Mormon News, July 18–22

In the News

CNN profiled Harry Fisher this week, a twenty-eight-year-old BYU student who took his life earlier this year after coming out as gay to his friends and family. Fisher shot himself on February 12 in Israel Canyon, west of Provo; police found his scriptures in his car, bookmarked to Matthew 16:25: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” CNN’s profile, widely viewed and shared on social media, also looked at LDS policies and statements, including Elder David Bednar’s remark that “There are no homosexual members of the church” and the November 2015 policy that restricted baptism for children of gay members.

Francis Gibbons, a long-time secretary to the First Presidency and biographer of the first fourteen LDS presidents, died last week at the age of ninety-five. His books, devotionalearth biographies that called all of their subjects a “prophet of God” in the subtitle, spanned twenty-four years and were popular among believing Latter-day Saints. Because of Gibbons’s access to the First Presidency, the books sometimes included sources not available in other biographies of the church presidents. Gibbons finished his series with Howard W. Hunter and did not write books on Gordon B. Hinckley or current president Thomas S. Monson.

On the Blogs

BYU-Idaho history professor Andrea Radke-Moss, writing at Juvenile Instructor, ruminated on Pioneer Day and ways to talk about the Mormon trek without over exaggerating or being exclusive to Utahns and direct descendants of pioneers. Radke-Moss noted, for example, that while overland travel could be challenging and uncomfortable, it was largely safe and successful, with death and Native American attacks relatively rare occurrences. She also suggested broadening the pioneer experience to international pioneers and other groups that have enhanced the Latter-day Saint movement.

Jana Riess interviewed LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson about her new book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy this week on Riess’s Flunking Sainthood blog. The two spoke candidly about the lingering Mormon belief that polygamy will still be practiced in the afterlife and that this tenet causes many Mormons confusion and, in some cases, intense pain. Pearson explained that “it’s a terror to sealed widows. A widow who is sealed to her first husband is considered way out of the pool of attractive women for Mormon men to date … because in the next life he would have to turn her over to her first husband that she was already sealed to.”

News update by John Hatch