Women declined entrance to Priesthood Session of LDS Church’s General Conference


Women refused entrance to watch the Priesthood Session broadcast on Temple Square. (More photos below.)

“There’s a lot of you guys!” a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as the umpteenth woman approached him. He had been standing there for at least an hour by that point. His job? To decline the over one-hundred women asking for entrance to the broadcast of the Priesthood Session of General Conference.

The conference itself was held across the street at the Church’s Conference Center, but women and male supporters associated with the “Ordain Women” movement collected in the stand-by line at the Church’s Tabernacle. Between 5:00 and 5:45 P.M., male members were allowed to walk directly into the building while women were stopped at the door.

Over the past year the Church has made some significant changes regarding General Conference that seemed to be in response to protests from some Mormon women, including publicly streaming the Priesthood Session on TV and the internet and allowing women to give the benedictions and invocations of regular conference sessions. The policy of priesthood-session attendance being exclusively male, however, was clearly not an issue they were willing to budge on.

“I’m sorry, this session is for men only,” the church representative said countless times on Saturday evening, referring women to the Church’s website where the session was being streamed live. “This is a gathering only for men.” “Sorry, this is the standby line for men.” “This session is intended for the priesthood only.” He forwarded any further questions to the many full-time missionaries on Temple Square.

When the Tabernacle doors closed at 5:45, dozens of women still waiting in line were disappointed that they did not get the chance to be politely turned away. The large group then collected near the Tabernacle and sang the hymn “I Am a Child of God” before leaving Temple Square (video below).

Asked why they wanted to attend the Priesthood Session, one woman told us, “Because I am an active, faithful Mormon woman, and I sincerely desire to listen to the prophet, and it was a real blow to have men and boys walking by me as they were permitted to walk in and I was not.”

Meanwhile outside of the Conference Center, a pair of Mormon women opposing the “Ordain Women” movement held up signs saying, “I don’t need the priesthood to be equal to my husband.” Asked what they thought of the women trying to attend the Priesthood Session, one of them said, “I don’t think they understand the doctrine very well.”

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Obama Campaign Manager: Jon Huntsman Would Have Been Tougher Candidate

Huntsman family just prior to John Huntsman announcing his presidential bid on June 21, 2011 at Liberty State Park. (Mel Evans/AP)

In an interview with Politico‘s Mike Allen, Jim Messina, the 2012 Obama campaign’s manager, revealed that his team believed that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who also served as President Obama’s Ambassador to China, would likely have been a tougher general election opponent than Mitt Romney.

“Um, hmm, that’s a good question,” Messina said when Allen asked him which GOP candidate he believed would have had the best chance of beating Obama. “Look, I think we were honest with our concerns about [Jon] Huntsman. I think Huntsman would have been a very tough general election candidate. And as someone who helped manage his confirmation for the Chinese ambassador, I can tell you, you know, he’s a good guy, we look at his profile in a general election and thought he would be difficult.”

When Allen suggested that Obama’s team chose Huntsman as the ambassador to China in order to take him off the “chess board,” Messina responded, “No, I thought he was a committed American who would serve our country well, and he did.”

Abby Huntsman Livingston, Huntsman’s daughter who campaigned for her father before and during the Republican primaries, told the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday that it was great to hear “confirmation” from the Obama campaign about her father’s appeal.

“My dad is a principled, thoughtful and experienced leader ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century,” Abby Livingston said. “In fact, many of the ideas he spoke to during the primaries, Republicans now recognize as a message more in line with a majority of Americans.”

In 2009, senior Obama adviser David Plouffe expressed concern over a potential Huntsman candidacy, with reporter Nikki Schwab describing Plouffe as “a wee bit queasy” over the possibility. “I think the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate is Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah,” said Plouffe at the time. “I think he’s really out there and speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party.”

Huntsman’s brief presidential campaign ended on January 16, 2012, when he dropped out of the race after placing third in the New Hampshire primary behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. After ending his candidacy, Huntsman tepidly endorsed Romney, who eventually became the party’s nominee but was defeated by President Obama in the general election.

Huntsman’s name was briefly rumored as a possible replacement for Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State. Huntsman currently sits on the boards of several private companies, including Ford Motor Company, and has said he has not ruled out the possibility of running again for public office.

Huntsman also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993 under President George H. W. Bush, at the time the youngest U.S. ambassador the nation had appointed in over a century.

“Mormons for Ron Paul,” Libertarians Protest Outside of Paul Ryan’s Provo Fundraiser

As Wisconsin Congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had dinner with wealthy donors and spoke to local students in the new Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, a small group of Libertarian protesters had their say on the sidewalk outside the event.

One man wore a dollar bill taped over his mouth and carried an American flag and alternating signs reading “Occupy Provo” and “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the Status Quo.” Another man carried a large “Mormons for Ron Paul” sign, while a nearby woman carried “Vote for Gary Johnson” and “Romney/Ryan are Not Truly Conservative” signs. As Romney/Ryan donors left the convention center following the event, the woman supporting Gary Johnson shouted, “Ryan voted for the Patriot Act!”

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Controversial Mormon Coverpage

Bloomberg Businessweek released an early mock-up for the cover of its next issue which will feature the cover story, “Latter-day Lucre: How the Mormon Church Makes Its Billions,” by Caroline Winter. The article itself, which has been online since Tuesday, seems relatively balanced and non-controversial, and the online version is simply titled, “How the Mormons Make Money.”

The mock-up for the next Businessweek cover, however, is something different. It features an 1898 lithograph of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood by the angelic John the Baptist to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, a sacred and important event in Mormonism’s  origin story. However the Bloomberg mock-up features speech-bubbles of the angel saying, “…and thou shalt build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii…,” with a speech-bubble over Joseph Smith saying “Hallelujah.” The bottom of the cover is captioned in large capital letters, “INSIDE THE MORMON EMPIRE.”

The logic behind the offensive cover presumably is to stir up a small amount of controversy in order to get attention for an otherwise relatively objective article on the finances and investments of the LDS Church.

BYU Professor Accuses BYU’s Maxwell Institute Director of Negligence, Reveals MI’s Inner Workings

Yesterday after days of rumors, BYU’s Maxwell Institute was rocked when it was announced director Gerald Bradford had fired BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson as the editor of the Mormon Studies Review, previously named the FARMS Review, which Peterson had founded twenty-three years ago. Peterson’s associate editors were also fired, some reportedly without notice. The publication has since been suspended.

BYU Professor William J. Hamblin

BYU professor William J. Hamblin, who is a close friend of Peterson’s and has worked with the Maxwell Institute for several years, quickly took to the internet commenting on the scandal.  Giving brief background to the scandal, Hamblin notes that FARMS — the previous organization that has effectively evolved into the current Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship — initially became part of BYU as part of what Hamblin calls “a hostile takeover” — Hamblin was on the board of FARMS at the time — and Hamblin says that he “resigned in protest” when the University effectively forced FARMS to merge with BYU, predicting at the time that a merger would prove disastrous for the organization’s future.

FARMS’ main work at the time was in “defending the faith” — a.k.a., Mormon apologetics — and Church President Gordon B. Hinckley approved of their work at the time saying, “FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis.” However, since then Hamblin claims that anonymous higher-ups and the Maxwell Institute’s current director do not approve of Church or University-sponsored apologetics, prompting Hamblin to ask emphatically, “If the University does not want to sponsor apologetics, why in the world did it force FARMS to become part of the University?”

Hamblin called Bradford’s actions in firing Peterson and others “absolutely shameful.” “I feel that Bradford’s failure to contain months or years of ongoing leaks to apostate enemies of the church from within his organization shows disastrous negligence,” Hamblin says. “Let me be very clear.  Gerald Bradford is not a bad person. … I sincerely believe he is doing what he thinks is best.  And I sincerely believe he is dead wrong.”

Giving more commentary on Bradford, Hamblin writes,

“He was brought into FARMS as a manager to run the day-to-day operations of FARMS when it became too big to be administered on a part-time basis by the full-time BYU faculty on the Board.  He was not brought in as a scholar to single handedly determine the future academic direction of the institute.  That was the responsibility of the Board, not of any single individual.  … [Bradford] is academically at home with 19th century Mormonism, but is by no means conversant with biblical studies, ancient languages, Mesoamerica, archaeology, etc., which were the bread and butter of FARMS scholarship.  When he was the executive administrator for the Board this didn’t matter, since the Board determined academic policy; but now he is the sole director, with sole discretion to determine the future of the Institute.”

Dr. William J. Hamblin is currently a history professor at BYU who teaches classes on the Crusades, the Middle East, and various religious topics. He served on the board of FARMS until 1997 and has published scores of articles, papers, and reviews with the organization before and since then.

BYU Professor Daniel Peterson Fired as Editor of Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Maxwell Institute

After rumors circulated earlier in the week, BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship confirmed today that Daniel C. Peterson and his associate editors would be removed from the staff of the Mormon Studies Review, previously the FARMS Review.  The periodical, which publishes articles and reviews on LDS-related topics and books, was founded by Peterson 23 years ago. Along with Peterson were also dismissed his associate editors Louis C. Midgley, George L. Mitton, Gregory L. Smith and Robert White.

In a brief, anonymous statement posted on the Maxwell Institute’s website today the Institute stated, “For many years the FARMS Review has filled an important niche in the intellectual life of its many readers under the vigorous editorship of Professor Daniel C. Peterson and his associates…. We thank these colleagues and the many contributing writers to the Review for their industry and scholarship over the past twenty-three years.” The Institute also stated that publication of the Review would desist indefinitely until a new editorial team was formed and that subscribers would be receiving a refund.

In a leaked e-mail sent June 17, Maxwell Institute director M. Gerald Bradford wrote to Peterson, “The time has come for us to take the Review in a different direction. … What we need to do to properly affect this change in the Review is to ask someone else, someone working in the mainstream of Mormon studies, who has a comparable vision to my own for what it can accomplish, to edit the publication.”

The Review has been criticized in the past for ad hominem attacks in its publication. Reportedly the tipping point for Peterson’s dismissal was a personal 100-page article targeted against John Dehlin, the founder of Mormon Stories, which often focuses on controversial topics within Mormonism such as homosexuality and apostasy. Bradford has the article pulled reportedly after being requested by multiple General Authorities and University President Cecil O. Samuelson, who apparently read at least portions of it. Peterson claims that Bradford and others never read the article.

Almost immediately after the Maxwell Institute’s website posted the public statement, Peterson posted about his dismissal on his personal blog. Peterson stated that he was not receiving the change “enthusiastically” and that he has “deep concerns about the significance of my dismissal (and the reasons behind it) for the future direction of the Maxwell Institute.” Peterson also suggested that the reason he was fired from the Review was because of insinuations “that the Review was in a crisis that necessitated emergency mid-volume intervention, and that it now requires a post-Peterson “detoxing” period before it can be permitted to resume publication.”

Peterson also complained about the manner in which he and his associate editors were fired, saying that the e-mail notifying him of his dismissal came “completely out of the blue” and that the other editors “didn’t even receive an e-mail” notifying them of their removal from the staff. He stated that one of them even inquired of Bradford days earlier but did not receive a response. Another claims to have called Bradford but also received no response. Peterson himself says he has e-mailed Bradford several times but received no acknowledgement. According to Bill Hamblin, another BYU professor who has published many times with the Maxwell Institute, “Bradford fired Dan [Peterson] by email while Dan was on a multi-week journey in the Middle East specifically so Dan could not be in Provo to defend himself.”

Hamblin goes on to say that the firing came as “the culmination of a long-term struggle between radically different visions for the future of the Institute. Peterson wishes to continue the traditional heritage of FARMS, providing cutting edge scholarship and apologetics on LDS scripture. Bradford wants to move the Institute in a different direction, focusing on more secular-style studies that will be accessible and acceptable to non-Mormon scholars. Bradford is especially opposed to LDS apologetics, which he wants to terminate entirely as part of the mission of the Institute.”

Bradford and the Maxwell Institute are currently not making public statements regarding the situation, other than the previously cited statement posted on their website.

Gawker Article: “I’m a Gay Mormon Who’s Been Happily Married for 10 Years”

Earlier today Gawker.com published a blog post titled “I’m a Gay Mormon Who’s Been Happily Married for 10 Years.” The post was written by LDS blogger and family therapist Josh Weed and is, according to Weed, the first time he has “come out” publicly, which he decided to do on his 10th wedding anniversary. Although Weed describes himself as homosexual, he says that he is a “devout and believing Mormon,” and he and his wife intend to stay together. Weed says his wife has known about his sexual orientation since he was sixteen.

Gawker.com Article

Longer version on Josh Weed’s personal blog

LDS Church Changes Important Wording on New Tithing Slips

On new membership tithing slips, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has changed the wording at the bottom to better reflect the usage of funds donated to the Church by its members. Previously the tithing slips stated:

“All donations to the Church’s missionary fund becomes the property of the Church to be used at the Church’s sole discretion in its missionary program.”

This has been changed to:

“Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”

The change apparently is in response to past criticism regarding the undisclosed manner in which the Church uses member and non-member donations.

Image from John Dehlin.

Idaho Government Bans “Five Wives Vodka,” Says Brand Name is Offensive to Mormons

The liquor is made in Ogden, Utah, but the Idaho State Liquor Division says “Five Wives Vodka” will not be sold in their state, stating that the brand name is too offensive to the state’s large Mormon population. State regulations administrator Jeff Anderson told the Associated Press that Idaho liquor stores already carry hundreds of vodka brands and that “Five Wives” is “nothing special.” The state also refuses to take special orders for the vodka.

Ogden’s Own Distillery, which produces the vodka, this week began a “Free the Five Wives” campaign in response and have promised a legal fight over what they claim is a violation of first amendment rights.

Utah, with a much more sizable Mormon population than Idaho, does stock “Five Wives Vodka” in its liquor stores, along with other brand names that some consider offensive, including the beer brand “Polygamy Porter,” which is also produced by a Utah distillery. Incidentally “Polygamy Porter” is carried in Idaho liquor stores, and it is unclear why Idaho regulators have not also banned “Polygamy Porter” for the same reason as “Five Wives Vodka.”

Are Mormons Christian?

What with the recent controversy over a certain Texas Evangelical minister accusing a certain high-profile Mormon of being a non-Christian — because Mormonism is, according to this minister, a non-Christian cult — I thought I’d briefly address this criticism that has been repeated ad nauseum for the past two hundred years: are Mormons Christian?

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