Mormon News, January 12—16

In the News

PODCASTER THREATENED WITH CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
John Dehlin, host of the popular “Mormon Stories” podcast, has been summoned to a church court on January 25th for encouraging people to air grievances with some church doctrines and policies. In speaking with his stake president, he says, the issues of gay marriage and gender equality (Mormon Newspriesthood ordination for women) have been the focus of the president’s criticisms.

Simultaneously, April Young Bennett, a public advocate of the Ordain Women movement, had her temple recommend withheld until she could show she had scrubbed the Internet of any support she had given to the women’s ordination movement. Bennett felt she had no choice but to comply or she would miss her brother’s wedding. The two cases turn on what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. Does it mean accepting approved historical interpretations, doctrinal views, and public policy positions? As Mormonism continues to acclimate to the free-wheeling Internet and other related media, how will it reinforce old boundaries and stake out new ones?

 On the Blogs

The Times & Seasons blog announced its “Mormon of the Year” to be the anonymous writers’ stable responsible for the church’s Gospel Topics essays posted this year on the www.lds.org/topics website. The articles are unsigned because they go through an approval process that leaves many fingers in the proverbial pie. But Kent Larson at the Times & Seasons believes the essays had the “greatest impact or influence on Mormons and Mormonism during the year,” and it’s hard to argue with that.

Elsewhere in the blogs, Michael Austin has written a thoughtful post on the Qur’an in the wake of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in France. Austin, writing at By Common Consent, suggests that the reason religious texts retain their supremacy in people’s lives is their beauty and ambiguity—their fluidity of interpretation, for instance. Thus, the Qur’an, the Bible, and the Bhagavad Gita can all be interpreted differently as texts of peace or texts of war, depending on the context of the reading. Austin concludes:

It is potentially disastrous that, at the very time that Americans need to be trying to understand the Muslim people on their own terms—by praying with them, singing with them, and sharing bread with them, and learning how to share a planet with them—some of our loudest voices want to represent the entire Muslim world as a unified threat to our way of life—using words like “expulsion,” “extermination,” and “fundamentally incompatible with American values.” These words should terrify all decent people, but none more than Latter-day Saints, who know only too well what happens when people in power defer to the frightened mobs who speak them.

In Books

The Juvenile Instructor history blog hosted a Q&A this week with Jedediah Rogers, editor of The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History. Jed explains his interest in the topic, the importance of the texts, and the value for non-LDS scholars of understanding the Council of Fifty as a nineteenth-century theocratic experiment. The book is available now in bookstores and on Kindle.