Mormon News, February 24–28

February 23–28, 2014

Signature Books Mormon NewsThe LDS Church posted another “Topics” essay to its website, this time focusing on the long-held LDS teaching that man is God in embryo. Although much of the essay focuses on scripture and early Christian beliefs as a way of legitimizing LDS theology, mainstream media zeroed in on a reference to Latter-day Saints getting their own planet. The esoteric notion that Mormons will someday rule over their own orb is an anti-Mormon staple and has been mocked or parodied by comedians. Most recently, and perhaps a catalyst for the essay, the “Mormons get their own planet” belief was trotted out in the Book of Mormon Musical in the play’s most popular song, “I Believe.”

As part of a broad inquiry into American religious demographics, a new Gallup poll breaks down the presence of Mormons in each state across the country. Utah takes the lead (naturally), but it might surprise people that “only” 60% of the state identifies as Mormon. Idaho is next with 24%, followed by Wyoming at 9%. Utah is also far and away the least Protestant state, coming in at 11%.

Signature Books author Simon Southerton posted an impressive look at DNA and the Book of Mormon and explained new research and developments. Southerton argues that the limited geography theory (that Book of Mormon events occurred in a small area of Mesoamerica) is not a panacea to DNA research. Southerton seems less concerned with DNA evidence as a means of invalidating Mormon truth claims as he does holding the church accountable for its teachings about lineage. By imposing Old World Semitic migration on the New World (as the Book of Mormon does), it effectively robs New World inhabitants and their descendants of their own culture. For over one hundred years, the LDS church told Native Americans they were Lamanites, people whose story could be found in the Book of Mormon. Now, by embracing the limited geography theory, those members are left to wonder about their identity and cultural heritage.

Signature Books editor Devery Anderson wrote on the death of Juanita Milam, widow of confessed Emmett Till murderer J. W. Milam, for USA Today. Till was fourteen years old when he visited relatives in Money, Mississippi. He was accused of whistling at a white woman; the woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law J. W. Milam, kidnapped Till two days later, lynched him, and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River. Devery Anderson has long been regarded as the foremost expert in the Till case and aftermath.

News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor