Peggy Fletcher Stack (Salt Lake Tribune)

Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her stories appear on God's Politics via Religion News Service.

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Where Do Feminist Mormons Stand, a Year After Excommunication?

Creative Commons / Katrina Barker Anderson / RNS

Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated in 2014 for her views on gender inequality in the Mormon Church.Creative Commons image by Katrina Barker Anderson / RNS

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

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

Reflection of Salt Lake temple. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

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

The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image via RNS.

The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image via RNS.

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

Photo via James Steidl / Shutterstock.com

Church pews. Photo via James Steidl / Shutterstock.com

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

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

Reflection of Salt Lake temple. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Jan. 27 for passage of laws granting statewide protections against housing and employment discrimination for gay and lesbian Utahns — as long as those measures safeguard religious freedom.

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

Via Wikipedia Commons

Pope Gregory XIII, portrait by Lavinia Fontana. Via Wikipedia Commons

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

Doug Peterson refuses to let Kate Kelly (right) into the LDS General Conference. Photo: Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune

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.”

Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects?

Karen Birdsall (L) and Kammi Bean sign at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Lenexa Ward. RNS photo: Sally Morrow

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.

Marriage: What's Love Got to Do with It? Historically, Very Little

A 1924 wedding ceremony. Photo courtesy of the Harris & Ewing Collection via Library of Congress. Via RNS

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

Sister Moody (Left) and Sister Ray speak with a Kansas City, Mo., resident on Sept. 10, 2013. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

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.”

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