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Yet more forecasting on what to expect in religion news and trends during 2019

Yet more forecasting on what to expect in religion news and trends during 2019

Those who read GetReligion on Dec. 20 (thereby postponing their holiday chores) may recall The Religion Guy’s list of the big three religion news themes for the new year:

(1) Ongoing debate over using the CRISPR technique to create human “designer babies” and manipulate genes that will be passed along to future generations. (The Guy – uniquely -- also proclaimed this the #1 religion story of 2018.)

(2) How Catholic leaders cope with multiplying cases of priests molesting minors, both at Pope Francis’ February summit and afterward. And don’t neglect those Protestant sexual abuse scandals.

(3) Reverberations from the United Methodist Church’s special February General Conference that decides whether and how to either hold together or to split over same-sex issues.

On the same theme, Religion News Service posted a longish item New Year’s Eve headlined “What’s coming for religion in 2019? Here’s what the experts predict.” This was a collection of brief articles commissioned from a multi-faith lineup. It turned out to be one of those ideas that seemed better in the story conference than in the resulting copy.

Understandably, no panelist expected an end to the persistent Catholic scandals.

Otherwise, the pieces predicted things like this:

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Nix 'Mormon' talk in news! How can media handle major faith’s unreasonable plea?

Nix 'Mormon' talk in news! How can media handle major faith’s unreasonable plea?

The venerable Mormon Tabernacle Choir has announced that it is now named “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.” (Will newswriters trim that to “Tabernacle Choir”?)

Reason: President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has declared that “the importance of the name” that God “revealed for His Church,” means believers and outsiders must drop “Mormon” and use that full nine-word name. (Copyreaders will note: definite article with capital T, hyphen, lower-case d.)

Church scriptures say this name was given to founder Joseph Smith, Jr., on April 26, 1838, the same day God granted him “the keys of this kingdom.”

Nelson, a former surgeon who became Smith’s successor as prophet in January, even asserts that use of “Mormon” is "a major victory for Satan." He admits “it’s going to be a challenge to undo tradition of more than 100 years,” but change is “non-negotiable”  because “the Lord wants it that way.” 

The faith will lose something, because the “Mormon” people have long built up respect for their nickname through upright and neighborly living. Indeed, the church spent serious money on an image-boosting “Meet the Mormons” movie and “I’m a Mormon” ads.

The name game is a blame game that puts the media in a bind, as news executives said after Nelson’s August edict, so The Religion Guy adds some guidance to GetReligion’s prior article and this tmatt interview with an LDS journalism professor.

Obviously, The Guy gave this perennial problem considerable thought in co-authoring the book “Mormon America” with his late wife Joan.

The Associated Press Stylebook deems the long-ingrained “Mormon” label acceptable — although it originated with 19th Century antagonists — and was only gradually adopted by the believers themselves.

Since “Mormon” is no slur for 21st Century audiences, what’s going on here?

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When a 12-year-old Mormon says she's gay, CNN is all over it. But is this really a news story?

When a 12-year-old Mormon says she's gay, CNN is all over it. But is this really a news story?

Just in time for Pride Week or Pride Month, we have a story from CNN about a 12-year-old girl coming out to her Latter-day Saints congregation. On May 7, a girl named Savannah stood up during a service to give a brief speech about being a lesbian.

After about three minutes, the leaders turned off her mic and asked her to sit down.

Since then, the story of the girl from Eagle Mountain, Utah, has spread, culminating in an article on CNN a few days ago.

There are all kinds of journalism challenges in this story: The big questions are whether the CNN team is actually interested in what is going on right now, in terms of Mormons adapting some -- repeat, "some" -- of their doctrines to the LGBTQ age. Also, there is this: How stable is the sexual identity of a 12-year-old female?

Let's work our way through this:

(CNN) Savannah, 12, made a decision this January; she was going to come out as lesbian at her Mormon Church. Nothing was going to stop her.
She's a normal almost-teenage girl in Utah: She loves to draw and make art. When she grows up, she wants to be a Disney animator. Her favorite bands are Imagine Dragons and Fall Out Boy.
On June 22, 2016, one day after her birthday, Savannah came out to her parents as lesbian. Mom had suspicions and knew that day might come.
"I looked at her and said, 'OK, I love you. And I'll support you no matter what you do,'" said Heather, her mother.
The family felt strongly that they didn't have the right to prevent Savannah from telling her story publicly, including sharing it with CNN, but asked that their hometown and last names be withheld to give them a measure of privacy.

The story went on to describe -- quoting printed documents, of course -- Mormon policy on same-sex relationships.

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Mormonism is a religion, not just a culture

For people serious about their faith, religious beliefs tend not only to influence other types of beliefs but they tend to be presuppositional. Believers adopt particular cultural and political beliefs because of their religious views. For example, an evangelical who believes that abortion is wrong tends to adopt cultural and political views that flow from their religious convictions. Not all evangelicals oppose abortion rights, of course, and even those that do may have developed their position on the issue apart from their religious views. But those who are pro-life tend to be so in a way that is different than those who developed a secular-minded opposition to abortion.

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