Mormon News, October 26–30

In the News

The World Congress of Families (WCF) began its meeting in Salt Lake City this week with considerable LDS Church support. The presence of the WCF—labeled a hate group by the Southernhandshake Poverty Law Center—and the church’s support generated a whirlwind of media coverage and commentary, some of which is highlighted below. The WCF says it supports “natural” families and traditional marriage, but their work overseas has led to extreme laws that criminalize homosexuality in several countries. Some quickly pointed out the more extreme statements at the conference, including Rafael Cruz‘s, the father of presidential candidate and Senator Ted Cruz, who said gays approve of pedophilia. Others noted that the church’s participation has called for more inclusivity, including Apostle M. Russell Ballard’s talk that warned against divisiveness. Cole Parke, who labeled himself a “queer spy” at the conference, offered an outsider’s perspective. Finally, in a column for the Salt Lake Tribune, George Pyle asked why the WCF neglected the “real issues” facing families, such as the economy, healthcare, gun violence, or the environment.

The LDS Church published two new essays on its website last week, one on Mother in Heaven and another on women and the priesthood. The essay on Mother in Heaven was one of the shortest published, reflecting a lack of primary sources around the unique LDS doctrine. The essay established that Latter-day Saints should only pray to God the Father, and cited the Bible and LDS leaders to support the claim. Still, the article made it clear that “the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished” belief. The essay on priesthood was considerably longer and more complex, attempting to chart a path between the fluid and malleable nature of early Mormon priesthood while still closing the door on claims that Joseph Smith intended for women to hold the priesthood. The essay acknowledged that women often provided blessings of healing and comfort until 1926. The church said that these two essays are expected to be the last, but left the door open for more in the future if the need arises.

In a letter from the First Presidency to be read this Sunday, the LDS Church asked its members to donate and provide assistance to migrants fleeing war and violence in the Middle East. The church did not outline a specific way Mormons might take in refugees or provide direct assistance, apart from donating to church programs that have already given millions in aid to the people. The church joins a growing chorus of religious leaders asking for help for the migrants.

—News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor