Mormon News Report: 4 April 2017

Welcome back to the Mormon News Report! What started as a brief sabbatical turned into a very long sabbatical, and I dare say I missed covering the news. So, without further ado, lets get into it!

While there were many interesting tidbits from this last weekend’s General Conference, the one receiving the most attention was the announcement of 5 new temples: Brasilia, Brazil, the greater Manila area of the Philippines, Nairobi, Saratoga Springs, Utah and Pocatello, Idaho. This brings the total number of operating temples (155) and temples announced or under construction (27) to 182 temples. The Brasilia temple is the 10th announced temple in Brazil, the Greater Manila temple is the 2nd in the Philippines, while the Nairobi Kenya temple marks the 8th temple in Africa (3 operating, 2 under construction, and 2 announced). Pocatello’s temple is just the 4th in Idaho, while the Saratoga Springs temple brings Utah’s count to 18.
A refugee advocacy group in Salt Lake City has been conducting legal training sessions to assist refugees in understanding the new Trump administration’s immigration policies. Hallie Golden of the AP writes “Most Utah residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many feel a connection with refugees because the state was founded by Mormon pioneers who crossed the country looking for a safe place to settle and practice their religious beliefs without interference.”
In KSL’s coverage of the bomb blast, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins confirms “All missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the St. Petersburg, Russia, area were safe and accounted for Monday morning.”
Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, and former counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency was interviewed on KUTV’s “Person 2 Person.” Host Maren Jensen talked with Dew about her professional career, her family life (Dew is not married, and described it as “deeply painful”), and her new book “Worth the Wrestle,” which addresses struggles and questions that people may have in their lives (available through…you guess it…Deseret Book).
In KSL’s coverage of the Colombia mudslide, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins confirms “All missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Mocoa, Colombia, area were safe and accounted for Monday morning”
Friend-of-the-Report Mette Ivie Harrison has a piece today discussing Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ General Conference address detailing the LDS views of the godhead, and details her experience “reaching for Heavenly Mother at the end of [her] prayer.” Harrison writes “I find that this new touch of the divine feminine is part of the reason that I came back to belief in God, and the lack of it is perhaps part of the reason that I lost that belief.”
Elder Cordón’s General Conference address has been receiving quite a bit of play from a few sources over the last 24 hours, and it hasn’t been good. Sarah K. Burris has the headline “WATCH: Mormon leader explains why children must go hungry so the church can have money” and Michael Stone at the Progressive Secular Humanist blog on Patheos analyzes Elder Cordon’s speech, writing “It is unclear if Cordón is being honest, or merely making up a story meant to convince followers that they must tithe no matter what. And while the story might make some sort of sick and twisted sense to someone lost in the cult, from the outside the whole thing is an apt demonstration of the profound immorality made possible by religious superstition. Bottom line: Putting the financial needs of a church ahead of the basic needs of your children is morally irresponsible at best. The fact that a church leader would stand up and make such a recommendation is simply despicable.” While I think those are unfair assessments of Cordon’s talk, I also wish we would cool it a bit in the LDS Church when it comes to these dramatic stories. There’s many avenues to make sure we don’t have situations like this, and we seem to have a tendency within the Church to take the extreme and make it the norm.
The Provo City Center Temple (which I fondly refer to as the Tempernacle) has been operational for one year, after the old Provo Tabernacle was destroyed by a fire in 2010. From Daniel Woodruff’s report at KUTV, the decision to place a temple in the heard to downtown Provo was not only a benefit to the faithful in the area, but business as well. Justin Williams, ower of Rockwell Ice Cream Company told Woodruff “Every day we have someone coming in in Sunday clothes. The temple certainly helps in bringing people in.” A new 133-room Hyatt Place hotel is also under construction blocks away from the temple. Woodruff writes “The LDS church wouldn’t say how many people have visited the temple during the last year. The city of Provo didn’t have any numbers either. “There’s no exact science that can tell us,” said [Provo] Mayor [John] Curtis, “but the feeling in the air is that it’s been significant.””
LDS General Conference Photo Galleries (Deseret News)
Ever since I was a missionary in South Korea, I have always loved the photos included the General Conference edition of the Ensign. The Deseret News has you covered with Saturday AM, Saturday PM, Sunday AM, and Sunday PM galleries.
A great unsigned editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune looked at one of the overarching themes of LDS General Conference weekend, referencing Edward R. Murrow’s denouncement of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare, and writing “The LDS leaders who carried a similar message over the weekend mentioned no person, party or political philosophy by name. Whether out of conviction or fear of losing their tax-exempt status, or both, church leaders generally steer clear of overt political pronouncements…There are many things, spiritually and politically, that warrant serious concern, attention and action. But acting out of fear causes people, communities and nations to take rash actions that only make things worse. Those who want to lead us, whether they be religious or secular, must always see that, and urge their followers to see it, too.” This was very good, and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed this theme over the weekend.
Shameless plug – I do a monthly podcast with my friend Brian discussing the latest happenings in Mormon Studies over the last month. I’m not going to sugar coat it – we get really nerdy. Like, geek out over new primary source documentation books and talk in high pitched voices about forthcoming conferences and call-for-papers nerdy. The good news is, I get the nerdiness out with him instead of my wife so I don’t have to subject her to it. Anyways, it’s a thing.
Speaking of hyper-niche nerding out, I really love all that Matt Martinich does with the LDS Church Growth blog, and I’ve got to imagine General Conference weekend is like his equivalent of Wrestlemania. Matt has some preliminary analysis of the latest Church statistics on his site now, with a promise that “more analysis to follow in the coming days.”

“This conference has provided even more evidence that Church leaders disapprove of Trumpism. To have four apostles, who are among the highest ranking clergy in the faith, speak in such forceful terms against the hatred that Trump is propagating may be unprecedented in the history of the Church. And it should inspire Church members who support Trump, and other policies of hatred and division (the Left’s not immune!), to engage in some serious introspection about the ideologies to which they lend their support.”
“I couldn’t help but notice that only one talk out of twenty-seven in the course of eight hours this weekend was given by a woman. Of course there are arguments to be made, reasons, justifications, but as a 33-year old woman fighting hard to use my voice and find examples to pattern my voice after, particularly within the church, I don’t much care about any of the explanations that might be given. The fact is that this vast oversight is hurtful. But beyond hurtful, which I can work through on my own, it is disempowering. It sends a message, intentional or not, to not only me, but my children who sat in their forts and did their best to watch with us, that women do not have a place, except in the darkened seats of the audience where they can listen.”
“In a Facebook Group recently the topic of the ownership of the Kirtland Temple came up. I thought I would take a shot at a (very) brief sketch of the first part of the subject.” This whole post is very good, and was in reference to this image of a disrespectful and tacky comment card received at the Kirtland Temple.

“As others have noted the age change for missionaries may well be primarily about helping the missionaries themselves. I’ve not seen any statistics on how many people fall away from Church between the time they graduate high school and the time they could go on a mission. The theory is that there were enough that this might change the retention rate for young men in particular. I’ll confess I’m skeptical. I’d bet few of those that fell away were apt to go on a mission at 18 given the chance. However if the policy stays in place for a few more years it’d suggest it is having an effect on retention of youth even if it is hurting missionary work. The one worry is the absolute number of converts. Other than a large dip in the early naughts, the number of converts has remained reasonably consistent since the late 90’s. That means we’ve not experienced geometric growth for quite some time. However the past two years has seen consecutive drops in absolute numbers of converts. While others might disagree I tend to see that as tied to the age change. We were able to keep it from happening initially just because of the large number of missionaries (partially due to demographics and partially due to the age change). Now that the absolute numbers of missionaries has dropped we’re more easily seeing the effect.”

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