Mormon News Report: 28 June 2017

Mormon News Report: 27 June 2017


ThinkProgress reports on faith groups that are coming out against the Republican healthcare bill, noting “On June 9, a group of 34 religious organizations sent a letter to Congress begging them to keep the federal health care program intact.” What of the Mormons? “And while more theologically conservative groups have not voiced opposition to the bill, they’ve remained unusually quiet. Representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm all either declined to comment or did not respond to requests from ThinkProgress.”
This undated photo provided by Heather Kester, shows Savannah, whose mother requested only her first name be used and who is a young Mormon girl that told her congregation during a Sunday service she is a lesbian before her microphone was turned off by local church leaders. Savannah's emotional speech is sparking a new round of discussions about how the conservative religion handles LGBT issues. (Heather Kester via AP)
When I first read Mark Staal’s opinion pieces about current events in Mormonism, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, frankly, I expected some tame, tepid takes that pandered to a constituency. Then I actually read his commentary, and found him to have great wit, a great insight to Mormon culture, and snark that even makes me proud. Mark takes on the recent Savannah testimony meeting kerfuffle and acknowledges that it was bound to happen.
Wherein the Deseret News combs Twitter to find “HILARIOUS” modern-day merit badges. I’ll give credit where credit is due – some of them got a sensible chuckle out of me, but “hilarious” is a bit of a stretch. I know. I’m a party-pooper.
Welp. “Federal prosecutors in Atlanta said in a news release Tuesday that 50-year-old Travis Ball sent threatening letters to the State Bar of Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Ball was serving a sentence for arson in the Coffee County Correctional Facility in Nicholls when he mailed the letters in April 2016. The letters contained a granular substance and said, “have some anthrax.” The letter to the state bar threatened to kill all lawyers, while the letter to the Latter-Day Saints Church in Utah threatened to kill Mormons and burn their churches.
Juneteenth Black Caucus
Juneteenth is is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States. Celebrated on June 19, the word is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”. Members of the California Congressional Black Caucus gathered to celebrate Juneteenth with a family history event. According to Mormon Newsroom, “Family history volunteers were on hand to assist lawmakers in accessing digitized Post Civil War-era records of the Freedmen’s Bureau and other family history resources provided by FamilySearch International, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Forty African American judges from across California also participated in the event.”
Want to see some of the nasty that creeps up in weird pockets of online Mormonism? Here’s one – the blog TwentyTwo Words looks at Mormon blogger Ayla, her tweets, and her growing popularity among the alt-right for her views on race. There have been a few dustups on Twitter with her and other Mormons (specifically this ridiculous exchange between APurposefulWife and Deseret Book authors Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith, aka the Sistas in Zion http://religionnews.com/2017/05/30/the-new-face-of-mormon-racism/). This is why we can’t have nice things.
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess is back looking at the latest data from the Public Religion Research Institute about the changing opinions on same sex marriage among religious groups. While we covered a few of the stats yesterday, Jana has a great way with words and bringing it back to the Mormons – for example, Riess found an 11-point drop in opposition to same-sex marriage over just one year (66% to 55%), with a corresponding 11-point rise in support (26% to 37%), younger Mormons are more supportive of same-sex marriage (showing a 20 point difference between older and younger Mormons, and finally, most Mormons now reject the idea that small business owners can refuse service to members of the LGBT community. If you like arts and charts, this is your post.
The First Presidency announced yesterday it will be closing 3 temples for renovation next year: the Mesa Arizona temple, the Raleigh North Carolina temple, and the Baton Rouge Louisiana temple. North Carolina and Louisana will reopen in 2019, while Mesa will reopen in 2020.
President Dieter F. Uctdorf posted a 30 year old video on his Facebook page of an interview he gave when the Frankfurt Germany temple was first dedicated. Pres. Uchtdorf is someone who has aged incredibly gracefully and hasn’t yet hit his peak for his looks at age 76, while I seemed to hit my peak at age 16 (and its been a steady downhill decline since then)
Medical Marijuana has been a very hot topic in Utah for the last few years, and with the current ballot initiative in Utah, the LDS Church weighed in via Ben Winslow at Fox13: “Lawmakers across the country have wrestled with whether to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. This discussion raises legitimate questions regarding the benefits and risks of legalizing a drug that has not gone through the well-established and rigorous process to prove its effectiveness and safety. During the 2017 legislative session, a bill was passed that appropriately authorized further research of the potential benefits and risks of using marijuana. The difficulties of attempting to legalize a drug at the state level that is illegal under Federal law cannot be overstated. Accordingly, we believe that society is best served by requiring marijuana to go through further research and the FDA approval process that all other drugs must go through before they are prescribed to patients.”
I’ve always been intrigued at the non-Mormon experience in places like Utah, and especially Provo, and especially BYU. Eleanor Cain talked with non-Mormon students and faculty about their experience. Among the advice they give to LDS students, “Don’t make judgements or assumptions, be open-minded and ask questions, and keep your own position but have respect.” A very good piece, and somethign I’m very happy to see in the BYU campus newspaper.
Autostraddle is “an intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community for multiple generations of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends).” Blogger Dera discsused her experience being raised as a Mormon and details “That one time the patriarchy blessed me.”
This is mostly about the values of different college degrees, but there is a very interesting Mormon connection made first by BYU English professor Nicholas Mason: “Last month my 14-year-old son rode to and from our LDS stake’s youth conference with the bishop of a neighboring congregation who has enjoyed a long and successful career in business. Commendably, this leader used the trips up and back to encourage his captive audience of teenage boys to prioritize earning a college degree, at one point asking them each to identify a prospective undergraduate major. Less commendably, he set one ground rule: “Just don’t tell me English or something similarly worthless.” The rest of the piece is very good (but no additional Mormon connections), and I will say this – I’m married to an English major. That degree is anything but worthless.