Mormon News, April 20–24

In the News

After LDS President Thomas Monson was unable to attend a brief meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, questions were raised about the eighty-seven year old’s health. Now Elder L. Tom The Book of Mormon MusicalPerry, 92, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles was diagnosed with thyroid cancer the same day Elder Richard Scott, 86, was hospitalized with internal bleeding. Perry will undergo radiation treatment for his cancer immediately but his and Scott’s prognoses remain unclear. Elder Boyd K. Packer, president of the quorum and next in line to succeed Monson, has struggled with his own health in recent years and is rarely seen in public. The median age of the fifteen men in the top LDS leadership is eighty-two. Some Latter-day Saints have become vocal in recent years in calling for emeritus status or retirement options for members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve. They argue that elderly leaders are propped up in spite of mental or physical incapacity to show off a veneer of infallibility. Others say that the aged leadership impacts the vibrancy of the faith.

D. Michael Quinn, a well-known Mormon historian, spoke recently to fundamentalist Latter-day Saints about his lifelong journey to uncover details about post-Manifesto plural marriages. Quinn, speaking to the Centennial Park community, said his research began as a teenager and culminated in his famous 1985 Dialogue article, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890–1904.” Until the work of Quinn and other historians was published, mainstream Mormons believed the 1890 Manifesto, issued by then-president Wilford Woodruff, put a stop to polygamous unions. But Quinn uncovered evidence that hundreds of plural marriages, including some among LDS leaders, continued in secret until the Second Manifesto of 1904. Quinn spoke candidly about the schizophrenic-like response of Mormon leaders, some who were supportive and others who were openly hostile. In one meeting with Gordon B. Hinckley that Quinn labeled “non-confrontational,” Hinckley acknowledged that “there was much about Church history that he didn’t know and that he doubted ‘ANY’ General Authority knew.” Although the article then resulted in the loss of Quinn’s temple recommend, today the LDS Church publicly acknowledges that LDS leaders secretly continued to practice polygamy for over a decade; however, they do not cite Quinn’s article.

A headline that the “Book of Mormon” sells out in Utah might surprise no one, except this time it’s the Book of Mormon Musical, the smash Broadway hit that is making its way to Salt Lake City for the first time. Tickets went on sale Monday morning at 10 a.m. and were sold out, excepting obstructed views, by 5 p.m. Coverage in the LDS Church-owned Deseret News could barely veil its contempt, citing rare critics who called the play “vulgar bigotry,” and devoting considerable attention to the church’s “savvy” decision to buy ad space in the playbill program. Those attending will also be treated to an ad from Signature Books on the back cover, highlighting our own titles on Joseph Smith, the All-American Signature Books

Signature Books editorial board member Lisa Bickmore won the Prestigious Ballymaloe Poetry Prize this week. The award was announced in Dublin, Ireland, at the Irish Writers Centre. In addition to offering her valuable insight at Signature, Lisa teaches English at Salt Lake Community College. Many congrats, Lisa!

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor