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Behind the Zion Curtain

After a decade of hiatus, we have brought back a feature on MRM.org. Titled “Behind the Zion Curtain,” we will highlight stories that have an effect on Mormonism.

Excommunicated Mormon told she cannot rejoin the church

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. Author Lavina Fielding Anderson’s application to rejoin the LDS Church after she had been excommunicated more than two decades ago was rejected by the LDS Church First Presidency. Anderson, who wrote an article in Dialogue: A Journal on Mormon Thought in the 1990s that had claimed the church leadership was guilty of “ecclesiastical abuse,” said she has tried to reconcile with the leaders in recent years. “I have kept my covenants, remained close to the church and have felt that what I have done is accepted by the Lord,” she told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If there is unfinished business, it’s the First Presidency’s, not mine. Anderson had been excommunicated with five others, two of whom have been allowed back in. The letter from the First Presidency did not give a reason why they rejected her application. One commentator speculated that “it is possible that allowing for her rebaptism would unearth battles the present First Presidency would like to let lie buried and spur a public relitigation of the issue.” The story of the adulteress woman and Jesus’s receiving her in John 7:53-8:11 comes to mind. Why would the leadership damn someone to a lower kingdom of glory merely due to politics? (Salt Lake Tribune, September 5, 2019)

No weapons allowed in churches, say LDS leaders

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. In a rule that some say may have put its membership in danger, the church decided to restricts guns and other lethal weapons in their services, whether they are legal or not. Only official police and other law enforcement officers are allowed to carry. This rule appears to be a response to a new firearm law that took effect in Texas, which says those with concealed handgun licenses may carry guns in houses of worship. The rule was made to deter potential terrorists from trying to create attacks on unarmed parishioners if they knew some attenders might be carrying. One article titled “The Mormon Church Just Made Parishioners a Sitting Duck for Would-Be Attackers” published by Townhall stated, “The Mormon Church did their churchgoers a true disservice by making the announcement. They have effectively told gunmen, ‘We are a gun-free zone. Please, target us.’ It’s like the stupid signs that exist on school campuses. Attackers are more to target those who can’t fight back than those who may fight back.” (Townhall, Aug. 27, 2019)

Web site helping Mormons get off church rolls gets scrutiny from church

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. Those who have operated a website that has helped get the names of more than 40,000 off the LDS Church records in the past few years are going to have to jump through some extra hoops. Previously, church members who filled out an online form at QuitMormon.org could have their names taken off the membership roll with no hassle. However, church leaders have told Mark Naugle, a lawyer who operates the website, that they will now require a signed notarized letter in addition to the form. The leaders are claiming that multiple entries have been given for the same people while someone put 17th President Thomas S. Monson’s name into the system as a joke. They are also suggesting that there could be possible fraud, with members having their names removed without their permission. Naugle says there have been a few hiccups, but he feels that the church is trying to slow the ability of members from leaving the fold. He is reorganizing his website to receive PDF files of notarized letters and hopes to be sending more resignation letters once the changes are made. There is no charge for the service, though people can donate to the nonprofit organization to help maintain it. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 4, 2019).

 Rule changed on waiting period for temple marriages

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. Those Latter-day Saints who get married in civil wedding ceremonies no longer have to wait a year before their marriages can be sealed in one of the more than 160 LDS temples located around the world. The First Presidency wrote a letter on May 6, 2019 explaining, “Where possible, leaders should encourage couples to be both married and sealed in the temple. Where a licensed marriage is not permitted in the temple, or when a temple marriage would cause parents or immediate family members to feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.”  What this means is that non Mormon families can see their children get married in the morning, and then that LDS couple can head to the temple in the afternoon (or next day) to make the marriage good for not just “time” but eternity. The First Presidency said that the new policy is not supposed to signify less emphasis on temple sealings, but it was meant to “provide more opportunities for family to come together in love.”watch (Salt Lake Tribune, May 6, 2019)

Associated Press changes style book on LDS Church

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. The Associated Press, which published a journalistic style and guide book, has decided to make changes in light of the request made last year by President Russell M. Nelson. The news organization says that the full name of the church (“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”) should be used for the initial reference in an article, with “the church,” “church members,” and “members of the faith” preferred on second and later references. However, the AP did not agree to refer to the church as “the Church of Jesus Christ” or “the Church” on subsequent references, which Nelson requested. In addition, the AP said that the use of the adjective or noun “Mormon” can be used when “necessary for space or clarity or in quotations or proper names.” (Salt Lake Tribune, March 8, 2019)

Missionaries now allowed to call home weekly

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. Effective immediately, 65,000 full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be allowed to communicate with their families each week on “preparation day” (usually Mondays). Phone calls, text messages, online messaging and video chats can be initiated by the missionaries who are being asked to use “good judgment” in determining the length of the calls. Previously, the missionaries were only allowed to call home twice a year, on Mother’s Day and Christmas. “Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” said the First Presidency in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.” Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “We communicate with our Heavenly Father every day, and we would like to have our families communicate with the missionaries every week — maybe by letter or maybe by email, or now maybe by video chats or phone calls. This is an addition which brings more confidence, more peace.” Some may think this will make for weaker missionaries, but Utchdorf said, “Our missionaries are pretty tough. They receive rejection every day. They have tough weather conditions. They have to learn a lot. They have to work with new cultures, with new circumstances. But above all, they know in their hearts and minds that they are servants and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (The Church News, February 15, 2019).

Another Missionary Training Center to close

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. The missionary training center in Buenos Aires, Argentinia will be shut down in July, which is the fourth training center to be closed in the past year. (The others were in Dominican Republic, Chile and Spain.) These centers are used like “boot camps” to train the missionaries in doctrine and languages before heading out to the assigned fields. According to a news release given by the church, “the future use of the facilities will be determined in coordination with local leaders. The decision comes as church leaders continue to seek the best use of resources worldwide.” Those who would have gone to the Argentine center will now head to the centers in Mexico or Brazil. While the church would certainly never admit to it, these closings must mean the church forecasts fewer missionaries going to the field. Just a few years ago there were more than 85,000 missionaries, but the number dropped last year to 68,000. The new number will be announced at the April General Conference. Salt Lake Tribune, February 9, 2019 

Veils no longer needed for LDS female burials

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. Although they were required, veils are no longer a mandate for females who are being buried. The change was announced in a January 24th letter by the First Presidency, stating in part, “Veiling the faces of deceased, ‘endowed’ [members who have been through a temple ceremony] women prior to burial is optional. This may be done if the sister expressed such a desire while she was living. In cases where the wishes of the deceased sister on this matter are not known, her family should be consulted.” Salt Lake Tribune, January 29, 2019

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