Mormon News Report: 5 July 2017

Mormon News Report: 30 June 2017


 Medicinal Marijuana in Utah (Multiple)
Fresh this morning from UtahPolicy.com comes a poll of “Political Insiders” discussing a growing discussion in the Beehive state: medicinal marijuana. “Our “Political Insider” panel is fairly certain the group will gather the more than 113,000 signatures needed to win a place on the 2018 ballot. However, the Republicans and Democrats on our panel don’t think voters will approve the measure next year. 55% of the Republicans who answered our survey said the initiative would not pass. 61% of the Democrats who responded said the medical marijuana initiative would fail at the ballot box. However, 77% of our readers say it will pass.” Many of the selected verbatim answers regarding if the initiative would pass revolved around the involvement of the LDS Church.
From the Deseret News, I’m surprised by this piece simply because of the tone of the paper and the conclusion of reporter Ashley Stilson: “”A survey by the California-based opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates says nearly 3 in 4 Utahns support a medical cannabis ballot measure, and 51 percent believe approval for medical use of marijuana in Utah is “”inevitable””…But Derek Monson, director of public policy for the conservative Salt Lake-based think tank Sutherland Institute, said the survey was one-sided and didn’t show respondents the full scope of the situation. “”Basically, you’re asking people, ‘Do you want to give people who are in serious and chronic illnesses more options?’ And of course everyone would want to do that,”” Monson said. “”Without all the facts, people understandably answer questions like they did on that poll.”” Essentially, both stories are pointing to a very interesting showdown in Utah – if left to their own devices, it appears by multiple polls that Utahs are in support of a ballot initiative for medicinal marijuana. However, once the LDS Church offers their stance, that support backs off. The interesting thing is that the LDS Church isn’t directly opposing it compared to other initiatives – while their stance of requiring further research is a conservative one, some might say (myself included) that response is actually progressive for the Church to take.
Freedom Festival Grand Parade comes through downtown Provo 01
I was hoping to have as close to a firsthand account of the Provo Freedom Festival parade, as my wife and daughters were in Utah visiting family and went to join the festivities. While the parade in general isn’t that noteworthy, the exclusion of Encircle LGBTQ Family and Youth Resource Center in Provo did make news. “According to Encircle representatives, the nonprofit organization had previously been approved to walk in the parade, but its application was revoked Monday by parade organizers. According to the Provo Freedom Festival’s website, the parade is an event to “promote patriotism and traditional family values.” Stephenie Larsen, executive director of Encircle, shared via the group’s Facebook page that the parade’s organizers said Encircle could not walk in the parade because it was classified as an advocacy group.” Of an additional Mormon note, missionaries from the Provo and Orem missions were included in the parade.
Erie Canal1.jpg
200th Anniversary of Construction of Erie Canal (Multiple)
Construction began on the Erie Canal 200 years ago on July 4, 1817. Surprisingly, there are Mormon connections to the Erie Canal, and a few national magazines picked up on those connections. The Smithsonian’s Lorraine Boissoneault writes that the Canal was a hotbed of social experimentation. “Take Mormonism, for example. Palmyra, a canal town, was home to Joseph Smith—the prophet who originated the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just 25 miles south of Palmyra is Seneca Falls, which hosted a convention of women in 1848 that spurred the suffragist movement. There were plenty more besides: Seventh Day Adventists began practicing their beliefs in canal towns, as did the utopian Oneida Community.”
Olivia Waxman of Time look at 6 facts about the Canal, and her Mormon reference? “It shaped the history of Mormonism. Mormons believe that the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and told him about the Book of Mormon at the Hill Cumorah in the early 1820s, near what’s now Palmyra, N.Y. The town was located along the canal route, and the Smith family had lived there since Joseph was 10, having moved from Vermont in hopes that they could claim a chunk of the prosperity generated by the Erie Canal. The area was also home to a religious revival that, amid the focus on wealth, attempted to remind people of what’s important in life. ” The Smiths lost out on the prosperity, but they took advantage of the excitement to found a new and uniquely American religion,” says Jack Kelly, author of Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal. “Mormonism began in Palmyra, but the Latter-Day Saints soon moved westward, first to Ohio, then to Missouri and Illinois.”
“Zion’s Curtain” is something that, as an outsider to Utah, has always been really weird. Essentially, it’s a glass partition that separate restaurant bartenders preparing alcoholic drinks from the customers who order them. These partitions are often made of frosted glass since they are required to be “solid, translucent, [and] permanent.” They were mandated in hopes of combating excessive drinking by keeping alcohol out of sight of restaurant patrons who choose not to consume alcohol. H.B. 442, an amendment to Utah’s alcohol laws, means some of those partitions can come down, and NPR has the story. There’s just a minor Mormon reference in this story, but this story has major Mormon themes as the LDS Church has been very involved in alcohol laws in Utah, including a Mormon Newsroom statement in 2014 that discourages “chipping away” of the current laws by Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
While there were quite a few things that I missed from my Mormon News sabbatical, one of the biggest ones was Robert Kirby and his on-point snark. His focus today? The changing dress code policies at the Church Office Building. “Forty years is the average time it takes for the church to institute a change to something the rest of the world already considers old-fashioned. It happened with missionaries wearing fedoras, women wearing pioneer dresses, and facial hair on both. Let’s synchronize our calendars, shall we? Won’t be long now before bishops can start having mustaches again. Not like mine, of course. Little, tiny Hitler ones at first, then maybe an extra half-inch on the sideburns. Beards? Who knows? The important thing to remember is that you can be your own change. As long as you can stand the sidelong glances from others, wear whatever you want to church. It’s not THAT important. Unless, of course, you’re expecting a paycheck instead of just blessings. Then you better stick with the program.”
Coverage of the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents continues at the Deseret News as R. Scott Lloyd covers Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s address to the incoming presidents. Of note is a typically great Jeffrey R. Holland story, but from my perspective, nothing newsworthy to note.
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess is back at Religion News Services asking a question that has been bandied around these parts of the internet since at least the early days of the Bloggernacle, the early days of the listserv email lists, the early days of independent periodicals, and even earlier. “Where are the Mormon Shakespeares and Michelangelos?” Covering the Mormon Arts festival in New York City, Riess writes “What I came away with in that talk was that community is the Mormon Shakespeare. The “lone genius” paradigm is not our jam. That’s not to say we don’t have immensely talented individuals in our midst, many of whom I have been privileged to meet here at the festival. But it means that Mormons’ peculiar gift is for pulling together, believing that our individual efforts are part of something bigger. That we have a responsibility to nurture one another. Right now at the festival I am listening to musician Nathan Thatcher introduce fellow Mormon artist Francisco Estévez, whom he assiduously tracked down in Spain when he first discovered Estévez’s music. Thatcher is visibly excited at the joy of introducing this composer, about whom he has now written a book.”
His Mormonism aside, Bryce Harper is one of my favorite baseball players to watch, mostly because he’s great, but he’s also got a refreshing rebellious streak against the baseball old-timers, he’s flamboyant, and I’ll admit it – I’m jealous of his hair. Heavy.com profiles his wife, Kayla Harper, and wouldn’t you know it – their Mormonism gets a mention: “Harper and Kayla are both Las Vegas natives and are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Kayla has a link to the Church’s website in her Instagram profile. When the couple finally tied the knot in December 2016, they chose to have the ceremony at the famous San Diego Mormon Temple. In a 2014 interview with the Washington Post, Harper said he follows the Mormon tradition of abstaining from alcohol. He has a strong belief in protecting his body. “My body is what I work with,” Harper told the Washington Post. “It’s not just sitting behind a desk and I have to use my hands all day. It’s my body. This is what I have to do every single day. I come in, and I have to feel good. If you’re going out and drinking and partying, you’re not going to feel good the next day. I want to get my eight hours and be able to eat good meals and not be sluggish or anything like that. My body is my temple, and I’ve always thought that.”
A polygamist is running for Mayor of Herriman, Utah. Nate Carlisle profiles potential candidate Joe Darger, and Big Love (what is this, 2007?) gets brought up again.
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for the FLDS Church. Lyle Jeffs (brother of Warren Jeffs, bishop in the FLDS Church and “special advisor” to his brother was arrested on June 30 in connection with labor violations (fines resulting in $1.96m). And now, this, from Fox13: Elissa Wall married her 19-year old cousin at age 14 in a ceremony conducted by Warren Jeffs. Wall is seeking as much as $22 million from Jeffs and two corporate entities tied to the FLDS Church.The hearing has ended, and Third District Court Judge Keith Kelly said “I have a lot to deliberate,” but did not say when he would rule on the case.
And if that wasn’t bad enough for the FLDS, this popped up in the Deseret News: “The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is investigating a possible E. coli outbreak in Hildale, officials announced on Facebook Saturday. The outbreak is confined to a small area with negligible risk to the rest of the community, the post states. Officials were not releasing the specific location of the outbreak area while the investigation is ongoing.” Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona are twin cities and are known as Shortcreek, home to the FLDS Church
Gerry Avant was honored by the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for her 45 years of service to the LDS Church newspaper “Church News,” serving as a pioneer for women journalist in the LDS Church publication wing.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Ask Ann advice column has a Mormon connection this week: My brother has recently converted from Mormonism to a form of Islam and tries to convert everyone he meets. We can’t uninvite him to the reunion, but the last time he came, he spoiled everything. Advice?
Mormon Newsroom covers the interfaith efforts of the Washington D.C. Stake in holding a Mormons and Muslim Iftar event.
So I’ll warn you – this is really weird. And it’s HBO. There’s a new horror anthology coming out from HBO and filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass called “Room 104.” Each episode follows a new guest in their own hotel room. It’s…weird. And yet – there’s a Mormon connection coming in Episode 7: “The Missionaries,” which debuts on Friday, Sept 8 from 11:30 – Midnight. From the synopsis: “Two young Mormon missionaries (Adam Foster, Nat Wolff) test the boundaries of their faith. Written by Mark Duplass; directed by Megan Griffiths.” The trailer shows a bit of the missionary interaction, and I’ll admit – I’m intrigued. Obviously the premise is way out there (I don’t think missionaries would be living in a hotel or motel), but … the themes are fascinating, and I want to see if they legitimately explore them or just do a surface-level examination. Thirty minutes is tough to fully flesh those out, but we’ll see. Look for a review after the episode premiers.
So a head’s up on this one: the No Sacred Cows blog by David G. McAfee is an atheist blog on the Patheos blog network. He looks at the tragic death of 2-year old Abraham Royal, who was left sleeping in a car in St. George Utah for 6 hours when the outside temperature was approximately 106 degrees while the family attended a religious meeting for a family reunion. McAfee makes some big leaps as to the religious nature of things and goes after commenters in a Mormon-themed Facebook group for, in his words, comments that “seemed to justify the negligence of the parents, presumably because of a shared faith.” In my mind, it really is a case of “Everyone is Awful.” I don’t want to pontificate with my take on what happened, because I don’t know. As a parent of a 3.5 year old and 1 year old, it breaks my heart that this happened. However, I will say this – Abraham passed away on June 24, 2017. I’m sure the authorities are looking into the matter – the KSL piece says “Investigators said the incident appears to be “a tragic accident.” It will be screened by the Washington County Attorney’s Office as a matter of protocol, the sheriff’s office said.” So how about we get off the soapboxes for, you know, at least a couple of weeks before you jump on your atheism crusade. Have some humanity.
OpEd in the Salt Lake Tribune from Johnny Townsend: “LGBTQ Literature for Mormons.” One quote I really liked: “The truth is that Mormons should support all LDS art and literature more fully. And this means reading work other than that published solely by Deseret Book. Intellectual and progressive Mormons enjoy reading history and non-fiction, but facts alone tell a mere fraction of the story. It is the lived experience illustrated in various forms of literature that reveal the most to us. It is the difference between reading a scholarly article on the Holocaust versus watching “Schindler’s List.””