Mormon News, June 30–July 3
In the News
FIRST PRESIDENCY ENDORSES EXCOMMUNICATIONS
After being criticized for remaining silent and letting LDS Public Affairs do all the talking, the LDS First Presidency released a rare joint statement with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles Saturday endorsing the excommunication of activists. It is okay to question, the statement said, but apostasy—“repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition” to the church—will not be tolerated, the statement read. The leaders indirectly addressed the excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, although she was disciplined for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the LDS Church,” not for the original charge of apostasy. Sensitive to the criticism that doctrinal pronouncements are being introduced through a newsroom site (www.mormonnewsroom.org), the First Presidency posted its statement on the more permanent LDS.org website.
DISCIPLINE STILL PENDING FOR UTAH MORMON
John Dehlin was told by his stake president this week that the stake president needs time to “think and pray” about what to do about Dehlin. The host of the Mormon Stories podcast had been encouraged by the church to resign his membership, as had other Mormon bloggers recently, but declined to do so. On Sunday his stake president met with him to “de-escalate” the situation, Dehlin reported, after which Dehlin asked Facebook friends to let him know if they had been helped in some way through his podcast. He presumably wants to document for his stake president that his podcast has not been detrimental to faith.
On the Blogs
Libertarian blogger Connor Boyack wrote this week about the response in 2002 to Apostle M. Russell Nelson’s speech on peace, given just as the Iraq War commenced. At the time, Nelson’s talk was seen as a strong rejoinder to the drumbeat of war a year after the terrorist attack on September 11. Nelson reminded the audience that LDS scripture condemns “wars of aggression,” he encouraged peaceful and diplomatic pursuit of complex problems, and strongly invoked the teachings of Jesus, insisting that abiding by his peaceful message could avert war. However, after the national news media covered the story, reporting that the “Mormon church issued a strong anti-war message at its semiannual General Conference,” LDS Public Affairs swung into action to deny that Nelson’s message had anything to do with Iraq or politics. Boyack’s post felt like a confirmation of the tension between the Public Affairs Department’s instinct to quash controversies and the more far-sighted views of church leaders who assert guidance by inspiration.
Andrew Hamilton, writing for the Association for Mormon Letters, issued a thoughtful, complimentary review of Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve this week. Hamilton’s review is in fact an interesting review essay in which he explores his own personal experience growing up Mormon and hearing for the first time about the six men who left the Quorum of the Twelve, never to return to that upper echelon. He compares his own experience to the stunning revelations in Shepard’s and Marquardt’s book. Hamilton says the book “is one of the most important works of historical biography in the Joseph Smith Restorationist movement from the last 10 years.” Signature Books is thrilled at the positive responses Lost Apostles has garnered thus far. Thank you, Andrew!
The Joseph Smith Papers website added a blog post to its news section on its forthcoming Council of Fifty volume. The post includes photos of the three small Council of Fifty minute books kept by William Clayton and the first pages of the Council of Fifty records, all of which were kept in the First Presidency’s vault until 2010. That was when the documents were transferred to the LDS Church History Library. Signature Books will address the documentable substance and remaining mysteries surrounding the shadowy church legislative organization in the forthcoming volume by Utah historian Jedediah S. Rogers, The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History.
—News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor