News in 2006

"Vicious" dogs unwelcome in Smithfield

Own a pit bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Doberman Pinscher or wolf hybrid breed of dog? If so, you own a "vicious breed" and need a conditional-use permit to be allowed to keep it. The Smithfield City Council voted unanimously this week to require the special documentation as well as keeping the animals in a fixed dog run, and the permits will be reconsidered on an annual basis. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/16/2006)

Honest boy turns in hit-and-run mom

A 7-year-old boy showed police the damage on the family van that his mother caused in a hit-and-run incident in a parking lot, which was enough evidence to have the mother cited by police. Police were not sure whether or not the van had hit a truck because the woman told police that she didn’t do it. However, the boy immediately directed police over to the mark on the van and said, "It’s right here." Although the father tried to quiet the boy, "it was too late," said an Orem police officer. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/14/2006)

Nativity scene in Logan thrown away

After 23 years of public display, the city of Logan’s Nativity display has been trashed in the dump because it was worn out. It was first purchased in 1983 by the now-defunct Logan Community Foundation, which paid $7,000 for the 15-piece hand-painted display. The display had nicks and bruises, including a missing sheep and a broken arm on Joseph. The original Jesus had been stolen years ago, so a Deseret Industry doll had served as the replacement. It is estimated that a similar scene would cost more than $25,000. Instead of the crèche, crews have decorated downtown with extra lights. If the baby Jesus, his parents, and the shepherds are to return to downtown, then "the private sector is going to have to step up," Logan Mayor Randy Watts said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/9/06)

Utah moves down scale in wellness ranking

Despite its history as a healthy state, Utah has moved down from No. 4 to No. 6 in a wellness rating survey sponsored by the Minnesota health-care company UnitedHealth Group. The study bases its results on such factors as personal behaviors and quality of medical care. According to the group, Utah—which has never been out of the top 10 since the study began in 1990—had too many residents with inadequate immunization records and no health insurance, which caused the state to drop two rungs. Minnesota, meanwhile, took first place for the fourth year in a row, followed by New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Connecticut. The least healthy state is Louisiana, with other states at the bottom including Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/6/2006)

Polygamous leader holds "church" in "Purgatory"

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the largest polygamous church in the world who was captured last summer, is regularly phoning his church from his jail cell from Hurricane’s Purgatory Jail in Utah, giving them prophetic utterances. "He makes a call to a group of people waiting to hear from their prophet," a law enforcement source said. "They sing songs to him, and he goes into dissertations, his prophetic utterances." Jeffs is also meeting with visitors during his allotted one hour per day, some of whom are "furiously scribbling" notes during their visits. "Nothing that we’ve heard has been the slightest bit inflammatory or threatening," the source said. (Deseret News, 11/4/06)

Hinckley the oldest LDS prophet ever

On Nov. 2, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley became the oldest prophet in Mormon history, surpassing David O. McKay in age. Hinckley reached 96 years old plus 132 days on Nov. 1, which is the same age McKay was when he died in 1970. The only serious illness that Hinckley has had was last January when he had a cancerous part of his intestine removed. At the last conference, Hinckley said, "The Lord has permitted me to live; I do not know for how long. But whatever the time, I shall continue to give my best to the task at hand." Hinckley has been a general authority for more than 48 years, serving as the president since 1995. The next oldest prophets were Joseph Fielding Smith (95 years, 8 months), Ezra Taft Benson (94 years), and Wilford Woodruff (91). The average lifespan for an LDS prophet is 83 years, not including founder Joseph Smith who was killed in 1844 at the age of 38. (Deseret News, 11/2/06)

Teen chased by cops in 100 mph race

A 13-year-old girl driving a 1992 Oldsmobile took police on a cat-and-mouse chase after failing to pull over for going 41 mph in a 25 mph zone. After going through a residential neighborhood, the girl made it to Route 121, reaching speeds of 100 mph before police cruisers were able to box in the vehicle, causing it to crash. It turned out that the girl, who was unharmed, had taken her mother’s car without "permission or knowledge," according to one police officer. She apparently was ditching school and became scared while she was being pulled over. (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/2/06)

Cemetery serves as soccer field

Apparently there are not enough fields in the town to play soccer, so the town of Manti is using the city’s cemetery for soccer fields. "Soccer has grown so much, we just needed a place that we could play," the city’s treasurer said. "There was part of the cemetery that wasn’t plotted out yet. It seemed like a good solution, so we decided to put the field there." Out of a town of 3,300, more than 160 youths play the sport. Parents and coaches need to drive through the cemetery to get to the field, with some grave sites within 15 yards of the goals. Nobody has complained about the location of the field, though many jokes have easily come, including "sudden death" or "burying" an opponent. In fact, the reaction among the community has been so positive that another field at the cemetery may be laid out for next year’s season. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/30/06)

He just wanted it his burger "his way"

A man who was refused service at a drive-through window at a Burger King because he did not have a car walked across the street and phoned in a bomb threat to the police. He then tried to walk away, but he was later arrested for trying to make a bomb threat. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/24/06)

Baaaad school sheep prank gets students into hot water

Four players on the Richfield High football team have confessed to stealing and then killing a ewe before secretly hanging it from the goalposts of the South Sevier High School football field. The prank took place the night before the two rivals played their game. Despite the disruption in their day, South Sevier, whose mascot is a ram, won the game by a 26-6 score. The sheep had been stolen from a nearby farm before being shot in the head and then hung on the goalposts. Because the sheep was fastened to the goalposts with padlocks purchased from a local Walmart, investigators were able to track down the footage from the store’s security camera used in that section of the store. At least one of the players will be charged theft, trespassing, and cruelty to animals as an adult since he is 18. "This is very serious," a deputy said. "It went too far, and we’re serious about taking care of it." "It was plain cruel to go out and shoot a sheep," said Tom Hales, president of the Sevier Board of Education. "It’s not something you want to teach your kids." (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/14/06)

Bias against non-Mormons claimed

A suit against the University of Phoenix has been filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for improperly discriminating against non-Mormons. The suit will ask for an injunction to include barring future discrimination, instituting policies to "policies to provide equal employment opportunities for non-members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," a written apology; and financial compensation. The nation’s largest private university with locations all over the United States that caters to working adults, the University of Phoenix is accused of making employment conditions less favorable for non-Mormons. The college, which employs more than 15,000 people, has more than 200,000 students, including the Utah campuses in Salt Lake City, Taylorsville, Murray, Ogden and St. George. (Salt Lake Tribune 9/28/06)

LDS magazine features article of sex offender

A recent convert from Ukraine who wrote an article for the LDS Church Ensign magazine was sentenced to more than half a year in prison for sexual crimes against a child. Oleg Barabash, 27, wrote in the October 2006 magazine how, as a recent convert who had distanced himself from the church, he had once again become active in his faith. However, he has been in jail since last August as he serves a 240-day jail sentence for two class A misdemeanors of lewdness involving a male child. Four second-degree felony charges had been dropped in the plea bargain arrangement. The magazine is apparently put together half a year in advance, and the editors, who did not know about the sexual abuse charges, apologized for including Barabash’s article in the magazine. (Deseret News, 9/28/2006)

Rude welcome given to new Utah family

In case everyone thinks Utah has its arms open wide to new residents, perhaps you ought to speak to the Dunbar family from Texas. With all of their belongings stowed in a Budget rental truck as well as a towed car, the Dunbars lost all of their material possessions when thieves broke into the truck and stole the vehicles that were parked in a motel parking lot near West Jordan. The family, which includes two children, decided to come to Utah after the father received a job in the semiconductor field. According to the article, "For several months he has listened to a friend tout Utah’s strong points, the most important of which was a safe place to raise a family. He finally gave in, accepted the new position and crammed everything he owned into the rented truck." While shopping for school clothes and supplies last week, the family got a call from police to tell them that their truck had been discovered behind a kennel in Salt Lake City. Everything was gone except for a motorcycle, which was the one thing the family had told their dad to get rid of before the move. "We’re not completely sure we’re staying in Salt Lake City," the man said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 9/25/06)

"Most sober" honor given to BYU

The Princeton Review came out with its annual review of colleges, and the toasts at BYU were apparently being given with milk glasses and not champagne. For the second year in a row, BYU was named the nation’s "Stone Cold Sober" school with Wheaton College, a Christian university in Illinois, in second. BYU also received the top place for the listing "Got Milk" measuring the lowest rates of beer drinking. In fact, BYU consumed 338,000 gallons of white milk in 2005 along with 75,000 gallons of chocolate milk. While beer is banned on the campus, root beer came in as the fifth most popular drink, behind Dasani-brand water and Powerade. BYU also placed on top of the "Don’t Inhale" list for low marijuana usage. (Deseret News, 8/22/06)

Another pastor is arrested at Martin Harris pageant

Pastor Chip Thompson of Ephraim was arrested for handing out tracts at a Mormon pageant. Thompson and eight others were handing out the tracts at the public cemetery when he was told that he needed to leave. Thompson told the others to leave but allowed for his arrest to protest the violation of the First Amendment. This follows the arrest from the previous week of Joel Kramer, a pastor and filmmaker who was attempting to film the pageant. Thompson reports that the tracts that he and his group were handing out were being eagerly taken by many walking by, as the Mormons who were walking to the performance appeared interested to find out what was being written about their church. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/22/06)

St. George fastest growing in last five years

There is no place that has grown faster than St. George, a town that is close to the Arizona/Utah border and is less than half an hour away from Nevada. The city grew by almost 32 percent between 2000 and 2005, adding nearly 29,000 residents. "We certainly have been discovered," the county commissioner said. With so many people moving into St. George, the city has seen great appreciation in real estate during this time. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/22/06)

Dr. BYU

There are only nine schools that have its graduates receive more Ph.D.’s in the United States than Mormon-owned BYU University in Provo. Researchers from the University of Chicago have tracked every doctorate in the country from 1995-2004, and BYU had 2,116 alumni receive their doctorates at BYU. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/18/06)

Utah still number one in birth rates

If you see some Utah mothers with foam fingers screaming, "We’re number one!" you can bet that they are talking about Utah’s hold on the top position for having children. Utahans continue to get married earlier and have more children than the national average, thanks to Mormonism’s stress on marriage in the temple for not only time but all eternity. The average Utah household is 3.07 individuals, compared with 2.6 nationally. The average woman had 2.5 children in 2004 compared to the national rate of 2.0. Much of the increase is coming from Hispanic families, as the Hispanic fertility rate was 3.5 children per woman compared with 2.7 for the nation. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/15/06)

STD rate is rising in Utah County

The Utah County chlamydia rate in 2005 went up 65 percent while gonorrhea is up 46 percent, which is worrying county officials. "If we don’t really get a handle on this we’re going to have some serious problems," said Melissa Montoya, public health nurse for the Utah County Health Department. Problems include pregnancy loss, infertility, and premature birth. Chlamydia rates jumped from 255 cases in 2004 to 421 in 2005, and the STD rate appears to be headed for another increase next year. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/15/06)

Pastor arrested for taping pageant

Joel Kramer, 39, a Christian pastor who has produced such important videos as "The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon" and "DNA vs. The Book of Mormon," was arrested at the Saturday night Martin Harris Pageant near Logan. At the beginning of the pageant, an announcement was made to refrain from taking pictures or videotaping. However, Kramer said, "It sounds like law, but it’s a request. It would be like me announcing over a loudspeaker that I would like them not to show the pageant." As far as copyright protection, there is none. "These are free pageants," Kramer said, "so there’s no copyright violation, and I’m within my rights to be on public land." Kramer added that it was the LDS influence that caused him to be arrested on public property. Kramer was released on $280 bail. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/13/06)

LDS artists in Utah tread softly

Richard Dutcher, a well-known producer of such LDS-themed movies as God’s Army and "States of Grace," was once told by one of his BYU professors that "the first great Mormon writer is going to be excommunicated." "That was distrubring to me, and has proven somewhat prophetic," he told a Sunstone panel audience this week. Dutcher pointed to director-playwright Neil LaBute and novelist Brian Evenson, both of whom resigned from the church after they faced formal discipline for their fictional writings. While Dutcher has not been formally disciplined, he has seen less success at the box office since his popular movie, "God’s Army," came out six years ago. His harder hitting "Brigham City" and "States of Grace" films were less attended at the box office by the LDS faithful. He currently is working on another movie, "Falling," and he insists he is not going to tone down his work. In addition, he plans to finish his film based on church founder Joseph Smith. "Come hell or high water, I’m going to make it," he said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/06)

New soccer stadium coming to Sandy

Real Salt Lake (RSL) soccer team owner Dave Checketts and Utah officials have agreed on a long-worked-out deal to build a professional soccer stadium in Sandy, Utah. The team will receive $55 million in combined subsidies, $10 million more than what the city was offering last month. The team promises to stay in the county for 30 years and build community soccer fields, hold annual charity events, give tickets away to schoolchildren, and spend $1 million to promote tourism. Though the bubblies were flowing after the late-night announcement, at least one Utah resident was not happy. "It’s terrible," he said. "We’re taxed to death already. Let Checketts pay for it. They have lots of money. Why do they always ask us to pay?" Others, however, touted the deal, saying professional soccer "will bring people into Sandy, and that will bring money into the community." (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/06)

Bride napped by parents, wedding stopped

A BYU student scheduled to get married in an LDS temple the next day was driven against her will to Colorado by her parents who didn’t want her to go through with the marriage. The unusual circumstances involved Julianna Redd and her parents, Lemuel Hardison and Julia Redd, who took her shopping around 11 a.m. However, the three did not return for the dinner that they were scheduled to have with the groom’s family that evening. BYU Perry Myers, the potential groom, knew something was wrong and called police. They returned the next day after the scheduled temple ceremony when the couple was supposed to get married. It is unclear why the woman’s parents did not want the marriage to take place. Meanwhile, the county attorney is deciding whether or not charges will be filed against the parents for their role. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/11/06)

University of Utah gets top 100 ranking by homosexual publication

A homosexual guidebook ranking college campuses in America has chosen the University of Utah in Salt Lake City as one of the top 100 schools to attend. The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students makes its choices on a variety of factors, including institutional policies, academic life, housing, counseling, health services, and campus safety. The university’s programs, services, and student coalition helped in getting the school nominated for the honor. "We are pleased the university community is being recognized as a productive and safe learning environment for individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds," said Stayner Landward, the university’s dean of students. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/4/06)

Antidepressant drug use and the LDS Church in Utah

Even though Utah has a high usage of antidepressant drug use, the LDS Church should not be blamed, according to a BYU language professor. Daniel K. Judd, a professor of ancient scripture with a degree in counseling psychology at BYU, says that the Mormon Church has a positive influence on mental health. "With few exceptions, Latter-day Saints who live their lives consistent with the teachings of the (church) experience greater well-being, increased marital and family stability, less delinquency, less depression, less anxiety, less suicide and less substance abuse than those who do not," he said at a BYU Forum on campus. A pharmacy benefits company released a study in 2001 showing that Utahns consumed more anti-depressants in 2000 than residents of any other state. Many have pointed to the LDS Church as being partly responsible for such depression because its leaders demand so much from its membership, including requirements of time and striving for perfection, an impossible goal. (Deseret News, 7/22/06)

CDs come with surprise at LDS Church camp

It was meant to be a nice memento of summer camp: a CD of inspirational music. Instead of uplifting music, however, some of the campers received a rap CD with profane lyrics. In fact, more than 20,000 copies of "The Greatest Gift" were produced for the "Especially for Youth" camps across the country. Instead, however, some teens received "Hometown Dreamin" by a couple of hip-hop artists, which was a mistake of the manufacturer of the CDs. "The content on the erroneous CD does not reflect the standards of the church nor what we support at EFY," said Gregory M. Tanner, director of Church Educational Systems’ youth programs, in a July 7 letter mailed to some 23,000 parents. "It is the furthest from the type of music we would support or condone. Especially because of the offensive content, we wish to enlist your help to insure that your child is not harmed . . . by this error. We are extremely sorry for any inconvenience, confusion, or offense this may have caused you or your child." (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/20/06)

Do you feel lucky, punk?

A burglar who was surprised by the Clearfield, UT homeowner was hit in the head with a baseball bat. Danuel Baird, who was carrying a hatchet, not only was arrested on robbery charges but had the angry owner bash him in the head with the Louisville Slugger. The words emblazoned on the bat: "Are you feeling lucky?" (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/16/06)

Top tourist site in Utah: Temple Square

Despite the natural beauty of Zion and Bryce national parks, the number-one tourist destination for Utah continues to be Temple Square, the three city blocks in the heart of Salt Lake City are owned by the Mormon Church. Between 3 to 5 million visitors come each year to the site compared to 5.3 million visitors to all five of Utah’s national parks. Church spokesperson Kim Farah admitted that the church uses Temple Square for evangelism, saying, "There is proselytizing, but it’s a combination of both proselytizing and church history." Missionary visits at future dates are also provided to guests who provide their addresses and phone numbers on guest books and registration slips. (Deseret News, 7/9/06)

Utahans more likely to volunteer

While less than 1 in 3 Americans as a whole volunteer their service, almost half of all Utahans donate their time, which is the highest rate in the nation. In fact, 48% of the residents in Utah give away time to volunteer their services compared to only 18.8% in Nevada and 26.1% in California, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. For Americans who do volunteer, the average time spent volunteering is 50 hours a year while the total is double in Utah. More than 63% of Utah residents linked their volunteer service in 2003-5 to religious organizations, which makes sense since some 70% of Utah residents are members of the Mormon Church, which emphasizes service as an important part of the faith. Almost half of those in Utah ages 16-24 volunteered, while almost two-thirds of Utah’s college students performed service work. (San Diego Union/Tribune, 6/13/06)

Violent crime rises in two of three Utah cities

With violent crime across the nation increasing for the first time since 2001, Utah’s crime rate also increased in two of the three cities surveyed. According to an FBI report dealing with cities of more than 100,000 residents, Provo—home to LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University—had 181 violent crimes last year, a 17% increase from the previous year. There were two murders in Provo—none from the previous year—and 55 forcible rapes, which was an increase of 25%. In addition, Provo had 107 aggravated assaults, a 14% increase. "I don’t know that it really represents anything," said Provo police Capt. Richard Healey. "Things go up, and then they go down." West Valley City had 516 incidents, a 7.3% increase, and Salt Lake City’s violent crime dropped 3.5%. Nationwide the crime rate went up 2.5%. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/13/06).

Jews bemoan Holocaust victims remaining in LDS database

Despite a signed promise by LDS leaders in 1995 that would ban placing the names of Jewish Holocaust victims into their genealogical records, the names continue to show up in the database. "We’ve been dealing with it for 11 years, since 1995, and we continue to deal with it," said Ernest Michel, a Holocaust survivor and founding member of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The baptisms are considered offensive by Jews because Mormonism teaches that those non-Latter-day Saints who are detained in "spirit prison" will have a chance to have spirit missionaries preach the Mormon gospel to them when their temple work has been completed by living temple Mormons. LDS President Gordon Hinckley said last year that he did not think such a rite should be considered a deal because the spirits can reject the work done on their behalf. "So, there’s no injury done to anybody," he told the Associated Press. The church removed almost a quarter million Holocaust victims’ names when the pact was first signed in 1995, though the church had told the families that there were closer to 400 million names that were removed. (Deseret News, 5/27/06)

Large families found in Utah counties

Juab and Sanpete counties have the biggest average families in the U.S., with an average of 2.9 exemptions per federal income-tax return filed in 2004. In all, the Syracuse University study showed that18 of Utah’s 29 counties are in the top 50 in the nation—more than any other state—and 11 are within the top 18. This year Juab and Sanpete counties beat out Millard County, which has been tops for the past decade. Those in Juab County are not surprised, including Levan city mayor Bob Shepherd. "It’s not like everyone around here has 10 kids or anything, but I’d say the average is probably at least around four kids," he said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/26/06)

Grow your hair and beard, suspect told

A judge in Box Elder County demanded that murder suspect Glenn Howard Griffin grow his hair and beard so he would look more like he did in 1984 when he allegedly killed and robbed a gas station attendant. Griffin, whose trial is set for October, can use any style he wants, but the hair must be there so prosecutors can take pictures of him for the trial. He was caught recently with the use of DNA technology. (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/24/06)

Media criticized for coverage of Jeffs

Having made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Warren Jeffs, the fugitive leader of the world’s largest polygamous sect, has become the center of attention for many in the media, including TV, radio, and newspapers. In fact, the LDS Church is publicly expressing its displeasure with the way the media is reporting the FLDS Church as "Mormons" or "Mormon sects." According to a news release from the LDS public relations department, these references are "misleading and confusing to the vast majority of audiences who rightfully associate the term `Mormon’ with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." It also said there is no reason why the media should ever contact the LDS Church offices regarding the Jeffs’ story, saying "there is no reason why the church would wish to comment about a legal action concerning a group with which it has no affiliation or connection." (Deseret News, 5/12/06)

Spike wins out over skier

The U.S. quarter commemorating Utah’s statehood was unveiled, and the golden spike design depicting the completion of the transcontinental railroad won over other designs, including a skier. About 3,000 people converged at the site where the 1869 driving of the spike at Promontory Summit took place in order to unveil the new design. A spokesman for the governor said this was the right choice. "Along with it being the most popular coin choice among Utahns, the joining of the rails was an extremely important even in U.S. history. The coin’s design was aesthetically pleasing." (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/11/06)

Suicide epidemic in Utah

Utah leads the nation in suicides among men aged 15-24, so the Deseret News spent three months studying the "silent epidemic" to determine why so many Utah youth are killing themselves and thus better understand the "blanket of silence" that surrounds suicide. In fact, going into spring—which is the biggest time for teen suicides—Utah—has the 11th highest suicide rate in the nation, with 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people across the nation. Other statistics discovered by the newspaper showed that 1 in 6 students had considered suicide as a possibility during the past year; 1 in 8 students had made a plan to commit suicide; about 2 percent of Utah young people attempt suicide in a manner that requires medical attention; and almost a third of Utah high school girls felt sad or hopeless. Other statistics of Utah youths committing suicide include: 89 percent were male; 58 percent used firearms; 93 percent were Caucasian; 74 killed themselves at home; 63 percent had contact with the criminal justice system; and only 3 percent were using psychotropic medications when they died, and only 2 percent were active in public mental health treatment. Is there any blame that the Mormon Church ought to accept by requiring so much of its young people to get married and meet the expectations of a very demanding religion? (Deseret News, 4/23/06)

Voting for the state quarter

With the reverse of the Utah state quarter at stake, Internet voters are determining which of the three approved designs will be used for the state’s quarter: a female snowboarder, Utah’s state symbol of a beehive or the golden spike design, which commemorates the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Since April 13, more than 44,000 people have logged onto www.utah.org and voted for one of the three designs that were chosen from nearly 5,000 ideas submitted by Utah schoolchildren and adults. Some are saying that since only 1 percent of the 450 million new quarters will circulate within Utah, the design’s decision is vital for the public image of Utah. In fact, many in northern Utah appear to favor the golden spike in honor of the railroad that went through their territory. Some have even suggested there is an organized campaign in this part of the state. So far, the polls indicate that the golden spike is favored by half of the respondents, with 19% voting for the beehive and 16% for the snowboarder. (Salt Lake Tribune, 4/21/06)

Utah big on pork spending

Almost $100 million of federal spending in Utah has been classified as wasteful "pork" by a national consumer group. The Citizens Against Government Waste says that Utah is 18th in the nation, averaging almost $40 per person in wasteful spending. In comparison, Alaska was the worst ($490 per person), followed by Hawaii ($378) and Washington, D.C. ($182). The best states were Georgia ($12), Florida ($15) and Indiana and Oklahoma ($16). "Pork-barrel spending illustrates and contributes to the meltdown of spending restraint in Washington," CAGW President Tom Schatz said. "Instead of averting an impending fiscal crisis, members of Congress are grabbing the spoils to support their own re-election." (Deseret News, 4/6/2006)

Theatre owner explains Brokeback Mountain decision

While his decision was decried by homosexual groups, Utah automobile dealer Larry Miller, a Mormon, has defended his choice last January of canceling the showing of R-rated Brokeback Mountain in his Sandy movie theatre. In his first public discussion of the decision, Miller said he is worried about the breakup of the traditional American family and decided to make the decision to cancel the movie’s showing. However, his decision resulted in Miller selling a number of cars to individuals thankful for his decision. "I had 12 people call and say I bought a car from you today, ‘because’, and then 27 the next day and then 12 the third day," he said. Although he clearly feels that he hurt some people’s feelings, "I don’t think it should change my opinions and views," he said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 4/5/2006)

Utah last in funding its schools

Even with a 6 percent increase in the state’s funding of its schools, Utah remains last in the nation in spending money for elementary through high school. In fact, Utah is woefully behind the rest of the nation, with an average of $5,008 spent per student. The national average is $8,280, with the most being spent in New Jersey ($12,981). Meanwhile, Utah is expecting a boom in the number of schoolchildren that will be entering school. One taxpayer advocate says this discrepancy is because Utah spends a higher proportion of its education money on higher education rather than on K-12 schools. The director of the Utah Foundation says that tax money ought to be diverted to education. "With this wave of student growth that is coming into the system now, and will continue to come, we just might need to take some money away from other areas and put it into education if we want to make significant improvements in education funding," he said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 4/4/2006)

Utah 11th best place to live

There are 39 states not considered as "livable" as the state of Utah, giving Utahns a notch in the bragging rights column. According to the Morgan Quitno Press "2006 Most Livable State" ranking, Utah is not a bad place to live, moving up 8 notches from last year’s 19th place ranking. Utah beat out all of its neighbors (Idaho was 18th, Colorado 20th, Nevada 24th, Arizona 29th, and New Mexico 41st. The most livable state according to the survey was New Hampshire, the third straight year the state has won. However, Utah did better than New Hampshire in "Percent of Sunny Days" and "Normal Daily Mean Temperature." Meanwhile, Louisiana was last, even though last year’s devastating hurricane did not factor into the scoring. The 44 categories included economic indexes, education levels, health factors and social welfare issues. (Salt Lake Tribune, 3/10/06)

TV show causes controversy over polygamy

A show produced by HBO that depicts a polygamist juggling three wives and seven children in a home in Sandy, Utah is providing a disclaimer distancing polygamy from Mormonism, angering an anti-polygamy group. A disclaimer at the beginning of each episode of the show "Big Love," scheduled to begin March 12, reads, "According to a joint report issued by the Utah and Arizona attorney generals’ offices, July 2005, ‘Approximately 20,000 to 40,000 or more people currently practice polygamy in the United States. The Mormon Church officially banned the practice of polygamy in 1890.’"

However, the director of the anti-polygamy group Tapestry Against Polygamy is livid with the disclaimer. Saying it is "misleading," Vicky Prunty says it should be removed because, while the Mormon Church doesn’t promote polygamy’s practice now, "they still believe in it and their apathy towards polygamy suggests they look forward to a time when polygamy will no longer be against the law." (Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, ""Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium," "Mormon Doctrine," p.578.) Prunty added that the LDS Church "leaders remain silent while Mormon fundamentalists campaign to legalize or decriminalize polygamy. The church routinely turns down opportunities to help women and children who escape from polygamist communities." One LDS Church representative denied Prunty’s comments, saying "the role of the church in this matter is to raise its moral voice, which it has done repeatedly. It is not to usurp the responsibilities that appropriately lie with the legislature and law enforcement." We only wonder if Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, both avid polygamists, would have enjoyed the show. (Deseret News, 2/28/06)

Two teachers to lead a Christian club

An after-school Christian Good News Club proposed by two teachers at Helen M. Knight Intermediate School in Moab is going to be allowed after a compromise was worked out with the school district. The teachers agreed to forgo any district funding for the club as well as wait until their contract day ends before beginning the club’s meetings scheduled at 3:15. The district originally denied the request because the two teachers’ workday did not end until 3:30. However, one of the teacher’s husbands agreed to lead the club as a private citizen for those first 15 minutes. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/26/06)

Provide a violent game to a kid, become a felon

The Utah House has voted to add violent "interactive video or electronic games" to a pornography statute; this would mean that adults who provide extremely violent games such as Resident Evil 4 and Grand Theft Auto can be charged with a felony. Referring to a new game called "Bully," which will be released in April by the makers of Grand Theft Auto, the bill’s founder, Rep. David Hogue, R-Riverton, said, "You can get even with bullies. You take a baseball bat and beat up their heads. It is going to show kids how to respond in school. Is this what we want our kids doing?" However, several lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the statute. One Democrat, Ross Romero, said he dislikes the games but wonders how it is possible a parent could be sentenced to two weeks in jail for providing a game to his own children. The bill now goes to the state senate. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/24/06)

"Happy Birthday to Jesus" box treated as bomb threat

A small white package left on a staircase outside the St. George LDS temple was suspicious enough for authorities to consider it a bomb threat. After the bomb squad took an X-ray of the box, which read "Happy Birthday to Jesus, from the Bailey’s" on the outside, they discovered nothing in it except for small pieces of paper with writing on them. Police were obviously frustrated with the innocent though time- and cost-consuming gift, as scores of firefighters and police were waiting outside the temple in case it really was a bomb. "Even a simple act such as leaving a heartfelt message to Jesus and leaving it on stairs can be trouble," a police sergeant said. "In our society we’re looking for bombs and terrorists. There are more appropriate ways to make birthday wishes." (Deseret News, 2/23/06)

Pornography a problem everywhere, even in Utah

A BYU assistant professor’s arrest on pornography charges shows that sexual addiction problems are everywhere in America, Utah included. The professor was arrested for having a video of a 14-year-old girl undressing, apparently without her consent, on his school’s laptop computer. The 63-year-old assistant professor of information systems said he had the video on the computer because it helped him become sexually aroused; investigators were planning to charge his for a second-degree felony and continued to look for additional videos they believe he has. According to the Provo police chief, the city’s sex crimes unit is "completely overwhelmed" by the volume of investigations such as this. One psychologist says he sees close to 25 people a week in his Orem office who struggle with addiction to explicit magazine, movie, and Internet images. "One out of three (people) that I deal with has pornography problems," he said. "It’s an ongoing issue, and it’s only getting worse. And I only deal with the ones who want to solve the problem." (Deseret News, 2/18/2006)

Active Mormons with colon cancer survive longer

A new study out of BYU shows that Mormons with colon cancer who are active in their church have longer survival rates than their fellow Mormons who are not as active in their membership. The study looked at more than 6,000 cancer patients from 1985-1999 and showed that there is not much of a difference when contracting colon cancer—the second-leading cause of death in the country—between Mormons and those who were not Mormon. However, active LDS Church member had lower-stage cancer and less advanced tumors at diagnosis compared to their less active church counterparts. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/18/2006)

Weighing the benefits of green Jell-o

Mormons weigh almost five pounds more than those who do not belong to their faith. The study by a BYU health science professor involved a cross section of Utah adults from different religions over a 9-year period and showed that Mormons are 14 percent more likely (18 percent for males, 9 percent for females) to be obese compared to non-Mormons. However, the data is encouraging in one sense because LDS adults were closer to six pounds more than the average in 1996 and 34 percent more likely to be obese. The researcher who published the report said perhaps food is being substituted for not being able to smoke, drink or participate in other compulsive behaviors. "For years, the church has focused on the don’ts—don’t smoke, don’t drink, and all the other things that you shouldn’t do that are heavily enforced," one BYU professor said. "There has been little emphasis on the do’s—eat good foods and exercise. In the church, we have a lot of don’ts, and now finally here’s a do—go ahead and do eat—and boy, do we eat." (Deseret News, 2/14/2006)

Utah high schoolers have success with AP classes

More than one out of five Utah high school students passed at least one Advanced Placement test, which are advanced classes in particular subjects that give the possibility of earning college credit with the passing of the test. This places Utah third in the nation—New York and Maryland were the only states with better percentages—as less than one out of seven of the nation’s public school students were able to pass an AP test. "This certainly speaks to the great job Utah’s teachers and students are doing in our high schools," Utah State Schools Superintendent Patti Harrington said. "New York spends about twice as much per pupil on education as Utah, yet our students can certainly hold their own with their students academically." (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/8/06)

Could rattlesnake become state reptile?

An elementary school from St. George may have convinced Utah state legislators into naming the rattlesnake as the state’s official reptile. The House Government Operations Committee unanimously approved the measure after fourth grade students from Diamond Valley Elementary School gave a presentation on the snake, displaying posters and snake skins. The students also sang their school song, which the teacher said "showed how much they cared about rattlesnakes." No word about any groups presenting the salamander as a possible competitor. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/5/06)

Utah homes appreciating better than in past

Home price appreciation in Utah has lagged in recent years, despite the run-up in home prices in the nation since 1999. However, Utah real estate seems to have bounced back, as last year Utah was rated the 22nd state with the best appreciation after being the worst appreciating state for several years. "It was an absolutely great year," one real estate expert said about last year’s improving market. "Everything was moving in the right direction." Interest rates are at their lowest in three months, further bolstering hopes by many that home prices will continue to increase. On the average Utah homes increased 12.4% ending on Sept. 30. Utah’s increase is less than one percentage point below the national average. Currently homes in Salt Lake County average $185,000, which is up 12.4%; in Davis County, $171,900, up 9.8%; Tooele County, $135,800, up 9.4%; and Utah County, $175,000, up 9.4%. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/21/06)

Forum tries to clear air, releases one-year report

Mormons and non-Latter-day Saints who just don’t see eye-to-eye on a variety of issues has been a situation in Utah for many years. When the LDS Church purchased a city block of Salt Lake City’s Main Street in 1999, many non-members felt this was the last straw as they saw the deal as favoring the state’s majority religion. So two Utahns—one a Mormon and the other not—put a program together called "Bridging the Religious Divide: Pain and Hope in Open Dialogue." This week they released a report summarizing a year’s worth of conversations and trying to come to grips with misunderstandings. "It is not a comprehensive accounting; nor does it represent a consensus report," one of the organizers said. The group of about 120 people, made up of Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Buddhists, humanists, and atheists, met in a variety of places with hand-picked facilitators who were trained in conflict management. Some conclusions that were reached included:

  • Referring to the LDS Church simply as the "Church" and calling non-members "non-Mormons" bothered a number of those who did not belong to the Mormon Church (though no suggestion was made as to what to call those who were not LDS members);

     

  • Saying that the LDS Church is "the one true church" implies that all other faiths are inferior and is considered offensive by many (though, ultimately, everyone believes his or her way of truth is the correct path);

     

  • Proselytizing makes Utahns feel expressions of friendship may be contingent on them joining their church;

     

  • Many non-members felt that the Mormons don’t realize that their church’s dominance gives them a privileged political and cultural advantage over others;

     

  • Many Mormons feel that they are targets of disparaging remarks (sometimes even actions) that offend LDS beliefs and culture and that other Utahns do not speak out about such abuse. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/21/06)

Sequel to LDS movie draws ire which

A sequel to a popular movie about Mormon missionaries is drawing some criticism from several people on an interfaith panel who said the producer made unfair stereotypes. Richard Dutcher, the producer of "God’s Army II: States of Grace," explores gang violence, forbidden love, and redemption, which are issues that are much harder hitting than what was in the original movie. Rev. France Davis, who leads Utah’s largest African American congregation, said he is not pleased that the film shows LDS missionaries finding a pastor drunk and unconscious in a gutter before befriending him. "I see nothing good" in the portrayal, he said. "(The pastor) is shown as a money-grabber drunk and a lady’s man. That seems to me to be the common image of African Americans in this community."

Rev. Davis also criticized the way that black and Asian gang members are portrayed. "I’m told the most violent gang in our state is not Hispanic or African American," he said. "I think we’re feeding a commonly held belief about people who are defined as ‘the other.’" Saying he utilized a technical assistant who was once a black gang member, Dutcher denied that he was trying to foster stereotypes, saying this was not his intention. "I wanted very much to show that of all races represented in the film, none of them were completely negatively portrayed and none of them were all positively portrayed….I’ve hated it whenever I’ve seen Mormon characters misrepresented" in films. (Deseret News, 1/14/06)

Don’t step on the cat, or it might become a felony

Billboards encouraging the Utah state legislature to pass an anti-animal abuse bill that would make turn the crime from a petty crime to a felony have been popping up all over Utah. One billboard on I-15 reads, "Ted Bundy started out torturing animals." The state’s humane society is sponsoring the campaign to make the penalty for torturing domestic animals more severe. "There’s a direct link between animal cruelty and violence toward people," the director said. "Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert DeSalvo all had it in their past. Before they brutally murdered their human victims, they all tortured animals." The Republican legislator who is sponsoring the bill said he has convinced hunters, farmers and even the zoo that this would not affect traditional hunting, trapping, falconry, farming, or ranching. "They still can brand cattle," he said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/13/06)

Efforts to curb smoking are weak, Utah officials told

The American Lung Association is giving low marks to Utah for its efforts to stop smoking, including how much is spent for preventing teenagers to buy cigarettes. The ALA says that Utah ought to pass stricter laws and ban smoking in bars, airports and other public places. Only Maine received A’s in all four categories: tobacco use prevention, funding, smoke-free air, cigarette tax and youth access. Utah received Ds and Fs in all the categories except "smoke-free air," which was a "B." One Utah Republican legislator is planning to revive a bill that failed last year to ban smoking in all private clubs, including social, religious or fraternal clubs and any building that is rented or leased for private functions. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/10/06)

Need emergency room care? Move to California or Massachusetts

The state of Utah may be a dangerous place to live when it comes to emergency room care, according to a new health care analysis that gives Utah a D grade. The report put together by an American College of Emergency Physicians task force shows that Utah is at the bottom of the list with neighboring Idaho and the southern state of Arkansas. It suggests that Utah needs to spend more on hospital care, increase the number of registered nurses and create more hospital beds. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/10/06)

Utah theater refuses to show pro homosexual film

A film with a homosexual message was removed from the schedule of the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons, owned by Larry Miller, a prominent Utah Mormon who owns the Utah Jazz and a number of car dealerships. The film, "Brokeback Mountain," tells the story of two "cowboys" who herded sheep in Wyoming. They later marry women but rekindle their "love" by the end of the movie. The decision to remove the film was late, as times for the opening night’s showings were even advertised in the Friday Utah papers because the company handling the advertising was unable to pull the ads back before the newspapers’ deadlines. The decision to pull it was applauded by family groups. Despite the fact that the film is playing at other theaters in the Salt Lake Valley, the local homosexual community has decided to demonstrate their "tolerance" for divergent views by organizing a boycott of Miller’s theater. (Deseret News, 1/7/06)

Missionary dies in shooting

Two Latter-day Saint missionaries serving in Virginia were shot by a gunman after witnessing a shooting. Morgan Young, 21, who was just two months shy of finishing his mission, died from a head wound. His companion, Joshua Heidbrink, 19, survived. The two were shot by a 19-year-old suspect, who was arrested a few days later. The Young family said they don’t hold any anger, "just sorrow," for the suspect, who has been in previous trouble. Apostle M. Russell Ballard, who will speak at Young’s funeral, said, "In many ways, Elder Young has been transferred," adding that he "continues to preach his message in another sphere."

According to the Deseret News, the murder—which can not be considered a form of religious persecution because the two missionaries were shot merely because they observed a crime—is a rare occurrence. In fact, most LDS missionaries killed in recent years have died in accidents, not slayings. From 1999-2005, there have been 17 total deaths of the almost-60,000 LDS missionaries, three of which were murders and 14 that were accidents. Ten of those 14 accidents involved automobiles. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, lost 126 missionaries, all of which were murders while the Baptist churches lost 15 missionaries, all but one of which were murders. (Deseret News, 1/5/06, 1/7/06)

Utah schools bring home low grades

The educational system in Utah received low grades in three of four major areas of a major report, though state educators are saying that they are already making improvements. The report, "Quality Counts 2006," was published in the magazine Education Week. The schools did receive a B+ in resource equity, mainly because poorer districts in the state often have higher per-pupil funding than wealthier districts. The state received a C+ in standards and accountability because the state relies on multiple choice tests. For school climate, the grade was C, which was below the national average of C+, which incorporates school size and student engagement. The lowest grade was a C- for the state’s inability to improve teacher quality because Utah does not require aspiring teachers to pass written tests in their subject areas. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/5/06)