Mormon News, August 31–September 4

In the News

LDS Apostle M. Russell Ballard will be the keynote speaker at the World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City next month. While Ballard’s participation in an organization that globalpromotes “the natural family” might seem typical, the WCF has come under scrutiny for its endorsement of oppressive government regimes and its rejection of science-based evidence. For example, the WCF endorses reparative therapy to “cure” gays and rejects claims that homosexuality is innate or genetic. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them a “hate group,” a designation the WCF strongly rejects.

In a new article published in the Ensign magazine, the church re-emphasized the importance of following church-approved handbooks for leaders and members. These handbooks are not traditional teaching manuals, but separate leadership guidebooks for bishops, stake presidents, and auxiliary leaders. Handbook 1 is available only to bishops and stake presidents, although scanned copies have leaked online. Handbook 2 is available at the church’s website for any member. The article, largely through a series of quotes by church authorities, elevates the handbooks to near-canonical status. The author, Per G. Malm, of the Second Quorum of Seventy, says that “the Church handbooks reflect the collective wisdom—derived from tested, proven experiences—of prophets and apostles.”

Students at Brigham Young University might face fines from the government because their health insurance does not meet the minimum requirements dictated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The ACA requires plans to offer birth control options, something BYU health insurance does not have. The university also does not offer those options to employees, but those employee plans are exempted under a grandfather clause. While employee-based healthcare plans are typically required to offer birth control, student plans are governed by different rules.

The LDS Church is set to dedicate a new visitors’ center and restored historic sites near Harmony, Pennsylvania, this month. The area includes Joseph and Emma Smith’s restored home, the baptismal site where Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized, and woods where Smith later said the priesthood was restored. The dedication will be live-streamed on the church’s website on Sep. 19.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor