Mormon News, Week 5

January 27–31, 2014

In the News

The LDS Church released another essay on what might be termed “difficult issues” this week, this time focusing on DNA and the Book of Mormon. The church defends Book of Mormon historicity and explains the News Updatelimitations of DNA studies and why they should not be relied on to discredit Book of Mormon claims. However, the essay takes a decidedly pro-scientific stance, offering background on DNA studies, and indirectly endorsing notions of Darwinian evolution and land-bridge migration. The footnotes contain references to scientific journals, yet contain few references to statements by church leaders. While the essay remains strongly defensive of the Book of Mormon, it is in some ways a repudiation of past statements denigrating scientific theories that contradict the Genesis creation account in the Bible.

The Atlantic published a lengthy article on the Mormon missionary transition from traditional proselytizing to using more online tools and social media. It includes several interviews with missionaries and traces the history of the concern over technology to the embrace of social media and the opportunities it offers in gaining converts.

Newsweek, now an online-only publication, featured an article on ex-Mormons titled “When the Saints Go Marching Out.” It looks at some of the possible scenarios those who leave the church might encounter and managed to capture some of the cultural quirks of the Utah-based church (such as the ever-present prohibition on alcohol). However, it is largely a narrow examination of the lives of those who not only leave the church but continue to primarily base their identity on their ex-Mormonness.

On the Blogs

Guest-blogger Julie Hartley-Moore, writing at Times and Seasons, has an excellent post countering claims often invoked by Latter-day Saints about traditional gender roles. Hartley-Moore, a former BYU professor, notes that throughout human history, women have played a large role in being providers, and are rarely relegated to the role of sole nurturer. She also explains that “American nuclear families are slightly dysfunctional” because they so starkly split the role of parent vs. provider between women and men, burdening women with isolation and men who become wrapped up in being providers, the children suffering when fathers are less involved.

In Books

The Joseph Smith Papers project launched a fascinating page on the King Follett discourse, perhaps Joseph Smith’s most famous sermon, given in 1844. It includes links to four accounts of the sermon by Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton. In spite of it being recorded by four people, “none of these individuals recorded the address stenographically,” so “none of the accounts provides a complete record of what Smith said on that occasion.” It’s a good reminder of the limitations of early Mormon record keeping, where scribes did not have the luxury of making electronic recordings and had to take notes by hand.

News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor