The Common Good

Blog Posts By Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune)

Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 21 weeks 6 days ago
Let’s be clear: April Fools’ Day is not a religious holiday.It does, however, trace its origins to a pope.The day began, most believe, in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” — named after himself — which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to Jan. 1.The change was published widely, explains Ginger Smoak, an expert in medieval history at the University of Utah, but those who didn’t get the message and continued to celebrate on April 1 “were ridiculed and, because they were seen as foolish, called April Fools.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 23 weeks 6 days ago
Mormon women seeking tickets to the faith’s general priesthood session next month will not only be denied access to that all-male meeting, but also may be shut out of Salt Lake City’s historic Temple Square altogether.On Monday, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally rebuffed Ordain Women’s second push for entrance to the priesthood session and urged the grass-roots group to “demonstrate” instead in “free-speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints.”LDS officials also are barring news media cameras from the square during their two-day General Conference, which the church says is “consistent with long-standing policy.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 25 weeks 5 days ago
When Mormon leaders sense a decline of moral standards in the world, they roll out sermons on modesty.In the 1960s and early ’70s, they preached against miniskirts and hot pants; in today’s sex-drenched society, it’s spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, and skinny jeans.The message remains largely the same: Cover up, lest you cause the males around you to sin.It’s often couched in the rhetoric of “virtue” and usually aimed at young women, even girls.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 28 weeks 5 days ago
On Valentine’s Day, American husbands and wives of every age, faith, and region will shower their beloveds with symbols of undying affection — flowers, chocolates, moonlit dinners, kisses.The annual Feb. 14 lovefest is also a popular time for elaborate engagements, with picturesque proposals and pricey jewelry.But any link between love and matrimony is relatively recent, said Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.And a radical one at that.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 29 weeks 6 days ago
In Northern California, the image of Mormon missionaries in dark suits and white shirts, knocking on doors at inconvenient times, is being replaced by the sight of these name-tag-wearing twosomes in blue jeans and T-shirts, hoeing gardens, scrubbing off graffiti, dishing out food in homeless shelters, and reading with refugees.It’s part of the LDS Church’s recognition that its long-held practice of “tracting,” going door to door handing out church materials and delivering religious messages, is no longer effective. Now few people are home during the late morning and early afternoon, and those who are may not want to be disturbed.“The world has changed,” LDS apostle L. Tom Perry said in June 2013. “The nature of missionary work must change if the Lord will accomplish his work.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 47 weeks 4 min ago
SALT LAKE CITY — It is wrong to assume that Mormons who leave the faith “have been offended or lazy or sinful,” a top leader told members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday during the church’s 183rd Semiannual General Conference.“It is not that simple,” said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church’s governing three-man First Presidency.Some struggle with “unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past,” Uchtdorf explained. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 49 weeks 3 days ago
After keeping quiet while Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and others approved gay marriage, Mormon leaders are once again speaking up — but with a new, post-Proposition 8 tone and emphasis.This time, it’s in Hawaii, which is poised to debate proposed legislation making same-sex marriage legal.In a letter dated Sept. 15 and read to congregations across the state, Hawaii Mormon leaders urged members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to “study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 3 weeks ago
Jerry Argetsinger never felt a twinge of tension between being gay and being Mormon.Nobody talked about homosexuality in his Oregon congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was growing up in the 1960s. Nobody asked him about his attractions. Nobody made cruel or even not-so-subtle comments about him. Nobody made him feel guilty.It came as a bit of a shock, then, when Argetsinger was beginning his sophomore year at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University in 1965 and heard university President Ernest L. Wilkinson say that the school didn’t want any gays on campus.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 5 weeks ago
The 35-acre campus is an island of young people, where teens and 20-somethings outnumber grownups by 10-to-1.The place is awash in fresh-faced students, and even the workers — from the cafeteria to the copy center, the mailroom to the bookstore — and most of the teachers are under 30.It’s no “Animal House,” though, with raucous frats, food fights, and binge drinking. This is Mormonism’s elite Missionary Training Center, where the men wear white shirts and ties, the women don modest skirts and dresses and everyone is expected to heed the rules.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 7 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — Every day. For a month. From sunup to sundown. No food. No water.No sweat?No, plenty of sweat, especially this year.With Utahns baking under energy-sapping, forehead-dripping, water-chugging temperatures, the state’s Muslims are swearing off that liquid life force during the heat of the day — and the morning, and the evening.The annual 30-day fast known as Ramadan, one of Islam’s five pillars, began Tuesday and requires that believers forgo food and drink. At this time of year, that means 15 hours of parched throats and unquenched thirst.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 11 weeks ago
June 8, 1978, was a sacred, momentous event — a revelation — that catapulted Mormonism into a new era of global growth.On that day, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended its ban on blacks in its priesthood, opening ordination to “all worthy male members,” including those of African descent.“For me,” former church President Gordon B. Hinckley said on the day’s 10th anniversary, “it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his brethren.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 21 weeks ago
If they were alive today, nearly half the presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — from Brigham Young in the 19th century through George Albert Smith in the 1940s — would be forbidden from serving in the faith’s 141 temples worldwide.That’s because being clean-shaven is generally a requirement for men to be Mormon temple workers. Whiskers are fine for temple-going members, but even nicely trimmed beards and mustaches are no-nos for temple workers.“It is ironic that temple workers are expected to be more clean-shaven than the deity figures — God and Jesus Christ — portrayed in LDS films and portraits,” says Armand Mauss, a leading Mormon sociologist in Irvine, Calif.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 28 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Matt Duff was an uber-Mormon.At 17, he ran away from home and moved in with the only black Latter-day Saints family in his New England town.Two weeks shy of his 18th birthday, he joined the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.By 19, he was on a Mormon mission in Denver, and two years later he enrolled at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he met his future wife, Kylee, a multigenerational Mormon with a winning smile and a guileless faith. The two married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.Eight years and three children later, Matt Duff stopped believing.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 37 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't changing its tune about homosexuality, but it has launched a new website to alter the tone.The site — unveiled on Dec. 6 and called “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction” — includes video clips of Mormon leaders as well as gay members and their families promoting compassion and understanding toward homosexuals, and encouraging everyone to be “disciples of Christ.”“Our hope with this site is that empathy will grow in families,” LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson says in one clip. “We’re trying to communicate that our love is inclusive, that we want to have the family remain intact, and the relationships we’ve treasured over the years to remain and to grow.”It’s important, the apostle says, “to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way.”Many gay rights activists, inside and outside the LDS church, applaud Mormonism’s latest effort.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 42 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons in Utah and across the nation were thrilled by the prospect that one of their own might occupy the highest office in the land.That won’t happen now. But Mitt Romney came closer than any other Latter-day Saint since that once-beleaguered brand of Christianity burst onto the American scene in 1830."For many Latter-day Saints, it was a surprise that a Mormon candidate was able to make it as far as Mitt," said Stuart Reid, a Mormon and a Republican state senator from Ogden, Utah. "He’s done more than any single person in recent church history to share with the general public what a Mormon is, putting up a very positive image about Mormons and creating interest in our faith that was unprecedented."Despite the defeat for Romney, Mormonism came out a winner, said Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University."It developed a thicker skin in the eyes of the world," Barlow said, "and the world could see that a Mormon who runs for office isn’t, by definition, a nut case."Overall, most observers say, the Romney candidacy was a net positive for his Utah-based faith.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 42 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — As Americans cast their ballots and the clock ticks toward midnight in Mitt Romney’s quest for the White House, this much is clear: Americans didn’t know much about Romney's Mormon faith when this “Mormon moment” began.Now, thousands of headlines, dozens of TV newscasts, and one Tony-winning Broadway musical later, Americans still don’t know much about Latter-day Saints and their beliefs.But they know more. All those stories educated millions of observant Americans about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Still, some “understandings” remain misunderstandings — and many views of the religion are still skewed, exaggerated or flat-out wrong.Here are 12 persistent myths about Mormonism.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 43 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormon apostle Jeffrey R. Holland predicted that lowering the age limits for young Mormon missionaries would trigger a “dramatic” uptick in their numbers.Turns out, "dramatic" was an understatement. Try a 471 percent jump in applications — so far.Just two weeks since Mormon President Thomas S. Monson announced that young men could go on full-time missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 18 (down from 19) and young women could go at 19 (down from 21), the Utah-based church has seen applications skyrocket from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) , Lisa Schencker 1 year 46 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — Call it a change for the ages.In a surprising move that promises to transform Mormon social and spiritual dynamics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 6 announced that it is lowering the age of full-time missionary service to age 18 for men (down from 19) and 19 for women (down from 21).“The Lord is hastening this work,” LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said at a news conference, “and he needs more and more willing missionaries.”The church is counting on this change to dramatically increase the ranks of its full-time missionaries, currently more than 58,000 worldwide.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 48 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon blogger accused of apostasy for writing critical web essays about Mormon history, temple worship and contemporary issues, has been given a reprieve — for now.The church disciplinary council set for today (Sept. 30)  to decide whether to excommunicate David Twede has been postponed "due to scheduling conflicts," Allan Pratt, Twede’s LDS stake president in Florida, said in a statement Thursday. "It will be rescheduled for a later date."Twede is managing editor of MormonThink.com, where most of his critical pieces, including ones about GOP presidential nominee and fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, have appeared.On Sept. 16, officials in the church's Hunters Creek Stake in Orlando, Fla., gave Twede a letter, summoning him to a church disciplinary council for "apostasy," which they attributed to his writings.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 48 weeks ago
A Mormon blogger who has written critical web essays about Mormon history, temple worship and contemporary issues — including about GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — is facing church discipline for “apostasy.”Initially, the Florida blogger, David Twede, managing editor of mormonthink.com, told news media Sept. 21 that the threatened church action was due to his comments about Romney. Later that day, he denied any political link. Then, on Saturday, he returned to “a feeling in (his) gut” that his Romney remarks triggered the possible discipline.Twede did get a letter from his Mormon leaders in Orlando, summoning him to a disciplinary council Sept. 30 for “apostasy,” which they attributed to Twede’s writings.In recent days, the blogger has blasted Romney as part of his critique of Mormonism, its beliefs about the nature of God and its temple ceremonies.But, Twede told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, his LDS leaders never brought up Romney, a Mormon, in their exchange with him. Though not supporting the Republican nominee, Twede apologized to Romney, saying, “I didn’t mean for (the story) to go this way.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 49 weeks ago
Caffeine-craving students at Brigham Young University are pushing the Mormon-owned school to change its stance on cola drinks.The move was triggered by Aug. 30 statements from BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins in which she said that the school doesn’t serve or sell caffeinated drinks because there has not “been a demand for it.”The ban on caffeinated sodas is “not a university or church decision,” Jenkins told The Salt Lake Tribune then, one day after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine," only "hot drinks" like tea and coffee.BYU's dining services does conduct “online surveys, focus groups and data analysis” to determine what items to offer on campus, BYU’s The Universe student newspaper reported, but “has not asked about caffeinated soft drinks.”“I have received emails on both sides of the issue — those in favor of caffeine and those against it,” Dean Wright, director of dining services, told the student paper. “Dining Services is so busy just getting everything open and serving over 30,000 meals a day that we do not have any plans at this point to do any polling on caffeine.” 
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 1 year 51 weeks ago
As an 11-year-old boy, Don Bradley went looking for gold plates.After all, Mormon founder Joseph Smith said he was directed to a set of such plates, buried in a hill near his house in upstate New York.    On a childhood visit to that hill, Bradley turned over lots of rocks, feeling certain he might find some sacred record overlooked by others.    That quest for Mormon gold became a metaphor for Bradley's lifelong spiritual journey. It led him first to dig into Smith's history to enhance his LDS devotion and then to uncover uncomfortable facts and omissions in the faith's story, which bred disillusionment and distance.    Eventually, Bradley's research helped bring him back to the Mormon fold, this time with a broader view of Smith's spiritual abilities.    "I could describe many of the events of Joseph Smith's life, but I couldn't explain the thing that really mattered: why it all worked," Bradley, now 42, said in a July speech at the annual Sunstone Symposium, a conference in Salt Lake City for Mormon intellectuals. "Joseph Smith wasn't of interest because he'd been a merchant, a mayor, or even a much-married husband, but because he was the founder of a religion. And it was precisely the religious dimension I couldn't account for."    Besides rediscovering Mormonism, Bradley learned how to balance faith and facts, science and spirituality, reason and revelation.  
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 1 day ago
SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe now, reporters, bloggers, outsiders, and even many Mormons will accept that the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not forbid drinking cola.On Aug. 29, the LDS church posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond (tea and coffee).”A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 1 week ago
For some Mormon feminists, there can be only one goal on the road to gender equality: ordination to the all-male priesthood.After all, every worthy male in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — starting at age 12 — is ordained in this priesthood. It is seen as a holy power, described as the authority to act in God’s name, yet given exclusively to men.At the same time, lots of Mormon women are perfectly comfortable with the roles they believe God assigned to them, including motherhood and nurturing. They would not want, they say, to “hold the priesthood.”Now comes a third and, some suggest, growing group of Mormon women somewhere between these two poles.They are not pushing for ordination, but they crave a more engaged and visible role for women in the Mormon church. It is a role, they believe, that their Mormon foremothers played — and one that could fit easily into the institutional structure without distorting or dismantling doctrine.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 8 weeks ago
As Americans celebrate the nation’s founding, some Mormons may outdo their neighbors in fireworks, fanfare, and frenzy to express their outsized patriotism.Love of America, they believe, stretches beyond appreciation and gratitude. It is theological, prescribed in holy writ.When it comes to American exceptionalism, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently said, “Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome.”Presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly lauds the crucial role this country has to play in human history.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 11 weeks ago
Twenty years ago, who would have predicted the 2012 U.S. presidential race would pit a black incumbent against a white Mormon?"I’ve been black my whole life and a Mormon for 30 years and never thought either of these (candidacies) would happen in my lifetime," says Utah attorney Keith Hamilton."This is a day that all Americans should take some solace in — that things are changing. Regardless of who wins, this sends a message to our children."
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 14 weeks ago
Archbishop Michael Seneco, of Washington, D.C., is a gay man who plans to marry his longtime partner in September.Bishop Jim Morgan, of Ogden, Utah, is also gay and has been with the man he considers his husband for 30 years.In this church, the bishops’ marital relations haven’t caused a ripple among the clergy or the laity. No protests. No outraged believers. No furious voting.
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 15 weeks ago
Richard Mouw never intended to start a riot within the evangelical community by saying his fellow believers had "sinned against Mormonism." But that’s exactly what happened.Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., had been meeting regularly with Latter-day Saint scholars before he gave a seven-minute introduction of Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical speaker who addressed a packed audience in the Mormon Tabernacle in November 2004."We’ve often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of members of the LDS faith," Mouw said that night. "It’s a terrible thing to bear false witness."
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 17 weeks ago
SALT LAKE CITY—If you suspected the newly released U.S. Religion Census overstated the Mormons' growth rate, you were right. That’s because, this time around, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed the way it reported its membership to the researchers.The once-a-decade study was assembled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which included self-reported data on adherents for 153 participating bodies.Its report pegged U.S. Mormon growth at 45.5 percent, jumping from 4.2 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2010. The 2000 figure, however, was much lower than the 5.2 million listed in the LDS church’s own almanac for that year. If researchers had been given that figure, the percentage of growth would have been considerably smaller, closer to 18 percent.
Posted by Thomas Burr, Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 20 weeks ago
WASHINGTON --  With Rick Santorum’s exit from the White House race, Mitt Romney stands on the cusp of history as the first Mormon to appear at the top of a major party ticket in a general presidential election. Romney, a Brigham Young University-educated, Mormon-family scion and beloved Utah figure, is now the inevitable Republican nominee and will take on President  Obama this fall.The news is sure to bring a surge of excitement unseen in Utah since Romney led the triumphant 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and helped usher the state — and the Mormon Church — onto the world stage.“Romney has family here, he’s lived here, he’s worked here, he went to school here,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has campaigned this year with the former Massachusetts governor. “It feels like he’s one of us.”
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 22 weeks ago
The Mitt Romney whom many Americans see today is often depicted as wealthy, wooden and out of touch with the working class. To some, he seems gaffe prone, detached, even distant.But that's not the man Boston Mormons knew in the late 1980s and early '90s, when many saw him as an eloquent speaker, a compassionate counselor and a creative problem-solver, generous with his money and quick to help any in need.Are the two guys related?
Posted by Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune) 2 years 30 weeks ago
A Mormon student surfs the Internet for a school assignment and discovers that Mormon founder Joseph Smith had multiple wives, even marrying a 14 year old. A returned Mormon missionary, preparing a Sunday school lesson, comes across a website alleging that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from a novel. Surprised by what they find so easily online, more and more Mormons are encountering crises of faith. Some even leave the fold and, feeling betrayed, join the ranks of Mormon opponents. It's a growing problem, acknowledges Marlin Jensen, the outgoing historian for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it's one Mormon leaders are working to confront. "Never before have we had this information age, with social networking and bloggers publishing unvetted points of view," Jensen said. "The church is concerned about misinformation and distorted information, but we are doing better and trying harder to get our story told in an accurate way." The church "has made no effort to hide or obscure its history," Jensen said, but some aspects — such as polygamy — "haven't been emphasized often because they were not necessarily germane to what is taught at present." Can the LDS church do better to explain its history, even to its own members? Sure, Jensen said.