Kate Kelly Joins Hundreds Outside Mormon Headquarters for Mass-Resignation Event

Scott Sommerdorf / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

Kate Kelly, foreground. Photo via Scott Sommerdorf / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

When Stephanie Engle was a teenager, she struggled with what she termed as the racism and sexism within the LDS Church.

Engle said she researched Mormon history after moving away from home for college, learning about polygamy, and other “really questionable practices” of church founder Joseph Smith.

“I just thought this is so obviously not true,” she said.

“I can’t keep claiming that I believe it.”

On July 25, six years after ending her participation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Engle took a final step to sever her ties with the Salt Lake City-based faith.

With a signed letter in hand, Engle joined roughly 100 current and former Mormons — including Ordain Women co-founder Kate Kelly — at a mass-resignation event a block from the church’s downtown headquarters.

The Truest GOP Believers? Mormons

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conference goers sing in Salt Lake City, April 4

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conference goers sing in Salt Lake City, April 4, 2015. Image via RNS/Reuters/George Frey.

Mormons lean more heavily toward the Republican Party than any other major demographic group — whether clustered by race, age, gender, educational attainment, or religion.

So says a study released April 7 by the Pew Research Center, based on more than 25,000 survey interviews conducted nationwide in 2014.

The survey shows that 70 percent of Mormons lean Republican, compared with just 22 percent who tilt Democratic. That 48-point gap is greater for the GOP than margins provided by any other single group.

Behind Mormons in GOP support are white evangelical Protestants, who give the party a 46-point edge; white Southerners, a 21-point GOP advantage; white men with some college education or less, also 21 points; whites, 9 points; and the “silent generation,” ages 69 to 86, 4 points.

Groups that lean Democratic most heavily are blacks, who give that party a 69-point edge; Asians, a 42-point margin; religiously unaffiliated, 36 points; post-graduate women, 35 points; Jews, 30 percent; Hispanics, 30 points; and the millennial generation, ages 18 to 33, 16 points.

“Obviously, Mormons are one of the strongest groups for Republicans, right on par with white evangelicals. Both groups are about three times as likely to lean towards the Republican Party,” Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of the Pew Research Center, said.

“That’s been the case for a long time.”

BYU Graduates Complain to Accrediting Board Over School’s Treatment of Lapsed-Mormon Students

Photo via REUTERS / George Frey / RNS

A student walks past the entrance of Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, UT. Photo via REUTERS / George Frey / RNS

A group of Brigham Young University graduates is strengthening its push for students who lose their Mormon faith to retain their spots at the private school.

Students do not have to be Mormon to attend the Provo university, but those who enter as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and later leave the faith face expulsion from BYU.

Activist group FreeBYU filed a complaint last week with the nonprofit accrediting board that evaluates the LDS church-owned school for the U.S. Department of Education. The filing alleges that the policy hinders academic and intellectual freedom at BYU, which is due for a seven-year accreditation review in April.

Organizer Brad Levin says many students who are “in the closet” about changing or leaving their faith must censor themselves in classrooms, online, and in the wider BYU community. Such students should receive the same religious protection as non-Mormons, FreeBYU contends.

“They don’t know what’s going to put them in hot water,” Levin said.

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.

Mormon Apostle: Be Civil in Fighting Gay Marriage

Dallin H. Oaks. Photo via RNS.

If Mormon opposition to same-sex marriage does not prevail in the United States, Mormons should respond graciously and “practice civility with our adversaries,” a leading church apostle counseled Oct. 4 at the faith’s General Conference.

“We should be persons of goodwill toward all,” said declined to hear appeals from five states, including Utah, in which federal appeals courts had struck down bans against gay marriage. Within hours, clerks across Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin and Oklahoma began issuing marriage certificates to gay and lesbian couples.

Oaks, who has been outspoken in defending Mormons’ stance against gay marriage, said those in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be exemplars of civility.

“We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs,” he said during the afternoon session of the 184th Semiannual LDS General Conference, a two-day meeting broadcast across the world via satellite, TV or the Internet. “Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious.”

Mormon Feminists Seeking Change Find It in Subtle Wording

Uchtdorf referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents." Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/RNS.

Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Sept. 27 at the church’s general women’s meeting.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”

In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities.

And, for the first time, the charismatic German leader described the meeting as the opening session of the church’s 184th Semiannual General Conference. Until now, General Conference has referred only to the two-day gatherings held during the first weekends of April and October, with the women’s meeting seen as a separate event.

Saturday night’s meeting also featured the first-ever prayer at a session of General Conference by a black woman, offered by South African Dorah Mkhabela, a member of the LDS Young Women’s General Board.

Mormons Embrace Social Media to Push Back Against Official Church Teachings

Mitch Mayne, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Wendy Montgomery, and Diane Oviatt during the screening. Photo via Mitch Mayne/RNS.

It was a gathering that would have been unthinkable just five years ago.

On a cool summer evening, in a borrowed classroom overlooking San Francisco Bay, about 150 men and women gathered to screen a short documentary about a Mormon family whose 13-year-old son came out as gay.

The Montgomerys, who accepted their son and his news, were ostracized by church members, some of whom refused to accept Communion distributed by the young man in church. Like many conservative Christian denominations, the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bans homosexual activity and considers it grounds for exclusion from Mormon rites, rituals and even the afterlife.

Excommunicated Mormon Kate Kelly: 'I've Done Nothing Wrong and Have Nothing to Repent'

Kate Kelly, a founder of Ordain Women, was excommunicated by the Mormon Church. Creative Commons image: Katrina Barker Anderson

Women’s ordination advocate Kate Kelly said it’s unlikely she will seek rebaptism anytime soon into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which excommunicated her Monday.

“I’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to repent,” Kelly said in an interview. “Once the church changes to be a more inclusive place and once women are ordained, that’s a place I’d feel welcome.”

The decision by a Mormon bishop’s council in Virginia to excommunicate her for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church” stunned Kelly, she said.

The word “apostasy” does not appear in the letter her Vienna Ward bishop, Mark Harrison, emailed to her, although it was the charge lodged against Kelly when he called for Sunday’s disciplinary council.

“I honestly thought until the very last minute that they would do the right thing,” the Ordain Women founder said Monday evening.

Mormons Counter 'Cartoonish' Idea of Planets in the Afterlife

Countering the notion that Mormons believe they will someday inherit their own planets, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a new statement on “Becoming Like God” that tries to put distance between official church teaching and the age-old notion.

The article, which was posted on the church’s website last week, attempts to explain complex theology that church officials believe has been overly simplified into inaccurate “caricatures.”

Just as heaven is often depicted as people sitting on clouds strumming harps, “Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets,” the statement says.

35 Years Later, Some Black Mormons See Lingering Prejudice

Mormon temple in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy Trudy Simmons/

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.”