Mormon News, July 25–29

In the News

The annual Sunstone Symposium is taking place this week at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The symposium began on Wednesday with a plenary session by historian John Turner and continues until Saturday night. Sessions explore a broad range of issues, from fundamentalist polygamy communities, to LGBTQ issues, to historical topics, to navigating doubts, and much more. Several Signature Books authors are speaking and signing their books. Signature Books also has a table displaying our latest titles; if you are attending the symposium, please stop by and say hi!

Planned Parenthood of Utah had expected to handout condoms at the Sunstone Symposium to promote safe sex, but with aglass twist: these prophylactics included a CTR logo on the packaging. As images of the condoms made their way to social media and news organizations reported the story, Planned Parenthood said they had no intention to offend but only wanted to spur a respectful dialogue about using protection. After the complaints, Planned Parenthood chose not to handout the condoms after all.

Benjamin Knoll reported some of his findings on Mormon beliefs and doubts at the Sunstone Symposium on Thursday. Knoll said that, among largely active Mormons, 22.6% report finding that “some teachings are hard to believe.” But because the data is drawn almost exclusively from active Mormons, the numbers, reports Jana Riess, are probably higher. What is more, for all the focus on young people leaving the church, it is older Latter-day Saints who are more likely to experience doubts. People age forty-nine and younger expressed doubts less than 20% of the time, but people over age sixty-five expressed doubts nearly 30% of the time. Other factors, such as education, whether one was born into the faith or converted, and income level, were also explored by Knoll.

Columnist Eileen Hallet Stone wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune this week on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of the Mormons in his first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. Conan Doyle’s book is told in two parts, with the first focusing on the famous detective and his partner, John Watson as they unravel a bizarre murder mystery at Brixton Road. The second half of the book is a fictionalized account of Mormons crossing the plains and taking in a man and his daughter. But in spite of the kindness they initially show, when the daughter is grown she is expected to become a polygamist. And so a tale of revenge unfolds. Conan Doyle later defended himself—inaccurately, as Hallet Stone points out—by saying “all I said of the Danite band and [their] murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that [part of the book].”

—News update by John Hatch