides, rape, incest, etc in many of these groups. It’s another thing to read the actual experience of Julianna Johnson, 34, who left the Order when she was 21 years old. Johnson was only 15 when she married her then 19-year-old nephew Jacob Kingston.

Court Defeat for Death-Row Inmate Included in Krakauer Book (ABC News)
Ron Lafferty, who was convicted in the 1984 slayings of his sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter after she resisted her husband’s entry into a polygamous group is now one step closer to execution by firing squad after a judge handed down a pair of court defeats on Wednesday. Lafferty’s case was made famous by Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” which detailed some of the radical offshoot sects of the LDS Church.


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