Mormon News, June 22–26

In its 5–4 decision announced today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may no longer ban same-sex marriage. In a statement  issued shortly after the announcement, the LDS Church said that the decision “does not alter the Lord’s doctrine on marriage,” specifically the “union between a man and a woman.” Time will tell if same-sex marriage will continue to be a major topic at general conferences. Gay marriage first became legal in Utah in December 2013, it was put on hold by the Supreme Court on January 6, 2014, and it was resumed in October 2014 when the court declined to hear an appeal affecting five states.

Ever since the LDS Church began publishing a series of essays discussing difficult historical and doctrinal issues, people have praised the unprecedented level of candor and criticized the fact that the church tended to downplay the significance of the essays. In an article published today in the Salt Lake Tribune, Peggy Fletcher Stack quoted Church Historian Steven E. Snow  that the essays were “approved by the presiding brethren of the church.” The article links to a video of Snow explaining the importance of the essays. The unsigned articles have been recently grouped together on a church website page headlined Gospel Topics with a disclaimer warning members that whereas the topics were approached from the standpoint of scholarship, members need to approach them not only “by study” but also “by faith.”

In an op-ed published in the Salt Lake Tribune on June 20, black member Julienna Viegas-Haws wrote that the best way for the church to heal from its erstwhile racial policies would be to observe an annual day of remembrance. “We remember April 6 as the founding of the church; we remember May 15 as the restoration of the priesthood; we remember July 24th as the day the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley,” she noted. “For many like myself, who were subject to the ban during their lifetimes,” she went on, “June 8 is far more significant than July 24 or May 15. It was not until this date in June 1978 that we, the children of God of African descent, were finally allowed, after over a century and a half, to equally partake in the temple and priesthood ordinances.” She acknowledges that the Gospel Topics essay, “Race and the Priesthood,” formally “disavowed the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life,” yet thinks an apology would help eradicate the pain many members of African descent still feel.