- Ex-bishop is convicted of felony sex crimes
- The MTC expands
- LDS Church reaffirms its “doctrine” on homosexuality
1) Former Mormon bishop pleads guilty to sex crimes with teen girls
A former Mormon bishop in California has pled guilty to sex crimes with two different teen girls in his congregation. In 2006 and again in 2012, Todd Edwards, 49, committed sexual battery against a minor and “sexual penetration with a foreign object.” He was also initially charged with persuading one of the victims not to report the crime, but the Los Angeles Times reports that this charge will be dismissed.
His stake issued a statement expressing the Church’s sadness about the crime. The Church has not revealed any details about the specific dates of Edwards’s tenure as bishop, though the Times says that the Church removed him from his position as bishop as soon as the allegations were made against him.
One final note about some of the discussions happening about this case. While the predatory sexual behavior of this bishop occurred in his home and car, and not in the church building, Mormon cultural practice certainly paved the way for him to have time alone with his victims. Our controversial practice of sending teenagers alone into a room with a bishop for an “interview” that can include questions about sexual behavior gives teens the message that they are not fully in charge of their bodies. Moreover, our religion’s emphasis on obeying those in authority leaves little room to resist when leaders abuse their trust.
For some helpful suggestions on how Mormon leaders and parents might minimize the possibility of abuse – including a rule that a teen should never be completely alone in a room with a priesthood holder – she this August post from Doves & Serpents.
2) MTC in Provo to expand
The Missionary Training Center in Provo, bursting at the seams after the missionary age requirement was lowered last year for both men and women, has announced an expansion. LDS Living reported this morning that the south end of the MTC’s campus will be most affected.
The Deseret News reported in August that there are now more than 75,000 Mormon missionaries in the field, up from 58,000 just before the historic 2012 announcement. More than 85,000 missionaries are expected to have entered service by the end of this year. To accommodate the influx, the Church has opened 58 new missions and a new MTC in Mexico.
3) Harry Reid’s gaffe prompts Church to reiterate that its “doctrine” on homosexuality has not changed
Last week, reporters asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) how he reconciled his legislative support for the ENDA with his membership in the LDS Church, which has, to put it mildly, not always been supportive of gay rights. A Las Vegas newspaper reports Reid’s reaction and the Church’s counter-reaction:
What Reid should have done is separate his duties as a lawmaker to his constituents from his personal religious beliefs. But he didn’t. What he did was say was that members of the Mormon Church are coming around in favor of gay rights.
Two things. First, the key word here is “members,” which could be true in his circles. Maybe the Mormons in his liberal-leaning progressive circle feel that way, which is good. Which leads to the second point: the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not changed its doctrine on homosexuality, despite Reid’s contention of its members softening.
“Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position,” the church said in a statement following Reid’s comments.
Then came the hammer.
“If it is being suggested that the church’s doctrine on this matter is changing, that is incorrect.”
In the commentary following the exchange, Religion Dispatches blogger Joanna Brooks noted a mounting tension among Mormons surrounding the issue of LGBT rights. On the one hand, the Church has adopted a gentler tone about the issue, especially in writings from its Public Affairs department; on the other, it encouraged members in Hawaii to campaign against same-sex marriage in that state. Their efforts were not successful; this week, Hawaii became the fifteenth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.
I certainly hope this is the last ill-fated attempt we see of Latter-day Saints attempting to impose their marital will on the rest of the nation.