Category : Mormons

(AP) Medical marijuana push spreads to Utah, Oklahoma

Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck.

Frodsham wasn’t discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn’t go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion’s health code doesn’t single out cannabis as being prohibited.

“I think there’s some room for interpretation on this,” said Frodsham.

The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn’t against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn’t include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group’s CEO.

“We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state,” McOmber said. “This is an addictive drug.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Mormons, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology

(Vancouver Sun) British Columbia Polygamy trial now to include a constitutional challenge of the law involving questions of religious freedom

That reference case concluded in 2012 with the B.C. Supreme Court upholding the law on the basis that polygamy’s harms were sufficient to warrant a limit on religious freedom as well a freedom of association and expression.

Referring the law to the court was initially recommended a decade ago by the first special prosecutor, Richard Peck. He said a reference was preferable to a trial, which could be “a cumbersome and time-consuming process”.

Peck said “an authoritative statement from the courts” was needed because since the 1990s, the B.C. attorney general’s ministry had refused to press charges based on legal opinions suggesting that the law was invalid.

Peck disagreed and wrote that the harms of polygamy were extensive enough that they would likely be considered a reasonable limit on Charter-protected freedoms.

“Religious freedom in Canada is not absolute,” he said. “Rather it is subject to reasonable limits.”

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Posted in Canada, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Religion & Culture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Why some religions, like the Mormons, sing

Religions have a mixed relationship with music; within both Christianity and Islam, you can find strains that eschew all human compositions as a distraction from the divine, as well as robust musical traditions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to use the Mormons’ official name) has leaned firmly to the latter side since its foundation nearly two centuries ago. Among the revelations claimed by their founder Joseph Smith was God’s affirmation that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me”””in other words, the faithful could and positively should sing as well as speak to their Maker. The faith’s choral and orchestral talents were soon reinforced by an influx of converts from Victorian England, some of whom were Methodists and bearers of that faith’s strong musical heritage.

As Markus Rathey, a professor of music history at Yale University puts it, some faiths hold that “the use of music transports you into a state in which you’re open for the divine.” And the Latter-day Saints have always been of that persuasion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Music, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Religious Leaders urge Pres. Obama to renounce report on religious freedom

In the tug of war between religious freedom and nondiscrimination rights, the weight seems to be pulling toward the latter.

At least that’s the view of 17 religious leaders ”” including LDS Church Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé ”” who addressed their concerns with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ recent report in an Oct. 7 letter to President Barack Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The report, titled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties,” comes down squarely on the side of civil liberties for individuals, the letter says, and “stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Deseret News) What lies beyond the grave? At BYU, leaders of 10 faiths share their views

Harvard University Episcopal pastor and chaplain Luther Zeigler said the Anglican view of the Christian hope in the afterlife is for a new age when heaven and earth merge in a newly created and embodied life.

“God will reframe the cosmos,” Zeigler said. “We’re not just mere bystanders in this re-creation but collaborators to make the kingdom real. Our job is to now become kingdom-bearers.”

Several hundred people attended at three sessions Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium on campus. The conference was sponsored by BYU Religious Education’s Office of Religious Outreach.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Eschatology, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CC) Kyle Beshears–A Mormon militia in Oregon?

The new year was rung in with the surprising news of a small militia occupying a federal building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, deep in rural Oregon. Armed protestors, calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, have called on the U.S. government to reverse policies dealing with public lands that they consider unconstitutional.

The group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, a confessing Mormon, said they would remain there until they “restore the land and resources to the people so people across the country can begin thriving again.” While most media outlets have covered the political and ideological aspects of the group’s motivation, few have considered the issue historically.

One of the first clues came after a militia member identified himself to a reporter as “Captain Moroni.” That name, of course, would most likely not match his birth certificate, but the captain is not just hiding behind a pseudonym. Instead, as others have noted, his choice of nickname is a tip of the hat to the motivation behind his actions: an odd blend of patriotism and Mormonism.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Mormons, Other Faiths, The U.S. Government, Theology, Violence

(NPR) Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent. Here's How.

The chronically homeless, on the other hand, are a subset of the homeless population that is often the most vulnerable. These are people who have been living on the streets for more than a year, or four times in the last three years, and who have a “disabling condition” ”” that includes serious mental illness, an addiction or a physical disability or illness.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that represents about 20 percent of the national homeless population.

By implementing a model known as Housing First, Utah has reduced that number from nearly 2,000 people in 2005, to fewer than 200 now.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Poverty, State Government, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(RNS) Religion scholar boycotts BYU conference to protest university policy

[Mark] Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and global studies, and affiliate professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was scheduled to speak at the conference Wednesday (October 7) but withdrew for reasons of conscience.

On Saturday, he received an email from the Free BYU organization, which has for some time now been attempting to change the university’s policy toward students who enter the school as Mormons but then either lose or change their religion during their time there.

Free BYU contacted all of the speakers for the conference to make them aware of what the organization has called “BYU’s policy of terminating, evicting, and expelling LDS students who change their faith.”

Under the policy, students who enter the university as Mormons but then undergo a faith transition can be expelled, evicted from student housing, and fired from on-campus jobs.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Young Adults

(GR) Richard Ostling–Evangelicals+Mormons: is this America’s most unlikely interfaith dialogue?

With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.

That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Evangelicals, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

The TEC Presiding Bishop’s sermon from the recent Executive Council Meeting's Closing Eucharist

Every religious tradition has its skeletons and its saints, and sometimes they are the same people. Paul is warning his hearers not to count themselves better than their ancestors, for they all depend on the same rootstock ”“ a root that nourishes the olive tree or the grape vine we cling to as intimate connection to God as Creator of all. That root is why we are here, and it is also why the LDS church is here.

When General Convention shows up here just over 3 months from now, many of the volunteers and dispensers of hospitality will be our sisters and brothers from that tradition. Will we recognize their welcome as a product of the same root, or will we assume that they come from a different and unrecognizable species?

Complexity defines human beings and their relationships, which just might convince us of the otherness of God. Difference is part of God’s creativity, from the riotous diversity of the species of creation to the inner chaos of most human beings. Paul names it when he says he wants to do the right thing, but he does something else instead.[8] Nevertheless, when people stay connected to that one rootstock, God can usually be found to bring something new and holy out of the mess.

Branches that seem radically different grow on the same tree and the same vine, even though we love to hate the ones who are not like us. We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms ”“ yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Mormons, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Gallup) Frequent Worship Service Attendance Highest in Utah (incl. Mormons), Lowest in Vermont

Slightly more than half of Utah residents say they attend religious services every week, more than any other state in the union. Residents in the four Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas are the next most likely to be frequent church attendees, with 45% to 47% reporting weekly attendance. At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont, where 17% of residents say they attend religious services every week.

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews throughout 2014 with 177,030 U.S. adults, and reflect those who say “at least once a week” when asked, “How often do you attend church, synagogue or mosque — at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom or never?” Church attendance self-reports are estimates, and may not reflect precise week in and week out attendance, but provide an important measure of the way in which Americans view their personal, underlying religiosity. In particular, the focus on the top category of “weekly” attendance yields a good indicator of the percentage of each state’s population that is highly religious, and for whom religion is likely to be a significant factor in their daily lives.

Ten of the 12 states with the highest self-reported religious service attendance are in the South, along with Utah and Oklahoma. The strong religious culture in the South reflects a variety of factors, including history, cultural norms and the fact that these states have high Protestant and black populations — both of which are above average in their self-reported religious service attendance. Utah’s No. 1 position on the list is a direct result of that state’s 59% Mormon population, as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Timothy Egan–History, Sexual Standards, and Mormonism then and now

Considering that it took the Mormon Church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, it may take another hundred years for the elders in Salt Lake City to proclaim that the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of their religion was the kind of guy who would have to register with the police today before moving into a neighborhood.

Still, for all its painful equivocating, the Mormon Church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past. For too long, the Mormons have tried to airbrush an extraordinary chapter in the history of the American West. Here was a sect, though persecuted and ridiculed, determined to institutionalize in the New World something that Islamic patriarchs and Old Testament graybeards practiced in the old.

Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century sex enthusiast, traveled to the Great Basin to witness this experiment in the Americas. Mark Twain, after visiting the social frontier of the Mormon kingdom, called it “a fairyland to us, for all intents and purposes ”” a land of enchantment and awful mystery.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(KUER) Percentage of Mormons in Utah's Population Increases Slightly

An analysis of public records by the Salt Lake Tribune shows about 62-percent of Utah’s overall population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just over half the population of Salt Lake County is listed on church records. There are three counties ”“ Grand, Summit and San Juan ”“ where Mormons are a minority.

The LDS church doesn’t provide information about how many of its members participate actively. Reverend Lyn Zil Briggs is the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville. She says many of the people attending her services each week are Mormon. And she says the large Mormon population in Utah makes newcomers more interested in religion generally.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Boston Globe Profile Article on Harvard’s Corbin Miller and his recent Mormon Mission

“It’s not the norm for an 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid to want to take on, especially if you’re playing basketball and going to a school like Harvard,” Bret said. “But Corbin’s a very spiritual person and it’s just something that he wanted to do.”

When he walked the streets of Puebla, Miller understood the perception that might have shadowed him.

“A lot of times, people see Mormon missionaries coming down the street and they think, ”˜They’re at it, they’re forcing it, you’ve got to listen to them, they want to convert you, they want to baptize you,’ ” Miller said.

“But the purpose was to invite others to come under Jesus Christ. Inform them about what we believe, and we always invited them to hold true to the truths that they know and then consider what we taught.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Missions, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Young Adults

(dotCommonweal) Michael Peppard–Joseph Smith's many marriages

Over the past decade or so, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints””usually known as the “Mormon” or “LDS” church””has moved toward greater transparency about its earliest era.

Through the publication of “The Joseph Smith Papers” and new historical essays on the official church website, lds.org, interested readers have been able to learn about the fuzzy period of early Mormonism, the roughly fifteen years from its founding to the settlement in Utah.

Now a new essay, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” makes frank admissions about the early days of polygamous relations (called “plural marriage” in LDS terminology) at Mormon settlements in Ohio and Illinois.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Two Cases of Latter-Day Apostasy are roiling Mormons

…the pending actions against both people represent the church’s established response to certain forms of dissent. Stretching back to the early years of the church under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, church leaders have demanded obedience and punished those who publicly challenged their authority. In 1979 the church excommunicated Sonia Johnson, who engaged in public protest against the church’s role in preventing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. In September 1993 the church disciplined six scholars (known as the “September Six”), several of whom were outspoken feminists.

Mormon excommunications cause tremendous trauma for individuals, families and the church as a whole. Latter-day Saint theology and ritual focus on sealing together couples and families for eternity. Excommunication imperils those sealings. On Ordain Women’s website, Ms. Kelly refers to the penalty as “spiritual death” and “evict[ion] from your forever family.”

Church discipline also means unwanted negative attention for a church that carefully manages its image. Thus, although other church critics also report heightened ecclesiastical pressure, the recent measures probably do not augur a wave of excommunications. Instead, by disciplining Ms. Kelly church leaders hope to quash Ordain Women while permitting and even engaging more moderate voices for change. While the church has on occasion changed course abruptly””as in 1978 when it ended the ban on men of African descent holding the priesthood””more often change comes slowly and incrementally.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

Meat & Potatoes: A Protestant view on differences from Mormonism

…a note from Associate Pastor Curt McFarland of Moses Lake Presbyterian Church, who is featured in this week’s video:

As a preface to this video, which some will see as controversial, I believe what is needed in faith conversations and general community discourse is not silence on the things one holds closest to the heart but instead the willingness to listen to each other, to respect each other, to soften the tone and increase the dialogue. This particular video reflects my understanding of the key differences between historic orthodox Christian faith and LDS faith.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Theology

(Time Magazine) 10 Questions with NCAA basketball phenom Jibari Parker

Growing up, was it harder to be really tall or to be a practicing Mormon?

I think just tall, because in Chicago, people really don’t know what Mormons are. And being a basketball player, I didn’t really have to face a lot of struggles, because a lot of people around me respected me. I really didn’t get heckled or looked down upon. But being tall was a mixed blessing. Off the court, I felt kind of shy because I wasn’t average. I wasn’t able to be a part of being normal in my classroom.

What music do you listen to before games? Would hip-hop be too explicit for Mormons?

I’m a really big fan of hip-hop, and I can listen to it before the game, but I’m not that into a lot of profane music. Sometimes you can’t get the clean things, so I just make sure that it’s as conservative as possible and make sure the message is there if profanity is present.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

Al Mohler–Moral Mayhem Multiplied””Now, It’s Polygamy’s Turn

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Judge Waddoups ruled that Utah’s law against consensual adult cohabitation among multiple partners violated the Constitution’s free exercise clause, but a main point was that opposition to polygamy did not advance a compelling state interest. In the background to that judgment was the argument asserted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to the effect that the only real opposition to any form of consensual sexual arrangement among adults would be religiously based, and thus unconstitutional.

Kennedy made that assertion in his majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior””and the Lawrence decision looms large over Judge Waddoups’s entire decision.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(SL Tribune) Laws against Mormon polygamists lead to win for plural marriage

“The state has got to feel a little foolish enforcing these old statutes that are particular to Utah history,” says Kathleen Flake, chair of Mormon studies at the University of Virginia. “We no longer criminalize adultery or fornication. Any college dormitory could run afoul of these laws.”

Americans today recognize “a zone of privacy around sexual activity,” says Flake, who is working on a book about Mormon polygamy. “Why isn’t that granted to people who believe themselves to be married to multiple partners as opposed to those who simply have multiple partners?”

Now it is, at least to one judge.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Mormon Missionary Expansion

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: Off they go, two-by-two, in search of converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints””the Mormons. You know some of them. Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was a missionary in Taiwan. Mitt Romney served a mission in France. Since the time of its first modern-day prophet Joseph Smith about 180 years ago, Mormons have sent over a million missionaries throughout the world.

STEVEN ALLEN: It is an international church.

SEVERSON: In fact, you have more members outside of the country than inside?

ALLEN: Si.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Federal Judge overturns part of Utah's law against polygamy

The full court document is there. One of the most important sections is this one:

Plaintiffs provide the “careful description” of the asserted fundamental right the required first step of the analysis in the Tenth Circuit, see Seegmiller, 528 F.3d at 769 as follows: “a fundamental liberty interest in choosing to cohabit and maintain romantic and spiritual relationships, even if those relationships are termed ”˜plural marriage’.” (Pls.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 11 [Dkt. No. 50].) Plaintiffs truncate the Glucksberg analysis by reference to Lawrence , which they argue establishes “a fundamental liberty interest in intimate sexual conduct” (Pls.’s Opp. Def.’s Mot. Summ.J. 19 n.16 [Dkt. No. 72]), thus prohibiting the state “from imposing criminal sanctions for intimate sexual conduct in the home.” (Pls.’ Mem. Supp.Mot. Summ. J. 9 [Dkt. No. 50].)”

Lawrence was the latest iteration in a long series of constitutional decisions amplifying a core principle: the Due Process Clause circumscribes and in some cases virtually forbids state intervention in private relationships and conduct.”
(Pls.’s Opp. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. 22 [Dkt. No. 72].) (pp.35-36).

You may find a Deseret News story there as well as a New York Times article here. Take the time to sort through it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(NY Times Beliefs) Mormons Offer Cautionary Lesson on Sunny Outlook vs. Literary Greatness

In 1888, speaking about the possibility of Mormon literature, the church leader Orson F. Whitney made an audacious promise to his fellow Mormons: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” Yet 125 years later, there is no Mormon Milton. There is no Mormon Milosz, no Mormon Munro.

Mormons are, on average, better educated than most Americans, and they have written popular fiction. But Mormon authors tend to cluster in genre fiction, like fantasy, science fiction, and children’s and young adult literature. Orson Scott Card, who wrote “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi novel on which the country’s current top-grossing movie is based, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So is Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series.

In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare ”” who has, lately? ”” have all had literary renaissances. Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore. And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(Orlando Sentinel) Mormon church-owned company buys huge swath of Florida land

The Mormon church stands to own nearly 2 percent of Florida by completing a deal to buy most of the real estate of the St. Joe Co. for more than a half-billion dollars.

The megapurchase was announced jointly Thursday by a corporate representative of church, which owns the nearly 295,000-acre Deseret Ranches in Central Florida, and by the real-estate and timber business, which has built several communities along the Panhandle coast.

According to the announcement, a church entity, AgReserves Inc., will buy 382,834 acres ”“ the majority of St. Joe’s timberlands ”“ in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties for $565 million.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly: On God, worship, sex and babies

Early in the 20th century, it was easy to predict which flocks of believers would produce the most children ”” with Mormons reporting the highest numbers, followed by Catholics, then Protestants and so forth as fertility rates declined. But things changed as the century rolled on and America became more pluralistic and, in elite ZIP codes, secular.

After Woodstock and the sexual revolution, it was clear that “what really mattered wasn’t what religion you claimed to be practicing, but the degree to which you actually practiced it ”” especially whether or not you were in a pew week after week,” said journalist Jonathan A. Last, author of “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting….”

“When it comes to people having what people today consider large families ”” three or more children ”” there are two Americas out there,” he said, and the division is between those who actively practice a faith, especially a traditional form of faith, and those who do not.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott Hayashi takes a stand against anti-Mormon humor

The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, is a smiler.

He loves to laugh, and those who know him best say he can tell a joke with the best of them.

But there is one form of humor that always puts a frown on his face.

“I don’t like jokes that are hateful toward any one group, especially jokes that are hateful toward a religious group,” he said. “In my baptismal covenant I pledged that I would ”˜work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.’ Statements of hate, regardless of who they are generated against or how humorously they are intended, are not part of what it means to me to be faithful as an Episcopalian. So I say, don’t do it.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops, Theology

(NY Times) Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt

…when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.

Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, History, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Mormonism: A Scrutinized, Yet Evolving Faith

Mormonism is a new religion, less than 200 years old, which means many of its claims can be easily confirmed or denied by modern science. For example, even most Mormon scholars agree there’s no archaeological evidence that Jews came to America in 600 B.C., as Joseph Smith claimed, or that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Mo.

Faced with those evidentiary challenges, some Mormons have felt betrayed and left the faith. Many others, like Joanna Brooks, are trying to reconcile their religion with the science. Brooks, who’s a professor at San Diego State University and author of The Book of Mormon Girl, says she focuses on the fundamentals, such as a belief in God, and in Jesus’ role as savior.

“Other sort of fine points of doctrine, I deal with privately,” says Brooks. “And that’s not uncommon in Mormonism.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Allison Pond: The Mormon Missionary Revolution

It has been quite a year for Mormonism in America. Outside the faith, the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney sparked unprecedented levels of interest and attention. Meanwhile, church leaders have transformed how young Mormons start their adulthood, affecting everything from education to dating and marriage.

Though you might not know it from Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon,” 12% of Mormon missionaries are women””a number that is about to skyrocket thanks to an unexpected change in official Latter-day Saint policy. The church announced last month that Mormon women are now eligible to begin serving missions at age 19 instead of 21, and that Mormon men may serve at 18 instead of 19.

The response was immediate. Within two weeks, the number of missionary applications jumped an astonishing 471%, from the usual 700 per week to more than 4,000. Slightly more than half of these applicants were women.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Women