Mormon News, May 4–8

In the News

An LDS Sunday School teacher was recently released by his bishop after he used the church’s official website to supplement a class lesson. Brian Dawson taught the twelve-to-fourteen yearlilly olds in his Honolulu ward when one week a student asked why Dawson’s wife, a Nigerian woman, joined the Mormon faith given its previous restrictions on full participation for black members. Dawson knew he needed to take a sensitive approach in addressing the subject, and sought out only official teachings and materials, including an essay on race and the priesthood on the Church’s website and articles in the Ensign magazine. Despite his use of official materials, Dawson’s bishop questioned the veracity of the essay, chastised him, and insisted, “Anything regarding black history before 1978 is irrelevant.” Dawson and his wife later met with the bishop and stake president, both of whom acknowledged that the essay was approved by the church but insisted that it was “too much” for the youth to handle. The Gospel Topics essays remain unknown to many LDS members and continue to cause tension, leaving some members to wonder why they are not publicized by the church.

Taylor Knuth-Bishop had grown up in Utah and was raised LDS before he later identified as gay. While Taylor was a student at Weber State University, he met Sean Bishop and the two men were legally married in California a year ago. Although Knuth-Bishop no longer actively participates in the LDS faith, a bishop in Clearfield, Utah, has told him by phone and letter that a disciplinary council would be held on May 3, 2015, to determine his status in the church because of his same-gender marriage. Knuth-Bishop responded with a letter of his own detailing his relationship with Sean and its importance in his life. He added that “While I no longer actively participate in the teachings of the Mormon faith, I still greatly value my foundational teachings of love, charity, kindness, hope, and faith–among others.” The outcome of the church court remains unclear. The action against Taylor raises several questions, not least of all: why is the LDS Church targeting inactive members who violate one teaching but not others? According to podcaster John Dehlin, at least two other gay couples have been targeted by the church.

LDS temples are well-known symbols of Mormon commitment. The buildings stand out in the day and are bathed in light at night to catch the eye of passersby. Their grounds are meticulously manicured, with lush gardens and shimmering green lawns. But the massive drought in Los Angeles has forced the church to cut back on watering and a reporter for L.A. Observed noticed that, for the first time in recent memory, the large grass expanse in front of the Los Angeles Temple was brown and dry. California Governor Jerry Brown has established rules for state agencies and some business that restrict water use and has asked other groups to voluntarily cut back on their own water consumption.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor