Mormon News, March 16–20

In the News

FORMER LEGISLATOR DETAILS CHURCH LOYBBYING
Carl Wimmer, a former Utah state legislator, summarized this week just how far the LDS Church goes to get legislation passed, even by instructing local leaders to pressure lawmakers. Wimmer revealed that the church has at least two full-time lobbyists who focus entirely on state politics and issues. He was contacted over the years by these lobbyists, who would explain that they had instructions that came “directly from the top”—that is, they represented the views of the church’s presidency. On at least one occasion, Wimmer was contacted by his own bishop and pressured to support preferred legislation; the said he had been asked to contact Wimmer by LDS headquarters. Legislators appropriated a Mormon acronym—PPI—to refer to the lobbying, using the Mormon acronym for a “personal priesthood interview.” But in fact, the discussions with church lobbyists represented “intense, closed-door meeting[s].”

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CULTURE CHANGES MORMONISM
Steve Chapman wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune this week about his recent visit to Salt Lake City and the changes he perceived that American culture has wrought on the LDS faith. He suggested that everything from marriage practices to race relations to gender equality had been influenced by secular values. “Mormons,” he wrote, “are famous for their fervent commitment to old-fashioned virtues, like sobriety, sexual probity and community. With their bulletproof smiles and overwhelming niceness, they often seem like historical re-enactors giving us an exaggerated sense of what it was like to live in America circa 1955. But the church’s story is one in which change” is as important as tradition, he concluded.

UCHTDORF RECOGNIZED, MAKES DONATION
LDS apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf was recognized in Salt Lake City this week by the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice. Perhaps more than any other LDS leader in recent memory, Uchtdorf has championed inclusion and looking beyond disagreements with people of other beliefs and orientations to find common ground. While he was being recognized, he made a surprise donation of $10,000 on behalf of the LDS Church.

 In Books

MICHAEL HICKS has authored a new history of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, released this week to acclaim and criticism. Hicks harbors personal affection for the choir. His book, one reviewer wrote, is an “astute” exploration of the choir, warts and all,  and its longstanding place in American musical history.

SIGNATURE BOOKS AUTHOR Michael Marquardt was interviewed this week by Doug Gibson at the Ogden Standard-Examiner about his book, Lost Apostles, coauthored with William Shepard. Marquardt offered thoughts on the influence of Thomas B. Marsh on Mormonism and science education. He also spoke about the lasting affection early leaders had for each other even after they parted ways, despite theological differences and public recriminations. Marquardt will speak about his book on March 23 at 7 p.m. at Weber State University.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor