I thought for a Friday we’d keep it a bit light and just explore a few recent trends occurring around the Church. These are pretty random and just my own observations. You might add your own or disagree with mine. So here goes.
The Most Visibly Recognized Mormon Leader is not a Mormon leader at all. It’s Warren Jeffs, the Prophet/President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (FLDS). Jeffs was recently convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault for which he received a life sentence. As hard as the mainstream Mormon/LDS Church tries to distance itself from the FLDS, there are still some news organizations that cannot seem to get the lack of connection correct. The FLDS is an offshoot of the Mormon Church back from the days when polygamy was banned from the LDS church and several breakaway groups were formed to continue the practice. In most cases, they call the “FLDS” a Mormon fundamentalist group, which irritates the LDS Church and Church members no end. Most people in the US probably recognize and associate Warren Jeffs with the Mormon Church more than current Church President Thomas S. Monson. UPDATE: here is a link to an article by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune Comparing Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs Polygamy.
The Most Visible Current Church Spokesperson is not part of the Church’s PR department but is a San Diego State University Literary Professor. Joanna Brooks is all over the news media these days, blogging in the Washington Post, appearing on NPR and in various other media outlets as the current “go-to” person to explain the Church to others. On one hand, Joanna, who is an articulate speaker and an excellent writer, is a model from the “I am a Mormon” mold. She is also least likely to be a Church Spokesperson. After all, she is from a part–member family (her husband is Jewish) and she has not been through the Temple, the Church’s highest ordinances. The fact that she is a woman is not so important because the Church does have a woman spokesperson now, Kim Farah. But Kim probably meets all the requirements of a Church employee. And Joanna is a very liberally-minded, which is a clear minority of the Church members in the US.
The Most Visible Mormon Book is not a book at all, but an award-winning Broadway musical titled, “Book of Mormon.” Since its publication in March 1830 and some 150 Million copies printed in multiple languages, The LDS Church’s sacred book of scripture, the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ does not have the same recognition as a satirical look at the LDS Missionary experience which burst on the Broadway Musical scene only less than a year ago. Believe me, this is no “Sound of Music.” It’s irreverent, somewhat crude, misrepresents a number of things about the LDS Church and, particularly its missionaries. But it is been extremely successful, having won multiple Tony awards, played to packed houses and had the soundtrack be a top seller on ITunes. The Hill Cumorah Pageant dreams about that kind of success.
The Most Visible Church Member right now, at least in the Bloggernacle, appears to be an “openly” Gay man in San Francisco that recently received a calling to be his Ward’s Executive Secretary. The initial reports screamed that an Openly Gay man was called to “the Bishopric” in his ward, which typically means as a Bishop’s counselor, but it turned out to be a bit of a stretch. Still, if the facts on his website are true, it is a very interesting development in the Church in its position on Gays. Supposedly, he was in a gay relationship up to a year ago and broke it off and has been celibate since that time. However, had the same thing happened to a heterosexual man, it is unclear to me he would have been called to that kind of a position after only a one year “repentance” period. But who really knows? It was also unclear from the website whether he actually repented on that situation or just ended it. It is not for me to judge that. Again, this is from the website which some have said might be a fake.
The Most Visible New Mormon Splinter Group appears to be called the “Mormon Stories Support Communities,” the latest venture of Dehlin Enterprises. According to the website they have groups in 42 cities, 3 universities and in 6 different countries. These support groups, subtitled “Finding your identity as an Uncorrelated Mormon” are sort of a “Know Your Former Religion” activity. Not sure how big it has grown and where it all goes, but it is an interesting phenomena in the start of a new off shoot of the LDS Church. If they actually go on to form a new Church, what would be the name? “RULDS, The Real Uncorrelated LDS Church?”
Any others that I missed?