Mormon News, September 1–5

In news about Latter-day Saints this summer, the spotlight has shined on women and feminism, for better or for worse. Meanwhile, as protests exploded in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting death by police of Abraham Plateeighteen-year-old Michael Brown, black Mormons were reminded of the fact that equal treatment for those with darker skin is often illusory. In an article for the Salt Lake Tribune, Peggy Fletcher Stack interviewed several black Mormon women who expressed views on racism and feminism. Catherine M. Stokes stated that in Mormonism women experience more equality than blacks do in the general population, and that to compare the discrimination against women to the experience of blacks is “deeply, deeply hurtful.” Harkening to the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and others, Stokes said that “if black men are not free, then we—men and women—are not free.” It’s worth reading and contemplating.

The LDS Church History Library has kicked off its exhibit of twenty-six rare books and documents in the main reading room. The event, as covered by the Associated Press and other national news outlets, was framed by the church as evidence of how open it is about its history. While some of the items showcased might be familiar to historical researchers, many are unique and seldom available for inspection. They include a page from the Book of Mormon dictation manuscript, the printing plates of the Book of Abraham facsimiles, the famous letter written by Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, one of Wilford Woodruff’s diaries (minuscule handwriting), and a letter from Brigham Young to his brother Joseph Young.

Although the news media frequently focuses on those who might be labeled “Mormon progressives,” or the “Mormon left,” they remain a minor portion of active members of the church, says Benjamin Knoll, a professor of politics at Centre College. Mormons who spend time at Sunstone Symposium, or reading left-leaning Mormon blogs, or who join progressive Mormon Facebook groups, might be forgiven for thinking those with similar views populate the church. But Knoll, by crunching data and numbers from published surveys, concludes that roughly 10% of active Mormons can be considered sympathetic to or identify as “progressive.” Knoll writes that while this is a small group, it is large enough that it cannot be simply wished away or ignored, and that the church will have to continue to wrestle with progressive issues.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor