News in 2001

Two BYU Journalism Professors Fired

BYU administrators have given no reason why they fired two professors who worked in the school’s journalism department. John Gholdston, the managing director of the school’s website, and John Kent, advertising manager, were fired less than a year after school administrators proposed controversial changes to the program. When the students attempted to put together a tribute on 15-year employee Gholdston, they were told they would be disciplined if they did, so one student put together an "untold story" at geocities.com/livetarget2/. At this point the reason for the firings is not publicly known.

Meanwhile, students have complained that these firings may mean the university, which is run by the Mormon Church, may be putting more censorship restrictions on their journalism publications. Of course, this practice is not surprising as the LDS Church has become the master censor, not wanting its academic scholars in recent years to portray Mormonism in any negative light. This is why many LDS historians have become more like writers of the old Soviet Union Pravda, reporting only those events that can be spun positively. Obviously this is no way to run a true academic university. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/15/01)

Pacific Islanders Becoming More Common in Utah

It used to be that those who descended from the Pacific Islands such as Tonga and

Samoa were rare. Today, Utah’s West Valley City is the largest per-capita home of Pacific Islanders in the United States outside of Honolulu, according to the U.S. Census from 2000, and Salt Lake City ranks fourth on the per-capita list, behind Hayward, Calif. More than 3% of West Valley City are Pacific Islanders, or more than 3,000 residents. Utah has more than 15,000 Pacific Islanders, many who began coming in the 1970s lured by their connections with the Mormon Church. "The economic and social climate in Utah has been very good for Pacific Islanders," said William Afeaki, the state’s director of Pacific Island Affairs. "There has been a lot of contract work, construction and landscaping jobs available. And Utah’s social culture fits the Polynesian lifestyle. This isn’t New York or L.A." (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/14/01)

Utahans Still Want Olympics

Despite the events of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, the vast majority of surveyed Utahans want the Olympic Games to be played in February. With only two months left before the Games begin, only one in 20 feels the 2002 Salt Lake City Games should be cancelled. The Salt Lake Tribune and Valley Research Inc. polled 607 adults from Nov. 29-30. They found that 14 percent claimed to be "torn" while one in three claimed to be excited. Only 9 percent said they would ignore the Games. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/8/01)

Indecency Laws too Broad, Says Utah Porn Czar

Paula Houston, the so-called "porn czar" of Utah, is working to tone down a broad and even perhaps illegal state law that bans public displays of nudity or sex. The statute that has been on Utah’s books for 12 years is so broad, she said, that Michelangelo’s nude "David" sculpture or bare-breasted women in National Geographic magazines might be illegal. "We have to operate within the law," she said, "and I’m trying to make the law as clear as possible." She currently is working with Rep. Peggy Wallace, R-West Jordan to create laws to protect artistic, literary, political, or scientific displays and literature that are deemed non-pornographic. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/8/01)

Tickets to Nauvoo Soon Going to be Hard to Find

There probably will be no more of a prestigious temple open house than Nauvoo, Illinois beginning next May 18 and lasting through June 22—and the public has been snatching up the free tour tickets at an incredible rate. In fact, fully half a year before it opens, almost all of the available tickets for the one-hour tour have been taken, including all of the six Saturday dates. There is a limit of 10 free tickets per person.

"There’s great interest," an LDS spokeswoman said, noting that visitors from Utah have made the most reservations. The Nauvoo temple is being constructed to look like the original temple from a century and a half ago. Distinctive components on the outside will feature hand-carved limestone sun, moon, and star stones and historically accurate windows. Inside everything will be modern, with period furnishings accenting the rooms. Christian groups, including representatives from Mormonism Research Ministry, will be standing outside the grounds every day during the five weeks, offering literature to guests in order to contrast historical Christian doctrines with LDS interpretations (Deseret News, 12/8/01)

Utahans Get Less Cancer

Could it be the clean living? According to the President’s Cancer Panel, Utah has the third lowest overall cancer deaths in all U.S. states. Hawaii and Colorado finished with better scores than Utah, while Washington, D.C. has the highest death rates in the nation. Out of half a million deaths, Utah averages 2,500 per year. Utah Cancer Registry director Charles Wiggins credits clean living for the clean bill of health, saying that Mormons "don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they don’t chew. So in terms of lifestyles, we do better than most states." All cancers were included in the Center for Disease Control study, with the most prevalent being lung, colon, breast, and prostate. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/7/01)

Olympic Rentals Not as Hot as Previously Thought

Many Utah residents who thought that they were going to make a financial killing when the Olympic Games come to town in February are starting to become disappointed as the demand for housing is much softer than what many had predicted. One man who lives in Deer Valley thought he would be able to get $1800 a night for his 3-bedroom condominium because he is close to some of the venues. Now he says he is willing to get $900 a night—"even lower as every day goes by." Some homeowners had previously turned down generous offers a year ago thinking the sky was the limit, and now many of them are scrambling just to find anyone to rent their homes. One who turned down an offer last year of $5,000 a month for six months beginning in November is kicking himself for not taking it. The terrorist attacks of September 11th are being blamed for the weak demand in housing. Meanwhile, Salt Lake vacancy rates in apartments are higher than the previous decade. (San Diego Union/Tribune, 12/2/01)

Mormon Church and Utah State Ends Disagreement

The debate as to who owns the papers of the late church historian Leonard Arrington were resolved, with a few documents going to the LDS Church and the rest going to the university. Arrington’s will specified that his research papers and other work would be given to the university so others could continue important historical research. The Mormon Church felt that since many of the papers were compiled during Arrington’s days as church historian, it rightfully owned them. When it was obvious that the disagreement could become heated, an agreement was made to put together a committee to determine the papers’ fate. Last week the family’s attorney asked the committee to return certain "sensitive" documents that were "mistakenly" given to the university. The papers included "two small documents concerning matters the LDS Church considers sacred" detailing temple rites. They are part of Heber C. Kimball’s diary and a volume entitled the "Book of Anointing." In addition, some minutes of the apostles were also returned. The rest of the collection should be quite helpful to historians who will want to see what documents Arrington had regarding the formation of the LDS Church as well as the American West and its settlement. (Deseret News, 11/25/01)

"Ordained" BYU Students Rebuffed in Party Bid

A couple of BYU students looking for a way around tough Provo city ordinance became ordained ministers over the Internet so they could legally throw a party. Apparently Provo’s city ordinance prohibits public dances without state-certified security guards, metal detectors and surveillance cameras. The exception? Government groups, schools and churches. Thus, the friends, both LDS, were ordained by the Universal Life Church in a 10-minute Internet ceremony that basically required only their names and addresses. The first Provo party was scheduled during the week of Halloween, a costume dance that was closed down by the police chief. One frustrated student said, "We were trying to comply with the ordinance. As far as we knew it was a legitimate church." Another student said, "It’s difficult to have good clean fun in this town, and that’s what we’re trying to do. Even when we try to do it legally we’re being accosted from all sides." The students are requesting help from the ACLU, whose representatives were trying to contact the students. Of course, belonging to two churches goes against BYU’s Honor Code. However, a BYU spokesperson said that the school would not take action. (Deseret News, 11/7/01)

Mormon PR Machine Works on NBC Olympics Crew

The NBC crew that will be covering the Olympics partook in a three-day production seminar in Salt Lake City and learned about the LDS Church. Apostle Robert D. Hales spoke about polygamy and other topics to 300 reporters, researchers, producers and other network personnel on one of the days. A video featuring football quarterback Steve Young and former Miss America Sharlene Wells Hawkes was also shown. Certainly this was a way for the LDS leadership to try to make Mormonism appear as mainstream as possible to the influential television network while deferring possible criticism of a church with a colorful and controversial history. "It was a proactive move by us to have our staff get a clear picture of what role the LDS Church has and to dispel any notion about these being the Mormon games," one television executive said. On Friday, news anchor Tom Brokaw interviewed LDS President Gordon Hinckley, who told local station KSL how nice it was to talk to him. "He always astonished me," Brokaw is quoted as saying. "This is the third or fourth meeting I think I’ve had with him, and he is so mentally alert and obviously articulate and fearless you can ask him anything." Hinckley made it clear that "this will not be the Mormon Olympics. This will be the Salt Lake City Olympics." The interview will air in February. (Deseret News, 11/8/01 and 11/10/01) Fate of Arrington papers to be decided by board The LDS Church and Utah State University will allow an eight-member board to decide the future of the documents that were donated by LDS church history scholar Leonard Arrington who died in 1999; his family donated his research to USU so that they would be available to the public. Each institution has nominated four members to be part of the board, and their final decision will be given to the presidents of the two institutions for approval. "Overall, we’re supportive of (the board) and hopeful this board will bring this a swift end," one USU spokesman said. The papers contain much research done during Arrington’s time as church historian between 1972 to 1982. The LDS Church, which is very sensitive about its history in light of the upcoming Olympic Games, is especially concerned about such items as the minutes of meetings held by the apostles, letterbooks, journals, and letters by or to church President Brigham Young. The board will keep its deliberations private until a satisfactory conclusion has been reached. (Deseret News, 11/10/01)

Ownership of Arrington Collection Hotly Contested

The LDS Church and Utah State University (Logan) are haggling over the rightful ownership of 658 boxes of documents and other papers donated by famous LDS historian Leonard Arrington, which were made available to the public two weeks ago. The university has agreed to "temporarily sequester" some of the materials until the debate is resolved. The Mormon Church "learned that the Arrington collection includes some private and confidential materials" that it considers embarrassing. This is obviously an attempt by Mormon Church leaders to cover up the unique early history of Mormonism, including its polygamous past and the teachings from a shoot-from-the-hip leader like Brigham Young. The LDS Church is currently in the midst of making itself appear as mainstream as possible. The world will come to Utah in several months to play in February’s Olympic Games.

Arrington died two years ago and was the church’s official historian from 1972 to 1982. He had full access to the church historical archives, including material never before released to the public. The Mormons are concerned that he may have copied papers that were not his. They also believe some materials gathered by him as an official representative of the LDS Church should be confiscated. Arrington utilized these materials to write dozens of articles and books, including a biography on Young. Davis Britton, a Mormon historian and friend of Arrington’s, said that he does not believe Arrington did anything improper. "Usually when scholars do research on their subjects, those notes are the property of the scholars, not the repository," Bitton said. Apparently Arrington chose Utah State University—where he taught economics for 26 years—rather than BYU or the University of Utah because he considered the former school as more easily accessible. The entire matter may end up in court. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/25/01)

"Critical Text Version" of the Book of Mormon Highlights Corrections

Royal Skousen, a professor of English and linguistics at BYU, has finally finished his "critical text version of the Book of Mormon." The 13-year project "shows all the changes the book has undergone from its original version to its present editions." According to Skousen, "the critical text version of the Book of Mormon contains everything that was originally written, including spelling errors and editing marks." No doubt such a project will be a surprise to many LDS members who still think their sacred book (that was allegedly translated by the gift and power of God) has never seen revision. Skousen insists that "the differences are very subtle and do not change any doctrinal principles." Does that mean Indians really should turn white instead of pure when they convert to Mormonism? (BYU Daily Universe, 10/23/01)

Smith Ring Creates Legal Nightmare

A company that produces replica copies of a ring once owned by Joseph Smith is being sued by the original ring’s owner. Erwin "Buddy" Youngreen filed suit in the 3rd District Court because his original ring is "an historical object associated with Joseph Smith (and) it has great value" to members of the LDS Church. In fact, the original ring was used by Smith to make a point during his famous King Follett Discourse given on April 7, 1844, when Joseph Smith clearly stated that God was once a literal man, physical in every way. The company, Ogden-based Ringmasters, is selling the ring replicas, each of which has a copy of Smith’s signature on the inside, for as much as $400 each. Youngreen gave the company exclusive rights years ago to produce the ring, but he says he cancelled the contract last year. The suit says that the company has continued to sell the ring while withholding royalties to Youngreen. (Deseret News, 10/19/01)

Do You Want Catsup With That Burger?

The animal-rights group Fund for Animals, which is based in New York City, is protesting the practice of hunting animals on LDS Church-owned ranches. Hunts at the Deseret Ranch in Florida and the Deseret Land and Livestock in Utah involve animals such as elk and moose. Hunters are charged up to $11,000 for each tag. Hunters going after geese, pheasants, ducks, and doves at the Westlake Farm in Utah are charged as much as $1,500 per hunter, with church workers baiting the birds with food. "We believe that all hunting on church property violates the basic principles of the church," a Fund for Animals spokesman said. "Beyond that we believe that hunting for pleasure and hunting for sport violates common human decency." Church leaders are looking into the matter. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/18/01)

Utah’s Middle Class Trying to Keep Heads Above Water

Charities in Utah are struggling to keep up with middle class families whose breadwinners are being laid off during the economic recession. In fact, a University of Utah study says there is a "dire economic impact" that is causing many middle class Utahans to turn to the charitable programs for housing assistance, emergency food, and other services. "When you go from $60,000 a year to $25,000 a year, and you’re trying to find a minimum-wage job or a service industry job…that’s a crisis," a University of Utah spokesperson said. Many turn to the charitable welfare groups, including the LDS Church, before requesting government aid. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/17/01)

Mormon Church Criticized for Stance on Nuclear Waste

Storage of nuclear waste in Utah has drawn criticism from many quarters, but one group staying away from the controversy is the LDS Church. Apparently the Mormons leaders don’t believe it is their place to say whether or not such waste should be stored near the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation. "They said it was a political issue, and they have not yet taken a position," said one LDS activist who is against her church’s stance. She was told to contact her political leaders instead. Although no other church has taken a position on the issue, the activists are unhappy that their church leaders don’t consider this as important as other political stands that the church has made, including the issues of homosexuality and state liquor laws. The LDS leaders say nuclear waste is not a moral issue and is not one they plan to take sides on. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/13/01)

Book of Commandments Copy May Be Worth Half A Million Dollars

An extremely rare original copy of the 1833 Book of Commandments is being auctioned in New York and is expected to fetch $500,000. The auction by Christie’s will take place on Oct. 29 for the early version of the Mormon Church’s current Doctrine and Covenants. "It is probably the most valuable Mormon book ever," bookseller Brent Ashworth of Provo said. This copy, which measures 3-by-5 inches, is being sold by the rural non-Mormon family of New York book collector Marshall Graham Hill, who died in 1945. Oliver Cowdery, an early scribe of Joseph Smith, originally owned the copy. Cowdery’s notes are found in the book, which is missing several pages and sections. Another copy sold last year for about $350,000. Although there were 10,000 copies printed, only 24 or so are known to exist today because a mob broke into the home of the publisher in 1833 and destroyed most of the pages. A first edition of the Book of Mormon, meanwhile, is worth between $50,000 to $70,000. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/11/01)

New Web Site Designed by LDS Church Furthers Doctrinal Deception

A web site has been put together to showcase Mormon beliefs and answer questions that Mormon converts may have about the religion. Besides the text, the site includes video clips and pictures. Social issues are also discussed, including homosexuality, the importance of families, and why women are not allowed to hold the priesthood. It’s "a convenient, non-threatening way for people to learn about the church," Seventy Neil Andersen said. "We hope the site will also encourage people to talk to church members in their areas about what they have learned."

Unfortunately, the site only further fuels the accusation that the LDS Church is reluctant to be fully honest with prospective investigators as it does little to answer legitimate questions and issues. For instance, none of the links regarding "God, our Heavenly Father" explain to readers that the Mormon God was once a human who became God at a particular point in time. Short generic articles highlight the problem: Written in too general of terms and sounding Christian by using couched language, the site is practically useless if a person is truly attempting to discover the true teachings of Mormonism. Instead of using politically correct language, it would be more honest if LDS Church leaders would put together a site that definitively spelt out the exact differences between their faith’s teachings and those of the historic Christian faith. (Source for the facts about the website: Deseret News, 10/5/01)

Temple Square Visitors’ Center Reopens

One of Utah’s biggest tourist attractions has been completely remodeled in time for next winter’s Olympic Games. Opening on October 5th, the Temple Square Visitor’s Center that is located in the very center of Salt Lake City is prepared for the onslaught of visitors who will come in the next months. The LDS Church uses Temple Square as a place to have non-member visitors come and leave their names so local missionaries will be able to visit. Included in the remodeling is a new 14-by-14-foot interactive model of Jerusalem and interactive video kiosks for the self-guided visitor. (LDS Church News Release, 9/28/01)

Light of the World Show to Play During Olympics

A spectacular theatrical and musical production with 1,500 performers will be hosted by the LDS Church and take place in Salt Lake City during the Games. "Light of the World: A Celebration of Life" is three years in the making and "is designed to appeal to all who believe in a higher deity." Apostle Robert Hales said the "production will celebrate life and the universal light within each individual who inspires greatness." Sounding more like a New Age production than something a "Christian" church would host, the Mormons are certainly attempting to take advantage of a stage that will be watched by the entire world. The Hollywood-like production will involve a set that looks like a globe and will measure 130-feet wide and 100-feet deep. There will be image projections larger than IMAX, light effects, and flying performers. In addition, 1,500-2,000 intricate costumes will be designed, including 450 costumes for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Standard-Examiner, 9/25/01)

Discounts for Missionaries Challenged by ACLU

Claiming it is religious discrimination for a Orem restaurant to offer a 15 percent discount to missionaries, the American Civil Liberties Union has complained to Utah’s Attorney General’s Office. The complaint arose when several leaders from the Catholic Church were denied the same discount Mormon missionaries receive at the Rodizio Grill on Wednesdays, the day of the week LDS missionaries enter the church’s Missionary Training Center in nearby Provo. The owner claimed that this was a marketing gimmick, much like special discounts for senior citizens and children. When he realized that there were complaints, he made the discount available to all denominations. "There was no ill intention at any point," said the owner, who is from Brazil. "I am a foreigner. I am a minority myself. I know what it is like." The change did not suit the ACLU, which says that the policy is still discriminatory and in violation of state law. (Deseret News, 9/6/01)

Abuse Case Settled for $3 Million

A child abuse case in Oregon has resulted in a $3 million out-of-court, pre-trial settlement to be paid out of LDS Church coffers. The case originated in 1998 when a Portland-area family agreed to allow an 88-year-old man to move out of a rest home and into their home. The family did not realize that the man, who had been ordained to the office of high priest, had a prior record of child abuse in another ward in the early 1980s. He had been later excommunicated in Pennsylvania when church officials discovered his conviction. When the man returned to Portland and moved into the plaintiff’s home, the bishop of the family’s ward did not warn them of the man’s past. The LDS Church "elected to settle the case and devote its resources to its principal mission proclaiming the gospel, rather than continuing to pursue costly litigation," according to a church statement. The original complaint had asked for $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Anderson, the plaintiff’s lawyer, has blasted the LDS Church, claiming that it has become a "safe harbor" for pedophiles and a "very dangerous place" for children. He believes the church settled because "it’s obvious they faced very serious and grave liability concerns and they would be held legally responsible" for the abuse his client received from the pedophile. (Deseret News, 9/4/01 and 9/5/01)

Utah Polygamist Receives 5-year Jail Sentence

Tom Green, the 53-year-old polygamist who was featured on numerous television shows as well as magazine and newspaper articles about his marriages to five women, was sentenced by a Utah judge to five years in prison. In addition, he must repay $78,000 for welfare fraud. The judge sentenced Green to five terms of five years each to be served concurrently. He could have given Green 25 years, and the five years that Green will spend behind bars is half the sentence hoped for by prosecutor David Leavitt, the brother of the Utah governor and whose family has a polygamist past.

Denying that Green was being prosecuted because he took his stance on polygamy public by talking to the media, the prosecutor said, "Tom Green is being punished because his free speech revealed his crimes." Before he was sentenced, Green had his five wives and seven of his 30 children who came to the hearing stand in the court before pointing at them and proclaiming, "I am not ashamed of these people, and I’m not ashamed of my relationship with them." Green also informed the court that the judge and his daughter both shared a common polygamist ancestor who was jailed for his beliefs. The judge was not moved, saying that while everyone is entitled to his beliefs, a person’s actions must conform to the law. Meanwhile, each of his wives cried on the stand as they asked the judge for mercy. They announced after the verdict that they will try to stay off welfare. When their husband is finally released, they say that they might move out of Utah. (ABC News, 8/24/01)

BYU Graduates 15-year-old Student

A 15-year-old boy who achieved a 99th percentile in math on the ACT test at the age of 12 and entered college at 13 has completed his degree from LDS-owned Brigham Young University. Benjamin Austin took seven straight semesters, two of which had 19 units each, to pick up his degree in business management and a math minor. Earning a very respectable 3.55 GPA, Ben says that he is happy to be done with college so he can enter the work world. He plans to go into business himself as an Internet web designer and consultant until he is eligible to begin his two-year Mormon mission, which cannot begin for four more years. Ben is not the youngest student to have graduated from BYU as two 14-year-olds graduated in the 1990s. Ben’s 14-year-old sister is a junior at BYU and also plans to graduate at 15. Their parents have home schooled both children and their six siblings; the father is a history teacher at a middle school in Provo. Although some might argue that these children have lost their precious growing-up years, the brother and sister said they were ready to move on with their studies rather than sitting around waiting for college (The Daily Herald, 8/17/01)

Hundreds of Mormons Take to the Seas

Reenacting the trips their ancestors made about 150 years ago, a group of 400 Mormons in eight ships are sailing into European seaports such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany before embarking on a journey that will end in New York on October 4. Of course, the trip organized by the Utah-based Sea Trek Foundation was much more modern in nature, as participants brought computers with access to the world’s largest genetic database, created and funded by the LDS Church. They invited the Europeans to harbor-side exhibition centers to trace their heritage and to discover their ancestors. Of course, Mormons are very active genealogists since they believe that they have the power to help save their relatives by having temple work done for them on their behalf. The organizers planned the 3,000-mile journey as a remembrance of the trips made by about 85,000 Mormons who migrated from Europe to Utah from 1851-1866. (San Diego Union/Tribune, 8/10/01)

Man With No Clothes Creates Disturbance on Temple Grounds

A naked 24-year-old man who smashed through a plate glass window at the St. George (Utah) temple visitor’s center ended up in critical condition at the local hospital and may face felony charges. Police needed an electric taser to subdue the man after he had broken into the building on Friday, August 3. The center was empty at 8 a.m. when the man, who arrived there after having run through the streets with no clothes, began to pound on the window, breaking it. His feet disappeared through the opening in the glass just as police arrived. Because it was too dangerous for officers to enter through the hole, a maintenance worker let them in. They found the man hugging a large statue of Jesus Christ. When he threatened the police, the man—said to be more than six feet in height and over 200 pounds—was subdued. Drugs or alcohol were not factors in the strange case. (The Salt Lake Tribune, 8/4/01)

Liquor Ads Now Allowed in Utah

A U.S. district judge ruled that two key prohibitions against the advertising of alcohol should no longer be enforced. The order was similar to a July 24th ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the ban on ads "irrational" because billboards and window signs were allowed for beer products but no ads of any kind were allowed for hard liquor and wine. Liquor marketers in Utah were ecstatic and planned an immediate propaganda bombardment in the predominantly Mormon state. "I told my retail people to get on the phone," said one ad director. "I want beer ads, I want wine ads, I want liquor ads." While the Salt Lake Tribune had already accepted alcohol ads, the LDS Church-owned Deseret News said that the decision will have no effect on its operations because they will continue to refuse alcohol ads. (The Salt Lake Tribune, 8/3/01)

Distance Needed Between State and Church, Business Leader Urges

A new business leader admonished Utah for its ties to the LDS Church and said state officials must better show that they are not puppets to the Mormon Church in order to take full advantage of the possible public relations coup that could occur with the upcoming Olympics. "Utah is a tough sell," Michael Witte, the chief executive of AlphaGraphics Inc., told his business audience in a speech. "If you have lived here all your life, you don’t see this. But believe me, if you don’t live here and you’re looking in from the outside, otherwise educated, liberal open-minded people still look at the Utah environment and think that you guys are from Mars. I’m not kidding." Witte recently moved his printing company’s headquarters to Utah from Arizona and was surprised when only one-third of his employees made the move with him because of their negative image of Utah. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/2/01)

A Tale of Two Cities: Wendover, UT and West Wendover, NV

A number of residents of a city that is split down the middle are trying to become united. The Utah city of Wendover, located on the eastern stateline of Nevada and the western stateline of Utah on Interstate 80, is attempting to join its sister town of West Wendover, which is in Nevada. Apparently there is such a financial discrepancy between the two towns—for instance, homes on the Nevada side average $155,000 while homes on the Utah side go for only $85,000—that one bartender on the Nevada side said, "They ought to just bulldoze the Utah part because it looks like crap." If the unlikely annexation ever took place (nothing of the sort has taken place in the United States for more than 100 years), then Wendover would be able to share in the wealthier tax base of Nevada. Apparently the majority of the populations from both towns is in favor of the proposal. (Denver Post, 7/29/01)

President Hinckley Urges Members to Love Non-Mormons

In a speech given at the Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert on July 23, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley said that his flock should go out of their way to befriend those who belong to religions other than the Utah-based Mormon Church. Speaking to almost 21,000 people, he said, "This city and state have now become the home of many people of great diversity in their backgrounds, beliefs and religious persuasions. I plead with our people to welcome them, to befriend them, to mingle with them, to associate with them in the promulgation of good causes. We are all sons and daughters of God." He added, "To be adverse to Gentiles because they are Gentiles, or Jews because they are Jews, is in direct opposition to our religion…. We must not be clannish. We must never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be self-righteous" Perhaps a number of apologists who are employed at the church-owned Brigham Young University should take note. (Deseret News, 7/23/01)

Catholics Say Mormons Who Convert Must Be Rebaptized

Citing major doctrinal differences, the Roman Catholic Church has stated that Mormons who convert to the Catholic faith must be rebaptized. The "Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" has said that it cannot accept the Mormon belief that "God the father had a wife, the Celestial Mother, with whom he procreated Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit." It concluded that a baptism in the Mormon tradition, "is not the Baptism that Christ instituted" (The Salt Lake Tribune, 7/19/01)

Satan Is a Real Being, Most Mormons Feel

A poll by the Barna Research Group, a Christian organization that monitors the spiritual heartbeat of America, says that Mormons are more likely to believe in the literal existence of Satan than any other religious group. In fact, almost 60 percent of Mormons "believe Satan is a real being who can influence people’s lives," a statement that was considered "hogwash" by most Americans. Of course, Mormonism teaches that Lucifer, who is believed to be the spirit brother of Jesus as well as the human and demotic races, sinned in the "preexistence," a place where everyone existed in spirit form before this earth. Lucifer’s proposal countered a plan given by Jesus, God the Father’s firstborn son; it became the reason why Lucifer and one-third of those spirits who followed him were cast out of heaven. Everyone who remained in the preexistence has been (or will be) given bodies on this earth because of their faithfulness to Jesus. Since Mormons are taught this very clearly during their youth, many of them accept this teaching as being both true and literal.

The poll also showed that one-third of all Mormons believe they have "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ." They feel that "when they die they know they will go to heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior." Certainly missing from the polling data was what these respondents meant by going to heaven since Mormonism clearly teaches that one can never know for sure whether or not he is going to the top level of heaven (known as the celestial kingdom) until he has attained perfection, something few Mormons would claim for themselves. According to the thinking of most Mormons, the idea of going to one of the three levels of heaven is pretty much a done deal for most, if not all, of humanity, so agreeing with the idea that they know they are going to heaven would have been natural for the average Latter-day Saint. (Deseret News, July 14, 2001)

Relatives of Massacre Threaten Lawsuit

The Mountain Meadows Massacre controversy that took place in 1857 will just not go away, despite the LDS Church’s desire to wipe the event away from history as Olympic organizers prepare for next winter’s Games. A group of descendants from the 120 members of an Arkansas wagon train who were slaughtered in the infamous Utah massacre wants to stifle a scientific report based on the victims’ remains that were dug up two years ago. The details of the remains would become accessible to the public unless the Utah Division of State History decides to take the threat seriously and keep the report private. Meanwhile, a rival group of descendants would like to see the report published. (Deseret News, 6/23/01)