Mormon News, March 17–21

In the News

A British judge ruled Thursday that a fraud lawsuit against LDS church President Thomas S. Monson would not go forward, calling the case “an abuse of the process of the court.” Tom Phillips, an ex-Mormon, managed to get a summons issued for Monson, which initially brought the case more widespread attention than it might have otherwise received. However, Judge Howard Riddle also ruled that the summons was not legally binding, saying, “The court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others.”

Phillips claimed that fraud exists because the LDS church compels members to pay tithing, and does so based on false beliefs, such as the literal translation of the Book of Abraham and that Native Americans are descendants from the Book of Mormon. Critics of Phillips charged, among other things, that he is grossly oversimplifying Mormon beliefs, many of which the church has taken care to explain with more nuance in recent years. For example, in the 2013 edition of LDS scriptures, the Book of Abraham is now referred to as an “inspired” translation of Egyptian papyri. For his part, Phillips insists the fight is not over.

Telling Mormon women who seek priesthood ordination their position is “extreme,” the LDS Church asked women who plan to appear at the priesthood session of the April 2014 General Conference to please limit Signature Books Mormon Newstheir area of “demonstration” to free speech zones near Temple Square. Many faithful Mormon women took issue with the church’s request to use these zones, which have typically been occupied by anti-Mormon protestors, some waving LDS garments, temple clothing, or signs degrading Mormonism. They note the heavy irony in being told they may not even be welcome on Temple Square, the equivalent of the Mormon “Mecca.”

Matthew Breen, writing for The Advocate, explores the current Mormon relationship to LGBT rights issues and explores the possibility that someday the church may change its tune vis-à-vis same-gender marriage. Breen sees Mormonism as unique in its ability to shift and adapt to changing social standards, and cites polygamy and race issues, two oft-used examples of Mormons abandoning beliefs that were once considered nonnegotiable by at least some church leaders. Breen concludes that LDS family-friendliness could also be a factor in a more LGBT tolerant LDS church.

In Books

Journalist and writer James Reston Jr., has a sympathetic portrayal of Fawn Brodie in this week’s Washington Independent Review of Books. Reston, who has worked for Stewart Udall and David Frost, says Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith remains the definitive work on the founding Mormon prophet. He recounts her excommunication following the book’s publication and her later years, including his own encounter with her while working with Frost on the Richard Nixon interviews.

News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor