Mormon News, May 18–22

In the News

It is tempting to think that Disney or another theme park conglomerate might own the most land in the state of Florida, but the biggest real estate holder is the LDS Church. One of the lightpostchurch’s largest tracts, the 290,000 acre Deseret Ranch, is the subject of a current environmental dispute. The church has negotiated with the state and local governments to allow future development on the land. While 56,000 acres have been earmarked for conservation, with another 77,000 set for private use and city development, critics say many more acres must be set aside to safeguard the environment. The church has already lost lawsuits to prevent water from being pumped from the ranch by local counties, and now, with land in the state increasingly scarce, more pressure is mounting as several competing interests try and stake their own claims.

Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense of the United States and current president of the Boy Scouts of America, strongly hinted this week that the century old institution would change its policy banning gay scout leaders. Gates said the BSA must keep up with changing times and that it risks legal challenges if it does not alter its position. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of scout troops in the country and, following Gates’s speech, said they would monitor any future policy changes and respond accordingly. In recent years the BSA voted to allow gay youth into the organization but not gay leaders. Critics of the policy say the ban reinforces antiquated stereotypes of gay men as predators at worst, poor role models at best.

Last week former governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped into the boxing ring to fight heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Although one might expect Romney, 68, to have left the fight in an ambulance (or worse), he survived unscathed and even managed to knock Holyfield down. It helped that the fight was for charity and Holyfield’s fall was staged, but attendees had a good time nonetheless. Romney later said the fight raised one million dollars for Charity Vision, which helps restore sight to the blind.

On the Blogs

The blogger Alliegator (great name!) reported at Feminist Mormon Housewives this week that many local LDS leaders require young women to wear t-shirts over their bathing suits at summer camps and church-sponsored events when they go swimming. She attributed this to Mormon modesty culture and noted that her son has been to Scout Camp several times without being asked to wear a shirt or long pants or otherwise cover up his body, regardless of the activity. She asked that leaders rethink these policies and pleaded that they “Please stop sexualizing girls bodies by holding them to a higher standard than is acceptable for boys.”

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor