Group Prods Fellow Mormons to Get Behind Family-Friendly Immigration Reform

Image via @Kate_Kelly_Esq / Twitter / RNS

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.

Undocumented immigrants.

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 Kate Kelly ‘Happier’ and ‘Invigorated’ After Excommunication

Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Kate Kelly. Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Nearly a year removed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly says she has found happiness living a more authentic life while continuing to push for equality in the Mormon faith.

Kelly, who was excommunicated in June 2014, now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where she works on human rights efforts. She was back in the United States briefly on April 23 as part of an offshoot project of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to explain how she was punished for speaking out for women’s rights in the LDS faith.

“The men who (excommunicated me) literally think they kicked me out of heaven,” Kelly said.

“Luckily, I do not think that. … Out of this experience, I’ve realized that men don’t get to control my happiness. I’ve come out on the other end, (where) I think I’m much happier, much more authentic, a much more invigorated person.”

Still, on stage at the Gotham Comedy Club, a space usually filled by raucous laughter, Kelly broke down in tears talking about her ouster from the LDS faith and the repercussions for herself and her family.

“It’s like an execution, a spiritual death,” Kelly said of Mormon excommunication.

“It’s very, very extreme.”

For their part, Kelly’s Mormon leaders have said the door always is open to her return.

Five Faith Facts About Marco Rubio: ‘Once a Catholic Always a Catholic’

Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Marco Rubio speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is expected to launch his presidential campaign April 13, often talks about faith and wrote about his religious convictions in his 2012 book, An American Son: A Memoir.

Here are five faith facts about this Catholic son of Cuban immigrants who has also found comfort in Mormonism and a Southern Baptist church:

1. He was once a serious young Mormon.

Rubio’s parents baptized him Catholic and he is now a practicing Catholic, but when he was 8, his family moved from South Florida to Las Vegas, where his mother attributed the wholesomeness of the neighborhood to the influence of the Mormon Church. Young Rubio was baptized again, this time in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He spent three years as a Mormon, upheld its teachings more enthusiastically than his parents, and chided his father for working as a bartender, a no-no for Mormons who abstain from alcohol.

2. He frequents a Southern Baptist megachurch.

Rubio and his wife Jeannette often visit Miami’s Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation the couple appreciates for its strong preaching and children’s programs. Rubio has donated at least $50,000 to the church, which he attended almost exclusively from 2000 to 2004. But he now finds his religious home in Catholic churches in Washington, D.C. and Florida. In his memoir, Rubio writes that he will go with his family to Christ Fellowship on Saturday nights, and Mass on Sundays at St. Louis Catholic Church. His children have received First Holy Communion.

Small Band of Mormons Register Their Opposition to Church Leaders

Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints / RNS

President Thomas S. Monson (middle) at the 2011 general conference. Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints / RNS

For the first time in decades, a small band of Mormons who disagree with their church stood during the semi-annual General Conference on April 4 and publicly shouted “opposed” to sustaining the top Mormon leaders.

At least seven people rose in dissent as part of an action by a loosely organized group calling itself “Any Opposed?”

At the same time, thousands of Mormons gathered in the church’s Conference Center silently raised their hands to show their support for the governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which guide the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The opponents did not say more during the afternoon session, but one of those who stood, Don Braegger of American Fork, Utah, said the group has a variety of concerns, including the perception that LDS history is rife with disturbing episodes; that the faith does not treat LGBT persons fairly; and does not offer wide enough roles for women.

Unlike in the 1970s and ’80s, when opponents were removed from General Conference after voicing “no” votes, Saturday’s opponents remained for the rest of the afternoon meeting.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to President Thomas S. Monson, noted the contrary votes each time they were cast by replying, “The vote has been noted.”

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.

Utah Lawmakers Pass Anti-Discrimination Bill with LGBT, Mormon Support

Photo via Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

L. Tom Perry and Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. Photo via Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

After seven years of debate and a historic compromise, the Utah House of Representatives on March 11 voted final passage of a bill to enact the state’s first statewide nondiscrimination protections for the gay and transgender community, while providing safeguards for religious liberty.

The 65-10 vote was the last legislative hurdle for the bill, just one week after it debuted with the blessing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the LGBT community.

Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert was expected to sign the bill at a ceremony on Thursday.

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams hailed the vote as a “monumental day for Utah. This vote proves that protections for gay and transgender people in housing and the workplace can gracefully co-exist with the rights of people of faith. One does not exist at the expense of the other.”

Under the bill, existing anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment would be amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity and clarify exemptions for religious institutions and provide protections for religious expression.

Judge Finalizes Order Finding Polygamy Law Unconstitutional; Victory for ‘Sister Wives’

RNS file photo courtesy TLC

Kody Brown, center with (left to right) sister wives Robyn, Christine, Meri, and Janelle. RNS file photo courtesy TLC.

A federal judge on Wednesday finalized the order striking part of Utah’s bigamy law and gave one more victory to the family from the TLC television show Sister Wives.

The long legal battle over polygamy in Utah now appears headed to the appeals courts. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has said he would appeal the federal court ruling that found the law against polygamy was unconstitutional.

Sister Wives chronicles the lives of Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown and their children. Utah County authorities began their investigation of the polygamous family after their show debuted.

Jonathan Turley, the attorney for the Brown family, encouraged Reyes to reconsider his plan to appeal.

Deconstructing God's Mission

Dennis Cox /

Dennis Cox /

When I ask people to describe a typical “missionary,” the usual response includes that of a young man with black pants and a white collared shirt (with a name tag attached) that knocks on doors, or perhaps an evangelical preacher who stands on (and shouts from) street corners, or possibly one who travels the far ends of the earth to help the poor and plant new churches. But just because some are more vocal and visible than others, such missionaries should not be acknowledged as the totality of all that exists, because:

All people in all places are missionaries, for all people in all places participate within a particular mission in some shape or form. Missionaries are as diverse as the human community itself.

While most missionaries do not self-define as such, the world is filled with them, many of whom serve with a high degree of commitment and faithfulness. For instance, if a missionary is – by definition – one who participates within a particular mission, then those who consume Coca-Cola are not merely consumers, but they are – by definition – missionaries of the Coca-Cola brand and its corporate mission. Similarly, there are countless political missionaries in all corners of the globe. As election cycles draw close, such missionaries multiply in mass numbers, and their energetic zeal often rivals – and sometimes far exceeds – the determination of many religious clergy labeled as extreme.

The world consists of countless missions and innumerable missionaries. As stated from the onset, all people in all places are missionaries, so not only should we hesitate to assume we know what a “typical missionary” is, we should also attempt to distinguish who a Christian missionary is to be within the context of countless other (complementary and competing) missions and missionaries. So what follows is a brief reflection on what the focus of God’s mission might be, and an exploration of how Christian missionaries may be able to function as a result.

Neon Tree's Tyler Glenn Is Gay, Mormon, and Proud of It

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs in 2012. Photo courtesy of Mike Deerkoski via Wikimedia Commons.

KISS may have been on the cover of the April 10 issue of Rolling Stone, but the most eye-opening headline may have been the one that proclaimed: “Gay, Mormon & Finally Out.”

It led readers to page 46 and a story about Tyler Glenn, the frontman for Neon Trees, Utah’s most prominent band.

After years of denials and lyrics that obscure the issue, Glenn declared proudly that he is gay — and still a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I believe and I have faith and I was born with this,” Glenn told The Salt Lake Tribune in one of the first interviews since coming out.

Survey: Americans Turn Sharply Favorable on Gay Issues

“Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Belief” graphic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute. Via RNS

Americans’ attitudes toward the lives and choices of gays and lesbians have changed radically since Massachusetts first legalized same — sex marriage a decade ago.

new survey finds a significant shift toward tolerance across every religious, political, and age group and every region of the country, said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI’s survey, released Wednesday, reveals the ramifications of these changes in family, church, and community life.

“Only the issue of marijuana looks anything like this in terms of rapid movement in favorability,” Jones said. “But with that one exception, it’s unusual to see this much change in a relatively short amount of time.”