Mormon News, August 8–12

In the News

Hillary Clinton pitched the case for her campaign to Utahns in a rare  op-ed published in the Deseret News this week at the same time a BYU graduate and Mormon announced his own independent run for President of the United States. Clinton spoke in language so familiar and evocative to Latter-day Saints that political commentators determined she likely has an active LDS staffer or consultant to advise her. The op-ed spoke of past Mormon persecution, of wards, of religious freedom, and name-checked Mitt Romney, Gary Herbert, and even former Primary General President Rosemary Wixom, calling her “sister.”

Evan McMullin, a Republican opposed to Donald Trump, announced his own independent campaign for the Presidency this week. McMullin is a Mormon and BYU graduate who also worked for the lightpostCIA. He plans to contest Trump in western states with heavy Mormon populations. Although McMullin’s candidacy will likely draw some voters from Trump and help Hillary Clinton, he insists he sees both candidates as unacceptable and “unfit” for office.

LDS Church-owned BYU is being considered for inclusion in the Big 12 NCAA athletic conference, but LGTBQ organizations and others are mounting a challenge. Over twenty groups signed a letter to the Big 12 arguing that BYU’s opposition to homosexuality constitutes intolerance and they should not be admitted to the conference. The letter also said BYU poses a danger to student-athletes who are gay, subjecting them to discriminatory policies that straight students are exempt from. Mitch Mayne, blogger for the Huffington Post, reminded readers that BYU previously faced opposition from other schools in the 1960s and ‘70s over the LDS Church’s priesthood and temple ban for African Americans.

The FairMormon conference was held in Provo, Utah, this past weekend. The group is an annual gathering of LDS apologists and scholars of the Mormon faith who explore a broad variety of issues. Patrick Mason, chair of the Mormon studies program at Claremont Graduate University, spoke on fear in the LDS tradition and argued that it “has led us to think and behave in ways that are not always welcoming either to outsiders or to those within our midst who have questions, different perspectives or who otherwise don’t fit a certain mold.” Matthew Roper of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, analyzed references to swords in the Book of Mormon and argued that most swords and scimitars were made of wood, though the book itself mentions “steel” swords. An iron, not steel, sword found by archaeologists in Jericho decades ago is often cited by apologists as an example of how Laban’s sword made from “the most precious steel” might have been made.

A new survey released this week by the independent LDS women’s journal SquareTwo showed that Mormon women overwhelmingly would like different labels and titles to describe many of the roles conferred on women in the LDS Church. Terms like “mission president’s wife” and “Mia Maid” were seen as especially problematic. While “maid” once referred to a maiden, today it is seen as a term for an unskilled housekeeper, and Mia is an antiquated reference to the Mutual Improvement Association—the old name for the LDS youth organization. Those taking the survey offered several alternative suggestions to the current terms.

In Books

David Pace’s novel, Dream House on Golan Drive, was nominated as one of the best works of local fiction by the City Weekly, a Utah newspaper. In the Best of Utah, Literary Arts category, Pace’s book is one of three nominated for best fiction title. The City Weekly’s annual “best of Utah” is a favorite among locals to identify everything from the best night life spots, to the best restaurants, to the best theaters and arts festivals. Readers can vote for Dream House on Golan Drive through the end of August.

News update by John Hatch