The Flat Earth Phenomenon

The Earth is round. All the evidence going back thousands of years is undeniable. Despite the myth that it wasn’t until Columbus sailed the ocean blue when it was proven, scientists and philosophers had known this fact since ancient times. In fact, Columbus’ belief in the size of the Earth and not its shape was found to be incorrect when he discovered the New World. It turned out to be much bigger than he had anticipated. And yet in modern times there is a small, but growing, number of people who believe that the Earth is flat. The reasons behind this are much more than simple ignorance or mental disorder.

How much they actually believe their own theories is up for debate. It is hard for the majority of “civilized” people to get their head around why someone would ignore all evidence to the contrary. These are the very questions that drive the movement. They represent more than an uneducated few, but a new vision of the future returning to the simplicity of the past. One that never actually existed, but still a past that was mythologized by the educated that now mock them. They are almost a metaphor for how the world has progressed in science and technology, but regressed in social cohesion to fractured tribalism.

Flat Earth believers are characterized as the stereotypical Christian Evangelical Young Earth Creationist Fundamentalist. A starting point for the belief in a “pancake planet” is the Biblical description of the Earth with a domed sky. However, quick Internet research of those who are part of the group quickly dispels such a narrow categorization. They may use the Bible as evidence, but not always for the same reasons. It can be anywhere from religious devotion to a recognition that it is one of many ancient sources untouched by a modernity that has lost its way. It doesn’t matter if the individual’s politics is left or right. What they all seem to have in common is conspiracy theories about population manipulation by government elites. The flat Earth theory is secondary. Continue reading

President Nelson Begins Global Tour

President Russell M. Nelson began his global ministry tour in London, England, on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Hundreds gathered at the Hyde Park Chapel to see the prophet.

“We’re bringing the love of the Lord to the people, and they will learn to love each other,” President Nelson said. “You read the paper and see how angry people are with one another. The Lord’s way is the way of peace. He said love one another as I have loved you.”

After London, President Nelson will travel to Jerusalem on his worldwide tour to cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Hawaiian Islands. President Nelson is joined on the tour by his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia.

I remember a similar tour decades ago, when I was a missionary in Italy and Russell M. Nelson was a newly-ordained Apostle. I also remember President Benson’s first public address after he was made President of the Church, where he addressed the Annandale, Virginia Stake and issued his first prophetic invitation for us to particularly read the Book of Mormon.

I appreciate the work the Mormon Newsroom does to make it possible for us to experience some portion of the excitement of events like this around the world.

Dealing with Abuse

The Church has spoken out against abuse by everyone, particularly members. But abuse happens. And there are factors that make it difficult for abused persons to be believed.

Sunday evening I had a chance to hear Jennie Willoughby speak, the first time she’s publicly discussed the abuse in her marriage with a dominantly Mormon audience.Jennie reports that she didn’t notice anything untoward in her whirlwind courtship with Rob Porter, a rising legal professional with strong ties to Mormon leadership. A recent convert, Jennie didn’t notice Rob wasn’t taking the sacrament when they first met. The fact that Rob had a prior failed marriage didn’t raise red flags. One instance of anger during their courtship seemed understandable at the time. In retrospect, it was a precursor of the terror that would ensue.

Weeks after marrying Rob, Jennie burst into tears in a temple recommend interview when asked if there was anything of concern in her relationships with family members. 1 The stake leader, who had been Jennie’s bishop when she joined the Church, requested Jennie talk with her Bishop. Jennie admits that she wasn’t able to clearly articulate to her bishop the way in which she was being verbally abused or the ways in which intimate relations between herself and her husband felt wrong. Jennie separated from Rob. When Rob destroyed the window in the door to her apartment in anger, the police warned her she may not be safe. But Rob apologized and they reconciled. Then an angry Rob grabbed Jennie by the neck when she was in the shower, terrifying Jennie enough to take steps to end her marriage.

I myself have been involved in toxic situations. This week my physician asked how I came to have a fracture to my eye socket, an old injury the eye doctor noticed earlier this year. I honestly don’t know whether the injury occurred in the late 1970s, when my father beat me, or in the early 1990s, when my first husband beat me. I have suffered no other accidents that could account for that sort of damage to my eye socket.

I am not the most abused woman I know. A girl raised in my neighborhood, Janet Christiansen Abaroa, was brutally killed, almost certainly by the man she married in the temple. A sister-in-law was raped twice, once at Church. My daughter’s sister-in-law was also raped at Church. When I consider lesser violence against women, I can name dozens of family members, friends, and acquaintances who have suffered, often at the hands of those who were ostensibly good Church-going men. And women can be abusive as well.

Abuse happens. But why are the abused too often denied the help they need? And what can be done to reduce the problem in the future? Continue reading

Notes:

  1. I’ve been asked this question in interviews, but forget the exact wording.

Freshening the Bench

In recent times, new apostles tend to be called from the Presidency of the Seventy. So I was intrigued to see a lot of movement in that body this past weekend. The future membership of the Presidency of the Seventy will be slightly younger and less Utahn. A majority of Presidents of the Seventy as of August 2018 will hail from outside the United States.

Those who will not be shifting until August are noted in italics.

Former Leaving Now Joining Future
Gong
(’53, CA)
Gong
(’53, CA)
 Gay
(’51, CA)
Gay
(’51, CA)
Gay
(’51, CA)
 Soares
(’58, Brazil)
Soares
(’58, Brazil)

 Cook
(’57, UT)

Cook
(’57, UT)
Cook
(’57, UT)
Clayton
(’50, UT)
 Clayton
(’50, UT)
Clayton
(’50, UT)
Kearon
(’61, UK)
 Kearon
(’61, UK)
 Kearon
(’61, UK)
Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Christensen
(’56, UT)
 Vinson
(’51, Australia)
  Vinson
(’51, Australia)
Robbins
(’52, UT)
 Robbins
(’52, UT) 
 Robbins
(’52, UT)
Teixeira
(’61, Portugal) 
 Teixeira
(’61, Portugal) 
 Uceda
(’53, Peru)
 Uceda
(’53, Peru) 
 Uceda
(’53, Peru)
 Godoy
(’61, Brazil)
Godoy
(’61, Brazil) 

Elder Gong (’53, California) and Elder Soares (’58, Brazil) left the Presidency of the Seventy to become Apostles. Elder Gong is the first LDS Apostle of Asian ancestry and is notable for being born outside of Utah. Elder Soares is the first LDS Apostle of South American origin.

In addition to country/state of birth, a fuller picture would look at the regions where these leaders have experience. In that sense, the Presidents of the Seventy have experience that spans the globe, as always. But their lens will no longer be dominantly a Utah lens, as has been the case in the past.

As mentioned during Conference, 40% of the General Authority Seventies now hail from outside the United States.

The quiet advancement of women’s voices in the Church

With all of the changes in the Church over the weekend, I am struck by how Church leaders have quietly increased the role of women in the Church.

The merging of Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests means there will be one fewer man at ward council. Women’s input will become more prominent.

The ending of Priesthood Executive Committee (usually just men) means ward council becomes even more important.

The Church has quietly signaled that more input from women is expected at the ward level.

The institution of ministering visits (rather than home and visiting teaching) also includes more involvement in ministering from young women. These young women will be trained at an earlier age how to minister in the Lord’s way. In our ward, and I would imagine most wards, visiting teaching numbers are much better than home teaching numbers, and a lot of the reason has to do with the dedication of women to ministering to the needy in the Church. Will the institution of ministering visits increase the outreach of active ward members to the less active? I would guess yes.

The Church continues to build new temples, even as membership growth stalls in the United States. Temples are the places where women are guaranteed to use the power of the priesthood to bring blessings to their ancestors, and women are more likely to go to the temple than men.

Like most active members, I welcome and embrace any changes announced by the prophets. We are living in amazing times, and it will be fascinating to see how this all plays out.