Mormon News, July 27–31

In the News

Normally a touring Broadway production arriving in a mid-sized U.S. city wouldn’t be cause for international attention, CLDHrMmVAAEHCsHbut when the production is the Book of Mormon Musical and the city is Salt Lake, it’s bound to get noticed. News media across the globe reported this week on the musical opening just a few streets away from Temple Square. Reports from inside performances said audience roar with approval at the first mention of “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” and laugh when missionaries later discover the African converts assume it is a mythical place where “goat meat is plentiful” and “the warlords are friendly.” So far there have been no protests or reported outbursts during the play. The LDS Church has restricted itself to taking out ads in the Playbill. If you go to a performance, be sure to check out Signature Books’ ad on the back cover.

The LDS Church released a pointed statement this week after the Boy Scouts of America changed its policy to allow gay men to be scoutmasters. In the statement, the church claimed gay boy scouts had always been welcome, but that it would have to review the new policy and strongly hinted it may cut ties with the scouts and develop its own youth program. Critics of the statement immediately pointed out that gay youth were not allowed in scouting until very recently and Mormon leaders had previously stated they would withdraw from scouting altogether if gay youth were allowed into the program. Others criticized a complete lack of mention of young women who have no corresponding program. Church leaders are expected to meet in August to decide whether to continue its scouting affiliation.

Historian Kathleen Flake is building a database of Mormon polygamous marriages in Nauvoo, Illinois, that took place between 1842 and 1852. While other books, such as Nauvoo Polygamy, have done significant heavy lifting to trace and document marriages, a database may shed light on different trends and open up additional research possibilities. Flake said she hopes the database will help us “understand something about them that will help us understand their choice to be married polygamously.”

A descendant of Brigham Young recently bought the second Mormon president’s New York home and plans to turn it into a historic site. Historians struggled to know precisely where Young lived from 1825 to 1829 in Port Byron, but careful hunting by Richard Lambert, a descendant of Young, settled the issue. Lambert found an 1869 letter from Young in the LDS Church History Library that pinpointed Young’s old home. Port Byron is just a few miles north of Auburn, New York, where residents claim to still have furniture crafted by Brigham Young.

An art series at BYU exploring Bruce R. McConkie’s book, Mormon Doctrine, was partially stolen this week. Katie Marie Liechty created the exhibit with film-based photography meant to depict topics in the popular (but now out-of-print) book. One of the entries Liechty included was a blank photograph to represent Mother in Heaven, a now rarely discussed aspect of LDS theology. Liechty told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I was shocked. It was really sad and a little disheartening to see a piece go.” A few people who commented on the article suggested it was life imitating art imitating life. Mother in Heaven is sometimes considered a taboo topic, and the blank depiction of the Goddess reflected that, but apparently, even that was too much for the thief.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor