Mormon News Report: 30 June 2017

Mormon News Report: 30 June 2017


The Sneddon family are members of the Mormon church. David served as a missionary in South Korea before he disappeared on a trip to China.
With the release (and death) of Otto Warmbier from North Korea back into US Custody, Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio profiles the story of David Sneddon, a Logan [Utah] resident who went missing in 2004 on a backpacking trip through China. The family first thought this to be a tragic accident, but now believes that Sneddon was kidnapped, and according to groups in Japan and North Korea, Sneddon was taken to be the personal English teacher of North Korean head Kim Jong-Un. Sneddon served a two-year LDS mission to South Korea before leaving on the ill-fated backpack trip.
Sarah Jane Weaver profiles Sharon Eubank, former head of LDS Charities and current member of the Relief Society General Presidency. This is a very good piece detailing much of President Eubank’s professional career, something that isn’t always highlighted with female LDS leaders. I have heard nothing but positives from people I know who have associated with Eubank, and this piece was just the tip of the iceberg for Eubank’s accomplishments.
We included coverage of Erik Hughes’ arrest on allegations of sexually abusing two young boys while bishop earlier this week. Connor Richards of The Daily Utah Chronicle (University of Utah’s newspaper) looks at the coverage of both the Hughes allegations and others involving local Mormon leadership, and writes “Status, prestige or title do not grant immunity from the law, and do not justify special treatment in regards to criminal justice. Narratives and news stories that frame those accused of violent and sexual crimes as good, decent people discourage victims from coming forward. This type of framing allow for abuse to go unnoticed and unpunished. It coddles abusers and silences survivors…Having elected judges and professional news reporters praise accused rapists certainly will not help this. Journalists and news publications, elected official and judges, and general members of the public alike should make an effort to not let prestigious titles, like bishop or priest, prevent us from appropriately reacting to abhorrent behavior. Hughes is presumed innocent until positively proven to be guilty, and he will have his day in court. Until then, everyone should hold back on celebrating and lionizing a man being accused of sexually abusing minors.”
The David Sneddon-North Korea kidnapping isn’t the only incident we are following – the St. George News has an update on Utahn Joshua Holt, who was arrested in Venezuela over a year ago on a possession of weapons charge. Holt initially went to Venezuela to marry an LDS woman he met online in 2016. After their honeymoon, it was the couple’s plan to return to the United States; however, he was arrested and charged with possession of weapons. Authorities contend Holt was stockpiling weapons in his wife’s Caracas apartment. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has been working to engage government officials in both the Obama and Trump administrations to have Holt released. Hatch said in a statement “This Friday marks one year since Josh Holt was unjustly taken captive in Venezuela. It’s a devastating anniversary, but an important time to remind Josh and his family that we are still anxiously engaged in the fight for his freedom.”
One of the things I don’t particularly care for regarding the Mormon treatment of pioneers is the hyperbolic extremes we use to decribe them. I’m thinking along the lines of Youth Pioneer Treks, where youth are sometimes reinacting the most negative dramatic experiences of pioneers. We can probably all name them – I have heard stories where youth were given broth and stale bread only to eat their entire trek expeirence, or girls carrying a 10lb bag of flour (symbolizing a baby) and then having to “bury” the flour, and other extremes. I’m not a blind optimist – of course those things happened (though I would contend not at all to the level that some well-meaning Trek coordinators think), but the pioneers were also an industrial people who did take an optimistic view of the world (think “We’ll find the place, that God for us prepared, far away, in the West.”) Sarah Harris of the Church News (via the Deseret News) looks at some of the pranks and humor that took place while the pioneers make the trek west.
The Church News is busy – Sarah Jane Weaver covers the New Mission President’s Seminar, which took place last weekend. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, did have a few interesting tidbits. He said that the LDS Church is “in an unusual and extremely important in our missionary work,” and based that on 4 reasons:
1.) Convert baptisms have plateaued
2.) Advancements in technology accelerating the work
3.) A need to protect youth (the rising generation is subject to increasing temptations and distractions, including technological distractions, decerased opportunities for youth to learn how to work and family disunity)
4.) The increased diversity in mission circumstances being an example of new complications in the supervising, calling, training and oversight of missionaries
If anyone is looking for some easy podcast content, I think a fascinating episode would be to deep-dive on each of those concepts and explore the complexities of things. For example, could the missionary age change for males down to age 18 (and the subsequent earnestness of young men and families to go earlier) play a factor in youth not having opportunities to “learn how to work”?

Elko County Courthouse
From the Mormons Behaving Badly files: “Kalvin A. Pedersen, 18, was bound over to Elko District Court on three counts of lewdness with a child under 14. According to a criminal complaint filed March 21, Pedersen allegedly touched a 7-year-old victim “in a wrong way” in an empty classroom at the LDS church on Boyd-Kennedy Road in November. A separate criminal complaint filed April 10 stated that a 12-year-old victim told police Pedersen allegedly touched her in a sexual manner on five separate occasions at a residence in Spring Creek, the last incident being in October.”
State Senator Evan Vickers “has been at the forefront of the Legislature’s exploration of medical marijuana,” according to Utah Public Radio. However, Vickers thinks the newest ballot initiative in Utah will meet some opposition from many of groups – and you all know where this is going. “You’re going to see the Utah Medical Association come out and pose an opposition…You’re going to see the LDS Church most likely come out in opposition, you’re going to see law enforcement, you’re going to see health and behavioral sciences and drug abuse people. You’re going to see all of those groups come out in opposition. Where it ends up, I don’t know.” We reported earlier this week the LDS Church did come out in opposition, stating that “society is best served by requiring marijuana to be subject to the same research and FDA scrutiny as other drugs before being permitted for medical use.”
News from Rexburg – the Family History Center in the David O. McKay library on the campus of BYU-Idaho will be closing on July 31. The Center will transition to the Family History Center in downtown Rexburg, as the university cited space concerns.
Ex-CIA Agent, BYU Alumnus and fellow Mormon Kevin Mallory claimed in court that he tried to expose the Chinese intelligence scheme, not acted as a traitor. According to Mallory’s attorney, “We are here because Mr. Mallory repeatedly sought out government agents to provide information…It makes no sense, if Mr. Mallory sought to secretly betray his government. . . . These are not the actions of someone who is trying to hide.” Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post writes “Members of Mallory’s church, a Chinese-speaking Mormon congregation, vouched for him in letters and came to court in support.”
Via the Fiji Sun: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has donated 296 more wheelchairs to the Spinal Injury Association of Fiji. Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Veena Bhatnagar said: “On behalf of the Fijian Government, let me thank you most sincerely for meeting a great need for persons with disabilities.”