Three Mormon news stories from the week:
1) A friend of accused killer Jodi Arias has pointed the finger at the LDS Church as the real murderer of Travis Alexander. Wait for it . . . .
“The friend, Bryan Carr, says Arias is being used as a scapegoat by the church to cover up the murder.
‘Jodi never actually killed Travis – the Mormons actually killed Travis!’ Carr, who said he regularly visits Arias at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, told the gossip website.
‘In the Mormon faith, they have a thing called a blood atonement that the bishop will practice on people high in the church like Travis was if sex sins or adultery were committed. They believe that it washes away your sins and use a scapegoat — in this case, Jodi – to protect the religion,’ Carr added.
He said that Arias won’t implicate the church because she is afraid they will go after her family.”
But of course. In an unprecedented 21st-century revival of blood atonement, LDS leaders murdered the sexually profligate Alexander for his sins, then covered their tracks by putting Arias’s bloody handprints on the walls of the apartment. Then they used their Nefarious Mormon Time Machine to go back in time and take pictures of the two of them having sex together, and then threw the damning camera in the washing machine. Yes, it all makes perfect sense now.
2) In happier, non-delusionary news, the LDS Church has unveiled the changes it has made to the historical introductions and apparatus of key portions of the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
The 2013 (digital) edition of the LDS Scriptures contains the following noteworthy changes:
- There’s a new introduction to the 1978 priesthood revelation: “During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.” What this means: The new wording recognizes the historical fact that before Brigham Young’s presidency, some African-American men did hold the priesthood. It also shuts down the so-called “folk theology” justifications for the later ban, some of which were still being taught at BYU as recently as last year. For an excellent brief analysis of this change, see Joanna Brooks’s article today in Salon.
- The Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Abraham is now characterized as an “inspired translation” of the papyri with which it has been historically associated, rather than a direct translation of the papyri. What this means: The Church recognizes that the JS translation bears no linguistic resemblance to its Ur text, but holds out the possibility of a spiritual interpretation.
- Numerous small changes have been made to the placement or dating of revelations in the D&C. The Aaronic priesthood was not restored by the banks of the Susquehanna; John Taylor probably didn’t write section 135, etc. What this means: The Church is utilizing the astonishing, fabulous, painstaking historical work of the scholars at the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and making their work accessible for all. This is terrific.
- Official Declaration 1, the declaration that aimed to end the practice of polygamy, has an introduction for the first time: “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise. . . . After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.” What this means: “We no longer practice polygamy. We no longer practice polygamy. We no longer . . . .”
- And along those same polygamous lines, there’s a fascinating revision to the introduction to Section 132, which By Common Consent has ably noted. It is now billed as a “Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicated that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.” [Emphasis added] What this means: This means . . . interesting. This means that the Church is acknowledging the historical evidence that Joseph Smith evolved into his religious understanding of the practice of polygamy. It also holds the door open for “plural marriage” to be understood as more than a “plurality of wives,” which is what the prior heading said; the door is open for acknowledging the reality of polyandry in Nauvoo. Hmmmm.
- And finally, the Proclamation on the Family has not been added to the canon of LDS Scripture.
There are quite a few more changes, which the Church has been wonderfully transparent about. You can see side-by-side comparisons here at the Church’s website.
The print version will be released in August.
3) Thousands of new LDS missionaries are hitting the field.
Last fall, after the LDS Church lowered the missionary age, it started receiving about 4,000 applications a week — up 471 percent from where applications had been before the historic General Conference announcement. About half of them have come from women.
The exodus has already been felt this semester at Mormon-heavy colleges and universities; this week the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah State University is stepping up its recruitment of out-of-state students to replenish its mission-bound student body.
This change has affected me personally. Where I grew up in Western Illinois, they are expecting a 50% increase in the number of missionaries serving, and are having to obtain and furnish ten new apartments to accommodate them. Well, they will have a lot of my childhood home’s furniture. Since we have been cleaning out my mom’s house following her death — a sad and difficult task — my heart has been lightened a little thinking of the young missionaries who will be eating off our old dishes or sleeping in our beds. Happy to help!