Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her stories appear on God's Politics via Religion News Service.
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How Outdated Mormon Teachings May Be Aiding and Abetting 'Rape Culture'
Better dead clean, than alive unclean.
That Mormon mantra apparently was ringing in a young Brigham Young University student’s mind in 1979 as she leapt from a would-be attacker’s car on the freeway.
Group Prods Fellow Mormons to Get Behind Family-Friendly Immigration Reform
Mormons teach, preach, and sing about families being together forever in heaven, but some members of the Utah-based faith want to exclude one group from that promise, at least on Earth.
And, while the LDS Church supports immigration reform that keeps families together, its leaders have not pushed that idea in worship settings where Mormons are gathered. Nor has it called out those who disagree. In other words, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone largely silent on the issue.
Mormon Church Sticking with Boy Scouts
The Boy Scouts of America isn’t going to lose its largest sponsor after all.
The LDS Church announced Aug. 26, that the Utah-based faith will stick with the Scouts after threatening last month to bolt from the youth group and form its own international organization for boys.
LDS Leaders Add Top Female Officers to Three High-Level Councils
Installing Linda K. Burton, Bonnie L. Oscarson, and Rosemary M. Wixom to leadership councils could have far-reaching consequences in a denomination led exclusively by men.
When asked whether women are members of other key committees in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spokeswoman Kristen Howey said, "There are literally dozens of church committees. Women serve on many of them but we have no way of knowing that number without counting each of them."
The three principal, formerly male-only councils helping to run the 15 million-member faith include "four or five (male) general authorities," Howey said, plus the new female officers.
Where Do Feminist Mormons Stand, a Year After Excommunication?
Nancy Ross was sitting next to Kate Kelly at an Ordain Women board meeting in Salt Lake City on June 23, 2014, when Kelly learned that she had been excommunicated from the LDS Church.
Kelly began to tear up at the email from her Mormon bishop, and soon most of the nine or so board members around the table were weeping as well.
“It was a truly awful day — with a lot of really big emotions,” Ross recalls.
“A year later, it’s still an awful thing.”
Transgender Mormons Struggle to Feel at Home in Their Bodies and Their Religion
Sixteen-year-old Grayson Moore had no label, only metaphors, to describe the disconnect he felt between his body and soul.
It was like car sickness, he says, when your eyes and inner ears disagree about whether you are moving.
“It makes you sick,” Moore says.
“That’s the same with gender.”
When Moore’s mother gave her then-daughter a vocabulary for the feelings — “gender dysphoria,” or transgender — an immediate sense of relief followed.
And, he says, God confirmed that he was not just a tomboy. He was in the wrong body.
Such moments come in the lives of transgender people — times when vague feelings of general discomfort with their identity crystallize into that realization.
Mormons Free to Back Gay Marriage on Social Media, LDS Apostle Says
An LDS apostle reaffirmed recently that Mormons who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their temple privileges or church memberships — even though the Utah-based faith opposes the practice.
In an interview March 13 with KUTV in Salt Lake City, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that individuals in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in trouble only for “supporting organizations that promote opposition or positions in opposition to the church’s.”
Backing marriage equality on social media sites, including on Facebook or Twitter, “is not an organized effort to attack our effort, or our functioning as a church,” Christofferson said in the interview.
The KUTV interviewer asked further if a Latter-day Saint could “hold those beliefs even though they are different from what you teach at the pulpit?”
Yes, the apostle answered.
“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”
Christofferson echoed this sentiment in two January interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah Highest, Vermont Lowest on Newest Church Attendance Poll
More Utahns go to church every week — 51 percent — than any other state, according to a new Gallup poll.
That statistic is “a direct result of (Utah)’s 59 percent Mormon population,” Gallup’s Frank Newport writes, “as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S.”
The next most-frequent church attendees are in the South — Mississippi (47 percent), Alabama (46 percent), Louisiana (46 percent), and Arkansas (45 percent). In fact, 10 of the top 12 churchgoing states are in the South.
At the bottom of the list is Vermont, Gallup reports, “where 17 percent of residents say they attend religious services every week,” Newport writes. Just ahead of the Green Mountain State are New Hampshire (20 percent), Maine (20 percent), Massachusetts (22 percent), Washington (24 percent), and Oregon (24 percent). Half the bottom 10 are in New England.
Mormon Apostles Call for Statewide LGBT Protections
The move, one LGBT advocates have been pushing for years, provides a major boost for the prospects of of a state nondiscrimination statute. Such proposals have been bottled up in the legislature for years — despite the church’s historic endorsement of similar protections in Salt Lake City ordinances in 2009.
Utah’s predominant faith issued the plea for such measures at all levels of government during a rare news conference.
“We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches, and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment, and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants, and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country,” said church apostle Dallin H. Oaks.
April Fools' Day's Religious Roots
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.”
Mormon Women Seeking Priesthood to Be Shut Out of Temple Square
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.
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.”
Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects?
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.
It’s often couched in the rhetoric of “virtue” and usually aimed at young women, even girls.
Marriage: What's Love Got to Do with It? Historically, Very Little
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.
Mormon Missionaries Find Work, Meaning in Community Service
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.”
Ex-Mormons Aren’t ‘Lazy or Sinful,’ Church Leader Dieter Uchtdorf Says
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.”
After Prop 8, Mormons Take Different Tack in Hawaii Gay Marriage Fight
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.”
Writer Sees Growing Gay Acceptance Among Mormons
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.
Inside the Mormons’ Elite Missionary Training Center
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.
Heat Poses Challenge to Muslims Fasting During Ramadan
SALT LAKE CITY — Every day. For a month. From sunup to sundown. No food. No water.
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.
35 Years Later, Some Black Mormons See Lingering Prejudice
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.”