Welcome to the Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup!
This week did not begin well for “Mormons in the News” when it was revealed that Orem-born and primary-raised Julianne Hough had apparently missed the memo that blackface is racist and decided to darken her skin for her Crazy Eyes costume. Hough, who is most famous for her appearances on Dancing with the Stars, is also a country singer whose first album debuted at number one on the country charts and contains a few songs that I had actually heard before writing this news review (see here and here). Luckily for Hough, several guides exist on the Internet for determining if your Halloween costume is racist (here, here, and here). In the future, she can consult one of these and hopefully avoid embarrassment.
This week also marked the debut of the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. I first encountered the book as a teenager and loved it. I am still occasionally haunted by the revelations at the end of the book about the capacity of children to enact violence. The movie’s opening, however, has not been marked by a celebration of the novel’s emphatic voice and liberalism. Instead, journalists, LGTBQ activists, and authors have discussed Card’s conservative politics and outright hostility towards gay men and women. Although many people have suggested that it is important for audiences to boycott the film as a result of Card’s bigotry, others have suggested that we should not judge art by the political affiliations of its creator. What has surprised me about the response, however, has not been the calls for a boycott or the arguments against it but revelations made by individuals about how much Card meant to them as a mentor. Two journalists, one a queer woman and other a Muslim, revealed that they had found in Card a friend who helped them to gain confidence and a sense of their own identity as people marginalized in American culture. They both lamented Card’s bigotry and swerve to the right but refused to let go of their initial friendship with Card. They mourned the loss of a man they had once befriended, as they would have mourned the death of a father or another family member. Card, though still living, was just as lost to them. Both articles are worth reading.
Ender’s Game was not the only Mormon-related news item this week that centered on the opposition of many conservative Mormons to same-sex marriage. This week, Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, visited BYU and told students there that he did not believe they were “going to heaven together” but they faced similar challenges in regards to the traditional family. Several bloggers and newspaper outlets reported on the visit. According to the Religion News Service, Mohler’s visit is part of a larger détente between Mormons and evangelicals as they seek to defend what they see as traditional values. On his blog, John Fea points out that both groups have positioned their opposition to same sex marriage as an issue of religious liberty.
Although most of the news this week related to Mormonism was rather depressing, there were some bright spots:
- The Mormon relationship with the Boy Scouts turns 100 this year.
- The University of Utah Press is publishing Latter-day Lore, a new edited collection on Mormon folklore by Eric Eliason and Tom Mould.
- The Amateur Mormon Historian published a lovely piece on a Mormon missionary who had a baby while in the field.
- Jared Tamez will be speaking at BYU on November 7th about Latino identity, Lamanite conventions in Arizona, and temple excursions.
- The New York Times did a lovely piece about Navajo Mormons.
And, finally, The University of Notre Dame will be hosting a conference on December 4 – 5th on the relationships between Mormons and Catholics with Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, Phil Barlow, JI’s own Matt Bowman, Pat Mason, Taylor Petrey, David Campbell, Kathleen Flake, and Mark Noll. As if that impressive (and not even inclusive!) roster of names wasn’t enough to entice people to attend, the conference will be providing a free lunch. So hie thee to Indiana! I am going to go eat some Halloween candy to relieve my depression after writing the first three news items.