Mormon News, March 21–25
In the News
A brother and sister filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church this week alleging they were sexually abused over three decades ago when they participated in a church-sponsored program. The Navajo siblings were part of the Indian Student Placement Program, a foster system that operated for over half a century to provide American Indian youth with better education opportunities. The lawsuit alleges that the children spoke out about the abuse but were ignored and were shuffled from home to home, where the assaults continued.
NEW ZION ENVISIONED
LDS member David R. Hall plans to purchase 5,000 acres of land to build a community based on Joseph Smith’s design of Zion. Hall’s NewVista community project in Vermont relies solely on Smith’s 1833 layout for the “Plat of Zion” as a blueprint for the self-contained village. Urban sprawl is “unsustainable,” argued Hall, and he hopes Smith’s vision, one he considers inspired, can be part of the solution. He said he already has purchased 900 acres and has 150 fellow engineers working on the project.
MISSIONARIES IN TERROR ATTACK
Four Mormon missionaries, three American and one French, were seriously injured when terrorists detonated bombs at the Brussels airport this week. Three of the four missionaries are from Utah: Richard Norby, 66, Joseph Empey, 20, and Mason Wells, 19. Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, is from Montélimar, France. Clain was traveling with the three elders to her new assignment when the bomb went off, sending shrapnel and severely burning all four missionaries. American media outlets immediately focused on the missionaries because of their connection to the United States. Wells in particular garnered attention when it was learned he was only a block away from the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. He was also in France during the Paris terror attacks in 2015, though after some erroneous reporting, it was learned he was about two hours away.
On the Blogs
Ben Park wrote for the online magazine Religious Dispatches this week on Utah and Idaho’s overwhelming margins of victory for Bernie Sanders and the progressive streak in Mormon history. While outsiders (and even some insiders) might be surprised at the large turnout to support Sanders, Park believes the results “validate a lingering progressive strain within the Mormon tradition.” He reviewed the history of Mormonism through the lens of its conflict with mainstream American culture and wrote that “the early Mormon movement in the antebellum period was as much a social protest as it was a religious revival.” He does not believe a major shift is in the offing for Mormon politics, but that this progressive tradition will “remain smoldering beneath the ashes of contemporary Mormonism’s political culture.”
Gina Colvin wrote this week about her “failed Mormon sabbatical” and why, after just a few months away, she returned to activity in the LDS Church. When she handed in her temple recommend late last year, she wondered if she would ever be back and admitted the term “sabbatical” was more wishful thinking than reality. But she found herself back and wrote that “the church has offered me a faith system and a language that I have used time and time again to think bigger thoughts than myself. I have had spiritually transformative experiences sometimes in spite of Mormonism but mostly because of it. I’ve been selfless when I’m naturally selfish because I’m a Mormon.” She concluded that she will continue to be in the pews each week because it is where she belongs.
—News update by John Hatch