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LDS Church President Speaks on US Gun Laws; What Does Faith Say About Firearms Now?

The Mormon Land Newsletter is the Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel covering developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Keep supporting us Patreon and get exclusive access to religious content for Tribune subscribers only, expanded newsletters, podcast transcripts and more.

The Church and Gun Control

Following this week’s horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, we look back at what President Russell M. Nelson said shortly after the deadly attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Barely a month after taking the helm of the church in early 2018, Nelson bemoaned US gun laws — or lack thereof.

“How could God allow something like this to happen?” He told a gathering of Latter-day Saint millennials in Las Vegas. “Well, God allows us to have our agency, and men have passed laws allowing guns to be given to people who shouldn’t have them.”

To be clear, the Utah-based faith has not taken a public position on gun control legislation — nor has Nelson’s comments set out a specific stance on any action.

A few years later, Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland touched on the subject at the April 2020 general conference, just after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when he urged members to work to build a better world.

“May we hope for schools that teach students,” he pleaded, “don’t worry they’ll be shot.”

And so it is.

The church made no official statement after the Texas shooting.

However, in 2019 it strengthened its ban on “guns” — unless carried by law enforcement officers — in its meetinghouses and temples. The current General Manual continues this prohibition, stating that “Firearms and other lethal weapons [including concealed weapons] are not allowed on church property.”

Many political, civic and religious leaders have expressed their “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of the Texas tragedy. This is a practice that Nelson advocates.

“I firmly believe that praying for those in need pleases God,” he recently wrote on Instagram, adding that people should also ask what they could do to “minister to those in need, lift them up.” , to love and to support” to bring about much good in the world.

With that in mind, By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson offered a starting point for curbing the proliferation of firearms and gun violence in US society. He suggested government:

• Impose a property tax on guns. “Guns are too cheap,” argues Brunson, a professor of tax law at Loyola University Chicago. “…Tax money would be specifically earmarked to reimburse victims of gun violence. In this way gun owners would internalize the cost of gun ownership and society would be reimbursed for (some of) the costs incurred.”

• Require gun owners to purchase liability insurance. “Compulsory insurance would force gun owners to bear some of the costs of owning a gun,” Brunson explains, “while compensating society for the damage the guns cause.”

A Bonus Podcast: Peggy’s Journey to the Middle East

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack heals her feet in the salty Dead Sea on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

My colleague Peggy Fletcher Stack recently returned from a multinational tour of the Middle East.

In a special Mormon Land bonus podcast for our Patreon supporters, she discusses her journey, including her visit to the United Arab Emirates and the site of the Church’s first proposed temple in the Middle East, along with her trek to the Holy Land and their dinner at the home of the Israeli President.

Sign up for Patreon now to hear this episode and receive our extended newsletter and transcripts of our Mormon Land podcasts.

Church History outside of Utah

(Photo courtesy of Richard Bushman) Latter-day Saint scholar Richard Bushman says it may be easier for historians to write about Mormon history from outside of Utah.

Richard Bushman, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling and Dean of Mormon Historians, says that Latter-day Saint scholars who do not live in the Beehive State may find it easier to write about the Church.

“The trouble is, if you live in Utah, you write knowing that public authorities are looking over your shoulder. You can’t do that,” Bushman told Wheat & Tares blogger Rick Bennett in a Gospel Tangents podcast. “One cannot write to please the general authorities. You must write what you believe to be true. It’s just really hard to do in Utah because there’s such a presence.”

The key to staying true to science and faith when addressing sensitive issues, says Bushman, a history professor emeritus at Columbia University, is to “keep your heart pure and your mind free.”

“Purify any desire to tweak the church, to correct the church in any way,” he says, “and just a desire to actually say what you believe to be true.”

There’s no harm, Bushman adds in the podcast, in accepting church callings as well.

“The fact that I’ve been a bishop and a stake president and now I’m a patriarch gives people a certain assurance that my heart is in the right place,” he says. “Because I think that’s what interests church leaders the most. Are you really faithful to the Church?”

From the stands

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Black Menaces, shown in April, has been making TikTok videos addressing racism at BYU in Provo. From left are Nate Byrd, Rachel Weaver, Kennethia Dorsey, Kylee Shepherd and Sebastian Stewart-Johnson.

• In this week’s “Mormon Land,” Brigham Young University students who call themselves “Black Menaces” speak about their mission to raise awareness of racism and other challenges facing the Church and its flagship school.

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• Tribune columnist Andy Larsen delved into the world of Latter-day Saint membership statistics and found that the 12 states with the fastest growth over the past two years were “red” (election for Donald Trump in 2020) and eight of the bottom 10 whose roles actually decreased were “blue” (voted for Joe Biden).

Read about it and what else he found in his column.

• The FX/Hulu miniseries “Under the Banner of Heaven” has drawn acclaim and derision for its portrayal of Mormonism and the scripted characters. Separating fact from fiction can be tricky, however, especially since, as screenwriter Dustin Lance Black concedes, no “biopic” is 100% reality.

Read the story.

• A debate has erupted between some Latter-day Saint feminists and some LGBTQ advocates about the nature of the Heavenly Mother.

Read the story.

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https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2022/05/26/latest-mormon-land-when/ LDS Church President Speaks on US Gun Laws; What Does Faith Say About Firearms Now?

Joel McCord

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