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.

The LGBT Gap, By Religion

Photo courtesy Pan Xunbin/

Freedom and peace abstract concept background. Photo courtesy Pan Xunbin/

We all know that when it comes to the acceptance of LGBT folks, religions differ. But what the religions communicate, and how the people in the pews actually feel, are not the same.

In a word, the rank and file tend to be more accepting than the leadership. What’s striking is how much this LGBT Gap varies from religion to religion, and we can get some idea of the variance from Pew’s new survey of LGBT Americans.

As the measure of institutional messaging, we will use the percentages of LGBT people who say a given religion is unfriendly to them. These range from 84, 83, 79, and 73 percent for Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Evangelicalism to 47 and 44 percent for Judaism and Mainline Protestantism. Then there is the proportion of members of each religion who believe that “homosexuality should be discouraged by society.” That’s 45, 65, 20, and 59 percent for the first four groups; 15 and 26 percent for the last two.

Top Mormon Leader Warns Against ‘Tolerance Trap’

Just because the nation may change its laws to “tolerate legalized acts of immorality” does not make those acts any less spiritually damaging, senior Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer said on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 183rd Annual General Conference.

“The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality,” Packer said, “does not reduce the serious spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity.”

Packer, president of the Mormons’ Quorum of Twelve Apostles and next in line to take over the church’s reins, didn’t specifically mention gay marriage, but his comments came amid controversy on the issue nationwide and a significant swing in public and political opinion toward favoring such same-sex unions.

Mitt, Mormons, and the Religious Test That Wasn’t

Charls C. Haynes writes in The Washington Post:

Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:

Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.

After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy.

Read more here.

12 Myths About Mormonism That Persist Despite the ‘Mormon Moment’

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.

Majority of Protestant Pastors Back Romney, But Many Still Undecided

A majority of Protestant pastors plan to vote for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new survey, but nearly a quarter are still undecided less than a month from Election Day.

Just 17 percent of Protestant pastors said they would vote to re-elect President Obama, with 57 percent favoring Romney and 22 percent undecided, according to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research. 

Based in Nashville, Tenn., the research firm is a branch of LifeWay Christian Resources.

The results are remarkably similar to a LifeWay survey conducted in October 2008, which found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors planned to vote for then-GOP nominee John McCain, 20 percent for Obama and 22 percent were undecided.

Mormons Lower Age for Missionaries: 19 for Women, 18 for Men

Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Gary Whitton /

Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Gary Whitton /

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.

Missouri Remains Land of Religious Promise for Mormons

RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Missouri Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

In 1831, Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that the righteous would gather in Independence, Mo., to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ — just one of the prophecies that estranged his faith from traditional Christianity.

Thousands of converted Mormons moved from Ohio and upstate New York to claim their New Jerusalem. Disputes with Missourians led to a bloody Mormon War that ended only when the state's governor issued an "extermination order" to expel Smith's followers.

Today, few places are better to contemplate the evolving — but still uncertain  relationship between Mormonism and the country where it was founded.

On the one hand, Missouri symbolizes how far Mormons have come. At least 66,000 Mormons now live in the state, more than triple the number of just three decades ago. Most recently, the LDS church has built a temple in Kansas City, Mo., near the epicenter of the Mormon War.

But Missouri also serves to highlight the intractable differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon theology.

It’s Official: Coke and Pepsi Are OK for Mormons

Empty soda cans, somchai rakin /

Empty soda cans, somchai rakin /

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.”

What Was Romney Like as a Mormon Bishop?

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Mitt Romney leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Though Mitt Romney talks little about his faith on the campaign trail, he grew up in the Mormon Church and spent years as a top church leader in Massachusetts. From 1986 to 1994, he was president of the Boston stake, an entity similar to a Catholic diocese. Before that, Romney was bishop, similar to a lay pastor, of congregations in Belmont and Cambridge. Each job included both organizational work and counseling.

After leaving the stake president position, Romney taught Sunday school for a year, then oversaw the church’s programs for teenagers for around two years. Romney continues to tithe — giving 10 percent of his income to his church. In accordance with Mormon teachings, he does not drink alcohol, tea or coffee. He attends church services when he can. Romney's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

As a church leader, Romney ran the church with businesslike efficiency.

“He was very serious about doing an excellent job about things and he didn’t suffer fools,” said Helen Claire Sievers, executive director for the Harvard-affiliated WorldTeach, who was active in the church when Romney was stake president.