The Church just released this information today:
The Church takes no position on the specific geographic location of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas. Church members are asked not to teach theories about Book of Mormon geography in Church settings but to focus instead on the Book of Mormon’s teachings and testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
The Book of Mormon includes a history of an ancient people who migrated from the Near East to the Americas. This history contains information about the places they lived, including descriptions of landforms, natural features, and the distances and cardinal directions between important points. The internal consistency of these descriptions is one of the striking features of the Book of Mormon.
Since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed numerous opinions about the specific locations of the events discussed in the book. Some believe that the history depicted in the Book of Mormon occurred in North America, while others believe that it occurred in Central America or South America. Although Church members continue to discuss such theories today, the Church takes no position on the geography of the Book of Mormon except that the events it describes took place in the Americas.
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself accepted what he felt was evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations in both North America and Central America. While traveling with Zion’s Camp in 1834, Joseph wrote to his wife Emma that they were “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.”1 In 1842, the Church newspaper Times and Seasons
published articles under Joseph Smith’s editorship that identified the ruins of ancient native civilizations in Mexico and Central America as further evidence of the Book of Mormon’s historicity.2
Anthony W. Ivins, a Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question [of Book of Mormon geography]. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth.”3The Church urges local leaders and members not to advocate theories of Book of Mormon geography in official Church settings. Speaking of the book’s history and geography, President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.”4
Here is the link.
I will quote at length this story, which most readers should find interesting. (Note to readers, the link goes to a gay website, so be forewarned.)
A Utah suicide researcher says the friction between LGBT sexuality and religion in Utah may not be quite the driving factor behind youth suicide as many people believe.
Despite a general perception that many of Utah’s youth suicides arise from intolerance toward LGBT people promulgated (though not necessarily intentionally) by teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state’s suicide prevention research coordinator says that may not be the case.
“There’s no data to show that, period,” says Michael Staley, who works in the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and is the first person who would know, since he leads an effort to collect, compile and analyze suicide information from around the state. He conducts that research at the behest of the Utah Legislature. “We are working to get that data,” he says.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that LGBT youth die by suicide at double the rate of their non-LGBT peers, Staley says data specific to Utah so far doesn’t validate the sexuality-religion narrative. “The people who are driving that narrative are going to be disappointed,” Staley says, while at the same time recognizing that “theoretically, it makes sense.”
Given the state’s predominant Mormon faith and the church’s rigid, often equivocal stance on LGBT-related issues, it seems only intuitive that the stress thus induced for LGBT people would influence some toward suicide. Especially when an LGBT person’s family members, under certain interpretations or apprehensions of Mormon beliefs, exhibit “highly rejective” behavior, as a study from the Family Acceptance Project calls it.
So it’s little wonder that “Day one in this job, I started getting questions from the media and members of the general public about sexuality,” Staley says.
But his mandate from the Legislature is broader than that. He is examining all suicides.
“We’re building the most comprehensive database of information about suicide decedents around. That’s huge,” Staley says in an interview with QSaltLake Magazine. In fact, it’s the first undertaking of its kind in the country and, because of the organization of the state’s medical examiner’s office, it’s possible in Utah and only a handful of other states. Staley calls the effort “progressive” and “pioneering.”
Staley’s research involves gathering two kinds of information. The first is the findings in official documents: OME investigation records, medical and mental health records, criminal or court records, and the like.
The second kind makes up a “psychological autopsy,” and involves, among other things, talking to the people suicide victims leave behind: family and friends. “We’re getting real-time data about suicide that we’ve never gotten before,” Staley says.
But that real-time data, as well as other available information, doesn’t validate the narrative of the sexuality-religion-suicide nexus. “I will not ignore that narrative, of course … but I also think it’s a more complex story than just religion and sexuality,” he says.
If there is a misperception about that, it begins with another. During a presentation to the LGBTQ Affirmative Therapists Guild of Utah on Nov. 15, Staley asked guild members what proportion of Utah suicides they thought were made up of youth (LGBT or not) age 10–17. “Most people would say 40–60 percent, and people assume that all these people are LGBT,” he said. But the real numbers may be far lower. Data from the OME shows that suicides of youth age 10–17 make up about 6 percent of suicides per year in Utah.
Staley presented information from the CDC that illustrated one of his obstacles: “If you told me to do a [suicide] study of LGBT people, I have no idea who those people are.”
The CDC in Atlanta reviewed investigations for 150 youth suicides in Utah. Last year, it reported its findings. Sexual orientation could be determined by actual or even circumstantial evidence for 40 of those individuals. Of those, only six — or 4 percent of the total 150 — could be identified as non-heterosexual; seventy-three percent could not be confidently identified one way or the other.
As I have written in the past in this post, the claims of teen suicide being caused by the policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are exaggerated beyond any sense of reality. Of course every suicide is a tragedy, but it is also a tragedy to stand over peoples’ graves for political purposes. The science of depression and suicide clearly shows that people, including teens with same-sex attraction, do not kill themselves for one simple reason (such as the Church’s policy on this issue). And now we have more information that the data in Utah simply does not fit the narrative of the critics of the Church.
By the way, Michael Staley, the Utah researcher quoted above, says he is gay, so you can’t pull the homophobe card on the poor guy.
Can we please get back to studying the real reasons people commit suicide? Thank you.
Mitt Romney is about to be sworn in as the junior Republican senator from Utah. This is a time for him to send important messages to his constituents. For example, he could discuss the failings of the increasingly socialist Democrat party. He could consider concerns about religious liberty. He could talk about the importance of following the Constitution. He could opine on the government shutdown and border security. So many potential things to discuss and Mitt….pens a pointed op-ed lambasting Republican President Trump.
You can read that op-ed here.
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.
What is going on with Mitt Romney? There have been plenty of conspiracy theories, that Romney is working with insiders to bring down Trump at the behest of the Deep State, for example. I don’t think that’s it.
If you watch the Netflix documentary on Mitt and follow his public career, his behavior is actually quite easy to understand: he went into public service out of a sense of duty and obligation, not because he is power hungry. He is speaking out against Trump because he truly feels Trump’s behavior is repugnant and below the dignity of the presidency.
There are a myriad of problems with this, but the biggest is that Romney simply has no self-awareness.
The late High Nibley was right about many, many things. The auto-didactic BYU Professor/Super man popularized Mormon apologetics and may be the single smartest Latter-day Saint ever. I will never forget the first thing I read of his, and this was before I joined the Church as an adult: “No Ma’am, That’s Not History,” his evisceration of Fawn Brodie’s ridiculous biography of Joseph Smith. I had read Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History” and found it strange because it was, even to my then non-LDS eyes, so clearly ahistorical and, frankly, laughable. So when I read Nibley’s response I thought: “here is a man, like HL Mencken, who knows how to bury the absurd.”
Since joining the Church, I have read everything I could find by Nibley, and I have even listened to many of his lectures, which you can now find on Youtube. And, like many of you, I have enjoyed almost everything I have read and watched. I love Nibley’s writing style, his use of sources and his wide range of knowledge. There is no disputing he was a very great man and a great scholar.
But even great men can be wrong about some things, and in Nibley’s case he is as wrong as he can be about the whole issue of real-world economics and how it applies to our lives today. I refer here to the essays in his book “Approaching Zion,” all of which I have read many times.
These essays, at least some of which were delivered in live talks, are thought-provoking and deliberately shocking. And I like thought-provoking and deliberately shocking essays because they challenge my belief system. Taking another look at your paradigm is never a bad thing, and this is clearly Nibley’s goal.
And many of Nibley’s points are surely correct: our world is too materialistic, we do not spend enough time doing good in the world, we should voluntarily consecrate ourselves and our talents to the Church. These reminders are welcome and on point.
But Nibley goes much further than this: he proposes that the way almost all latter-day Saints live today is evil and on the side of Satan, rather than God. An honest reader cannot peruse these essays without seeing that as his primary message. Nibley has the same dripping sarcasm and disdain for us that he has for Fawn Brodie’s very poor book on Joseph Smith.