Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mormon-centric Utah epicenter for food storage

(by Brady Mccombs 12-24-13)
Towering grain silos overlook the main highway in Salt Lake City at the Mormon church's Welfare Square. At grocery stores, there's a whole section with large plastic tubs with labels that read, "Deluxe survivor 700." Radio ads hawk long-term supplies of food with 25-year shelf lives.
And houses are equipped with special shelving for cans of beans, rice and wheat.

Storing away enough food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is not just part of the fundamental teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's an idea that is increasingly catching on nationwide. And it's also big business.

A large majority of food storage companies that do Internet sales are based in the state. Terms once used only by Mormons, such as 72-hour kit, are mainstream, as is the survivalist "preppers" philosophy that taps into the Mormon church's century-old teachings on the topic.

"The wisdom behind preparing is taught heavily in this population," said Paul Fulton, president of Ready Store, based in Draper, Utah, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. "They've led the way."

The Mormon emphasis on self-reliance dates back to the mid-1800s when food storage began as a pragmatic way to ensure survival as church members trekked across the country to Salt Lake City, said Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Church leaders gave everyone lists of what to bring, and then stockpiled food at storehouses as towns were settled.

By the mid-1900s, church leaders worried about nuclear war were using more apocalyptic rhetoric in encouraging food storage. During the Cold War, church members were encouraged to have a two-year supply, Bowman said.

In the last two decades, the focus on food storage has shifted back to practicality.

"A lot of times we are thinking in terms of food storage that we are preparing for this major calamity or major disaster or for Armageddon," said Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church. "It's not about that.

"It's about helping all of us individually to get through these bumps that occur in our lives," he said.
If members are prepared, they can help themselves and others in times of need, Foster said. When a water main broke in his neighborhood, Foster's family was able to provide drinking water from their supply to a neighbor who needed water to make formula for her baby.

The church has a massive warehouse near the airport in Salt Lake City where shelves are stacked tall with boxes of food it uses to stock 143 grocery store-like storehouses it runs across the Americas to provide food to members in need.

Foster said the church tries to keep a six-month supply of food for each of the storehouses, a practice that helped it weather the recession when donations dwindled and need spiked. The church sends food from here or one of their smaller regional warehouses to help domestic disaster victims.

While food storage has long been a core Mormons belief, the church has had to modernize.

The church operates 101 food storage centers where it sells large cans and bags of oats, wheat, sugar, potato flakes and beans, and it recently announced a series of changes at these locations in the U.S. and Canada to ensure that food preparation and packaging is safer.

With more stringent guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration about how foods are handled and distributed, the church is now pre-packaging the foods at all but 12 of the centers. Before, church members could go into the centers and pour the flour into bags, or scoop beans into cans.

Much of the food the church stores is homemade. The church owns farms, ranches and dairies and operates canneries. The peanut butter is made from a peanut farm the church owns in Texas. The apple sauce is made from apples at a church orchard in Idaho.

Chris Rutter and his family of six found their food stash vital after he lost his job in 2009 when his company made major layoffs during the economic downturn. It took Rutter two years to find full-time work again.

During that rough patch, they relied on savings and leaned heavily on the stored food. Rutter's wife, Jodi, made homemade bread, soups and spaghetti sauces from her canned tomatoes, and made gallons of milk last longer by mixing them with powdered milk.

They still buy many of their supplies at their nearby storage center, including 50-pound bags of oats and large tins of chocolate milk powder, a family favorite. Jodi Rutter uses the oats, which have a shelf life of five years, to make her own granola, pancakes and cookies.

She also buys food in bulk at Costco, keeps an eye out for grocery store coupons and has a garden with tomatoes and zucchini and a peach tree.

"We honestly never felt like we were going without," she said about the period when her husband was unemployed. "We always felt so blessed to have enough to feed our kids."


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

LDS Philadelphia Temple picking up attention in the news

(by Abby Stevens 11-26-13)

In addition to Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Comcast Center and the Philadelphia City Hall, The City of Brotherly Love has a new building under construction that is gaining attention: the LDS Philadelphia Temple.

On Nov. 25, ran an article about the unique requirements workers agreed to in constructing the temple, which is owned and will be operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“To the union workers toiling away on-site, the 60,000-square-foot project is vastly different from any they've undertaken before,” wrote Alex Wigglesworth in her article for

The rules construction workers uphold include no smoking, coffee or swearing. Meetings with foremen and project managers begin with prayer, though the prayer sessions are optional, according to the article.

Working on the temple are Alex and Pamela Carr of Salt Lake City. Alex is the LDS Church project manager over the Philadelphia Temple, and Pamela is serving as a full-time service missionary.

Thanks to some extra efforts of Brother and Sister Carr, the temple construction workers have a special treat to look forward to on Wednesdays.

“Every Wednesday, he and his wife bake 100 cookies — homemade cookies — and they deliver them to the construction workers,” Corinne Dougherty, LDS director of public affairs for the Philadelphia region, said in the article. “The construction workers say, 'It's cookie Wednesday! It's cookie Wednesday!' They love it.”

Among their other duties, Brother and Sister Carr help people in Philadelphia understand the purpose of temples from a construction trailer on the site’s parking lot, which is serving as a temporary visitors center.

The article also mentioned a teaching opportunity Brother and Sister Carr created when construction workers discovered granite 30 feet under the temple’s site.

“Many people would see the (granite) development as a setback — it took about six months to chip through — but Alex Carr saw it as a teaching moment,” Wigglesworth wrote in the article. “It brought to his mind a scripture passage in which Christ said a wise man builds his house on rock so it’s not toppled by winds and rains.

“Each day the granite was exposed, Carr climbed down into the pit and returned with bucketfuls of rocks. He began giving them away to visiting youth groups and missionaries as a visual reminder of the importance of building one’s life on firm footing — the rock, of course, serving as an analogy for faith.”

The Philadelphia Temple is on track for a 2016 completion. It will be four stories high and have a Colonial feel to it, with rugs (instead of carpet) and wood, according to the article. The temple will serve around 35,000 members in the area who currently travel to the Manhattan or Washington temples.

“That, while seemingly in distance isn't very far in time to get there, in commitment and so forth, it becomes a struggle for families,” Elder Robert Smith said in the article. “So Philadelphia was chosen as a natural place to have us build a temple, and we are excited about it.”

To the union workers toiling away on-site, the 60,000 square foot project is vastly different from any they've undertaken before.
At the time of the ground-breaking, Mayor Michael Nutter hailed the project at 18th and Vine Streets for its projected infusion of millions of dollars into the local economy, as well as the 300 construction jobs it would create.
Church officials contend the worship site is much-needed to serve the Philadelphia area’s estimated 35,000 parishioners. The closest area temples are in Manhattan and just outside of Washington, D.C.
“That, while seemingly in distance isn't very far in time to get there, in commitment and so forth, it becomes a struggle for families,” said Elder Robert Smith, the highest-ranking church official in northeastern North America. “So Philadelphia was chosen as a natural place to have us build a temple, and we are excited about it.”
He said after the temple plans were announced in 2008, it took church officials between six and eight months to find the right property to build on. They then went forward with the purchase and planning of the project.
“We have found that the city council, the planning department, the Logan Square Association and the surrounding neighbors have all been very supportive about it,” Smith said, noting Nutter has also been a strong champion. “It's been a great experience, and I think everyone feels like the addition of this building in the city will add to the value of the city in terms of beauty and architecture, and will be a beautiful piece of land when it's finally finished.”
Though Philadelphia has plenty of experience handling large construction projects, when it comes to building sacred spaces, local building officials must bow to church leadership headquartered in Salt Lake City. The international LDS temple department is responsible for both commissioning and funding the project, as well as drawing up contractor agreements that contain some unusual requirements.
"There's no smoking or coffee drinking, and, obviously, no booze or anything like that on the site, at all," said Pat Gillespie, business representative for the Philadelphia Building Trades Council.
Workers must go to a break area across the street if they want a fix of caffeine or nicotine.
“The reason is because it's holy ground,” said Steffanie Anderson, assistant regional director of LDS public affairs. “We dedicated it a couple years ago.”
Smith said the church considers the rising temple “a sacred edifice” being built on a site consecrated for its use.
“We had a ground-breaking and a special prayer that made that happen, and we believe that we need to treat it with the same respect we would with one of our churches,” he said. “And so we've asked our contractors to follow similar things as we expect on all of our private property.”
The temple’s building contracts also give hiring preference to union-affiliated Mormon workers in the Philadelphia region. But none could be found, aside from one carpenter who may join the team when his skills are needed during the project’s later stages.
As is custom for LDS temple construction, each meeting with foremen and project managers at the Philadelphia site begins with a review of the day's assignments and prayer — all under the watchful eyes of specially-appointed temple minders, who are always on-site to keep vigil over the proceedings.
"They're very precise and attentive to the process," Gillespie said, though he asserted any kind of prayer sessions are purely optional.
Brother and Sister Carr’s ‘cookies!’
Alex and Pamela Carr moved from Utah and will remain in Philadelphia until the temple’s construction is complete. Alex, with his plaid shirt and rolled-up sleeves, shock of white hair and piercing blue eyes, draws more than a passing resemblance to Paul Newman. When speaking, he easily lapses into folksy sermons, moving from pleasantries to parables and back again. He can rattle off at length endless facts about the tenets and customs of his faith — and bake a mean cookie.
“Every Wednesday, he and his wife bake 100 cookies — homemade cookies — and they deliver them to the construction workers,” said Corinne Dougherty, LDS director of public affairs for the Philadelphia region. “The construction workers say, 'It's cookie Wednesday! It's cookie Wednesday!' They love it.”
Located in the site’s parking lot, the visitor’s center is appointed with large poster boards depicting renderings of the temple and stacks of leaflets and literature about the LDS faith. Visitors are encouraged to take a pamphlet, a handful of candy from several glass bowls or a chunk of rock.
Yes, rock.
That’s another symbolic aspect of the construction. When workers dug about halfway down into the 30-foot pit that will serve as the temple’s underground parking garage, they hit granite. Many people would see the development as a setback — it took about six months to chip through — but Alex Carr saw it as a teaching moment. It brought to his mind a scripture passage in which Christ said a wise man builds his house on rock so it’s not toppled by winds and rains.
Each day the granite was exposed, Carr climbed down into the pit and returned with bucketfuls of rocks. He began giving them away to visiting youth groups and missionaries as a visual reminder of the importance of building one’s life on firm footing — the rock, of course, serving as an analogy for faith. He’s amassed an estimated 2,000 pieces of granite but expects he’ll soon run out: demand has been high.
Soon, Carr plans to hold weekly Monday morning “job prayers” over the site, its workers and building materials. Though all of the project’s 100 workers are invited, attendance will be optional. He’s not sure anyone will show up, but he feels the temple's construction is just as special as the worship services that will eventually take place inside the finished temple.
‘Cleanest construction site he’s ever seen’
Smith pointed to the ritualistic regulations as evidence of the Mormons’ precision and pride, tenets he indicated have spread to the lay workers on site.
“In a recent meeting with Mayor Nutter, he made the comment that we have the cleanest construction site he's ever seen in the city,” Smith said. “We sweep the sidewalks and the roadways. The fencing is beautiful. It doesn't have graffiti on it, and it's reflective of the effort that the workers are putting into it. The workers have a certain pride about the project, so they feel it's special as well. The experience we've had is that they feel a special spirit about the property and about the construction.”
He said the church is using top-notch building materials and enforcing safety rules and site inspections “to the highest standards.” For example, church officials looked at thousands of types of granite for the temple’s edifice before settling on one sourced from an island off the coast of Maine and shipped down from Quebec.
“We spend a lot of money per square foot to make that happen, and it's worth it because we'll have a building that will be in the city for not just decades but, we hope, centuries,” Smith said. He acknowledged the meticulous standards are likely to push the project’s budget over its initial $70 million estimate, though he was unable to say by how much. “We're going to do our best to control the costs, but not at the expense of cheapening the project.”
Construction is “right on schedule” for a 2016 completion, according to Anderson.
In August, the majority of concrete was poured for the substructure and two levels of underground parking are nearing completion. Workers are hoping to begin steel work in January on the temple, which will rise four stories above ground, or about 75 feet above the sidewalk. The exterior walls are slated to begin to rise next summer.
“It will be four stories of meeting rooms and worship centers ... not a big, cavernous cathedral-type building, as maybe the outside presence would lead you to believe,” Smith said. “It will be a beautiful structure once it's done.”
The building’s tallest of two spires - the east spire - has been meticulously measured so to be level with the tops of the adjacent Free Library of Philadelphia and family court buildings. The spire will be topped by a statue of the angel Moroni.  The inside of the temple will have a Colonial feel riffing off Independence Hall, with rugs instead of carpeting and wood that’s painted - never stained.
Despite some of the more unusual requirements the project entails, Gillespie said he's not aware any of the practices are deterring workers from signing on.
"I don't want to make it seem like it's a peculiar job,” he said. “It's a job with some unique requirements, but we're happy to accommodate. The construction workers are versatile and they can adapt. This is what the customer wants, it's a sound request and they're paying the bill. It's going to be a beautiful, beautiful building. This is phenomenal for the city."

It's been two years since ground was broken in Center City on a massive Mormon temple and visitors' center, and it might just be one of the more remarkable construction sites in recent city history.
Let’s just say the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) goes by its own rules — not those typically found in local union handbooks. And it makes sure those rules are enforced.
No smoking. No coffee. No swearing.
Praying optional — but encouraged.

It's been two years since ground was broken in Center City on a massive Mormon temple and visitors' center, and it might just be one of the more remarkable construction sites in recent city history.
Let’s just say the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) goes by its own rules — not those typically found in local union handbooks. And it makes sure those rules are enforced.
No smoking. No coffee. No swearing.
Praying optional — but encouraged.

It's been two years since ground was broken in Center City on a massive Mormon temple and visitors' center, and it might just be one of the more remarkable construction sites in recent city history.
Let’s just say the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) goes by its own rules — not those typically found in local union handbooks. And it makes sure those rules are enforced.
No smoking. No coffee. No swearing.
Praying optional — but encouraged.

It's been two years since ground was broken in Center City on a massive Mormon temple and visitors' center, and it might just be one of the more remarkable construction sites in recent city history.
Let’s just say the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) goes by its own rules — not those typically found in local union handbooks. And it makes sure those rules are enforced.
No smoking. No coffee. No swearing.
Praying optional — but encouraged.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

LDS Church makes large timberland purchase in Florida Panhandle

(by Tad Walch 11-10-13)

An agricultural company owned by the LDS Church agreed Thursday to purchase 382,834 acres of timberland in the Florida Panhandle.

The St. Joe Co. announced Thursday it will sell the land to AgReserves Inc., a taxpaying company owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for $565 million. The transaction is expected to close by April 1.

The deal is a glimpse into one way church leaders practice financial responsibility with the reserves they set aside against down economic cycles.

The sale is a boon for Florida because it is "a long-term investment in the state's timber and cattle industries," Adam Putnam, the state's commissioner of agriculture, said in a statement.

Land conservation

News of the transfer of nearly 600 square miles in the Panhandle drew responses from a variety of sources.

Conservationists hope the church's company is mindful of the important northwest Florida watersheds it has acquired. The Conservation Fund's George Willson said he was pleased "to see that someone with a record of stewardship is buying it."

"This is not a bad outcome," he told the Tallahassee Democrat. "I suspect the new owners will pay attention to all these rural communities they will be a part of."

Many of the reactions alluded to the way the church has managed another large spread in Florida, the 290,000-acre Deseret Ranches in central Florida, since the early 1950s.

A manager at Foley Timber, a Florida-based timber company, told the Tampa Bay Times the church's track record made him view the deal favorably.

"We're glad to see roughly 400,000 acres will be in long-term private ownership," Bo Taff said. "And based on what we know of the company and their land management practices in central Florida, we believe they will be good stewards of the land in north Florida as well."

Putnam, the commissioner of agriculture, echoed that sentiment: "This transaction between two of Florida's largest and most-committed land stewards is a meaningful reminder of the economic and ecological value of agriculture in our state. For decades, The St. Joe Company has played an important role in conserving the landscape of Florida’s Panhandle, and AgReserves, Inc., will build on that commitment while continuing to support the local economy."

The chairman of the board of AgReserves Inc. said Friday in a statement provided to the Deseret News that the company would remain invested in agriculture and conservation.

"This purchase clearly demonstrates the depth of AgReserves’ commitment to agriculture in Florida," Paul Genho said. "We are farmers and ranchers. We’ve been ranching in Florida for 63 years. We love to grow things. We think agriculture is a noble pursuit, and we are proud to be agriculturists. We help feed the world. We love the land and strive to be good citizens in the communities where we live and work. We preserve and protect our land and natural resources and plan far into the future for the places we call home. It is our intent that this purchase will remain in agriculture for a long, long time.”

A 2011 story in the Deseret News detailed some of the operations at the Deseret Ranches. The story said the land managed more than 40,000 head of cattle. The diverse ranch also is home to about a quarter million citrus trees, timberland, sod and tree farms, some commercial crops and large deposits of fossilized seashells used in road base.

The ranch is centered between Orlando and Disneyworld on the west and Cape Canaveral to the east. Ranch managers are participating in state studies about future transportation corridors in the area. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order last week that created a task force to plan for roads, development and environmental protection in the region.

A church's principles

Agriculture plays a key role in the LDS Church's management of reserves it holds in case of rough economic times, according to church leaders.

The Tampa Bay Times story on the announced sale referred to the church's principles on preparation and financial responsibility.

"The theme is consistent with a broader teaching (for families) within the Mormon Church," Times reporter Jeff Harrington wrote, "to be prepared for adverse times by building a three-month supply of food; storing drinking water; saving a financial reserve; and, as possible, accumulating a longer-term food supply of items like wheat, white rice and beans that can last 30 years or more."

Church finances operate on two simple principles, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve said during last month's general conference of the church.

"First, the church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives," he said. "Second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs. For decades the church has taught its membership the principle of setting aside additional food, fuel, and money to take care of emergencies that might arise. The church as an institution simply follows the same principles that are taught repeatedly to the members."

Leaders set aside a fixed percentage of church income to build reserves for what late church President Gordon B. Hinckley called "a possible 'rainy day.’ ”

"Prudent management requires that this money be put to use," he said during a church general conference in 1991. "In that process, we have purchased and hold some good, productive farms. They are well operated under capable management, and they yield a conservative rate of return. We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need."

These commercial properties, like AgReserves Inc., pay property taxes and income tax on any profits.

Focusing on St. Joe

The Times said the per-acre price of Thursday's announced deal — $1,475 per acre — appeared consistent with the sales of large timber tracts. AgReserves Inc. is assuming agreements and contracts existing on the purchased timberlands and intends to maintain the timber and agricultural uses of the lands.

The St. Joe Co. is a Florida-based real estate developer and manager. Company leaders wanted to focus on those core missions.

"This sale of timberland will help the company concentrate on its core business activity of real estate development in Northwest Florida," said Park Brady, CEO for The St. Joe Co. "The proceeds from the sale will provide the company with significant liquidity and numerous opportunities to create long-term value for our shareholders."


Media interest in 'Mormon Moment' slows, deepens

(by Tad Walch 11-6-13)

With the first anniversary arriving for a presidential election that could be seen as the pinnacle of the "Mormon Moment," articles are surfacing that consider the question of whether that moment is over.

Buzzfeed examined the question Wednesday in a piece titled "The Post-'Mormon Moment' Moment," and writer Hunter Schwarz — a former Deseret News reporter and a BYU graduate — declared the moment over but Mormonism "more a part of the national conversation than it was before (Mitt) Romney’s candidacy."

Schwarz produced a graphic of the number of times the terms "Mormon," "LDS" or "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" were mentioned in newspaper and newswire stories in the United States — excluding Utah — in each of the past 20 years. The number spiked at 1,644 in 2012, up from 1,068 in 2011.

This year the number has dropped to 977 so far but is on pace to surpass the 2011 total and still significantly higher than the previous best of 854 in 2008 during Romney's first presidential bid. Church spokesman Lyman Kirkland told Buzzfeed that while the number of calls the church's public affairs department receives is down, the requests are more thoughtful.

“The questions we receive now tend to focus on a broader range of more substantial subjects, whereas a year ago they were most often related to the election,” Kirkland said. “In the weeks preceding the election we received a lot of trivial questions from people scrambling to do almost any kind of story.”

Christianity Today finally closed its web comments section on the story it published this week about a waning "Mormon Moment" because so many Latter-day Saints were responding to the author's assertions about Christianity and Mormonism.

The LDS Church's own position on the "Mormon Moment" has been clear since March 2012 when church spokesman Michael Otterson wrote a Washington Post On Faith blog item that pointed out the cliché "Mormon Moment" already was a dozen years old. From the church's perspective, the "moment" is more of an ongoing era.

"After a 180-year history and 12 years of calling it a 'moment,' we should re-examine the paradigm," Otterson wrote — a position he reiterated days after last year's election when he wrote: "The church leadership has never believed this period is merely a 'Mormon Moment.' They have much more of a long-range view."

And, of course, not all of that 2012 interest in the LDS Church sprang from Romney's campaign.
“For a number of years now there has been a rising interest in Mormonism in academia," Matthew Bowman, visiting associate professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith," told the Deseret News last December. "You saw a surge of interest 10 years ago with the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. More recently there has been the ‘Book of Mormon’ musical on Broadway and a lot of other Mormon stuff on TV and other media. None of that was related to Romney.”


Friday, November 8, 2013

Joseph Smith and Masonry

Below is a link to a wonderful podcast of a talk given by Greg Kearney at the 2005 FAIR conference.

Was Joseph Smith a Mason? Yes he was.

Are the LDS temple ceremonies based on Masonic rituals? In some areas yes, in others no.

Should Mormons be afraid and have this affect their faith? No they shouldn't.

It all makes wonderful and perfect sense when you put away your fear and listen to the facts and understand the history.

I had heard of the Joseph Smith and masonic rumors for years and was always afraid to investigate thinking I was jumping into the darkness. But once I listened to this podcast I celebrated and appreciated Joseph Smith and his ministry even more.

"This is a parallel podcast to the presentation made by Greg Kearney at the FAIR conference in 2005.  Greg used the title “Message and the Messenger” to distinguish how a teaching, principle or concept can be illustrated by symbols.  There are those who see this system as a secret combination designed to avoid public inspection.  Yet in this podcast we explore the symbolic teaching method used in Masonry and in the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints in more detail, to offer insight into what might be considered a deeper understanding of the sacred commitments we make to each other and Deity."


Here is a link to KSL's Religion Today podcast with Martin Tanner that addresses the same subject but comes to a slightly different conclusion.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Entering the world of LDS blogging

(I decided to post this under the "introduction" section since it has to do with blogging and I have touched on lds blogs in the Introduction section before.)

(by Trent Toone 10-31-13)

Liz Jensen loves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She relished her time as a full-time missionary in Croatia. She considers her faith to be the most important part of her life.

Yet, a few years after returning home, the 29-year-old wife and mother of three was struggling when it came to discussing her faith. This troubled her.

"Why, after I've been talking about this for 18 months, is it not easier to talk about? Why am I not more natural?" Jensen said. "How can I be friends with people outside my faith like the Savior?"
Through a series of events and spiritual promptings, Jensen eventually found her solution on the Internet. Although it was intimidating at first, she became one of many church members to embrace blogging as a way of sharing beliefs and doing missionary work. LDS Church leaders have also promoted blogging as an effective way of using technology to join in conversations about the church.

"For me the prompting to share my faith online and to start a blog that was centered on faith and its everyday application was unmistakable," Jensen said. "I feel that God is being very active right now in pushing his work along, and it’s been my experience that if we ask him how we can use what we have to be a part of things, he’ll inspire us to know how to do so in a way that is the best fit for us individually."

From church leaders

For several years now, members of the LDS Church’s First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have spoken out more and more about using technology and all channels of communication — including blogs — as a way of spreading the gospel.

In a commencement address given at BYU-Hawaii in December 2007, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said the Internet is the modern-day equivalent of the printing press and urged members to join in online conversations and explain the Restoration in simple and clear terms.

“You can see how important the right words are today. Words recorded on the Internet do not disappear. Any Google or Yahoo! search is going to find one’s words, probably for a very long time,” Elder Ballard said. “Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. … You do not speak for the church as a whole. You speak as one member, but you testify of the truths you have come to know.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, offered a similar message in his April 2011 general conference address, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.”

“With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before,” President Uchtdorf said. “My dear young friends, perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open (your) mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text the message of the gospel to all the world … all at the right time and the right place.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged the overall use of social media in his April 2013 general conference remarks.

“For those using the Internet and mobile phones, there are new ways to invite others to ‘come and see,’” Elder Andersen said. “Let’s make sharing our faith online more a part of our daily life.,, Facebook, Twitter — all provide opportunities.

In the LDS Church’s Worldwide Leadership broadcast, Elder L. Tom Perry, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, said technology would play a pivotal role in missionary work.

As missionaries enter this new age where they will use computers in the work of the Lord, we invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, the youth, and the children everywhere to join with us in this exciting new work by becoming Facebook friends with the missionaries in your area on your own computers and sharing their gospel messages online and by becoming involved in missionary work yourselves,” Elder Perry said.

Jensen’s experience

As Jensen prayed and sought enlightenment for how to share the gospel more effectively, a friend asked her to read an advance copy of “The Power of Everyday Missionaries," by best-selling author Clayton M. Christensen, and provide feedback. The ideas presented in the book gave her new insight, Jensen said.

“It not only changed my perspective on sharing my faith, but while reading two specific chapters, I felt very strongly that I needed to write and share online,” Jensen said. “It was a stronger prompting than almost any other in my life.”

About six months ago, Jensen created a blog she calls She didn’t want to be “in-your-face-churchy,” but found a metaphor to be fun. For her, each page view on her website represents a small seed that has been planted with a reader.

“Sometimes we underestimate the small things,” she said. “A daily message that brings someone closer to Christ is a small thing, but 'by small and simple things are great things brought to pass'” (Alma 37:6).

Shortly after she started the blog, Jensen found out she was expecting twins and her pregnancy was high-risk. She spent nearly two months in a hospital bed and it gave her time to work on her blog, which became a blessing in her life during that difficult period.

“It got me through a very challenging time and allowed me to focus on my faith and connect with others on the same topic,” she said. “My testimony was strengthened as I recognized that God is involved in his work.”

As a ward missionary, Jensen takes her blog very seriously. Even with three young children, she spends between 10-20 hours a week managing the site with some help from two friends. They brainstorm topics to address, but Jensen relies mostly on prayer and promptings for inspiration. Trust those promptings, she said.

“I’ve been amazed so often that I’ve felt so inspired in being a blogger,” Jensen said. “It’s evidence to me that God really cares about this. It matters to him. He has been very direct –—write about this, share that — it has been unmistakable. While I still feel insecure in my writing and what I’m doing, I want to make it what he wants it to be.”

As she continues to develop her blog, Jensen hopes to emulate the Savior’s kind example in communicating with others.

“Come see how I live, not because I want you to join my church, but because I’m happy, and I know so many people who are searching for that,” she said.

"In writing I hope I can in some small way help to break down the social pressure that many feel to refrain from talking about their faith and belief in God. I also hope that by blogging I can help create a community where others can connect and interact with others that also believe in God, regardless of their religion."

Thoughts and tips

Larry Richman created and manages a blog called with the goal of sharing technology ideas for Latter-day Saint parents and youth. Nearly 36,000 unique monthly readers from 144 countries follow his blog.

Richman feels blessed to live in a “remarkable age of miracles.” He finds it hard to believe that the Internet has only been around for 20 years and social media for 10 years.

“God has inspired people to develop methods of communication that were only dreams just a few short years ago. Today, advances in technology are not measured in years, but in months and weeks,” Richman said. “The Lord is hastening his work and expects members to step up the pace, open our mouths, and use our fingers to tell others about the happiness that comes through living the gospel.”

When asked for advice about how to blog or using social media in sharing the gospel, Richman offered several tips:

First, share what inspires you with others. Technology makes connecting with family and friends very convenient, Richman said, so don’t hesitate to share inspiring and uplifting messages with them. The LDS Church and other sources provide countless quotes, scriptures, pictures and videos for this purpose. A quote or scripture may be just the thing a friend needs to hear that day, Richman said.

“When your friend shares that quote with another friend, the effects can be far-reaching.”

Second, when you share, always include some personal comments to help others understand why you feel it is important, Richman said.

Third, use the technology you know. Not all members understand or use every communication method, but every member can share the gospel in his or her own way, Richman said.

“If you post on Facebook, occasionally share a gospel-related message,” he said. “Talk about how the gospel guides your daily life. You may be amazed at how many people will find inspiration from your experiences.”

Fourth, don’t be afraid to learn something new. “There are lots of blogs and how-to videos that can teach you new things,” Richman said. is another source with basic blogging tips. Bloggers are encouraged to promote their posts and interact with readers by replying to comments. Write about day-to-day life, update your blog often and relate experiences or lessons learned with members at church and in family home evening, the website reads.

“Most important," according to, "follow the Holy Ghost’s guidance as you contemplate ways you can use your blog to share the gospel.”


Some Find Path to Navajo Roots Through Mormon Church

(by Fernanda Santos 10-30-13)

Linda Smith lost one son, a methamphetamine addict, when he hanged himself in jail. Her other sons are heavy drinkers, fathered by a man who she said nearly killed her one night in a fit of rage, driving her from her home on this corner of the Navajo reservation to Provo, Utah, where she found solace in the Mormon Church.

Ms. Smith’s narrative echoes an increasingly common theme on this reservation, where unemployment is rampant, domestic violence is common, and alcohol is often used as an antidote to heartaches and hardships. In a land troubled by dysfunction and despair, a growing number of Navajos have been turning to the Mormon Church.
Membership at the church’s Tuba City Stake, which covers 150 miles of Navajo and Hopi lands, has increased by 25 percent since 2008, even as churches around it have struggled. St. Jude Parish, this city’s sole Roman Catholic presence, survives largely because of its Filipino congregants, brought here to teach in the local public schools. In September, the Catholic Diocese of Gallup, N.M., which serves the Navajo Nation and six other reservations, filed for bankruptcy protection because of the mounting costs of defending against accusations of sexual abuse by clergy members.
To attract followers, Larry Justice, a white man who is the president of the Tuba City Stake, took a page from the lives of Navajo ancestors and began a gardening program to teach people how to live off the land.
He and a handful of church volunteers teach gardening techniques, distributing seeds from a plot behind the church building here. The program started with 25 gardens four years ago, each made by Navajos next to their homes. There were 1,800 gardens last month, and by next year 500 more are to be created in Tuba City and communities all around it, Mr. Justice said.
Participants learn how to fertilize the soil, parched by years of drought. They learn to build fences to keep out the animals that roam the land. They learn what to harvest and when: melons and grapes in the summer, squash and cabbage in the fall.
“Their grandparents knew how to farm. Their parents forgot it. We’re working to make sure the young people learn it,” Mr. Justice said as he escorted visitors through the chapel, which was so crowded one recent Sunday that a divider was removed to make way for more seats. “It’s important to teach our people to be self-reliant.”
The Mormon Church has been expanding at a steady pace, primarily in parts of Asia and Latin America, where, Mr. Justice said, there are plans to introduce his gardening program to indigenous peoples, using lessons in subsistence farming as a doorway into the church. The church had three million members worldwide in 1971. Today, there are 15 million, with roughly one-quarter of them in South America, according to the church’s statistics. Its army of missionaries has increased by 37 percent since last October, after the church lowered its minimum age requirements.
As converts here on the reservation tell it, becoming a Mormon has brought them closer to the fundamental Navajo values of charity, camaraderie and respect for the land. There is a feeling of “reconnecting to our traditions,” as one of them, Nora Kaibetoney, explained in Navajo through a translator — even though Mormonism often compels them to leave behind rituals that have long defined their identity, like a medicine man’s healing ceremonies or the cleansing in sweat lodges.
“In Navajo culture, the most important things we have are life and our family,” said Ms. Smith, 64, the daughter of a Navajo code talker and hand trembler, a type of diagnostician. She was baptized as a Mormon in high school.
Converting, she said, “wasn’t about turning away and embracing an entirely different tradition; it was about reconnecting.”
American Indians have had complicated histories with the Christian denominations that have performed missionary work among them, including the Mormon Church, known formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the West, where Mormons migrated during the 19th century while fleeing persecution, they and the Navajo worked together on the land and also fought over it, in a relationship defined by alternating periods of cooperation and strife.
What set the Mormons apart from other missionary groups is the role they ascribed to American Indians in their holy scriptures as descendants of the Lamanites — rebellious nonbelievers whose conversion could help the Mormons build God’s kingdom on earth.
“There’s this paradoxical sense in which the Lamanites are both a rebellious and wicked people, but they’re also key to the consummation of history and they’re central actors in the Mormon scriptural drama,” said Peter J. Thuesen, the chairman of the department of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, whose research explores the role of Mormonism in American culture. “No other form of Christianity gives the native people such a unique place in their story.”
In paintings adorning the church’s building in Tuba City, a structure made striking by the modest homes that surround it, American Indians listen as Jesus preaches to them. According to Mormon belief, Indians were the first people to whom he ministered when he came to the Americas after his resurrection.
The connection is one of the ways the church attracts people like Wayne Smith, whom Ms. Smith married last year in the church.
A retired ironworker, Mr. Smith, 52, is among the tens of thousands of American Indians, most of them Navajo, who were recruited as children for placement in Mormon homes outside the reservation, under a contentious program that was promoted as a way to give the children a chance at a good education — but that removed them from their native culture.
The program began just as soldiers were returning from World War II, a time of “profound breakdown of community,” said Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, a distinguished professor in the humanities at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. For parents, the Mormons’ ban on alcohol and emphasis on a measured lifestyle stood in stark contrast to the harsh realities of life on the reservation, and delivering children was seen as “the most realistic way to give them a leg up,” Ms. Maffly-Kipp said.
Mr. Smith recalled that the program gave him a sense of self-worth.
“Here was an outside group of people telling me I wasn’t just someone who was poor,” he said, “that I had a great heritage, that I have potential.”
Mr. Justice and the missionaries who travel the dirt roads here are working to spread the message, knocking on doors and offering prayers. Their encounters usually include an invitation: Come by the church on Sunday to learn more.
“The thing about us is,” said Mr. Justice, referring to his flock, “is that we take care of one another.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Nauvoo temple "morning star"

The inverted star symbol has a long history dating back to the early Christian church. It was used together with the cross in 312 A.D. as early Christians believed the inverted star was a symbol of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries it has graced many buildings, windows, and even national flags. There are many ancient cathedrals and churches with the inverted stained glass star across Europe and North America. Famous shrines, such as Amiens Cathedral in France (built 1230 A.D.) or the Marktkirche church in Germany (built 1350 A.D.), have massive stained glass inverted stars.

The inverted star was used on various versions of the United States Flag until 1876 and is still used today on the Medal of Honor of the Navy, Army, and Air Force. It adorns many early American buildings and churches, and is found on barns, homes, and gates of early colonial families.

In what was quite humble compared to the large stained glass cathedral inverted stars, the Latter-day Saints sacrificed to gather enough materials for three colors of glass: red, white, and blue. Fashioned with lead and placed in the upper round windows of the early Nauvoo Temple, the "Morning Star" windows were a delight to those who saw them back lit each night.

When the Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt and dedicated in 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley determined that the original design would remain, and the three-color stained glass windows would once again adorn the Temple. The beautiful inverted stars again glow at night as they once did.
(Zion's Mercantile at the Riverwoods in Orem is where I purchased this item. If I remember correctly it was under $20 if you are interested in purchasing one too.)

Latter-day Saints and the study of the temple

(by Daniel Peterson 10-24-13)

What,” asked the Prophet Joseph Smith, “was the object of gathering … the people of God in any age of the world?” He then answered his own question: “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation ….

“It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc....

“God ordained that He would save the dead, and would do it by gathering His people together….

“Why gather the people together in this place?… To receive the ordinances, the blessings, and glories that God has in store for His Saints.”

The same emphasis continues in this, the greatest era of temple building that the world has ever known. President Howard W. Hunter expressed it well when he exhorted the Latter-day Saints to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership.”

It isn’t surprising, given this focus, that Latter-day Saint academics have also assumed prominent roles in contemporary scholarship on temples and temple worship in antiquity. Hugh Nibley was the obvious pioneer, but he has been followed by other Mormon scholars — as illustrated, for example, by John M. Lundquist’s “The Temple: Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth” (London, 1993), “The Temple of Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future” (New York, 2007) and “The Temple: Holy Precinct for Sanctuary, Ritual, and Sacrifice” (London, 2012), and by William J. Hamblin and David Seely’s “Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History” (London, 2007). Moreover, it’s unsurprising that the two 2007 books are dedicated to Hugh Nibley (died 2005).

Another reflection of strong Latter-day Saint interest is the establishment of the Utah-based Academy for Temple Studies, which seeks to interact with the work of the British Methodist biblical scholar Margaret Barker and the Temple Studies Group that has flourished for some years now in the United Kingdom. The academy has sponsored several successful conferences already, including one earlier this week on the campus of Utah State University that was devoted to “The Lady of the Temple: Examining the Divine Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition.”

And more is coming. This Saturday, Oct. 26, BYU’s 42nd annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium will focus on the theme “Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament.” Commencing at 9 a.m. in the Joseph Smith Building on the BYU campus, an array of 30 professors, graduate students and independent scholars — more than a few of them, I’m happy to say, affiliated with The Interpreter Foundation — will address a multitude of themes connected with temples ancient and modern in four sets of concurrent sessions and in a keynote address just before lunch.

There will be presentations on the Psalms, Mount Sinai, gestures of praise and worship, theophanies or divine appearances, sacrificial worship, ritual clothing, ancient Egyptian liturgical practices, the nature of sacred space and prophesied future sanctuaries, all viewed as shedding light on the temple as a living reality, not merely an antiquarian curiosity. (See the schedule of this year’s Sperry Symposium.)

An excellent three-minute “Mormon Messages” video presentation on “Why Mormons Build Temples” eloquently presents what Latter-day Saints see as the intimate connection between ancient and modern temple worship. Comments from, among others, the late professors Krister Stendahl and Frank Moore Cross of Harvard University will help to explain why contemporary Mormon scholars are so fascinated with this subject.

But this is no mere academic subject, no mere hobby for professors to play with. It is vital, and vitally important, for literally every person who has ever lived upon the earth: “As a result of the sacred ordinances performed in the holy house of God,” President Thomas S. Monson has declared, “no light need be permanently extinguished, no voice permanently stilled, no place in our heart permanently left vacant.”

Last Saturday, I attended a lecture in which, among other things, a former president of the Guatemala City Temple showed photographs of long lines of local Guatemalan Saints waiting patiently for the opportunity to participate in temple ordinances. They plainly understand the urgently pressing (and thrilling) importance of these matters. Do we?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

At BYU, George Will decries 'decadent democracy,' worries with LDS about religious liberty

(by Tad Walch 10-22-13)

George Will felt old Tuesday as he prepared to speak to students at BYU about limited government, financial responsibility and family disintegration.

The renowned columnist and familiar television face felt old because he'd been to BYU before, but no one could remember when exactly he was here, not him, not his office, not BYU officials.

"It was the late '70s or early '80s," he said as students arrived for Tuesday's speech. "I may have talked to their parents."

But feeling old doesn't bother the fit, vibrant 72-year-old. "I like being in my 70s. There's a kind of calm that descends. You're not as excited by every ripple in the pond in Washington."

Even ripples as large as the recent government shutdown and the showdown over the government debt ceiling. Considered national crises by many Americans, neither event changed the trajectory of what is happening in the nation's capital, Will said.

Will applied his age-related calm, his 40 years as a nationally syndicated columnist and the broad context of history to make the argument that Washington is not broken but engaged in a major debate about the role of government in the lives of Americans.

"For all the talk about the discord in Washington," he said, " … the temperatures are high because the stakes are high. For all the argument about that, America's biggest problem today is a consensus that is as broad as the Republic and as deep as the Grand Canyon, and the consensus is we should have a large, generous, omnipresent, omniprovident welfare state and not pay for it. Everyone's agreed on this. The costs should be fobbed off on future generations."

Speaking for 43 minutes from notes on a few cards to an audience of 2,245, the Fox news contributor argued for limited government, the opposite of the current Washington trajectory he said will lead to financial and moral problems.

"What we are practicing today is a kind of decadent democracy," he said. "We used to run deficits to borrow for the future. We borrowed to win wars for the future, build roads, highways and airports for future generations. Today we borrow from the future, to finance our own current consumption.

This is a fundamental immorality, if you will, burdening the unconsenting and unpresent future generations with the costs of our appetites. The problem is that we are 'wealing' a network of dependency, making Americans more and more dependent, in more and more ways, on government we really are not paying for."

Walking back and forth across the stage on the floor of the Marriott Center, Will used baseball stories, quotes and data — 49 percent of Americans receiving a government benefit — to make his points.

"The problem is the government is putting in front of the American people an increasingly rich menu of temptations," he said, "de-stigmatizing dependence on the state in an attempt to change first social norms and then our national character."

For example, he pointed to what he called the two largest financial decisions the average American parent makes — to get a mortgage and to get a tuition loan to send children to college — and pointed out that "these are now transactions with the federal government."

He said the United States is nearing a tipping point "at which a majority of Americans are related to the government either as the government's employees or the government's clients," and at which the private sector is suffocated.

Will said government needs to rein in health costs, fix Social Security by indexing it to life expectancy and simplify the tax code so tax returns can fit on a postcard.

He also talked about income inequality and tied it to the disintegration of the family.

"We know what the real problem is," he said, referring to a 1965 report called the "Crisis of the Negro Family," in which the crisis was that 23.6 percent of African-Americans were born out of wedlock.

"Today, the figure for all Americans, all races and ethnicities is 34 percent. … We know what this means. This means a constantly renewed cohort of somewhat tenuously parented adolescent males. We know what that means. That means disorderly cities, schools that can't teach.

No one wants to talk about this because we don’t know what caused it, and we don't know how to cure it. But these are some of the problems that drive inequality. It can't be cured by the government redistributing income willy-nilly."

During the question-and-answer session, a student challenged Will on the idea that the cause for family breakdown is unknown.

"We've seen family disintegration inflicted by disease, famine, war," Will said. "This (time it) has happened during domestic tranquility in the United States. I can't explain it."
"We have no more urgent domestic problem," he added.

In a one-on-one interview with the Deseret News, Will said American religious leaders who increasingly share concerns about what they see as a broad attack on religious liberty are right to worry. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, visited BYU a day before Will and said he believes Mormons and evangelicals will "to suffer the coercive power of the secular state together."

"They will," Will said.

Will had lunch with Rick Santorum on Sunday. He said Santorum thinks "the new theory is going to be that religion practiced in your private space is fine, but outside your private space the government owns you, as demonstrated by the Affordable Care Act requiring employers, no matter what their personal convictions, to provide contraception. Rick Santorum thinks that's a harbinger of the future, where outside of your churches and your temples, the state can control your behavior, no matter what consequence you feel that might have on the free exercise of religion supposedly protected by the First Amendment."

Will said he shares Santorum's concern, though he personally is not a person of faith.

"I certainly think this anxiety is well-founded. A properly engaged judiciary might rescue us from this, still, because as you know there are a number of suits in federal courts raising the free exercise opposition to the Affordable Care Act, one of many lawsuits pertaining to the Affordable Care Act which is by no means yet on firm legal ground."

Will also argued that Americans should take heart over the disagreements in Washington. They are, he said, evidence that what James Madison and the other Founding Fathers created, a system of checks and balances, is working.

"You wonder why people are angry in Washington?" he asked. "We're arguing about important things. People, say, yeah, doesn't this lead to gridlock? Gridlock is not an American problem, it is an American achievement."

Will's limited-government perspective includes the belief that 95 percent of what government does is wrong, should be stopped and is. "We're good at that," he said.

While he understands why people see Madison's concoction working and feel pessimistic, he expressed optimism about America's future.

"Things are going to get better," Will said. "We are not Bangladesh. We are a rich, educated industrious, continental nation. We can get better by choosing to get better, choosing better policies and thereby better policymakers."


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Conservative Catholics voice concern over 'revolutionary' message

(by Tracy Connor 10-15-13)

Pope Francis' plain-spoken populism has won rave reviews, from people in the pews to the man in the Oval Office, but his pronouncements on everything from atheists to abortion have shaken some conservative and traditional Catholics.

Six months after he was installed on the Throne of St. Peter, the pontiff's comments in a series of interviews are being denounced in scattered corners as "reckless" or even "borderline heretical." One critic called him "the Joe Biden of our era."

"The whispers are rising," said Steve Skojec, 35, a father of six from Manassas, Va., who said a scathing blog post he wrote about the pope's recent remarks got 20,000 views, compared with the usual 500. "There are more and more people who are feeling uncomfortable."

The skepticism rides behind a wave of praise for the down-to-earth Argentine — applauded for choosing Jesuit simplicity over Vatican opulence, emphasizing the poor and tweaking the powerful, and checking stridency at the door when talking about gay marriage, contraception or whether non-believers get into heaven.

"Best pope ever" is a frequent appraisal on Twitter, and President Obama, a Protestant, told CNBC this month that he is "hugely impressed" by the rookie leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

The broad-based adulation — only 4% of Americans in a recent poll had an unfavorable view of the pope — is vexing pockets of conservatives who want a harder line on core doctrine and who worry that even if Francis has not altered church teachings, his words will be misinterpreted or exploited.

"I'm very disturbed by these off-the-cuff, informal remarks," said Christopher Ferrara, a columnist for The Remnant, a Catholic newspaper that opposes many of the changes that accompanied Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

"In one sense, there's no harm because church teaching has not been changed, but in the other sense there is tremendous harm because not everyone understands church teaching," added Ferrara, who is drafting a letter to the Vatican requesting clarification on some of the pope's positions.

He pointed to a Kansas women's clinic that posted on its fence a quote from Francis — saying Catholics should not focus only on hot-button issues like abortion and contraception — as a rebuke to protesters.

Julie Burkhart, director of the South Wind Women's Clinic in Wichita, said she put up the sign so "the people coming here to protest us and harassing our patients might pause and think about what else they could be doing with their time."

David Gittrich of Kansans for Life shot back that the quote was "taken out of context" and that it was "ridiculous" for the clinic to suggest the pope wants to dissuade anti-abortion activism.

Many rank-and-file Catholics and commentators, even those who consider themselves religiously conservative, say Francis is tinkering with style, not substance. But others are quietly nervous — or loudly aghast.

“Is Pope Francis a wishy-washy spineless pope?  Perhaps a pawn, to be used by the liberals inside and outside the Church?" asked the author of the Connecticut Catholic Corner blog, who declined to speak on the record.

"I have a very dear Catholic friend who is freaking out because I am 'having issues' with Pope Francis.  It’s not that I don’t WANT to like him and think highly of him, I do.  I really, really do.  But… it’s just not happening for me.”

John Vennari, a traditional Catholicism advocate, put forth a conspiratorial view in a YouTube video, suggesting the pope's interviews are a way for him to get around writing encyclicals that would contradict church doctrine and the powerful Rome-based cardinals who would object to that.

“He’s leaping over their heads just to take this revolutionary message just straight to the people,” Vennari said.

Skojec said that because many people believe — mistakenly, he said — that anything the pope says is "infalliable," a pontiff has to be "very prudent and circumspect." Instead, he wrote, Francis has been "utterly reckless, theologically misleading, and borderline heretical."

Fans of Francis have predicted that his gentler tone might bring lapsed Catholics and young people into the church, but detractors say it might drive away a certain brand of congregant.

The Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway group, said in a statement that the recent interviews had "provoked some new interest" in them and predicted membership would grow, "if the Holy Father confirms the direction he seems to be taking."

Stephen Heiner — founder of a member of the sedevacantist movement, which argues there hasn't been a true pope in Rome since Vatican II —said the number of people listening to his podcast doubled from about 4,000 to 8,000 in reaction to the pope's statements.

"The fact that we, who could be considered fringe, are attracting listeners speaks to the discontent," he said.

He added that Francis' language in the media interviews was "inelegant," in contrast to the formality of written communiques like encyclicals.

"He's the Joe Biden of our era," he said.

Jeffrey Tucker, editor of the New Liturgical Movement blog, said the super-traditionalists should relax, even though he admitted Francis left him unsettled at first because he is so different from his more formal predecessor.

"All of us miss Benedict — we just do. It's kind of how the kids never like the new stepfather," Tucker said. "You get groovy with it and everything's OK. There's a group of traditionalists that just don't get it, and they're terrified."

Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome said it's easy to see why reactionaries would be on edge. While the pope hasn't messed with doctrine, a shift in priorities and pitch is clearly underway, he said.

"I think it will be a real test for conservative Catholics," he said. "They have always pointed the finger, quoting the pope for the last 35 years. Suddenly, will they stop quoting the pope. It'll be a good test of whether or not they're really Catholics."


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let Us All Press On


The other night while laying in bed before I drifted off to sleep I was on YouTube going through and watching some of the wonderful videos of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It isn't something I do every day but for some reason I felt I needed an escape from the insanity of our present day, blame it on our government I suppose and their constant need to spend money they don't have.

(Any of us, myself included, that has spent money we don't have knows the pain of trying to correct the problem later on down the road. I'm afraid the writing is on the wall for our government and our future economy and the words are not encouraging.)

Anyway, this selection by the Choir seemed to jump out and speak to me. Especially a line or two from the final verse.

"If we do what's right we have no need to fear,
For the Lord, our helper, will ever be near;

In the days of trial his Saints he will cheer,
And prosper the cause of truth."

That struck me, "his Saints he will cheer".

Do you think it is possible? In times of trial which we certainly are now and what will certainly get worse, is it possible to be cheerful?

I certainly hope so, I think we could all use some cheer, myself especially.

Friday, October 4, 2013

CNN article on baptism for the dead

Back in February of last year an article appeared on CNN that had to do with baptisms for the dead. (see link)

A debate raged in the comments section of the article, way too many comments to read them all, but I wanted to save this entry where a member answered some comments posted by a non-member.

(The debate still rages it appears, last look there were over 2,000 comments as late as August this year.)


A few corrections from a practicing Mormon and a PhD student in religious studies:

What does a mormon believe?
"He believes that Jesus Christ is Satan's brother": We believe all mankind are the spirit-children of our "Father"-in-Heaven. We believe Lucifer was also a spirit child of God but was cast out of heaven for rebellion (Revelation 12)

"He believes that God lives near a planet called 'Kolob.'": Yep. If God exists on the material plane, which we believe he does, he has to exist somewhere. Why not near a planet? (Book of Abraham, The Pearl of Great Price 3:9)

"He believes in baptizing dead people": Yep. Straight from the mouth of the Apostle Paul who received a personal witness from the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

"He believes that Jesus is married to a goddess wife": Marriage and family life is one of the greatest blessings of existence. Why should Christ, sinless and perfect, not be allowed to partake of such blessings when us sinners have a chance to participate in them?

"He believes that The Garden of Eden was in Missouri": Yep. Why not? What did the earth look like before the flood? Or even after? Doesn't it say in Genesis 10:22-25 that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg? Is Missouri somehow incapable of being a sacred space?

"He believes that it was impossible for African Americans to go to Heaven before 1978": Wrong. Blacks were denied the priesthood from around the 1850s-1978 (Joseph Smith ordained some black men to the priesthood in his time). The priesthood is not a prerequisite for baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, or enduring to the end.

"He believes that Jesus has children from his wife or wives": Once again, if I as a sinner am able to recieve the joy of family life, why should it be denied to the Only Begotten of the Father?

"He believes that he is going to become a god": We believe our Father-in-Heaven, like any good mortal parent, wants his children to have the blessings he enjoys. Does that mean we will someday rise above him or supplant him as our God? Certainly not.

"He believes he will own his own personal planet after he dies": That's putting it a little strangely, it's not a real estate scheme. What does our Father-in-Heaven do? He creates worlds, He inhabits them with children.

"He believes the real Christian God is not eternal but rather that He was once a man on some other planet besides Earth!" No eternal thing can be created. God has always existed, therefore He is eternal. But, to suppose that He has never had to overcome obstacles, or learn, or do anything to reach his glorious and perfect state runs counter to logic. We on this earth find joy and fullfillment in learning and growing. Why should the allmighty be denied a history, a developmental path? Where do you think God comes from?

"He believes he needs to wear magical underwear created by Mormons and he is never to take it off unless he is bathing": Hmm, partially correct, but still mostly wrong. We wear sacred garments as a reminder of the covenants we have made with God. We wear them just as often as other people wear underwear. Is it odd that most people in the western world wear underwear, except during certain activities? Wearing some sort of sacred garment is not a strictly LDS practice. The Sikhs have their Kaccha, American Indians have had various sacred articles of clothing, etc.

"He believes it is a sin to drink anything containing caffeine": Wrong. We don't drink tea and Coffee. In fact, I just drank a Diet Dr. Pepper and I am not expecting brimstone to drop on my head anytime soon.

You say that you "just cannot take these [LDS] people seriously," but I bet if you met some sincere LDS people, you wouldn't mind them at all. Our beliefs are precious to us. They make us want to be better citizens, better parents, better neighbors, and more like our saviour Jesus Christ–yes, the same Christ in the Bible, which we consider scripture. How can that be a negative?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why millennials are leaving the church [Evangelical Church]

(by Rachel Held Evans 7-27-13)

At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.
We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

Their answers might surprise you.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Excommunicated Mormon to tell how she came back to the faith

(by Peggy Fletcher Stacks 7-26-12)

Two decades ago, Maxine Hanks could not have imagined where her spiritual journey would take her, but she knew this much: She would not likely be walking into the waters of Mormon baptism. No way.

Though a lifelong Latter-day Saint, Hanks had not been attending a Mormon ward for several years. Then she was accused of apostasy for editing an anthology, Women and Authority: Re-Emerging Mormon Feminism, which included a discussion of the all-male LDS priesthood and women's relationship to it.

Hanks was excommunicated in 1993, one of the "September Six," Mormon writers and scholars who were disciplined by their local LDS officials in the same month. Since then, only one — Avraham Gileadi, an Old Testament scholar who has spent his life researching and writing about the biblical oracle Isaiah's prophecies about our time — has been rebaptized into the faith.

Until now.

Hanks rejoined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February.

On Friday , during a popular evening session of next week's Sunstone Symposium, an annual meeting for Mormon intellectuals and observers, Hanks will detail her 20-year spiritual sojourn as a feminist theologian and chaplain, which brought her full circle back into Mormonism.

"Given who I was, there was no place to go but out," Hanks said in 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the excommunications. "Mormonism was limiting to me, so I needed to test the limits — to see who I and the church really might be. … Excommunication opened the door to a larger cosmos, inside and outside myself."

From that point on, she explored various Christian teachings and practices, assisted clergy with religious services and served as volunteer chaplain at Holy Cross Chapel for 13 years. In 1999, she joined the Interfaith Roundtable for the 2002 Winter Olympics, where she enjoyed the association of representatives from various faiths and led the annual Interfaith Week.

She studied "traditional, sacramental Christianity and priesthood," Hanks said this week. "But when I got to the point of priestly ordination, I pulled back. I moved into recognizing the value and power of a lay priesthood in the body of Christ and Christian community. My searching was complete. I had my answers."

Her explorations gave Hanks a new level of understanding and "testimony" of Mormonism.

Late last year, a friend approached LDS officials to say that Hanks was ready to return to the fold. They were receptive. So she met with local and high Mormon leaders and, after several months, they set a baptismal date.

"Nobody asked me to disavow my book or stop writing," Hanks said. "All they asked me about was my relationship to Jesus Christ."

Hanks' rebaptism suggests a difference in LDS leadership from then to now, said Dan Wotherspoon, Sunstone's editor from 2001 to 2008. In the past, many Mormon officials had a sense, he said, that the church must protect its members from "wolves among them."

In May 1993, apostle Boyd K. Packer said the church's three greatest threats came from feminists, gays and intellectuals.

Today, LDS leaders seem more inclined to recognize, said Wotherspoon, now host of the "Mormon Matters" podcast, "that Zion is made up of people of all types."

Hanks is a "genuinely spiritual person and quite insightful, who brings a type of spirituality with her that will resonate with lots of people," he said. "She might be a model for others who have been missing their Mormon community."

The symposium's "Pillars of My Faith" session will showcase a similar path, said Mary Ellen Robertson, Sunstone's interim executive director.

Years ago, Don Bradley, a longtime scholar of Mormon history, asked to have his name removed from LDS membership rolls when participation became uncomfortable.

Within the past few years, Bradley had a change of heart and was rebaptized.

Bradley and Hanks are friends who trod a lot of common ground, Robertson said.

The four-day symposium, which begins Wednesday evening, also will include dozens of sessions about Mormonism and politics, about how members grapple with contemporary issues such as gay rights and feminism, building online LDS communities, Mormon Latino views of the church's immigration stance and how the Utah-based faith has developed its "brand" in the past several decades.

But Robertson is especially pleased with the "Pillars" session.

"It will be a chance for a larger audience to hear this story," she said, and to hear how people can wrestle with their faith and then live it out.