Mormon News, December 7–11

In the News

The LDS Church released a statement this week reaffirming its commitment to religious liberty for all. The statement, History of Joseph Smith V1largely comprised of quotes by Joseph Smith, was issued after Republican front-runner Donald Trump said all Muslims should be blocked from entering—or in cases of those visiting abroad—re-entering the United States. Church officials confirmed the release was in response to Trump’s announcement. The statement cited the Nauvoo Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies that said all religions, including “Mohammedans…shall have free toleration and equal privileges in this city.” After Trump’s incendiary comments, one Mormon woman decided to take action. Fahim Rahim, a Muslim physician in Idaho, posted a photo to Facebook of one of his patients, “Grandma Louise,” a 91-year-old Mormon woman, who brought him handmade stuffed animals to cheer him up. Other articles compared Trump’s rhetoric to anti-Mormon rhetoric in the nineteenth century, when Latter-day Saints were caricatured in cartoons and called un-American.

Researchers at the University of Utah measured the brain response of twenty Mormons when those subjects felt “the spirit.” Doctors Julie Korenberg and Jeffrey Anderson put their subjects into an MRI machine for an hour while they showed them spiritual videos and uplifting quotes. The researchers were able to identify and localize the parts of the brain that respond to spiritual euphoria. Their work is still being peer reviewed and they hope to expand the project to further understand why people feel emotion—or the burning in the bosom Mormons describe—with what they identify as spiritual experiences.

Pebble Gifford recently visited Salt Lake City and was excited to learn more about Brigham Young and one of his wives, since she counts herself among their descendants. But when Gifford visited the Beehive House, Young’s famous Salt Lake City home, the two missionaries giving the tour insisted Young only had two wives and that the second was united with Young only after his first wife died. The misinformation over Young’s family stems from the control of church historic sites. While the church has recently focused on providing accurate information through the Joseph Smith Papers project and the Church History Museum, historic sites like the Beehive House fall under the purview of the missionary program. Tours are led by young missionaries, many of whom are still learning English. At least one commenter noted how unfair this was to the missionaries; the one thing non-Mormons are likely to know about Brigham Young is that he was a polygamist (he had fifty-five wives) and refusing to discuss his family history puts the missionaries in an awkward position.

McKay Coppins, an LDS political reporter for Buzzfeed, published a new book on the Republican party that suggests Mitt Romney could be the 2016 nominee as part of a brokered convention. After Donald Trump skyrocketed to the top of Republican polls, the universal wisdom was that he would plummet just as quickly. Instead, Trump has dominated the primary and the media coverage for six months. Now, Republican elites are starting to panic; they firmly believe a Trump candidacy would be ruinous for the party, not just in its bid for the White House but in 2016 Senate, House, and local contests. The solution may be a brokered convention—a deal between party leaders that essentially ignores primary contests and instructs delegates to nominate Romney at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next July.

In Books

This week the Smith-Pettit Foundation published Dan Vogel’s new edition of the History of the Church. The eight-volume set is a text-critical edition that compares the earliest sources of the history recorded by church scribes to later texts published in the Times & Seasons, the Deseret News, and the seven-volume set by B.H. Roberts in the early twentieth century. Vogel’s prodigious research is the new standard in understanding and tracing the development of how the church published its early history. Although the set is sold out through Signature Books, a handful remain available through LDS bookstores.

News update by John Hatch