Mormon News, October 27–31

In the News

The LDS Church clarified its conflicting statements about the semi-annual women’s meeting. When President Dieter F. Uchtdorf opened the women’s meeting this year, he referred to it as the “first” assemblysession of the church-wide conference. Later statements, and even an edited prayer, explicitly separated it from the larger conference, suggesting that the church was uncomfortable including the women’s gathering as part of the doctrine-defining gathering. But now the church has released a statement saying that it is. “The General Women’s Meeting will be designated as the General Women’s Session of General Conference,” the statement read.

The Seattle North Stake held a special worship service to reach out to LGBT Latter-day Saints on Sunday, October 19. The stake leadership sent a letter to gay members telling them they were being invited back to church. Aaron Brown, a stake high councilor, said he wanted to “make our congregations safe, more welcoming, more loving spaces where all our members—gay or straight—can fellowship and worship together, regardless where they are in life.” The response was positive, and those in attendance appreciated the sensitivity of the sermons. One woman wrote, “I felt like the talks were for me, a married lesbian, but also for every straight person in the congregation, too. I felt loved, just as I am. I would feel comfortable putting my 3- and 9-year-old children in primary and not worry that they would be made to feel ashamed of their family.”

On the Blogs

This past week saw many Latter-day Saints deconstructing the new essays on polygamy that were posted by the LDS Church to its Gospel Topics website. Although the church openly acknowledged some of the most challenging aspects of Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships, it also framed polygamy as a divine commandment that Joseph Smith received reluctantly but was blessed for doing so. Gina Colvin, writing at her “KiwiMormon” blog at Patheos, pushed back by saying she did not care about any so-called benefits of polygamy. It was, she offered, “a repellent, dehumanizing practice that reduced females to brood mares and turned Utah into a pious stud farm.”

In Books

Through the month of November, Signature Books will be promoting studies of polygamy through ads and editorials. Last week the LDS Church acknowledged some of the complex details of Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships. Many of the topics, now the subject of lively online chatter, have been previously investigated by scholars, while other issues are unresolved. Signature has published five key books on the topic: Richard S. Van Wagoner’s Mormon Polygamy: A History, Todd M. Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Martha Bradley-Evans’s and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward’s Four Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier, George D. Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage,” and Victoria D Burgess’s The Midwife: A Biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor