Mormon News, May 23–26

In the News

The LDS Church recently announced changes to its missionary dress code that offers more flexibility and options depending on the mission. The biggest change allows sister missionaries to wear pants in areas where there is a risk of mosquito-born illnesses. That change could have larger implications in LDS culture, where women who chose to wear eaglepants to church were sometimes belittled as being less faithful or rebellious. Other changes in the dress code allow missionaries to wear sunglasses or hats under certain conditions.

The Guardian published a story this week on opiate addiction in Utah and its connection to the LDS Church, part of a larger series on addiction in the United States. While it is easy to confuse “Utah” and “Mormonism” as one and the same, reporter Chris McGreal distinguished between the two and built a case that an LDS Church culture of silence contributes to an addiction problem among Mormons. He interviewed LDS and non-LDS Utahns who spoke of the pressure to be perfect in the church. Part of that pressure includes feeling happy and suppressing pain, both physical and emotional, and Mormons, who are forbidden from turning to alcohol as a way to relax socially, sometimes rely on prescription painkillers.

In Art

Amanda James, a stay-at-home LDS mom, won third place in the LensCulture Portrait Awards this year for her series, “Sweet Little Lies.” James created the series after her first child was born and she realized she was “mourning” the loss of her freedom. In an interview with Vice [some profanity at the link], she talked about the pressures and expectations of Mormon motherhood and her struggle to reconcile her emotions and feelings to the demands of her culture. Her work is currently on display at the Somerset House in London.

On the Blogs

Steve Taysom was interviewed this week by Matt Bowman for the Juvenile Instructor on his forthcoming biography of Joseph F. Smith. Taysom, a Signature Books author, talked about the process of researching and writing a biography and how it differs from his other projects. He explained that when he first started he realized he “was never going to get at the ‘real’ Joseph F. Smith. I was never going to find the guy who lived and walked and ate and rolled his eyes. Most of the things that made him the fluid human being who completely inhabited every second of his 80 years on earth are gone. Forever. What I am dealing with is the version of Smith that is left behind in the archival traces of his life.”

News update by John Hatch