Mormon News, September 21–25

In the News

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles passed away on Tuesday. Scott was well-loved among faithful Mormons who saw him as gentle and kind. He usually avoided controversial47 social issues and instead stuck to sermons about personal improvement, faithful devotion, and helping others. Before he was called as an LDS leader, Scott was a nuclear engineer. His death leaves three vacancies in the quorum, the largest number since the early twentieth century when John W. Taylor and Matthias Cowley resigned in 1905 and Marriner W. Merrill died in 1906. With General Conference a week away, it is unclear if Scott’s successor will be called with the other two replacements.

Two key anniversaries this week marked tremendous shifts in the LDS view of the family. One-hundred and twenty-five years ago, LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, formally declaring that the church intended to submit to the laws forbidding polygamy. A year later Woodruff said the Manifesto was the result of a revelation he had on September 23, 1890. One-hundred and five years to the day later, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in the semi-annual General Women’s meeting. While many Latter-day Saints have come to understand these events as revelations from God, both documents originated as political statements meant to bolster the church’s claims in government and legal affairs. The Woodruff Manifesto stopped government interference over polygamy and protected church property, which the 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act allowed to be confiscated. Plural marriages would secretly continue for at least another fourteen years, and some historians have argued that Woodruff himself entered into a post-Manifesto marriage. Over the next one-hundred years the LDS Church would become the stereotype of the nuclear family. The Family Proclamation in 1995 gave the church an official tenet on which to rest its legal challenges to same-gender marriage. Since the proclamation was released, the church has filed numerous court briefs and became increasingly visible in the fight against marriage equality. Twenty years later, the church has largely capitulated in that fight; the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality across the country in June of this year and the church participated in passing an equal protection bill in Utah.

On the Blogs

If you are reading this on Monday, you may already be raptured or dead. According to Julie Rowe, an active Mormon, the second coming of Christ will begin on September 28. Mette Ivie Harrison, a blogger and author, wrote this week about her former life as a “Mormon doomsday prepper.” Harrison offers interesting commentary and insight into why people choose to believe the end of the world is near and why they try and control such calamitous events with stockpiles of rice and beans. She suggested in a world of random cruelty and violence, food storage can offer a measure of control. She also confesses she took a “weird thrill” out of imagining the end of the world and her own ability to survive in the end of days.

In Books

Signature Books’s author Jamie Zvirzdin will be reading from Fresh Courage Take, an anthology of women’s essays she contributed to and edited, this Sunday at the Baltimore Book Festival. Fresh Courage Take explores diverse perspectives among women in the LDS Church. It was also recently reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor