Mormon News, September 5–9

In the News

After the LDS Church released a Gospel Topics essay in 2013 on race and priesthood that seemed to disavow previous racist teachings, some Mormons were recently surprised when a new manual stated that the priesthood and temple ban against African Americans was the will of God. The new seminary “Doctrinal Mastery” manual lesson on “Prophets and Revelation” used the ban as an example of a “policy” revealed by God to his prophets. But last week the manual went through four online iterations, tracked by some members, that ultimately saw the removal of the language. In addition, also gone was Apostle Russell M. Nelson’s statement that the November 2015 policy denying children of LGBTQ parents baptism was divinely inspired.

Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City woman who was kidnapped at fourteen and repeatedly raped by Brian David Mitchell over a period of nine months, continued to speak out against purity culture and the damage done to youth by some LDS teachings on sex. Smart, in an interview with Broadly, spoke of sitting in a church lesson after she was found during which the roofline 1889instructor invoked the analogy of sex before marriage as similar to hammering nails into a fence: with repentance, you can remove the nails, but the holes still remain. “I just remember thinking, this is terrible. Do they not realize I’m sitting in class? Do they not realize that I’m listening to what they’re saying? Those are terrible analogies. No one should use them, period,” Smart also said she thinks the healing power of faith is “amazing.”

Utah is the “unofficial world capital” of multi-level marketing businesses, according to a new report by KUTV in Salt Lake City. It is the second-largest industry in the state, lagging only behind tourism, and a major reason appears to be the LDS Church. Trust within the Mormon community, the pressure for young mothers to stay at home, and a drive within the church to be financially successful, all contribute to the MLM environment in Utah. While it works well for some people, there are downsides. Utahns are often targets of scams and fraud, in part because of the level of trust Mormons afford other Mormons. And while those pitching MLM options often promise big payoffs, only a fraction of those who get involved earn enough money to provide for their families.

In Books

Signature Books released Thirteenth Apostle: The Diaries of Amasa M. Lyman, 1832–1877 this week. The Kindle edition is available now and the hardcover is available for order through booksellers. Editor Scott H. Partridge assembled and annotated all of Lyman’s journals, including his years as a mission president in Europe and after his excommunication in Utah when he embraced spiritualism and held daily séances.

News update by John Hatch