Mormon News, April 13–17

In the News

A Mormon couple in a mixed-orientation marriage was upset to learn that their names were listed in a “friends of the court” brief asking the US Supreme Court to rule against gay marriage. The court will hear oral arguments on April 28. Josh and Lolly Weed support marriage equality. Their names were inadvertently placed on the brief along with others couples where one spouse identifies as gay. “What does that have to do with us at all?” Josh asked. There would be “no devaluation of my marriage status by having marriage equality,” he clarified.

Although the number of LDS missionaries has increased dramatically since the age of service was lowered in 2012, the number of conversions per missionary has remained about the same. Missionaries serving in the field increased by 44 percent. Conversions rose only 9 percent. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the problem was secularism, which he said pervasive in the world today. Mormon sociologist Armand Mauss explained that missionaries now spend more time trying to re-convert inactive members than in seeking out new converts.

During his general conference talk on April 4, LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson quoted extensively from a letter written in 1943 by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Christofferson quoted the famous church martyr for what seemed to be the theologian’s support for traditional marriage. However, John G. Turner, assistant professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University (and author of the highly acclaimed biography, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet), noted the irony in Christofferson’s citation. Although the apostle said it was part of a letter to Bonhoeffer’s niece, Renate Schleicher, he failed to mention that Bonhoeffer had written this as a marriage sermon for Schleicher and Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s longtime lover. Bethge was “the love of Bonhoeffer’s life,” Turner noted, but Bonhoeffer, who had never been romantically linked to any woman prior to Bethge’s engagement to Schleicher, had been imprisoned by the Nazis. Under the circumstances, Bonhoeffer decided that he should propose to his own future wife, Maria von Wedemeyer, two months later. Yet the two men would continue to correspond and fantasize about future trips they would take together, sans wives.

On the Blogs

At the Flunking Sainthood blog, Jana Riess offered a critique on modesty in light of the recent story about newly crowned Ms. Virginia, a Mormon woman named Becah Pence who received attention for wearing a one-piece bathing suit on stage. Hesitant to criticize Pence’s motives, Riess found that “making modesty a ‘platform’ in a beauty contest, as Ms. Pence did on Sunday, is about six different flavors of ironic.” As Riess explained, “Whether the swimsuit is a one-piece or a bikini is not as important as the underlying issue that women are being judged for how they look and how they set themselves above other people in the public square—neither of which is the definition of modesty.”

News update by Devery Anderson, filling in for John Hatch, who is away this week at the OAH meetings in St. Louis