Mormon News, April 11–15

In the News

The Salt Lake Tribune published extensive reporting this week detailing alleged sexual assault at BYU. Some of the victims say that temple-doorafter they reported a sex crime, they were targeted by the Honor Code office for violations ranging from breaking curfew to drug use. BYU spokespeople denied that the Honor Code office performs investigations based on reports of sexual assault, but the students and the Tribune’s reporting tell a different story. Victim’s advocacy groups say that punishing rape or sexual assault survivors for their own behavior creates a culture of shame and adds a chilling effect that explains why sex crimes often go unreported. After the Tribune’s initial report, Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson said that he is in the midst of prosecuting an alleged rapist at BYU and that he has implored the university to drop or delay its Honor Code office investigation of the victim. Johnson went so far as to say that BYU’s Honor Code investigation, which included suspending the alleged rape victim from classes, jeopardizes his prosecution by intimidating the woman and making it difficult for her to stay in Utah and testify in the case. A Utah County sheriff’s deputy also provided BYU with a copy of the police file, something Johnson stresses the university should not have.

A popular Mormon LGBTQ activist committed suicide on April 6. Lincoln Parkin, 22, graduated from Weber High School in 2012 after he revitalized its Gay-Straight Alliance Club. He grew up LDS but struggled with the church’s teachings on homosexuality and found solace in the environment and eco-activism. Family members say Parkin struggled with depression for the past decade.

The 10th Circuit US Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling this week, effectively reinstituting Utah’s ban on polygamy. Previous rulings had found Utah’s laws unconstitutional, delighting Mormon fundamentalists. Kody Brown, the star of the TV series Sister Wives, had sued the state over its ban and won, but the latest decision has him contemplating an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Polygamists such as Travis Kelsch have lobbied the Utah State Legislature to decriminalize bigamy among consenting adults.

Research presented by scholars Jana Riess and Quin Monson this week suggest the Millennial generation of Mormons are leaving the church at a higher rate than other members. Riess pointed out both good news and bad news for the church: more Millennial-aged Mormons are staying in their faith than their peers in other religious traditions, but the number of active Mormons aged 18-35 is lower than ever. Millennials, Riess said, value tolerance and inclusion and they do not feel those values “are being reflected” by the church.

For scholars interested in Mormon studies, the journals of nineteenth-century Mormon apostle George Q. Cannon have been something of a holy grail, complete with their own myths and rumors. Now, after decades of keeping the journals locked in the First Presidency’s vault, the LDS Church has begun making typescripts of the journals available online. Cannon’s journals between 1849 and 1855 were previously made available in printed volumes, but producing future books became time- and cost-prohibitive, so the remaining journals are being made available on a special website. Currently the years 1855–75 are available with future typescripts forthcoming. Bloggers quickly weighed in to celebrate the news; Ben Park wrote about the significance of the Cannon journals at Juvenile Instructor while Jonathan Stapley and blogger WVS discussed the editorial procedures and redactions at By Common Consent.

News update by John Hatch