Mormon News, September 28–October 2

In the News

The LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City reopened this week after a lengthy renovation, and one brickpantsdisplay has garnered national attention. After publicly acknowledging Joseph Smith’s polygamous practices in an online essay last year, the church has included an exhibit at the museum that also shines light on Smith’s early wives. While most lay Mormons seem unaware of the polygamy essay at, historian Patrick Mason noted the importance of including polygamy in the museum. “The fact that this is going to be deeply embedded in this kind of official narrative at the church’s signature museum is significant. This is where Mormons take their kids. This is where Mormon youth groups go,” Mason said.

An article posted at Meridian Magazine this week quickly earned widespread condemnation before it was removed from the site. The article, “Helping Our Children Choose Heterosexuality,” by columnist JeaNette Goates Smith, argued that the “homosexual lifestyle” is a choice and that parents have a moral obligation to steer their children to the correct choice of heterosexuality, lest those children suffer society’s persecution, among other drawbacks. Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Latter-day Saint, responded to the article in a column. He lamented that what he saw as dangerous misinformation was “veiled in a thick layer of Mormon niceness.”

The LDS Church updated its Gospel Topics essay on race and priesthood this week, adding new details and strengthening the church’s repudiation of previous racist theology. The church does not date, include authorship, or track changes to the essays, but Blair Hodges, blogging at By Common Consent, has a run-down of the exact changes. Hodges calls the essay “still pretty great” and concludes that the changes reflect “the ongoing seriousness with which the Church is taking these Gospel Topics essays.”

On the Blogs

The Mormon History Association recently announced it has hired Rob Racker as its new executive director, and Ben Park has posted an interview with Racker at the Juvenile Instructor blog. Racker, a frequent MHA attendee, explained his background and his goals for the changing association. He hopes to make MHA more nimble and efficient to sustain a larger membership and to continue the delicate balance between professionals, amateurs, believers, and non-believing historians that makes MHA unique. Racker takes over for Dave and Debbie Marsh who resigned earlier this year.

In Books

A new book, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright, aims to document the rich history of Mormon feminism. The book is a collection of previously published essays and poetry from the 1970s to the present. In a positive review of the book, Caryn D. Riswold notes that feminsts have to “document their history, make their theological case, and engage their scriptures as robustly as any conservative traditionalist would.”

—News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor