Mormon News, October 6–10

While the Semi-Annual General Conference of the LDS Church did not stray from past precedent, nor were any major announcements made from the pulpit, observers did pick up on a couple of curious tweaks that generated much scrolldiscussion. The first centered around whether or not the general women’s meeting is a part of the General Conference or if it is a separate meeting. In opening the women’s gathering, First Presidency counselor Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Later in a prayer opening the priesthood session, Bruce Carlson of the Seventy stated that worshipers rejoiced at being at the “fourth session” of General Conference, which would numerically make the women’s session the first. A handful of observers noted this and mentioned their appreciation for the inclusion of the women’s meeting. But in an unexpected turn of events, or what Julie M. Smith at the Times and Seasons blog called making “a molehill into a mountain,” the online audio and video at the Church’s website clumsily edited Elder Carlson’s prayer to remove the word fourth. When the change was spotted, Latter-day Saints across Facebook, Twitter, and LDS-themed blogs expressed bewilderment and exasperation. “As if many people would even listen to the prayer for the session again,” wrote Julie Smith. “I realize people use the talks a lot, but the prayers? They could easily have left it to languish in obscurity.” It is unclear if the decision to edit the video was made at higher levels or if it represented a mid-level manager gone rogue.

Another after-the-fact change that sharp-eared listeners noted was that Dallin H. Oaks, in his talk on remaining civil in the wake of marriage-equality court rulings, invoked the popular biblical story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, but with a twist. In the Bible story found in John 8, Jesus forgives the woman unconditionally and in some of the most well-known words of scripture tells her, “neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Oaks qualified the story, saying that Jesus “treated her with kindness by declining to condemn her at that time.” The obvious implication being that Jesus did not condemn her then but would have later adultery cannot be tolerated or easily forgiven. As Corbin Volluz wrote at the Rational Faiths blog, “This story standing alone seemed not good enough for Elder Oaks. ‘At that time’ must be added to restore the proper LDS disciplinary balance.”

This week the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari (meaning they declined to review or hear an appeal) in the case of Kitchen vs. Herbert, allowing the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of gay marriage to stand. The plaintiffs had sued Utah over its definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This allowed gay marriage not only in Utah but in other states covered by the tenth circuit. Upon hearing the news, Governor Gary Herbert said that while disappointed, he accepted that the courts had spoken; he directed the state’s agencies to recognize gay marriage. Others in the state said they would explore additional options, but the governor’s concession was a gracious capitulation. Meanwhile, the LDS Church issued a statement that “the Supreme Court will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God.”

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor