News in 2002

One Thing Plaza Has Not Been Is Cheap

The controversial Main Street plaza located next to Temple Square has cost the LDS Church more than $10 million so far, with the cost sure to rise to upwards of $12 million. Currently, at more than $10 million, this makes the square foot average for the land where the plaza is located at $124. Compare that to Crossroads Mall, located across the street, where the 2.5 acres would be worth $7.5 million, or about $69 a square foot, nearly double that of the plaza. The city has put the money from the LDS Church to use. Among the projects taken on by the city are: almost $100,000 for building on two Salt Lake City fire stations, including women’s rest rooms; almost $700,000 on street, sidewalk, and drain repairs; more than $630,000 for radio and dispatch equipment for the police and fire stations; $500,000 for repairing 11 city bridges; $800,000 for a salt storage dome for the winder street salt reserves; and $2.5 million for Liberty Park improvements. (Deseret News, 12/24/02)

Was BYU Conned?

A man who claims that he once taught at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University with a fake degree is being called a liar by university officials. Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., whose life is the subject for the new Steven Spielberg movie "Catch Me If You Can" starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, says that he possessed a fake degree from Columbia University and taught at BYU during the 1960s, even though there is no university record to back up his claim. "It’s important to remember we are dealing with someone who is famous for being a liar," said Michael Smart, a BYU spokesman. "You get the feeling he could tell a good story." Abagnale is the youngest man to have ever been placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, earning the notorious title for a string of forgeries and impersonations during a five-year period. During his con career he cashed about $2 million in fraudulent checks in every state and more than two dozen countries, posing from an airline pilot to a lawyer and pediatrician. (Deseret News, 12/26/02)

LDS Church Jobs Being Trimmed

With an estimated 33,355 people on its payroll in the state of Utah, the LDS Church is having to eliminate some positions, from mailroom clerks to investment personnel who watch over $6 billion in annual income to the church (most from tithing). Although the church refused to give specifics about its cutbacks, the faltering economy and a drop in member giving are the probable reasons. Whatever the reason for the pinch, the LDS Church will still remain, hands down, the state’s largest individual employer, followed distantly by 22,500 on the state government payroll. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/22/02)

Utah Top 10 In Growth

For the 12th year in a row, the state of Utah has grown in population. In fact, it is ranked in the top 10 of the fastest-growing states. In the past year, Utah has grown by 1.6 percent while the nation as a whole grew 1.1 percent. Currently Utah has a population of 2.278 million. Although the state’s economy has not been strong, there was a net gain of 7,411 people who came to Utah, though this figure is down about 50 percent from the more than 14,000 people who were said to have arrived in Utah during the previous year. There were more than 48,000 births during the past year, which is an all-time high. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/21/02)

Ex-LDS Bishop Facing Hearing On Sex Charge

A 13-year-old Logan, Utah girl who was attending the funeral of her great-grandmother at a Monument Park, Utah LDS ward claimed that the local bishop touched her in inappropriate places while she and the bishop were trying to take a television cart to the church basement. The girl, who was baby sitting her 15 young relatives, claimed that she was touched three times on the breasts and buttocks as they maneuvered the cart through the basement door. Although the former bishop, 38, said that the touching was accidental, the girl claims it was not. "I thought I could trust him," she said while describing the bishop as having "the same religion as me, and they have a special communications with God and they know things and stuff." A hearing will be held on Jan. 3 on the charge of aggravated sexual abuse. (Deseret News, 12/17/02)

Salt Lake Crime Goes Up By Almost 4%

According to the FBI, crime in Salt Lake City went up by 3.8 percent during the first half of this year while the rest of the nation averaged only 1.3 percent. The agency is blaming the depressed economy as the main culprit. While the state capital saw its violent crime drop by almost 8 percent, property crimes went up 4.7 percent. While it would seem that the Olympics could be blamed, the Salt Lake City assistant police chief said that he didn’t believe this was the case since there were not an abnormal amount of crimes reported in February. Meanwhile, nearby Provo crime went down by 16.4 percent thanks to a 17.7 percent decrease in property crimes. However, the home city of Brigham Young University saw its violent crimes go up by 12 percent. (Deseret News, 12/17/02)

Newsman Gets Thrill by Leading LDS Choir

In a production titled "Silent Night, Holy Night," retired journalist Walter Cronkite had a chance to lead the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir during weekend performances in front of packed audiences at the LDS Conference Center. The dramatization of World War II soldiers united by Christmas carols was narrated by Cronkite, and he even had a chance to lead the choir and orchestra in the "Hallelujah" Chorus. "And that’s the way it was that Christmas nearly 100 years ago," he concluded, "and that’s the way it can be if each of us embrace the message of Christmas." (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/13/02)

Former Tribune Owners Lose Another Round

Hopes that the historic owners of The Salt Lake Tribune may have had in recovering their old paper were, for all intents and purposes, dashed this week by a federal judge. The former owners, the McCartheys, have hoped that they could reacquire its paper that was bought by MediaNews in January 2000 and completely taken over last August. Unless the decision is overturned by an appeals judge, there appears little recourse left for the McCartheys. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/13/02)

Provo School District Bans Monday Events

In an attempt to open up Monday nights for Mormon families who hope to regularly participate in family home evenings, a Provo, Utah school district has listened to LDS President Gordon Hinckley’s plea in the fall conference and declared that its schools will cease holding any activities on that night of the week. No longer will sporting events, musicals, practices, and PTA meetings take place in Provo schools, which will put pressure on the sports teams and art groups to fits its activities into the other four nights of the week. This may cause a hardship in scheduling facilities such as gyms and performance centers. Still, the school board felt strongly about making this decision. "The board of education supports the concept of a night for focus on families," a board member said in a prepared statement. "The district’s greatest asset is our children and supportive families. In this spirit we resolve to respect time for families to spend together." (Deseret News, 12/12/02)

Mormons Still Baptizing Holocaust Victims

Despite its 1995 agreement to refrain from baptizing by proxy those who died in the holocaust (as well as other deceased Jews), the practice has continued. To discuss this apparent breach in their agreement, Mormon leaders met with Ernest Michel, chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Though no details of the meeting were given, it appears that the same promises were. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/12/02)

Utah City Getting Rid of Monument to 10 Commandments

Deciding that it doesn’t want to be a part of an expensive legal battle, the Ogden, UT city council plans to dismantle a city monument to the 10 Commandments. "It’s time to move on," one Ogden councilman said. The monument had been placed by the Ogden Fraternal Order of the Eagles in 1966. Nobody thought much about the monument until 1999 when leaders of an Egyptian-based religion called Summum asked for permission to commemorate the "Seven Aphorisms" on city property. The council refused the request, so the leaders of Summum sued. A U.S. district court judge ruled for the city last year, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this decision last summer, saying Ogden would need to include the Seven Aphorisms monument if the 10 Commandments were honored on city property. In addition, the cities of Murray and Roy are being advised by legal experts to remove their 10 Commandment monuments as well. (Deseret News, 11/27/92)

Support for Giving Church Control of Plaza Grows

Business and political leaders are pressuring city officials to give the LDS Church what it is requesting in the battle over the plaza located next to Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. This week the Salt Lake Chamber urged the city to "dissolve" its easement, which was part of the original $8.1 million agreement several years ago between the city and the church. Meanwhile, a pair of likely opponents said they would both sell the easement to the LDS Church, allowing the property to be completely private. This disagrees with current Mayor Rocky Anderson, who holds a position that the city should not give up what it doesn’t have to. He said that he wants to meet with church officials because a letter to him from the church appears to contradict a public relations campaign that it launched in Salt Lake City meant to pressure Anderson to give up the easement. The LDS Church seems to be desperate in its attempt to have the property be under its firm control; church leaders are now saying that they would be willing to give additional financial incentives and give a promise not to proselytize there in order to rescind the easement. LDS Seventy Lance Wickman said, "We’re willing to consider the plaza as some kind of a neutral zone. That is to say, we don’t have any plans to be using it for proselytizing." (Deseret News, 11/26/02; Salt Lake Tribune 11/29/02)

Hinckley Emphasizes Man’s Divinity in Recent Talk

Continuing a theme that emphasizes the divinity of mankind, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a speech this week emphasizing the Mormon doctrine that says God wants His children to return to Him as gods. "There is something of divinity in each of us," he said to a group of nine St. George, Utah stakes. "It is something to be meditated upon. Living up to that divinity is a tremendous challenge. We must somehow stand apart from it. We can’t do a tawdry thing." Hinckley gave similar words at last month’s general conference as he emphasized Mormonism’s famous couplet, which is: "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become." His direct words about man’s ability to become divine have not been stressed by the Mormon prophet in quite some time. (Deseret News, 11/25/02)

Hinckley Writes Letter Regarding Main Street Plaza Issue

The controversy over the Main Street Plaza issue was the theme of a letter written by LDS President Gordon Hinckley and distributed to northern Utah residents along with a packet of information. Hinckley wrote in part, "In October 2000, we dedicated the Church’s new Conference Center and the new Church plaza—including the area immediately in front of the Salt Lake Temple, which was formerly part of Main Street. The prayer of dedication included a plea that the plaza be seen as a place of peace—an oasis in the midst of this bustling city—an island of quiet beauty where the weary may sit and contemplate the things of God and the beauties of nature. Unfortunately, some have since felt that this place of peace should be a place of protest, that this island of quiet beauty should be used for confrontational and noisy demonstrations." After asking Utah’s residents to "study and ponder" the packet of information, Hinckley asked for feedback, asking the residents "to share your thoughts with me (as) I would gladly welcome them." The LDS Church planned to distribute the packets to leaders in the business and religious sectors along the Wasatch Front. The packets are also available online. (Deseret News 11/17/02)

Deseret Bans Evans’ New Book

Mormon-owned Deseret Books has banned Mormon Richard Paul Evans’ new book because it doesn’t meet the chain’s moral standards. Evans, who is probably best known for "The Christmas Box," found out that Deseret was not going to sell his book and started to laugh in disbelief. However, his staff was not laughing with him, and then he realized they were serious. The book in question, "The Last Promise," is a fictional story about an American woman living in Italy. Abused by her husband, the lady turns to another man for support and an eventual romance. However, she and her lover never consummate the relationship. "The book is not about adultery," Evans said. "The book would be a PG-rated movie, at the most." However, he does expect the controversy to help the sales of his book. Evans’ book is not the only one to be banned, and, in fact, employees will begin to comb through all 250,000 titles in the stores’ inventory to see if there are other offenders that they would then ban. (CNN.com, 11/15/02)

Book of Mormon Soon Coming to the Big Screen

A movie based on the Book of Mormon is being planned for an upcoming theatrical release. "The Book of Mormon Movie, Volume 1" will be the first in a movie series basing its plot on the books of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, the LDS Church’s most sacred of their four books of scripture. The filmmaker, Gary Rogers, says that he does not plan to hire a movie star to play any of the lead roles because of the baggage a Hollywood name could carry. Saying that his idea was inspired by Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar-winning 1956 version of "The Ten Commandments," Rogers does not believe he would have adequate funds to accommodate the Bruce Willis’s or the Tom Cruise’s of the world. The story of the Book of Mormon has great appeal, Rogers believes. "Stories found throughout the Book of Mormon are among the greatest stories ever told," Rogers said. "Now for the first time, you will be able to see these great stories come to life in an epic, multimillion-dollar motion picture on the silver screen." Robert Bowden will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra for the movies score, the same orchestra used by John Williams in the Star War films. Those interested in casting for the movie can see Rogers’ site at bookofmormonmovie.com. (Deseret News, 11/1/02)

Man Says He Tried to Poison His Wife

Provo police have arrested a Brigham Young University electrical engineering student who told police that he tried to poison his wife. Apparently the man, a native from California, tried to harm his wife because divorce was not a possibility since the woman opposed it. The man was addicted to pornography, and "being married did not allow him to live the lifestyle he wanted," police said. In July he made cookies with rat poison, but the woman said they tasted funny and did not eat them. Then he used what he thought were toxic mushrooms for a spaghetti sauce, but this plan also failed. Finally, he replaced his wife’s medicine with fish-tank cleaner. The woman said it made her slightly ill, but otherwise she suffered no dire effects. Bail for the unnamed man is $250,000, and he is not allowed to contact his wife until so permitted by the court. He has also been suspended by BYU. The woman, whose daughter was born after the murder attempts, said she is doing fine. (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/1/02)

LDS Website Proves Popular Internet Choice

The official genealogical website for the Mormon Church is generating three million hits per hour since last week’s announcement regarding the availability of 1880 U.S. Census data. Traffic on familysearch.org is up nearly 500 percent since the announcement was made on October 23. The Church also made the 1881 Canadian census available to Internet users. (Deseret News, 10/31/02)

Cardiovascular Diseases Top Killer in Utah

A Deseret News article notes that "Utahns are more apt to die from heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure than any other cause." In a report put together by the Utah Department of Health, an average of 3,800 people die each year from cardiovascular disease, though many could have been saved through better diets and exercise. However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, associate chief of cardiology at LDS hospital, "Compared to the rest of the country, Utah is in pretty good shape." The report also said that 54 percent of Utah’s adults were overweight compared to 57 percent nationally, and 13 percent of adults smoke compared to 22 percent nationally. At the same time, only one out of 5 Utahns eat vegetables and fruits five times a day compared to one out of three Americans. (Deseret News, 10/16/02)

Conflict Over LDS Plaza Continues

Should free speech be allowed on the LDS plaza, a former public street purchased several years ago by the Mormon Church that sits next to the famous downtown Temple Square? This is the question being debated in Utah as attorneys and politicians try to find a solution to the problem, which came about when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled to treat the plaza like any other public sidewalk and eliminate church-enforced restrictions on speech, smoking and proselytizing by other faiths. Mayor Rocky Anderson has tried to play the role of peace-maker, even attempting to find a way to allow the LDS Church to restrict free speech rights on the plaza while allowing the public 24-hours-a-day access to the plaza. However, the American Civil Liberties Union says it will take the city to court if he takes this action, despite the fact that the city originally agreed to allow the church to maintain strict control over the plaza in the $8.1 million deal. However, the 10th Circuit Court said this agreement should have never been made since it was in opposition to the First Amendment. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Anderson as saying, "This is not a Mormon or non-Mormon issue. It doesn’t matter who it is who entered the agreement, people ought to stand by their deals," adding, however, that Anderson has broken other contracts in the past. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/16/02)

Utah Cigarette Tax Increase Decreases Demand

A recent 18-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes has lowered Utah’s cigarette sales by 43 percent since July 1. Tobacco tax revenues in September went down to $2.9 million, down 19 percent from 2001. Tax revenue in July and August were down 10 percent from the previous year. Today a pack of cigarettes in Utah carries a 69-cent tax, still much lower than New York and New Jersey’s $1.50 tax per pack. As far as whether or not Utah’s residents are slowing their smoking ways, some skeptics contend that Utahns are getting their cigarettes in neighboring states. "Smoking hasn’t decreased," one local storeowner said. "People come in and they say, ‘I can get them cheaper in Idaho.’ Then they buy one pack to get them by on the drive." (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/16/02)

Wife Charged for Polygamy-related Crime

A polygamous wife is being charged in Utah for helping her husband marry her 16-year-old sister. Suzie Stubbs Holm and her husband Rodney, both 36, live in rural Utah and are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a 6,000-member polygamous splinter group not officially affiliated with the Mormon Church. Utah law states that it is unlawful to have sex with 16- and 17-year-olds when the partner is 10 or more years older. Apparently Rodney had sex at least three times with Suzie’s sister. Charges against polygamists are rare in Utah. In fact, Suzie is the first woman in Utah’s history to be prosecuted since the practice was outlawed in 1890. Anti-polygamous groups support the charge against Suzie. "It is not only holding the man responsible but holding the other adults in the home responsible for not reporting child abuse," said one anti-polygamy activist. The case follows last year’s famous conviction of polygamist Tom Green who was convicted of bigamy and failing to pay child support. He is serving a minimum of five years in prison. (San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/15/02)

Missionary Farewells to Become Extinct

Saying that they had become too burdensome, LDS President Gordon Hinckley announced to a General Conference crowd that there will be no more missionary send-offs or receptions held at the local wards. Instead, missionaries will be allowed to speak to their local ward on their last Sunday sacrament before their departure. Families will no longer participate. It had been a tradition to sponsor official Sunday afternoon send-offs as families and friends saluted the missionary’s future service—two years for 19-year-old males, 18 months for 20-year-old females. Apparently some wards had up to 20 missionaries leave for the missionary field each year, meaning that many Mormons were spending their Sunday afternoons attending numerous receptions. Currently the LDS Church has 60,000 volunteer missionaries around the world. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/12/02)

Utah’s Oldest Resident Dies at 111

Cleo Hinckley died on September 30 in Salt Lake City, missing her 112th birthday by only two weeks. Born on October 13, 1890—the same year that the infamous Manifesto banning LDS polygamy was issued—Hinckley ended up having 10 great-great grandchildren. In addition, she is survived by six children, 39 grandchildren, and, ironically, 111 great-grandchildren. She was the sixth child of Willard Cranney, a Mormon pioneer who crossed the plains to Utah at the age of 14 in 1862. Her mother, Hattie, died during childbirth when she was 6. In 1912 Hinckley was one of the first two LDS female missionaries to serve in the Los Angeles mission. She also once taught Marion Romney, who later became a member of the church’s First Presidency. How did she make it to 111? "She had really healthy habits," Gwen Church, Hinckley’s granddaughter, told the Associated Press. "And she never worried. She was just a remarkable little woman." (Deseret News 10/1/02)

Missionary Dies in Mexico

A Mormon missionary from Utah died on Sunday while serving his mission in Mexico just north of Guatemala. Elder Gregory Scott Johnson was watching an approaching storm on the roof of his apartment building when a high-voltage power line shocked him. He is the second missionary from his home town of Fountain Green, Sanpete County, to die in an accident in the last four years. Our prayers go out to Mr. Johnson’s family. (Deseret News 10/1/02)

Black Mormon Pioneer Gets Monument in Salt Lake City

Elijah Abel, who was the first black to receive the Mormon priesthood in the early days of Joseph Smith, was honored in a tribute ceremony on Saturday that was presided by Apostle M. Russell Ballard at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Abel’s grave, previously neglected, now has a monument that was paid for by several Mormon historical groups. Several hundred attended the ceremony, including some of Abel’s descendants. Abel held the priesthood before blacks were banned from holding the ecclesiastical office. He later joined the Mormons in Utah in 1852, dying in 1884. Blacks were denied the priesthood from 1852 until 1978 when President Spencer Kimball repealed the doctrine. Responding to this fact, Ballard said, "We don’t know all the reasons why the Lord does what he does … It’s difficult to know why all things happen. I’m perfectly content to believe the Lord is in control." (Deseret News, 9/28/02)

Temple Square Guards Too Rambunctious, LDS Church Admits

Overzealous guards who watch over LDS-owned Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City need to be more cordial, an LDS spokesman said. "There were a couple of instances where church security officials misunderstood the public easement," said an attorney representing those who had complained. "We have been assured that the security officers have been re-advised what the issues are. We’ll obviously be monitoring it to make certain the security officers take their training and put it into practice. We don’t anticipate any problems in the future." Representatives from Mormonism Research Ministry noticed that the guards were unusually low-key during the recent Olympic Games last winter. However, now that the media spotlight is no longer on Salt Lake City, it appears that security has become tighter, with those who are deemed "anti-Mormon" now undergoing close scrutiny. One group that has been harassed is Utah Gospel Mission, led by Kurt Van Gorden. Apparently several members of the group have been prevented from walking on the Main Street Plaza, the public street next to Temple Square that was purchased by the Mormons for $8.1 million and made into a park. People are supposed to be allowed on the plaza as long as they abide by certain rules. Utah Gospel Mission member Brent Hardy said the harassment was an attempt to get him and other from handing out the MRM-produced "Temple Square Visitors Guide" that contains articles showing how Mormonism is different from the historic Christian faith. (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/26/02)

Salvation Army Center Leaves Salt Lake City

The evangelical Christian Salvation Army will close the doors to its 108-bed drug- and alcohol-addiction treatment facility in Salt Lake City by the end of October. The 30 clients being treated at the facility will be moved elsewhere since the facility did not have enough money to meet the growing demands for its services. Half of the clients may have no place to lay their heads. "Those are the clients that worry us the most," Froderberg said. The Salvation Army, which has been in Utah for 114 years, carried a $450,000 shortfall in its $1.1 million budget for the drug treatment center. Continuing to run the facility in the red eventually would threaten other programs. Part of the blame for the budget shortfall is a result of the diversion of funds from agencies like the Salvation Army to the September 11 relief organizations. (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/23/02)

Mormon Church Said to be Fastest Growing in the 90s?

According to a new study, the Mormon Church was declared to be the most successful in its United States’ growth rate when compared to other religions. According to the Deseret News (9/17/02), the study, entitled "Religious Congregations and Member: 2000," was done by the Glenmary Research Center and said the LDS Church was successful thanks to "aggressive recruitment and active community life." More than 65,000 missionaries serve full-time, short-term missions around the world. These findings follow a February report by the National Council of Churches saying the Mormon Church is the fifth largest denomination in the United States. Despite this report, though, no mention was made about the overall stagnant convert baptism rate the Mormons have been experiencing for over a decade. Nor does it mention the fact that many of these new members leave the LDS Church within months after joining. Mormon statistician David Stewart sees the title of "world’s fastest growing church" as a "pervasive myth." His report, located at cumorah.com is a must read for anyone seriously interested in the growth trends of the LDS Church.

Book of Mormon Signer’s Grave Identified

Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon who had died in 1852, was found two years ago. More specifically, his gravesite has been rediscovered at a site near a suburb of Kansas City. A family who owned the site wanted to mark the grave and did some research. "I just have this thing about graves," the nonMormon man said. "They ought to be properly marked and maintained." He found a web site dedicated to Page several years ago. A formal ceremony attended by 40 people during a heavy rainstorm was held on April 30, 2002 as the gravestone marker was dedicated. (BYU Newsnet, 9/6/02)

Rulon Jeffs, Polygamist Leader, Dies

Rulon T. Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints based in southern Utah, died Sunday of natural causes in a St. George, Utah hospital. Is is estimated that Jeffs, believed to have been either 92 or 93 years of age, had between 19 to 75 wives and dozens of children. R. Scott Berry, attorney for Jeffs’ church, estimated that membership was somewhere between six and eight thousand. Most of these live in the Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona area. However, there is also a group of followers living in Canada near the Idaho border. (The Daily Herald, 9/9/02)

Tornado Causes Destruction in Manti

A rare tornado swept through the small town of Manti, Utah on Sunday, causing an estimated $1 million in damage. Manti, which is in central Utah and home to one of the oldest Mormon temples in the world, is the annual site of the two-week Mormon Miracle Pageant each June that has been attended by Mormonism Research Ministry for more than a decade. Thankfully, the tornado did not take any lives, but it caused "incredible property damage" as it was the culmination of a strange weekend of weather that saw more than two inches of rains in some parts of the state. However, the rain is not expected to end drought-like conditions throughout the state. (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/9/02)

 

PETA Attempts to Influence BYU

 

Claiming that drinking milk supports the abuse of animals, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is thinking about running its "Got Beer" campaign at LDS-owned Brigham Young University. "Even one glass of milk supports animal abuse and harms your health, both of which are anathema to Mormon teachings," a PETA news release said. It added, "If they are taking Mormon teachings seriously, drinking milk should be even less acceptable to BYU administrators than drinking beer." Bruce Friedrich, the PETA Director of Vegan Outreach, told a BYU Daily Herald reporter, "Mormons care about compassion for animals and their own health. But LDS virtues related to health and compassion are tossed in the toilet by anyone who’s drinking dairy products. BYU administrators should be just as anti-dairy as they are anti-alcohol." Apparently the university rejected the ad because it endorses a product (beer) that is contrary to LDS doctrine. (BYU Daily Herald, 9/7/02)

Hinckley Visiting Russia

Gordon Hinckley, the current LDS prophet, is in Russia to meet Mormon leaders in the region. It is the first time that a Mormon prophet has gone to Moscow, although Apostle Ezra Taft Benson preached at a Baptist church in Moscow in 1959. "I am delighted that President Hinckley is meeting with the Russians and Ukrainians," said Tom Rogers, who served as an LDS mission president in St. Petersburg from 1993 to 1996. "It will give them a shot in the arm. It will rally all the members." Some speculate that the Mormons, who have been involved with Russia for more than a century, are thinking about building a temple in Russia. Currently there are more than 11,000 Russian Mormons. Hinckley, 92, left for the country on September 5 and will later head to Germany and the Netherlands where he will dedicate two different temples. (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/7/02)

Vern Anderson Named as Editor of Salt Lake Tribune

William Dean Singleton, the new publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune as of August 1, has named Vern Anderson the paper’s new editorial page editor. Anderson is a 1974 graduate from BYU. In 1976 he joined the Associated Press ‘ Salt Lake City bureau. He left that position to work with the Tribune as deputy editor in 1999. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/30/02)

National Center for Middle Eastern Languages at BYU

The headquarters for the Department of Education’s National Middle East Language Resource Center is being set up at Mormon-owned BYU in Provo, Utah. The center, which has been given more than $350,000 in an initial grant, will develop teaching materials, create proficiency tests, put together new techniques to train the teachers, and improve summer programs. The main objective of the new project is to improve Middle Eastern language teaching and learning in the US. Professors from more than 20 universities will participate in the project. (BYU News, 8/27/02)

Mormon Church buying land on Susquehanna River

The place where Joseph Smith wrote much of the Book of Mormon is being purchased by the LDS Church. Once known as Harmony (now Oakland), the land, which is on the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania, may very well become another pilgrimage site to go along with such historical tourist destinations as Palmyra, New York, Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. The 24-acre purchase will cost $60,000. A monument was placed on the site where Smith was baptized in the river, which is popular for Mormon baptisms today. The LDS Church plans to build a replica home to commemorate where Smith worked on the Book of Mormon. The original house burned down in the 19th century. (Deseret News, 8/18/02)

Utah Statistics Very Similar to Rest of Nation

A Brigham Young University researcher has determined that Utah residents generally have very similar living practices when compared to people who live in the other 49 states. Sociologist Tim Heaton told the Mormon apologetic FAIR conference that LDS women are generally happier about their pregnancies, have about one more child per family, and are more likely to breastfeed. In addition, Utahans are slightly less likely to divorce and have heart disease or cancer. However, Utah’s divorce rate is only 5-10 percent lower than the rest of the nation, which is less of a discrepancy than most sociologists would have expected since Mormonism, the religion of 70 percent of Utah residents, places such stress on marriage and family. Heaton also determined that 50-60 percent of LDS youth report engage in premarital sexual intercourse compared to 80 percent of the rest of the nation. This statistic is still considered to be too high and "has gotten me into trouble more than any," Heaton said. Utah’s suicide rate is higher than the national average, though less among active Mormons. Utah also has more people dependant on the prescription anti-depressant Prozac. Finally, more Utahans eat more Jell-O, ice cream, and cookie baking ingredients, hardly a surprise. (Deseret News, 8/11/02)

Mountain Meadows Revisited in Book, Young Blamed

A new book is causing a stir in Utah circles because historian Will Bagley lays the blame for the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre at the feet of then-LDS President Brigham Young. The murders of 120 California-bound pioneers on September 11, 1857 have caused great controversy for the Mormon Church. Officially, the LDS Church blamed member, John D. Lee, and executed him years after the killings. However, Bagley’s book, which is titled Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, says circumstantial evidence makes it clear Young was very involved. "Claiming that Brigham Young had nothing to do with Mountain Meadows is akin to arguing that Abraham Lincoln had nothing to do with the Civil War," he wrote. Although the book has been out for just two weeks, it is "selling like hotcakes" as a Utah best seller. The LDS Church plans to respond as church historian Richard Turley will write his own book to show Young’s innocence in the massacre. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/11/02)

New LDS Temple Set for New York City

A temple- building campaign that began just several years ago with Gordon Hinckley at the LDS prophetical helm is now adding New York City to the map. The Mormons announced this week that they will remodel their existing six-story building located at 125 Columbus Ave. on 65th Street, just across the street from the Lincoln Center and the Julliard School and just one block away from Central Park. This building would then house the 20,000-square-foot temple on the first, fifth, and sixth floors while retaining several LDS wards and a branch for deaf church members. Not having the temple built from scratch is original. The font for temple baptism for the dead will be constructed on the first floor and not below ground, which is where most temple fonts are located. It is rumored that a rooftop garden very similar in design to the new Salt Lake Conference Center is planned. The temple is scheduled to be completed in February 2004. The closest temple to New York City is located 200 miles away in Washington D.C. (Deseret News, 8/8/02)

Drought Continues in Utah

Just like most of the rest of the nation, Utah remains in a four-year-long drought with no end in sight. To make matters worse, July brought record temperatures with below-normal precipitation. Crops have suffered, according to Utah’s farmers. "People must have stopped praying," said Ray Owens, commissioner of the Upper Sevier River Basin. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/4/02)

Salt Lake Temple Visitor Center Turns 100

The first LDS visitor’s center, The Temple Square Visitor’s Center, is celebrating a century of existence. In fact, a small octagonal booth called the Bureau of Information and Church Literature opened on Temple Square on August 4, 1902. Nearly 1,000 visitors—most of whom were attending an Order of Elks national conference—registered at the booth during its first week. About 30 volunteers helped visitors find their way around the square. Two years later the LDS Church replaced the original booth with a $9,000 brick building. Today the visitor’s center is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah, drawing twice as many visitors as Lake Powell and Zion National Park. Open every day throughout the year, the center hosts 5 million annual visitors. About 28 missionary couples and approximately 200 sister missionaries help promote the church by giving tours and signing visitors up for future missionary visits. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/3/02)

Males Putting Off Marriage Everywhere But Utah

A new national study shows that the average man is waiting before watching his bride walk down the aisle. The National Marriage Project at Rutgers State University in New Jersey said the reasons are varied, including the fact that females are more willing to have sex and cohabitate outside of marriage; the fear of having children and the financial responsibility they bring; and the desire to be financially secure before marriage. The national median age for a man’s first marriage is 27, the oldest median ever and up from 23 in 1960. However, the average Utah man gets married at 23, only slightly up from 1960. The national median age for a woman’s first marriage is 25, up from 20 in 1960 while Utah women average their first marriages at 21. A BYU sociology professor said one reason for earlier marriages in Mormon-dominated Utah is the desire many couples have to remain chaste before marriage. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/3/02)

Utah Leads Nation in Bankruptcy Rate

With almost 20,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001—a 28 percent increase from 2000—Utah is averaging one bankruptcy out of every 35 households, which is double the national average of one bankruptcy out of every 69 households. The next highest state is Tennessee. The increase is partly blamed on imminent bankruptcy reform legislation that could become law later this year. The majority of the bankruptcies are filed under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, which liquidates assets and allows debts to be completely forgiven. However, the proposed legislation would require part of the estate’s debt to be repaid. Utah is poised to go past the 20,000 mark in 2002, which would be a state record. Is it possible that not paying one’s debts is a violation of celestial law? (Deseret News, 7/2/02)

Some Schools in Utah Not Passing the Grade

Three percent of Utah’s 802 public schools are failing, according to the U.S. Education Department. This is better than the national average of 9 percent. The students in those 22 schools will now be able to choose better schools in their districts next fall, thanks to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Bush earlier this year. (Deseret News, 7/2/02)

Nauvoo Temple Opens to Thunderous LDS Ovation

After a 6-week open house the historic Nauvoo temple was dedicated from Thursday, June 27 through Sunday, June 30. The 13-service dedication, purposely coordinated with the 158th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s June 27th death at the Carthage Jail, was attended by approximately 20,000 Latter-day Saints. The temple exterior closely resembles the original building that was destroyed by fire and a tornado soon after it was dedicated in 1846. When asked if he thought Smith would be happy with the restoration, current Prophet Gordon Hinckley reportedly said, "I feel satisfied and intend to say in the dedicatory services that there will be with us today an unseen audience. I feel confident of that, and that Joseph Smith will be in that audience and Hyrum Smith will be in that audience and many others who gave their life and their time and their energies to the construction of that temple." Although LDS Church leaders are not saying how much the temple cost to build, some estimates are as high as $50 million. It was in Nauvoo where Mormon founder Joseph Smith came up with many of his unique teachings, including the presentation of his infamous King Follett discourse where he described God as having once been a human. MRM’s Bill McKeever, Eric Johnson, and Randy Sweet attended the open house and helped pass out thousands of informative newsletters on public sidewalks. (lds.org news release, 6/27/02)

Moroni Statue Continually Scorched by Lightning

The golden statue depicting Moroni over the American Fork, Utah temple has been hit so often by lightning that it may need to be replaced. The lightning has not only damaged the angel but the ball that it stands on. The director of temple facilities said that it might be cheaper to just replace the stand and the angel rather than repair it. The temple was just dedicated six years ago. Another temple’s statue that might have to be replaced is in Dallas, while several Moronis at other temples are considered replacement possibilities due to lightning and pollution. For instance, the temple in Manila (Philippines) is constantly hit by lightning. "Anytime you stick metallic-covered objects above the trees—on the highest point in many areas—you are begging for lightning to strike it," the temple facility director said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/26/02)

Polygamist Green May Never Be Released

Tom Green, the infamous polygamist who bragged to the media that he married more than one wife, was convicted of impregnating one of his wives-to-be when she was only 13. The nonjury trial, headed by District Judge Donald Eyre, took less than an hour to determine that Green, 54, is guilty. He may get life in prison when he is sentenced in August. Green impregnated Linda Kunz, whom he is now legally married to, when she was only 13 in 1986. At the time, Utah’s laws said that a person could not get married until 14, although the law has since been changed to 16. Prosecutors made their case against Green, in part, when they showed a clip from a January 2001 Dateline NBC interview where Green made incriminating remarks. Green’s lawyers argued that the alleged rape didn’t take part in the United States but rather in Mexico. (San Diego Union/Tribune, 6/25/02)

Temple Trading Cards Hit The Market

Anyone can collect baseball cards, but only members of the LDS Church will probably want to collect LDS temple cards that feature the temples and their "stats." "Temple Traders" is a new product put out by a Los Angeles company featuring the 125 temples around the world built by the Mormon Church. Information on each card includes the temple’s official name along with the city, state (or country), and the month and year the temple was dedicated. The manufacturer says he wants to help educate the Mormon youth about their holy buildings, where most of the work done there is for the dead. No word has been given if the more popular temples, such as Salt Lake City or Nauvoo, will be in limited supply, which is a common tactic used by baseball card manufacturers. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/22/02)

Mormons Happy About Door-to-Door Ruling

The ability to go door-to-door witnessing was preserved by the U.S. Supreme Court, thanks in part to a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the LDS Church. The legislation, which was proposed to keep undesired solicitors away from residents’ homes in certain towns and cities, was defeated 8-1 by the justices. The case was brought up by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who disagreed with having to pay for permits merely for the right to proselyze potential converts at their homes. In one Illinois municipality missionaries had to apply for a $10 license 30 days before intending to do it. Another town in New Jersey required missionaries to give their fingerprints as well as pay $25 for a permit, which took 10 days to get. The Mormon Church argued in its brief that such rules were a limitation on First Amendment rights. (Deseret News 6/17/02)

Federal Land Can Be Sold to Mormons

The U.S. House of Representatives agreed to allow the LDS Church the right to buy 900 acres of federal land in Wyoming to memorialize a religious site. Martin’s Cove, a rocky patch of hills 70 miles southwest of Casper, was the place where more than 150 Mormon settlers died during an 1856 snowstorm. House Resources Committee Chairman James V. Hansen, a Republican Mormon from Utah, said the LDS Church could take better care of the land than the government could. One Mormon official said that more than 9 out of 10 tourists going to the site are LDS. Opponents said they did not understand why the church had to have ownership of the land, as cooperation between the church and the government has worked in the past. The director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said this legislation is merely a "sweetheart deal with one religious denomination," adding that such a law could end up being a slippery slope when dealing with other religious groups. The U.S. Senate, where Wyoming’s representatives oppose the land transfer, will now determine the fate of Martin’s Cove. (Washington Post, 6/17/02)

Girl Abducted From Salt Lake Home

A man who entered a home at 1 a.m. Tuesday through a screened window abducted a 14-year-old girl from her home on Tuesday morning. The kidnapper, who was called "soft spoken" despite having threatened the girl’s 9-year-old sister if she told anyone of the crime, did have a handgun. It took several hours before the 9-year-old sister had enough courage to wake up her parents. The alleged kidnapper is described as a man possibly in his 30s about 5 feet 8 inches, with dark hair and a medium build. Police say he was last seen wearing a tan or white jacket with a white cap. (Deseret News, 6/5/02)

We pray for her safe return as well as comfort for her parents. Certainly this must be an awful time for them.

Suit from BYU settled

A professor who sued LDS Church-owned and operated Brigham Young University has settled his suit with the school. The professor said that school officials had accused him of looking at computer pornography on school computers because, he claimed, they wanted him to resign from his tenured post. Terms were not disclosed, though the professor is on long-term disability because of his diabetes. The professor said that school officials have done this with other employees to pressure them to quit. School officials maintained that such a practice does not occur. (Deseret News, 6/6/02)

Man Suing Mormons and Scouts

The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America are being sued by an Oregon man who claimed he was sexually abused by a Mormon scoutmaster two decades ago. The plaintiff, only identified by his initials M.D., is asking for at least $10 million based on his claims that he was abused between 1978 to 1983 when he was 8 to 13 years of age. The Scoutmaster, James Hogan, pleased guilty in the late 1980s to felony child abuse charges. He settled a civil suit in 1990 that involved two other victims. Hogan ceased his association with the Boy Scouts in 1984, and he was excommunicated by the LDS Church in 1989. (Deseret News, 5/31/02)

Monument to 2002 Olympic Games Planned

Seeking to commemorate the Olympics hosted by Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Organizing Committee members are underwriting a $4 to $6 million development that would serve as an "Olympic Cultural Center." Organizers are considering Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park, which currently commemorates the first Mormons in Utah. A 7,500 seat amphitheatre would be used to bring world-recognized artists and athletes to Utah. (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/31/02)

Church Shipping Food to Africa

The Mormon Church is shipping more than 6,000 food boxes and 250 tons of grain to drought-stricken nations in Africa. Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Madagascar are the nations targeted to have staples such as rice, beans, pasta, and soup mixes sent to their people. These nations are said to be "on the brink of starvation," with food shortages the most severe in a decade. Each box will sustain a family for more than a week. In addition, clothing items are being sent to Malawi based on a request from the United State’s ambassador to this country. The Mormons plan to open their first temple to Africa next year. (Deseret News, 5/30/02)

Temple Shot Up By Paintballs

Vandals used paintballs to deface the Logan, Utah temple over the Memorial Day weekend. The rock face and some window’s facing the east side were riddled with the paintballs. However, there was no apparent permanent damage, as groundskeepers were able to wash up most of the stains. (Deseret News, 5/30/02)

Utah’s Suicide Rate a Killer

"Despite Utah’s generally excellent public health profile, it has one of the highest suicide rates in the country." Among the facts being made known by the U.S. surgeon general is that 60 Utahns between the ages of 15-24 committed suicide in 1999. According to David Litts, special assistant on suicide to the surgeon general, "I wouldn’t presume to tell Utah what to do, but it can only help to examine the culture…There is an aspect of rugged individualism that no doubt plays a role; people thinking they can just tough it out with no help." Sadly, every 18 minutes someone in the U.S. commits suicide (about 80 a day), with 1,900 Americans daily visiting emergency rooms for self-inflicted wounds. According to an assistant to the surgeon general, presenting treatment as a more acceptable behavior is the secret to decreasing these high totals. (Deseret News, 4/16/02)

LDS General Authority Deposed in Salt Lake Tribune Suit

First counselor Thomas Monson testified under oath for 3 ½ hours on Monday regarding the legal ownership of Utah’s largest newspaper. Lawyers were barred from discussing the deposition, which was ordered when Tribune lawyers persuaded the U.S. Magistrate that there might be relevant information about the repeated attempts by the Deseret News to buy the rival paper. Expert Edwin Firmage, who has written a book about the legal history of the LDS Church, said that this is the first time in more than 100 years that a member of the church’s First Presidency was ever ordered to submit to a deposition. (Salt Lake Tribune, 4/16/02)

Bankruptcies Soar in Utah

It appears that Utah is on pace to break last year’s record filing of bankruptcies. In fact, Utah bankruptcies are up 16 percent over last year’s first quarter. "The total for March would be the busiest month that I can recall since I’ve been here," said a court clerk. So far this year there have been 5,204 bankruptcy filings, with almost 2,000 in March alone. However, experts are thinking the filings are slowing down because they expect the economy will begin to improve. (Deseret News, 4/11/02)

Utah’s Governor’s Son Implicated in Fight at LDS Chapel

Chase Leavitt, an 18-year-old son of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, is accused of battery and disturbing the peace and trespass in a boxing event that took place late last year in an LDS chapel. Apparently the young Leavitt and other teens had keys to the church meeting house and, despite not having permission, staged the match on Dec. 14 in front of as many as 75 teens. Leavitt was the only adult who was seen throwing punches at a minor, though both were wearing boxing gloves. When neighbors called police, the teens fled, leaving behind a video recorder behind with images of the fight. It took four months to file charges because of the distraction of the Olympic Games, according to the prosecutor. "I have confidence in the process," the governor commented. "He’s a great young man, his life is on track in every way, he has the love of his father and mother and we’ll work through this." (Salon.com, 4/9/02)

Murders Down in Utah

The chance of being murdered in Utah seems to be going down after a record year for homicide that was set in 2001. There were 69 homicides last year, the most ever in the state’s history. However, there have only been six murders so far this year, including none during the two weeks of the Olympics. At the current pace, there would only be 25 murders, which would be the least deadliest year ever in Utah. (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/27/02)

New Banner Proposed for Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune decided to take matters into its own hands and hold a contest for a design to replace the current state flag. Claiming that "professionals recently judged [the Utah flag] among the homeliest in the nation," the Tribune put together a panel that judged more than 1,000 entries, narrowing the field down to 36. The paper is now asking Utah’s residents to vote through March 31, and it will publish the three best flags in April. However, they said, "whether Utah moves toward a new flag, of course, will be up to the people and their representatives." (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/24/02)

Missionaries in the News

There are more than 60,000 LDS missionaries around the world, and every so often they happen to get in the news. One account has a missionary being beaten up twice in Scotland by several groups of rowdy teenagers. Seth Wright of Utah, who arrived in Scotland in January to begin his two-year term, had titanium plates placed in his jaw from the first attack on March 1. The teens punched Wright and kicked him in the face, breaking his nose, jaw and cheekbones, apparently for doing nothing more than doing his evangelistic duties. He was in the hospital for four days. In the second attack on March 13, Wright had scrapes on his knuckles fighting off four different teens who used a shoe to beat him. Wright, who has no plans of leaving his mission, has become sort of a celebrity in the Scottish newspapers.

Meanwhile, two LDS missionaries who climbed a 50-foot water tower in New Jersey to get a better view of the city were arrested for trespassing. Scaling the tower on the afternoon of March 11, the two missionaries—dressed in suits and ties with cameras in tow—somehow got through an 8-foot barbed wire fence to make their ascent. The tower, which is located in a city park, was shut down and the water was tested for signs of any tampering. The missionaries will remain on their mission pending further investigation by the local authorities. (Deseret News, 3/23-24/02)

Supreme Court to Decide Town’s Regulations on Solicitation

If the town of Stratton, Ohio has its way, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are going to have to be more selective regarding which doors they knock on. Stratton passed an ordinance four years ago that required potential solicitors to obtain a city permit as well as "respect any resident’s sign against doorway sales pitches." The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. At stake is whether or not door-to-door solicitors can freely go to homes where they are not wanted. The Witnesses feel that nobody should have to "go to the government for permission to speak to their neighbors." The Mormon Church filed a friend-of-the-court brief to support the Witnesses, claiming that cities across the nation are trying to put unrealistic restrictions on what they feel is "religious expression." The mayor says this is a personal property issue and not a free speech issue. (Deseret News, 3/23/02)

Controversial Preacher Arrested at BYU Associated with Yates

Andrea Yates, best known for being the killer of her five children, was declared guilty last week before a nationwide Court TV audience. According to a new book entitled Breaking Point, Yates apparently felt that she was doing her children a favor, by obeying a message preached to her by controversial street preacher Michael Woroniecki. Woroniecki, who was arrested just last week at the Provo campus of LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, publicly denounced others with a bullhorn, screaming at prospective converts and telling them that they are going to hell. Her husband first met Woroniecki in the 1980s, and the family became financial supporters of his ministry. Andrea was an avid reader of his newsletter, "The Perilous Times," which included statements such as, "At birth a woman inherits the contentious nature of Eve." Women are witches, Woroniecki said, and bad children come from bad mothers. According to the author of ‘Breaking Point,’ Yates may have felt that she was such a wicked person that the only way to prevent her children from inheriting the wages of her sin was to kill them before they reached the age of accountability. Killing them, therefore, was doing the children a favor in Yates’ mind.

Woroniecki traveled to BYU to loudly denounce the "Mormon scumbag" students who were listening to him. "Brigham Young is in hell along with the pope and Billy Graham," he yelled to the Mormon students who were mocking him, adding that they were the ones who crucified Christ. The students began to sing LDS hymns to drown out the preacher’s ad hominem attacks; soon afterward, authorities arrested Woroniecki for disturbing the peace.

We should note that we do not agree with the tactics employed by Woroniecki, especially the fact that he angrily screams at his listeners. This certainly is not what Peter had in mind when he said to conduct apologetics with "gentleness and respect." (BreakPoint with Charles Colson Commentary #020320 – 03/20/2002)

Romances and the Mormon Mission

A topic that every Mormon missionary understands is the "Dear John" letter. This is because every Mormon male who turns 19 and decides to go on a two-year mission must put his romance on a hiatus while he goes about the Lord’s business. Girlfriends must either decide to wait two years for their honeys or abandon ship when the next available returned missionary comes along. In fact, while girls who reach 20 are eligible for the mission field, the vast majority of the 60,000 LDS missionaries are young 19- or 20-year-old males, and it appears that the majority of these young men will have their relationships dashed by their young princesses. In fact, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that only 3 percent of relationships that began before a boy’s mission will end up in marriage after he returns home. Some of the boys are devastated, the article said, but others realize that this is part of the sacrifice required by the mission. (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/16/02)

Illinois to Offer Nauvoo Temple License Plates

Crossing the line between church and state? For a limited time residents of Illinois can purchase commemorative license plates featuring a picture of the Nauvoo temple. The plates are being issued by the Secretary of State’s office but, unlike regular vanity plates, they are only valid between April 23 and June 22. [Source: The [Iowa] Hawk Eye, 2/22/02]

Mormon to Be Featured on CBS "Survivor"

Among the 16 castaways that will be featured on the February 28 premier of the popular CBS program Survivor will be Neleh Dennis, a 21 year-old resident of Layton, Utah. We wish her well.

Antidepressants Common in Utah

For some time it has been known that Utah has had a high rate of antidepressant drug usage. Now this theory has been confirmed in a national study showing how antipressant drugs are prescribed twice as often in Utah than any other state, including three times higher than New York and New Jersey. The study, which was released last summer and updated in January, was done by tabulating prescription orders. Its authenticity was confirmed by Dr. Curtis Canning, the president of the Utah Psychiartic Assn. Saying he had "some hunches" about why Utah ranked so high despite the fact that 70 percent of its residents are Mormon, Dr. Canning said, "In Mormondom, there is a social expectation–particularly among the females–to put on a mask, say ‘Yes’ to everything that comes at her and hide the misery and pain. I call it the ‘Mother of Zion’ syndrome. You are supposed to be perfect because Mrs. Smith across the street can do it and she has three more kids than you and her hair is always in place. I think the cultural issue is very real. There is the expectation that you should be happy, and if you’re not happy, you’re failing."

Because Mormonism "requires perfection and the public presentation of a happy face, whatever may be happening privately," many try to hide their struggles and are therefore in need of the mood-altering drugs. One 71-year-old Utah woman says she has no problem getting prescriptions for her drugs. "Look around, you can easily find people who take them," she said. "I think it’s the cultural environment. Most men here would just as soon their wives take pills than bother to delve into the problems, and maybe find out they might have something to do with the problems." The woman’s three grown children are also addicted. Another Utah woman said she quit the drugs after 15 years of use. "It’s like Happy Valley here," she said, describing the Salt Lake Valley. "It’s a scary place sometimes. People don’t talk about their problems. Everything is always rosy. That’s how we got ourselves into this mess–we’re good at ignoring things."

Besides the high usage of antidepressants, Utah also leads the nation in the use of narcotic painkillers such as codeine and morphine-based drugs. (LA Times, 2/20/02)

If Mormonism Was a Christian Denomination, It Would Be 5th Largest

According to the National Council of Churches’ 2002 "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches," Mormonism has surpassed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (which lost 25,000 members compared to Mormonism’s gain of 95,000) and is considered to be the 5th largest denomination in the United States with 5.2 million members. Of course, none of the four groups with more members than the LDS Church consider Mormonism to be a Christian denomination. These four are Catholics (63.6 million), Southern Baptists (15.9 million), United Methodists (8.3 million) and the Church of God in Christ (5.5 million). Will the LDS Church see an increase of growth because of the Olympics? According to Apostle M. Russell Ballard, no. "I don’t think we’ll see a great surge in convert baptism but a great surge of better understanding and appreciation for what the Mormon Church really is," he said. He believes one reason the church continues to grow is the willingness of its members to witness as well as "a great power of the spirit that accompanies what we’re doing. I think people who are searching and really want to know the truth respond." (Deseret News, 2/16/02)

Foster Becomes First Black BYU Student President

For the first time in history, LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo has a black student president. Rob Foster and his running mate, Eisha Tengelson, captured 43 percent of the campus vote of the almost 6,000 students who voted. Less than 1 percent of all BYU students are black. "We made a stand for multicultural acceptance where the others just talked about it," Tengelsen said. "I think that was noticeable." Foster was originally recruited from North Carolina to play basketball, but he decided politics was a better fit. His new job will take about 40 hours a week, which he will have to juggle along with his classes and new marriage. "I haven’t been president of this large a body before, but I’ve been in the program for about two years now, and I know its possibilities," Foster said. "I don’t plan on butting heads with the administration, but on building a Zion kind of communication." (Deseret News, 2/12/02)

Olympics Finally Arrive This Week

After almost a decade of planning how to win and then host the two-week-long 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the hour has come for the world to watch Salt Lake City beginning with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, Feb. 8. And the locals realize that the world is watching with its mouth agape, not quite sure what to make of a city that is probably more known as being the capital of Mormonism than the Vatican is known for Roman Catholicism, Mecca is for Islam, or New Delhi is for Hinduism. In an 2/3/02 article entitled "Self-Conscious Utah Is In for Some Ribbing," Salt Lake Tribune writers Christopher Smith and Peggy Fletcher Stack explained that the world’s media is using "descriptions like ‘Dullsville,’ ‘the polygamy capital of the world,’ ‘a theocracy,’ ‘arcane liquor laws,’ ‘not quite Sin City,’ ‘one of the world’s most peculiar places,’ ‘strangest state in America,’ ‘backward,’ ‘one big drag,’ ‘a holier-than-thou Hicksville,’ and on and on. It’s a legacy of bad press that goes back more than a century to masters such as Mark Twain and Sir Richard Burton." They added, "Trouble is, we are different. Especially now, when we need to develop an uncharacteristically thick skin, maybe we need a little group therapy to deal with Utah’s inherent identity crisis."

Crowds Unruly When It Comes to Medals Tickets

A crowd of 400-500 people who had waited all night for the chance to pick up free tickets to the Olympic Medals Plaza surged against a Hallmark store’s gate on Saturday morning, injuring two young women who were crushed against the store’s gate. The tickets were given out at 15 different Utah Hallmark outlets, several of which had to deal with unruly crowds, as there were not enough tickets to go around. One frustrated person smashed a Twinkie against the glass door of Coach House Gifts in West Jordan when its managers could only provide tickets to 200 of the 700 people who waited in an hours-long line. "It was pretty ballistic," said customer-service manager London Howard, adding that store employees "just had fun with it. That’s all we can do." (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/3/02)

E-mail Privileges Returned to Missionaries

Full-time LDS missionaries who have traditionally been allowed only limited contact with loved ones back home are being given e-mail privileges with certain stipulations. Three years ago LDS Church leaders made e-mail taboo for the missionaries who serve for two years (18 months for females) due to some abuses of previous missionaries. Boyd Packer, who is the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, announced the change in a letter. Missionaries will now be allowed to write e-mail on their preparation day, the one day per week that they do their laundry, buy groceries, and take care of other chores. The missionaries were instructed to not impose on other church members. They were also told that they either needed to cover their own costs for the service or utilize resources such as public libraries. Missionary training centers and other church buildings will not provide the service. The letter said that the change was made because of the recent terrorist activity that has caused mail delivery problems due to security. (Deseret News, 1/9/02)