Mormon News, December 15–19

In the News

Kerry Muhlestein, a BYU professor, author, and director of BYU’s Egypt Excavation Project, caused a flurry of excitement when he announced to the press that a graveyard with up to “one million” mummies was discovered in Egypt. OneMormon News skeleton was so large, according to Muhlestein, it had to be bent in half to fit into the gravesite. Skeletons of children were discovered as well. But after headlines around the world announced the discovery of “giant” mummies and mass graves of children, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities strongly objected to the characterization and suspended BYU’s excavation project. “What was published in the newspaper is not true,” according to Dr. Youssef Khalifa, head of the ministry. While the Egyptians do not deny that skeletons were discovered, they seem especially concerned with the careless use of the word “mummy” and the images it might conjure. Discovering complete, mummified remains is a very different and significantly rarer finding than uncovering partial skeletons at a large gravesite.

A curious sculpture in downtown Salt Lake City features two Mormon missionaries, one a traditional elder and the other one a blue space alien, both in white shirts and ties, with name badges. Oh, and both missionaries are in a flying saucer. The quirky display has drawn complaints, and at least one man, Nathan Zaugg (that’s his real name, not a science fiction alias) says he is filing a notice with the city that he would like it torn down because he finds it “offensive.” The artwork was previously looked at by a citizen’s review board, which found no objection. It was the colorful nature of the work that won it a spot on display, according to Karen Krieger, the Salt Lake Arts Council director. The title of the sculpture is Zion/Rocky Mountain Alliance. The artist, Brook Robertson, has a design studio in the nearby Murray area.

On the Blogs

Jana Riess writes about the Mormon focus on individual right and wrong behavior in a post weighing social morality versus personal piety. While Riess finds there is a space for piety in what one eats, drinks, wears, and says, this should not be to the exclusion of social issues like poverty and human rights. “When our general leaders combine an intense focus on young women’s shoulders with near-silence on war, torture, racially-motivated violence on the part of police, and crimes against humanity,” Riess says,” we should understand that as a problem.”

Stephen Colbert signed off on Thursday night from his Comedy Central show where he plays a right-wing political pundit (named Stephen Colbert) offering up satire of jingoism, hyper-patriotism, and twenty-four hour news media . Three years ago, just before the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign kicked off, Colbert offered a savvy defense of Mormonism while simultaneously poking some fun. It is worth a watch in remembering Colbert’s ingenious comedy style.

In Books

Now that Jedediah S. Roger’s book, The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History is out and available in bookstores, reviews are starting to surface. Clair Barrus, writing at the Worlds Without End blog, praises Rogers’s work and says that he has provided “an important contribution to Mormon Studies by assembling documentation and providing annotation that brings to life the illusive Council of Fifty.” David Banack at Times & Season walks readers through the importance of the Council of Fifty, and therefore, the importance of Rogers’s book.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor