Mormon News Report: 12 April 2017
So here’s the deal: It’s been a packed 5 days in Mormonism, so the News Report is massive. I personally don’t have an issue with a XXL-sized version of the Report, but others might not have the same level of obsession that I do. Therefore, the News Report will be split in two emails – this is the News, and the Blogs will come out tomorrow morning.
Salt Lake Tribune Wins Pulitzer for BYU Sex Assault Stories (Hallie Golden, Associated Press via US News & World Report)
The biggest news of the weekend was the refreshing of an old story, and an award for reporting. The Salt Lake Tribune was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of BYU Sexual Assault stories. Golden writes “The staff at the Utah newspaper won for the series that prompted BYU to revise its policies and say it will stop investigating student victims.”
Rolly: Tribune’s Pulitzer shows the wisdom of keeping Salt Lake City a two-daily town (Paul Rolly, Salt Lake Tribune)
I’m convinced that if it wasn’t for The Tribune and its independent voice, this ongoing story, which resulted in sweeping changes in BYU policies to better protect students, would never have been told. During the coverage, the paper endured heavy criticism as being anti-Mormon. LDS Church public relations officials posted comments on social media condemning The Tribune for “gotcha journalism.” In the end, BYU is now a better institution because of the changes it is making. But if it had been up to the church-owned paper to investigate, those problems still might be there. If I’m bragging about this, I’m sorry. I have worked at The Tribune for more than 40 years and have been in the middle of a few conflicts between the staffs of the two papers. We are different. Our editorial writers largely view issues from different perspectives. That’s good. This community needs those two voices.
Reports of sex assault rise at BYU, but officials say that’s good news (Tad Walch and Annie Knox, Deseret News)
“The number of BYU students reporting sexual assaults is up this semester, but that’s OK because it’s a sign that more of them trust changes made by the school and are getting the help they need, says the administrator who takes the reports.
“It’s very encouraging,” said Tiffany Turley, who became BYU’s first full-time Title IX coordinator in January. “We knew these assaults were happening anyway. Now people are coming to the Title IX office to report them or visiting with the victim’s advocate or going to Women’s Services and Resources and getting help and information about all the resources that are available to help them.””
Salt Lake Tribune wins Pulitzer Prize for campus sex assault reports (Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News)
“This was the third time a Utah newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize. The Deseret News won the coveted prize in 1962, also for local reporting. Robert D. “Bob” Mullins was honored for his story of a murder and kidnapping at Dead Horse Point.
The Salt Lake Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for its coverage of two airliners that crashed over the Grand Canyon.”
Required reading to understand the complexities of the current Joint Operating Agreement between the Deseret News / LDS Church and the Salt Lake Tribune, and specifically this: “When the current JOA runs out in 2020, the DN/Mormon Church will own the presses, own the advertising operation and the printing and distribution operations.” Bernick writes “Can the Pulitzer – certainly well deserved this year – kick start a financial rebirth of the Trib, especially online where its future may lie? Let’s hope so. Winning the highest journalist award on a story involving the most power institution in the state – the LDS Church – should embolden not only Paul Huntsman, the editors and, reporters – but every Utahn who want a journalist arm that can feel free to cover all of the state’s powerbrokers. The Pulitzer couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tribune. Now let’s hope Utahns of all stripes will recognize what a journalistic treasure it has – and financially step up and support “Utah’s Independent Voice.”
Nearly a year later, state investigation continues into BYU police use of county law enforcement database (Jessica Miller, Salt Lake Tribune)
“…recently released records show that in June, DPS [Department of Public Safety] completed an audit showing BYU police were out of compliance in their access of the BCI [Bureau of Criminal Identification records] database, which includes criminal histories, concealed carry permit records and outstanding warrants. The audit, obtained by The Tribune following a records request, says an auditor deemed the errors “non-serious.”…Most of the problems discussed in the audit revolved around officers using BCI for background checks, including the finding that 10 percent of BYUPD’s audited transactions had incorrect purpose codes — a letter officers must enter to describe why they are accessing the database, such as a “C” for an investigative purpose or a “J” for employment purposes. Auditors also found BYU police had frequently run background checks on employees at the school, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sixty-eight percent of searches run with the purpose code “J” were done on “non-users,” people not employed by the police department, auditors found. “Multiple checks were run on employees of the MTC [Mission Training Center] and the library,” auditors wrote. “These are invalid purposes to run criminal history checks on individuals.””
Reports of sexual assault increase at BYU in wake of changes at Title IX office (Lauren Steinbrecher, Fox13)
From January through March, she [Tiffany Turley, Coordinator for the Title IX Office at BYU] said initial numbers show their office took in more student reports of sexual assaults than they did during the same time last year. Most occurred off campus, she said, and in cities like Provo, Orem and Springville. She didn’t have exact numbers, because she said they’re still being tallied. “I think it shows that people trust the Title IX office and the BYU process a little bit more,” she explained.
The Atlantic is a daily read for me, and I was downright shocked to see this one: “In Salt Lake City, Craigslist is an afterthought. If you want to buy or sell a car or a cow or a hot tub in Salt Lake City or in one of the nearby towns in Utah, Wyoming, or Idaho, you go to a local website called KSL Classifieds, which takes its name from local television and radio stations owned by an arm of the Mormon Church.”
An interesting profile piece from the DesNews: Kenyan Amram Musungu is running for president in his home country after living in Salt Lake City for 19 years.” And of course, “Though Musungu was raised in a devout Protestant home, the then-young teen was quickly converted and began sharing his love of the gospel with others. By age 17, special permission was made to call him on his own mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he served in his native land for 27 months.”
Well now – that’s one way to get clicks: “One thing is certain: Porter Rockwell shot and killed Lot Huntington at Faust’s Station on January 16, 1862. All accounts agree on that—but not much more.”
South Idaho police officer charged with sexually abusing young girls (Alex Riggins, Idaho State Journal)
I forgot how much I hated the “Mormons Behaving Badly” section of the News Report: “William Anthon Jansen, 33, of Twin Falls faces four felony counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 and one misdemeanor count of disseminating material harmful to a minor…A teenage girl came forward with the allegations two weeks ago, saying Jansen sexually abused her in 2008 and 2009 when she was between 7 and 9 years old. She told the sheriff’s detective that Jansen also abused at least two other girls – one who has since died, and another who confirmed Jansen abused her when she was 8 years old, in 2005 and 2006…Jansen’s ex-wife told sheriff’s investigators Jansen admitted to “inappropriately touching juvenile girls” and to having sex with a 17-year-old roommate that lived with them while they were married. She also told investigators that Jansen was sent home dishonorably from his Mormon mission “due to a sexual incident that occurred.”…His ex-wife also told detectives Jansen disclosed to his Mormon bishop that “he had inappropriate contact with juveniles.””
Doctor who drugged his wife, left her to die in bathtub, found dead at Utah prison (Susan Hogan, The Washington Post)
I remember covering the original story of Martin Joseph MacNeill and the drugging murder of his wife. MacNeill, “a former Mormon bishop with eight children and a law degree”, was found dead in his cell. “On Sunday, nearly a decade after the killing, 61-year-old MacNeill was found unresponsive and declared dead at the Olympus Facility at the Utah State Prison in Draper, where he was doing time for his 2014 conviction of first-degree murder, second-degree obstruction of justice and second-degree forcible sex abuse.”
LDS Church to close 4 temples in Japan, Paraguay, Oklahoma and Tennessee for renovation (Trent Toone, Deseret News)
“The Oklahoma City Oklahoma, Memphis Tennessee and Tokyo Japan temples will close for extensive renovations in October. One month later, the Asunción Paraguay Temple will do the same. During the closure, each temple will be upgraded for “functionality, efficiency and beauty,” according to Mormon Newsroom. The temples in Paraguay, Oklahoma and Tennessee are expected to be rededicated following an open house in 2019, while the Tokyo Japan Temple is scheduled to be ready in 2020. Church members in these areas are invited to attend neighboring temples during the renovations.”
No spire or Moroni statue for Paris temple? No, it’s French and it’s fine (Scott Taylor, Deseret News)
Sometimes, the weird headlines in the papers amuse me. This is one of them. I’m not sure why they needed to add “and it’s fine,” other than there was some chatter about it NOT being fine by some people, but whatever. “As the by-invitation-only sessions of the Paris France Temple open house begin this week, some of the Mormon faithful viewing images and videos will only notice what isn’t there — a few traditional, expected elements of most temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And by focusing on what isn’t there, they’ll miss appreciating the unique features of the church’s first temple in France.”
“The temple, now complete, will soon begin its monthlong public open house, starting with Thursday’s meeting of dignitaries featuring the warm remarks by the mayor: “We are happy to welcome you,” he said in French. “We will respect you as you respect us, and we will live in harmony.””
Mormon blog opens a new chapter, will now spread the word as a nonprofit book publisher (Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune)
Peggy Fletcher Stack interviewed BCC founder Steve Evans and BCC blogger and Press co-founder Kristine Haglund about their new endeavor, By Common Consent Press. Describing the impetus for the Press, Evans says “What we’re seeing is that online discussions are becoming more and more truncated…People don’t have the patience to listen to thoughtful arguments, which makes discussion of important issues more difficult.” Publishing full-length treatments is an answer to that problem, he says. “With a book — even a short one — you’ve got to think about what the author is saying, engage with it.”
Evans and BCC Press author Michael Austin were interviewed on the “What Say Ye” podcast (Daily Herald), where Evans said “Things aren’t necessarily getting better online…I think if anything, we’re adapting to these forms of media that place an emphasis on immediate emotional reaction. The cumulative effect of that, I think, is that we’re not able to really talk about things in a long, substantive way. We don’t have patience. If you’re trying to get your point across, you just state your point. There’s no such thing as building an argument, considering the other side.”
New Mormon publishing house aims to ‘reach people who feel they don’t have a place’ (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess talked with Evans, who said that the impetus for the press is to raise the level of conversation among Mormons (are you seeing a trend here?): “This all got going because we want to do a better job of having long-form discussion in our church about the big issues of our day,” he explains. “We started blogging fifteen years ago and discussions are just getting worse. By that I mean we’re becoming more and more abbreviated in how we talk with each other. We jump to conclusions about each other. We argue from our preconceived notions instead of really trying to achieve mutual understanding of various points of view.”
“The LDS Church has donated 32 tons of food to aid hundreds of thousands of Peruvians left destitute by torrential spring rains and flooding in the northern region of Piura. The contribution made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes boxes of water, tuna, beans, evaporated milk, rice, noodles and oil, along with plastic to waterproof roofing, the Utah-based faith reported.”
Kirby: God’s will is personal — one believer’s devotion is another’s deviation (Robert Kirby, Salt Lake Tribune)
I have missed one of my favorite reads while on sabbatical – the legend himself, Robert Kirby: “Two guys can believe in the same thing, but just because one of them believes it while wearing a necktie doesn’t mean he automatically occupies the high ground of faith or is more in tune with the Spirit. It could be that conforming to a dress code is simply more important to him than it is to the other guy. Yes, it could also mean that the open-collar guy is a fallen spirit destined for one of the lower kingdoms. My bet is that God doesn’t care one way or the other. It isn’t just Mormons. Hundreds of millions of people believe in the Quran, but only a teensy minority of them want to blow people up. Same with Christians, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, perhaps even the Amish. To be fair, let’s include atheists or nonbelievers as well. If you’re an intolerant @$&*#$ of an atheist, odds are that atheism didn’t make you that way. You were probably an intolerant @$&*#$ to begin with.” Preach, Brother Kirby.
“LGBT Mormons themselves will, ultimately, play the most important role in finding answers to the most difficult questions in the space where Mormon belief and LGBT experience coexist. There may not initially be any one answer that works for everybody, but all can be strengthened and enriched by fostering a space where individuals are free to seek, love, learn and grow into the full measure of their creation. As the LDS Church and as LGBT community organizations are increasingly finding consensus around fostering this middle space, we will all be blessed.”
“Isabel,” the Mormon woman who was set to be deported last week, was deported at 7:00 PM on Friday night. “Isabel” is a practicing Mormon, and KSL notes “Isabel, for her part, received some help this week from her Mormon bishop, who worked with Glenn’s group to draw attention to the deportation. In statements about immigration reform, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said “families are meant to be together” and that forced separation “weakens families and damages society.””
Many may be called, but few women are chosen to speak at Mormon General Conference (Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune)
Peggy Stack looks at the (lack of) female speakers at this last General Conference, and notes the reaction of many at the breaking of tradition that included “at least two female speakers” over the final weekend of General Conference dating back to the early 1990s. Stack writes “So, when it comes to the most recent meetings, was the shortage of women this time intentional or a scheduling oversight? Church spokesman Eric Hawkins had no comment about the number of female sermons, saying only that the governing, three-man First Presidency “assigns the speakers” and “there are no quotas.””
Oh I’ve missed covering Mittens. Look out Utahns…he’s coming to save the Constitution hanging by a thread on his white horse! (And for the record, I hope Mittens understands my sense of good-natured humor towards him, as everything that I’ve heard about him personally is nothing but positive)
More from the “Mormons Behaving Badly” files. “A Mormon missionary drove the length of the country to sex with three children while claiming he was doing “charity work” and would be rewarded by God. But Joseph Shanks, 63 – who lived at the Church of Latter Day Saints missionary home in Chorley – didn’t realise the children’s mother he met online was really an uncover police officer. And when the married father (pictured) turned up to rape his victims – who he thought were aged nine, six and three – he was arrested.” The writing isn’t very clear, but Shanks was serving as a senior missionary with his wife in the area.
Eh? “The title kind of gives you clues of what the story needs to be,” said writer Ed Farnsworth. “In this case, ‘Captain American Fork’ means that this is going to be a story about a local superhero. And so there’s a lot of comedy to be mined with the culture. In particular, the caricatures and the exaggerations of Mormon culture — particularly in Utah County, where it’s especially pronounced.” Farnsworth said that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides some fodder for jokes — but the ribbing has boundaries. “You play off of the stereotype, as opposed to anything that would actually mock things that people hold dear,” he said.
“Bravo for Bernie Farber’s column. Mr. Farber called for Canadian religious leaders to denounce anti-Muslim actions. I believe many Canadian religious leaders have done this. However, because Canada is more and more a secular society, the important messages of religious leaders are often not found in the mainstream media. As an example, top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada made a public statement on Jan. 30 condemning the tragic shooting of “our brothers in worship at the Quebec City mosque last evening.” For the past few years, top Mormon leaders have discussed the importance of religious freedom for everyone.”
Utahns not thrilled with state’s response to Outdoor Retailer staredown, poll shows (Mike Gorrell, Salt Lake Tribune)
Of note: “A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll showed 34 percent of registered voters evaluated the state’s response to Outdoor Retailer complaints as excellent or good, while 23 percent rated it as fair and 31 percent found it poor…Outside of older, wealthier, active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — who gave the governor, Legislature and congressional delegation the highest nods of approval — almost every other categorical breakdown reflected more disapproval than satisfaction” towards the showdown between the Outdoor Retailer convention and the state.
Very sad news from St. George: Darrin Steve Ivie, 53-years old, was killed in a crash on State Route 18 north of St. George Saturday after his truck crossed into oncoming traffic. Ivie serves as a bishop for the LDS Church in Veyo, Utah.
This is weird, tragic, and Mormons Behaving Badly all in one: “In his first police interview after killing the mother of his three children, Richard Kirk seemed high, paranoid and disorganized, according to a 9NEWS expert who watched the interview…“Are you LDS?” was the first question Kirk asked Denver police homicide Det. Troy Bisgard when Bisgard walked into the interview room. LDS is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Kirk said he was a member of the church. At the point Kirk asked the question, it had been less than two hours since Kirk shot his wife…“Let’s go see someone from the church while we do it,” Kirk said to Bisgard. “An attorney from the church?” Bisgard asked. “Do you want to talk to an attorney from the church?” Kirk nodded. Bisgard said, “Okay.”” This feels oddly voyeristic for such a tragic circumstance (Kirk shot and killed his wife in front of his 7-year old son while she was on the phone with 911), and having a forensic psychologist do an “evaluation” on him by watching a video seems just as slimey. But…we all need clicks, right?
“The documentary “Where We Stand” follows a stay-at-home mom who became an advocate for the Ordain Women movement. The College of Southern Idaho’s Student Secular Alliance and Diversity Council will host a 20-minute documentary at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 195 of CSI’s Hepworth building. The film screening and panel discussion are free and open to the public to attend.”
Beyond email: New service helps parents listen to their LDS missionary’s experiences (Breanna Olaveson, Utah Valley 360)
“The idea is simple: On P-days, a missionary calls a toll-free number, talks to a machine for five minutes, then hangs up. A link to the recording is then emailed to the missionary’s friends and family…Those limits are built in to the program with Listen to the Mission: missionaries can only record messages on P-days, they can only record for up to five minutes, and the system is built in a way that missionaries never speak to a live person — their message is simply recorded and emailed home. All mission presidents in the U.S. and Canada were sent a letter explaining the service, and the response was largely positive.” This is a monthly subscription service of $9.95, where a missionary receives 20 minutes of recording time each month. Or…you can buy a cheap digital voice recorder, get a free account with Google Voice and set up those same constraints, or go old school like we used to do and do the mini-cassette tapes. Oh, and let’s hope you’re not serving internationally, or your mission president allows you to do this. But hey, it’s your $9.95 for 20 minutes every month.
Missions receiving new presidents include the México Guadalajara East Mission, Arizona Tucson Mission, Guatemala Guatemala City East Mission, Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission, South Carolina Columbia Mission, Micronesia Guam Mission, California Fresno Mission, and Japan Kobe Mission