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.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?

("The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome,1883)

(by John Blake 3-30-13)

She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.

Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.

One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.

And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”

Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.

According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.

But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.

“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”
“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”

Do Christians have a martyr complex today?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."

Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.

People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans and their example helped the church grow, they say.

The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of  "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”

Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.

“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.
Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.

“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”

Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of  the Apostles.

The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,”  Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”

'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'

If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.

There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.

“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”

The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.

“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.

“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”

But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom.  Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century,  scholars say.

For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.

Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.

“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”

When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.

Perpetua’s passion

One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.

She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.

History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.

A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.

While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:
“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”

You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.

Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.

“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”

The early Christians' secret weapon

Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.

The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.

Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.

Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.

“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”

Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.

Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.
“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.

Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.

“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says
Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.

The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."

The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.

The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.

“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.

Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.

The Christian message of obeying earthly masters “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.

“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”

A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.

“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”

The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.

“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”

Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.

Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.

Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.

One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.

Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.

She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.

Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.

“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”

The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.
She then wrote:

“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”

Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.


Saturday, April 27, 2013


(text from

Christus (also known as Christus Consolator) is a 19th-century Carrara marble statue of the resurrected Jesus by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Since its creation, the statue has been located in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the 20th century, images and replicas of the statue were adopted by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to emphasize the centrality of Jesus Christ in church teachings.

Thorvaldsen was commissioned to sculpt statues of Jesus and the apostles for the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen. The statue of Jesus was completed in 1821. The Christus was not well known outside of Denmark until 1896, when an American textbook writer wrote that the statue was "considered the most perfect statue of Christ in the world." The statue is 3.2 metres (10.5 feet) high.

In the 1950s, LDS Church leader Stephen L Richards purchased an 3.4-metre (11-foot) replica of the Christus and presented it to Church President David O. McKay. In 1966, the statue was placed in the church's Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The church's second Christus replica was created to be displayed in the church's pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The display of the replica "was intended to help visitors understand that Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) are Christians".

Since the display of the Christus at the World's Fair and in Temple Square, the church has created replicas of the statue and displayed them in visitors centers near church temples in Hamilton, New Zealand; Laie, Hawaii; Los Angeles, California; Mesa, Arizona, Mexico City; Nauvoo, Illinois; Oakland, California; Palmyra, New York; Portland, Oregon, St. George, Utah; and Washington, D.C. Replicas are also on display at LDS Church visitors' centers at the Hill Cumorah and in Independence, Missouri. The LDS Church uses the image of the Christus on its webpages and in other official publications.

A full-size replica of the Christus is located in The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland; the hospital refers to the statue as Christus Consolator.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The fall of the early Christian church was almost inevitable

(by Daniel Peterson 4-25-13)

The church founded anciently by Christ not only didn’t survive intact but probably couldn’t have. Ancient means of communication weren’t up to the task.

Within a remarkably short time, Christianity had expanded beyond Palestine — to Anatolia and Greece, to Rome and Italy, to Spain, eastward into Armenia and Mesopotamia and across Egypt and North Africa. It had covered vast distances, largely due to the “Pax Romana,” the “Roman peace,” and the impressive system of Roman roads that had been constructed to ease the movement of the Roman legions across the empire. So secure were the Romans that what we now call the Mediterranean they typically called “Mare Nostrum,” “Our Sea.”

But travel and communications were still, by our standards, extremely slow. The “supply lines” of ancient Christianity were long, fragile, corruptible and dangerously exposed to persecution, human sin and ambition, misunderstanding, forgetfulness and a host of other threats.

To make things still worse, for at least the first century of Christianity (and, in sense, for much longer than that), there was no New Testament. It was still being written over the initial 30 to 70 years after the ascension of Christ, and, even when they were complete, individual gospels and epistles circulated separately; the “New Testament” hadn’t yet been gathered together, and the canon hadn’t yet been defined.

Even after they had been written and put into circulation, copies of scriptural texts, expensive and hand-produced, were extremely rare. Ordinary Christians wouldn’t have had their own private copies of scripture, let alone several of them, as we often do today. (Many of them likely couldn’t read, anyhow.)

In fact, most branches of the church, even whole regions, would probably have had little or nothing in the way of scriptural manuscripts. And those privileged church congregations that possessed, say, part of a gospel or one of Paul’s epistles, might have had nothing else.

Thus, local leaders, who perhaps joined the church after only the briefest of missionary instruction — commonly at the hands of preachers who, themselves, had received no more than a brief oral introduction to the basic Christian story and a few fundamental doctrines — would have had no scriptures to consult, let alone anything like a “general handbook of instructions” when difficult questions arose. And teachers and class members were unable to simply flip through their personal copies of the Bible in order to learn Christian doctrine and practice.

It’s literally a miracle that Christianity survived as well as it did.

But what did leaders do when a crisis or a dilemma arose? While the apostles lived, inquiries or requests for help could perhaps be sent to them. But at any given time, it might be almost impossible to know where they were. Rome? Athens? Prison? Dead? Unlike the government of Rome, the ancient apostles had no permanent fixed headquarters. And how long would it take to get a response from one of them?

A local problem might fester for weeks, months or perhaps even years before local leadership sought apostolic advice. (Let’s leave out of consideration the many cases in which the local leadership, or perhaps an entire branch or region, was itself the problem.) Then, even when the apostle’s location was known, it might require several weeks or months to get an inquiry to him. He would, of course, need time to prayerfully consider the matter and then several weeks or months would be needed for his response to reach those who had inquired.

Turnaround time, in other words, likely would have run into months, and perhaps many of them. That allows plenty of opportunity for problems to become insuperable.

But even if an apostle visited an area, how were local people to know that he really was who and what he claimed to be? There were no two-page general authority photo charts in any ancient equivalent of the Ensign magazine, and Paul lamented the damage caused by “false apostles.” (See, for instance, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.) Apostolic faces weren’t familiar to people who had never met them before.

For these and other reasons, as I say, it’s difficult for me to imagine how the ancient church could ever have survived without serious deformation. And we know by divine revelation that, in fact, it didn’t. That is why the Restoration was necessary.

Printed books, railroads and steamships, followed eventually by telegrams, aviation, telephones, faxes and the Internet, have contributed mightily to the cause of the Restoration.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Andrea Bocelli records with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir


This video is on the LDS Public Affairs YouTube page.

I didn't even know there was a LDS Public Affairs YouTube page! Again, goes to show how much I know. Here is the link to their page.

I've watched a couple of their World Report videos which were very good, very well done.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Father and the Son

LDS General Conference
April 2013, Sunday Afternoon Session
Elder Christoffel Golden Jr.

At the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to save is a correct understanding of the Father and the Son.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am grateful to address you this afternoon in the setting of this inspiring general conference!

In addressing a topic that to my mind is most sacred, I wish first to acknowledge with gratitude the devotion of so many Christians throughout the ages, including my ancestry of French Protestants and Irish Catholics.

Because of their faith and worship of God, many of them sacrificed position, possessions, and even their lives in defense of their God and their faith.(1)

As Latter-day Saints and as Christians, we likewise have a strong and deep faith in God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Devotion to God ever remains a sacred and personal matter between each of us and our Maker.

Our quest for eternal life is nothing other than a quest to understand who God is and for us to return to live with Him. The Savior prayed to His Father, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”(2)

Even in the light of this declaration by our Savior Himself, the prevailing view of the nature of the Father and the Son throughout the many centuries and among much of mankind is clearly inconsistent with the teachings of the holy scriptures.

We respectfully submit that at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to save is a correct understanding of the Father and the Son.(3)

The importance of this most fundamental principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is confirmed by the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820. The Prophet wrote: “I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”(4)

This experience by the boy Joseph, followed by many other visions and revelations, reveals that God actually exists; the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are two separate and distinct beings; man is created in the image of God; our Heavenly Father is literally the Father of Jesus Christ; God continues to reveal Himself to man; God is ever near and interested in us; and He answers our prayers.

Even though similar appearances of the Father and the Son in holy writ are relatively rare, the remarkable fact of the First Vision is that it agrees so well with other recorded events in the holy scriptures.

In the New Testament, for example, we read of Stephen’s final testimony at his martyrdom. Said he, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”(5)

While in mighty vision on the Isle of Patmos, the Apostle John sees the “Lord God Almighty”(6)
as well as the Lamb of God, who “redeemed us … by [His] blood.”(7)

In the Book of Mormon, the doctrine of the Father and the Son stands in majestic testimony alongside the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon records the visitation of our Savior to the Nephites, in which the voice of the Father, in the presence of some 2,500 Nephites, introduces the risen Christ: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.”(8)

In the four Gospels, Christ Himself refers to His Father in Heaven 160 times, while during His brief three-day ministry among the Nephites, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, He mentions His Father 122 times.

For example, in Matthew, Jesus says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”(9)

In John, He testifies, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”(10)
And in Luke, He exclaims, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”(11)

Every time our Lord refers to His Heavenly Father, He does so with the utmost reverence and submissiveness.

In saying this, I hope there will be no misunderstanding. Jesus Christ is the great Jehovah, the God of Israel, the promised Messiah, and because of His infinite Atonement, He is our Savior and the Redeemer of the world. Of Him the Apostle Paul declared, “Then cometh the end, when [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when [Christ] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.”(12)

On the eve of the Savior’s Atonement, He offered up His great Intercessory Prayer to His Father. He prayed:

“Neither pray I for these [in other words, His Apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”(13)

The Father and the Son are distinctly separate beings, but They are perfectly united and one in power and purpose. Their oneness is not reserved for Them alone; rather, They desire this same oneness for everyone who will, with devotion, follow and obey Their commandments.

How is the earnest seeker of God able to become acquainted with the Father and the Son? Our Savior promised, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, … shall teach you all things.”(14)
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi, when speaking of the doctrine of Christ, declared that the Holy Ghost “witnesses of the Father and the Son.”(15)

It is true that the power or influence of the Holy Ghost may on occasion be felt, according to the will of the Lord, by any person irrespective of that person’s religious persuasion. But the full measure, or gift, of the Holy Ghost comes only after a person has received, with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,”(16) the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost(17)  by the laying on of hands. These and other sacred ordinances may be performed only under the direction and power of the priesthood of God. In this regard, we are taught:

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”(18)

Seen in its true light, the doctrine of the Father and the Son is the doctrine of the eternal family. Every human being has existed previously as a spirit child with heavenly parents(19), with Christ being the Firstborn of the Father in this heavenly family.(20)

So it is with all of us. We are the children of our Heavenly Father.

President Ezra Taft Benson with prophetic insight said, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father [in Heaven] and how familiar his face is to us.”(21)

I have learned that it is not possible to convey in the language of man those things which are made known only by the Holy Ghost and power of God. It is in this spirit that I bear my solemn witness and testimony of the reality, nearness, and goodness of our Eternal Father and His holy Son, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.




1 - See Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume 1: Beginnings to 1500, rev. ed. (1975) and A History of Christianity, Volume 2: Reformation to the Present, rev. ed. (1975); see also Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation (2003).

2 - John 17:3

3 - see Lectures on Faith (1985), 38-44

4 - Joseph Smith - History 1:17

5 - Acts 7:56

6 - Revelation 4:8

7 - Revelation 5:9

8 - 3 Nephi 11:7

9 - Matthew 7:21

10 - John 5:19

11 - Luke 23:46

12 - 1 Corinthians 15:24

13 - John 17:20-22

14 - John 14:26

15 - 2 Nephi 31:18

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Elder Eldred G. Smith, 'a man of God,' laid to rest

(by Joseph Walker 4-10-13)

Borrowing from Old Testament language to refer to his friend as “a man of God” and “an honorable man,” LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson joined hundreds of friends and family members Wednesday morning in paying tribute to Elder Eldred Gee Smith, who died last Thursday at 106.

Elder Smith, a direct-line descendant of Joseph Smith Sr., the first patriarch to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was called to serve as church patriarch in April 1947. In October 1979 he was give the status of patriarch emeritus. He was the eldest and longest-serving LDS general authority at the time of his death.

“As long as I live I will cherish my friendship and close association with Eldred G. Smith,” President Monson said. “Wherever I go in this world I take a part of this dear friend with me, for my life has been blessed with his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

President Monson, who said his friendship with Elder Smith began while riding together to the cemetery following Elder Levi Edgar Young’s funeral in late 1963, remembered when Elder Smith was sent to the South Pacific to give patriarchal blessings to church members in areas where there were no stake patriarchs.

“Eldred gave hundreds of blessings to the faithful Saints in that area,” President Monson said. “Those who were fortunate enough to receive them were overjoyed.”

During Elder Smith’s later years, President Monson visited with him frequently, celebrating significant birthdays and taking his counselors in the First Presidency to Elder Smith’s office to see some of Hyrum Smith’s personal belongings, “including clothing Hyrum wore which showed the bullet holes from the assassins who took the lives of Joseph and Hyrum.”

“It was an afternoon we will not forget,” President Monson said.

Referring to a passage of scripture in the Bible book of 1 Samuel, President Monson said, “We have had in our midst all these years Eldred G. Smith, an honorable man — even a man of God. He loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and served him with all his might.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a former member of Elder Smith’s ward who is also a member of the extended Smith family, also spoke briefly, indicating that Elder Smith “is a good man, a man our Heavenly Father holds in honor.”

In her eulogy to her father, Miriam Skeen read from Elder Smith’s obituary, which observed wryly that “he was preceded in death by just about everyone.”

“He stopped reading obituaries 10 years ago,” Skeen said, “as the names of his contemporaries weren’t showing up any more.”

Her brother, Gary Smith, added that when his father’s second wife, Hortense, passed away last year, his father confided to him that since he was 105, “I probably will not look for another wife at this point.”

Elder Smith’s bishop, Timothy L. Hawker, noted that even in his advancing years Elder Smith rarely missed a church meeting — he was in church the last Sunday of his life, Hawker said. And until last year he drove himself to church — much to the chagrin of ward members who were lined up behind him as he drove 10 miles per hour all the way home. Finally his family, the bishop and even the First Presidency joined forces to convince him that at age 105, it was time to stop driving.

“I pled with him to be obedient to his brethren of the First Presidency,” the bishop said. “That seemed to do the trick. … He cherished his association with the brethren, and he was always thrilled to see President Monson when he made his traditional birthday visit.”

President Monson noted that on his last such visit Elder Smith was “alert and happy,” and that when he attended the most recent First Thursday meeting of the general authorities in the Salt Lake Temple, “I called on him to bear his testimony.”

“And he did so beautifully,” President Monson said.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Granddaughter of two LDS Church presidents turns 100

(by Trent Toone 4-11-13)

The granddaughter of two LDS Church presidents turned 100 this week.

Florence Smith Jacobsen, the granddaughter of Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant, former general Young Women president and church curator, turned 100 on Sunday, April 7. Jacobsen celebrated her birthday with family members at the Salt Lake Country Club on Friday, April 5.

"The coolest part about turning 100?" Jacobsen said. "I hope it is that my family appreciates me and what I’ve done in my life."

Born in 1913, Jacobsen grew up in a devout LDS family. She graduated from the University of Utah in 1934 and married Theodore (Ted) Jacobsen in the Salt Lake Temple in 1935.

The couple had three sons, Stephen, Alan and Heber. Alan passed away in 2004. Their posterity includes nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.

Among her many life accomplishments, Jacobsen led the YWMIA (forerunner to the church's Young Women program) from 1961 to 1972.

She was instrumental in rescuing the Lion House from demolition and spearheading the restoration of it and the adjoining Beehive House.

As church curator, she directed the interior restoration of the Manti Utah Temple and supervised restoration of such landmarks as Promised Valley Playhouse in Salt Lake City; the E.B. Grandin Building in Palymra, N.Y.; the Brigham Young home in St. George, Utah; and the Newell K. Whitney home in Kirtland, Ohio.

While serving as YWMIA president and as a member of the church's Arts and Sites Committee, she assisted with the restoration of several structures, including the Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff homes in Nauvoo, Ill.

Jacobsen also proposed to LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball that a museum be built to house and display the church's historic treasures. That led to construction of the Museum of Church History and Art, now called the Church History Museum, located west of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Jacobsen's husband, Ted, was the founder of Jacobsen Construction Co., which builds many temples and other church facilities. He also lived to the age of 100 before he passed away in 2009. For her vast work in preserving LDS Church historic sites and artifacts, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation honored Jacobsen with the Junius F. Wells Award in 2010. On that occasion, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson said "mediocrity" has never been in Jacobsen's vocabulary.

"You've never known it, and you never will," the prophet said.

When asked what she attributed her long and healthy life to, Jacobsen didn't hesitate.

"Living the principles of the gospel," she said.

Krissie Bushman, a granddaughter, greatly admires her grandmother.

"I feel very blessed to have a grandmother that has such a great heritage and that has such a strong testimony of the gospel," Bushman said. "I just can't express enough about how appreciative I am of all that she has done for me and the great example she is to me. ... I only wish I can live up to a part of what she has done."


Death gives us a portal into a glorious world

(by Daniel Peterson 4-11-13)

Jedediah Grant, second counselor to President Brigham Young, died of pneumonia on Dec. 1, 1856, just nine days after the birth of his son, Heber. President Grant was only 40 years old.

Speaking at his funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, his fellow counselor, Heber C. Kimball, recalled a visit with him the previous week.

He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, though I had to do it.

But oh, says he, the order and government that were there! … He would mention one item after another and say, ‘Why, it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time.’ … He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the Plains, in her arms, and said, ‘Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right.’

“… He also spoke of the buildings he saw there, remarking that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom and poured gold and silver into his hands that he might display his skill and ability, and said that the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world.

“In regard to gardens, says brother Grant, ‘I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk.’ … He spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body, after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together. … After speaking of the gardens and the beauty of everything there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.”

“What a dark valley and a shadow it is that we call death!” said Brigham Young himself at an 1874 funeral service. “To pass from this state of existence as far as the mortal body is concerned, into a state of inanition [emptiness], how strange it is! How dark this valley is! How mysterious is this road, and we have got to travel it alone. I would like to say to you, my friends and brethren, if we could see things as they are, and as we shall see and understand them, this dark shadow and valley is so trifling that we shall turn round and look about upon it and think, when we have crossed it, why this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence, for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body.

"My spirit is set free, I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I hunger no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me, nothing like pain or weariness, I am full of life, full of vigor, and I enjoy the presence of my Heavenly Father, by the power of his Spirit. I want to say to my friends, if you will live your religion, live so as to be full of the faith of God, that the light of eternity will shine upon you, you can see and understand these things for yourselves.”

(This column is dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law, Ruth M. Stephens, who, after a multi-year struggle with debilitating illness, passed into the next world on April 6, 2013. We miss her greatly, but we rejoice in her liberation.)


Monday, April 8, 2013

The blog list is done

Well, the work is complete.....sort of.

I now have several blogs listed to the left. These are blogs that have passed the initial "worthiness" test but they are going to have to stay on their toes.

Like most people, I don't come to the Internet and visit an LDS inspired website to have my testimony torn down, I come to have it lifted up. So, the list at the left will be a "living" list I guess you could say. When I find a worthy blog I will add it, if a blog lets go of the iron rod I will drop it.

Some might be saying that I sound like I am full of myself. Well, I'm not, I'm just saying that I am saddened by some of the cantankerous blogs that are out there.

So I am going to do my best to keep an up-to-date blog that is always uplifting and interesting. I am also going to keep it pleasing to the eye, (some of these blogs were so bizarre looking I had a hard time adjusting my eyes) and I will keep the information easy to understand. Nobody will need to come to my blog with a Masters in Religious Theological Socio-Economic Criteria-ism.

So come check my blog out as often as you would like and I will do my best to always have something interesting and enjoyable to look at.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eldred G. Smith, Patriarch Ameritus

The hand of the last Church Patriarch, Eldred Smith, holds the watch of his great-great grandfather, Hyrum Smith.
Longest Living LDS Authority dies at age 106

(by Tom Hatch and Michael De Groote 4-5-13)

Elder Eldred Gee Smith, 106, an emeritus general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1979 and the seventh and final of seven patriarchs to the church in general, died Thursday night.

He was the most long-lived general authority in the history of the LDS Church.

The First Presidency of the LDS Church issued a statement at his death. “The Church lost a valued friend and respected leader with the passing of Patriarch Eldred G. Smith. He was a man who lived a Christ-centered life as he faithfully served as patriarch to the church. We pray for the Lord’s blessing to be upon his family at this tender time.”

Elder Smith was sustained as the seventh patriarch to the church on April 10, 1947. While serving as patriarch, he gave approximately 18,000 recorded blessings — 2,711 of which were given on trips around the world.

As a general authority of the church, he traveled extensively to many parts of the world. He gave blessings in many countries, including all of Europe, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

On Oct. 6, 1979, after 32 years as patriarch to the church, Elder Smith was one in a group of nine general authorities receiving emeritus status. No patriarch of the church has been sustained since that time.

Even though he had emeritus status, Elder Smith continued to attend the weekly Temple meetings of church general authorities. "I think I'm the only emeritus that goes," Elder Smith said in 2009.

On Wednesday, the day before he died, he attended that meeting for the last time, one of his sons, E. Gary Smith, said. "It was a busy day for him," Smith said of his father. "He was alert up to the last day."

The next morning, Elder Smith was not feeling very strong and stayed in bed to rest. E. Gary Smith said his father fell asleep at about 7:15 p.m. and died about ten minutes later. "It was very peaceful," he said. "It was very nice. It was time for him to go."

Elder Smith was born Jan. 9, 1907, in Lehi to Hyrum Gibbs and Martha Electa Gee Smith. But he had little time to get acquainted with Lehi. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Los Angeles, where his father studied dentistry and began his practice. His practice ended abruptly when he received a call from church headquarters to return to Salt Lake and become the new church patriarch, the church’s fifth.

He was a great-great-great-grandson of Joseph Smith Sr., father of church founder Joseph Smith and the first patriarch to the church. He was also a great-great-grandson of the martyred Hyrum Smith and his first wife, Jerusha Barden Smith. He was educated at Salt Lake public schools and LDS High School.

Elder Smith served in the Swiss-German Mission from 1926-29. He became proficient in the language, and even while patriarch, he was able to converse with people who came from German-speaking missions for blessings.

Upon returning home from his mission, Elder Smith enrolled in engineering classes at the University of Utah.

He married Jeanne Audrey Ness on Aug. 17, 1932, in the Salt Lake Temple. She died on June 13, 1977. They had two sons and three daughters, Eldred Gary (Elizabeth) Smith, Raynor Smith, Miriam (Edwin) Skeen, Gay (Arden) Vance and Sylvia Dawn (Craig) Isom.

He later recollected how difficult it was to find work and attend college.

“The Lord was good to us,” he told the Church News in 1976. “Many things happened to us that some people would say was coincidence, but I know it was the Lord helping my wife and me.”
At one time, while attending college, he worked for a contractor and painted the ceiling of the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Elder Smith was a stake missionary in the Liberty Stake from 1929 to 1932, an MIA stake board member in the Ensign Stake and second counselor in the bishopric of the 20th Ward. When the Emigration Stake was split off from the Ensign Stake in 1940, he was called to the high council. He served there for about a year, then became bishop of the newly created North 20th Ward.

In 1944, he went to Oak Ridge, Tenn., as an engineer for the Manhattan Atomic Energy project, helping to design the first atomic bomb. While there, he was president of the local branch of the church. However, because of the security of the project, church meetings could not be held in military halls. So, they were taken to his home — where boxes were used for tables and chairs — and some 65 adults and 35 children eventually attended.

Upon returning to Salt Lake City, Elder Smith was called by President George Albert Smith and sustained as the seventh patriarch to the church. The office of patriarch to the church was conferred as a result of lineage and worthiness — a past church calling that had traditionally stood next in order to members of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Elder Smith believed that patriarchal blessings were personal in nature and given for the spiritual guidance of individual members. They “give people courage and strength to carry on and overcome difficulties.”

He also used to speak regularly in general conference.

For example, “Select Associates living our standards” was his October 1965 general conference address title. “Go forth to serve” was Patriarch Smith’s April 1967 conference talk. “If service is the work of God, and if we are to become as he is, and return to live with him in his kingdom, our work must be to serve others,” he said.

“Temples are Essential” was his October 1969 conference discourse.

On May 18, 1978, Elder Smith married the former Hortense H. Child. She had previously served as a counselor in the General Presidency of the Young Women. She died May 17, 2012.

Elder Smith and the second Sister Smith presented many firesides in recent years that focused on some items from the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, treasures that were passed down from oldest son to oldest son. They included Hyrum Smith's clothes that he wore when he was killed — still showing the blood stains. Other artifacts from the Smith family included a bell, footstool and a chest that once held the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

Elder Smith gave as many as 68 firesides a year. "Since I got to be 102, I turned it over to the kids," Elder Smith said in 2009.

His son E. Gary Smith said he will continue giving the firesides.

Elder Smith had preserved a U.S. flag used by early Utah military units and that may have been carried by the Mormon Battalion.

Elder Smith also performed many temple marriages during his later years. He kept a drivers license and drove until only a few years ago. In addition to the weekly general authority meetings, Elder Smith came into his office each week as health permitted.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson paid Elder Smith surprise birthday visits in Jan. 2012 when Elder Smith turned 105 and also this year when he turned 2013. "He's my best friend," Elder Smith said in 2011 when asked about President Monson.

"At his age, nobody was surprised (to hear that he had died)," E. Gary Smith said. "So many people have called to express how much he has meant to them over the years and what a great example he has been."

Elder Joseph Anderson, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who died in 1992 at the age of 102, was the second most-long-lived general authority.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, April 10, at 11:00 a.m. at the Monument Park Stake Center, 1320 S. Wasatch Drive. Friends and family may call Tuesday evening, 6-8 p.m., at the Larkin Sunset Lawn Mortuary, 2350 E. 1300 S., and at the stake center Wednesday, 9:30-10:40 a.m. Interment at Salt Lake City Cemetery.


Eldred G. Smith, mormon patriarch, dies

( 4-7-13)

Elder Eldred G. Smith, the oldest Mormon church general authority and oldest known Utahn, has died at the age of 106.

Smith, who was born in Lehi, died Thursday night.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement praising him as a "valued friend" and "respected leader."

During his 32 years as church patriarch, he traveled to every continent and gave more than 18,000 blessings. He had been an emeritus church patriarch since 1979.

Provo's Daily Herald reports he had five children, 24 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren as of a year ago.

KSL reports he was the most long-lived general authority in the church's history. Smith celebrated his 106th birthday on Jan. 9.


General Authority turns 100

(by Carole Mikita 1-12-07)

At age 100, Eldred Smith is the oldest and longest-serving general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

He is called Patriarch Smith, referring to a church position he has had for more than 30 years. He says during this last century he has seen and experienced more than he could ever have imagined.  

Eldred Smith sits at the head of a very large family. A year and a half ago, he and his wife, Hortense, gathered with the descendants of LDS church founder, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, who is Eldred's great-great grandfather.  

Eldred and Hortense still travel the world, speaking to Latter-day Saints. They take the Smith family artifacts, the blood-stained clothing Hyrum wore the day he was murdered and the box Joseph Smith used to store the gold plates for a time.  

He just passed his 100th birthday and told me he is most amazed by today's technology. He remembers how communication was in the old days.

Eldred Smith, LDS Church Patriarch: "I remember when telephones were a big box about so big, on the wall and you turn the crank and stand back and yell at it."

Cell phones fascinate him.  

Eldred Smith, LDS Church Patriarch: "That little gadget is a broadcaster, a receiver, a telephone, it's a computer, you name it. It's all in that little thing you hold in your hand and no wires connecting. Now, if that isn't miraculous, what is?"  

Eldred Smith still moves with ease. There is no secret, he says, to his longevity. He thinks this emphasis on working out is foolish.  

Eldred Smith, LDS Church Patriarch: "I tell 'em exercise is a waste of energy. I use my energy to accomplish something, that gives me all the energy I need. So, I've always been active with my hands."  

He has been a part of history in his faith and in his country. During World War II he worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee as an engineer for a company that enriched uranium for the atomic bomb.  

Eldred Smith, LDS Church Patriarch: "The atomic energy project…I got a certificate signed by the secretary of war, telling me I helped bring the war to a close. I always say, ‘I and a few billion others.'"  

Eldred and Hortense Smith don't stay at home much. They speak every weekend. Their next trip is to Idaho in a couple of weeks.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tattooed Mormon

(by Al Fox alfoxshead.blogspot via 4-6-13)

Boy have I been kept busy! A good kind of busy. March Madness doesn't just apply to basketball, but to me and speaking at Firesides. I've been traveling all over speaking at least four times a week, which has really reflected on my lack of blog posts. Now that I've healed from surgery and have caught my breath from my travels, adjusted to my schedule, I promise I will not go this long without a post. A lot of new subscribers and emails have come from my feature in LDS Living Magazine, as well as Deseret News, in response to having a hard time feeling like they do not fit in. Feeling that they are judged for their mistakes. Want to return but are worried what others may think. Or others who have become offended and do not want to return.

Let me share with you a story that I tell during my firesides that everyone gasps out of shock to. An experience that happened to me due to my appearance that when I say it everyone reacts the way I did when it happened. Although, truth be told, if it wasn't me telling the story to them, it could of very well been any of them that did the same thing as this man did.

This happened three years ago; my very first day in Utah, after the long, uncomfortable and terrifying trek across the country by myself to a new place where I didn't know a single person. I moved, against my will, because I knew that's what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I moved regardless of how hard it was and regardless of the fact I had no idea why I needed to be here. And I was scared. Not just because it was new but because of the warnings I received from so many people: "Al, don't move to Utah. No one will like you. Al, if you move to Utah, you will NOT fit in." That was really hard to hear, and I tried my hardest to ignore those remarks.
So here I am, my very first day across the country in my new home, and what am I suppose to do now? I haven't the slightest idea. Heavenly Father didn't tell me that much yet. I ended up at Cafe Rio we don't have those back home and you have to know I have a thing for tacos. So, you have to visualize this, you know how the line kind of snakes around, so you are in a big group of people while waiting? Well, I was right in the middle of it. And I was holding a church book in my hands. It was more of a grasp/hug to this book; it was a biography on one of the prophets. And while I was waiting in line I felt very tense. I could feel stares in every direction; it felt like lasers. I stood there stiff trying to ignore it but I couldn't. I could physically feel the stares from everyone. Finally, the guy next to me tapped my on the arm and said, "You know ... it's pretty ironic you look the way you do holding that book."

My heart broke. Stomach knotted. Eyes teary.

It took a bit for me to react. So many emotions ran through me, and I had to decide which one I was going to express to him. What I so badly wanted to do was to turn to him and yell. Yell and cry to him, "Do you know what I just went through?! Do you know how hard this is! Do you know who and what I had to give up to be here, and I don't even know why!"

How badly I wanted to walk around everywhere with my scriptures so that the 'lasers' would stop. And they didn't. I so badly wanted people to see me for who I've become. I literally craved more than anything for people to just know that I was trying. That's it. That I was trying. And they couldn't, and it hurt me so badly that it became physically exhausting.

How easy it would have been to yell at him. How easy it would have been to get mad. To get offended. How easy it would have been to not just take it out on him or the people of the city as a whole. But furthermore, how easy it would have been to be upset and confused towards Heavenly Father for leading me to such a place with a lack of so many answers, answers that would have been very comforting during those experiences that so frequently occurred. How hard it was at this time to have just been baptized, still with such a small sliver of knowledge of the gospel and feel that. To not have any boys talk to me because they are looking for temple worthy girls. Because they are looking for someone I do not exactly portray, that they didn't even talk to me.

Yeah, how easy it would have been to feel and react that way.

But I fought it. I decided otherwise.

I turned to this man in Caf Rio. Introduced myself. Shook his hand. I smiled so big and simply said, "I just got baptized. This is my first day here!" I said it with happiness. I said it with pride. With confidence.                                                  

How different things would have gone if I didn't do that.

I had to make a decision. And it's a decision I have to make every day. One you have to make every day. Several times a day. And what that is, to choose to get mad. Choose to get offended. Bothered. Confused. Or ... not. The decision to keep going. The decision to be happy and follow the Spirit and counsel given ... or not. Choose to have faith. Choose to trust. Or not. What it came down to, and what it always will come down to, is choose God. Or not.                                                

 And I already chose who I wanted to follow, didn't I?

That is what happens when you get baptized.

To keep in mind, always, that everyone is at different spots in life. Everyone needs to learn different things, different ways. And to know that I could maybe be the one to help them learn. That you could be. To not get mad and prove them right, but to be me and prove otherwise. It's a question I often thought of following my baptism and my family's disapproval, and that is, "How do you teach someone that doesn't want to listen?" and "How do you teach someone that you may never get to speak with or meet?" And after much thought and prayer, I came up with an answer. An answer that inspired this blog to be started in the first place. An answer that inspire me to make YouTube videos. And answer that triggered my 'March Madness' traveling all over speaking for the past two years. And that is, by example. Teach by example. And what happiness that has brought! How many incredible people I have met because of that decision. How many incredible experiences! How many blessings.

When those times arise where you have to make that same decision I did, think to yourself, "Is this worth giving up my eternal salvation? Is that comment your ward member said to you worth giving up your eternal happiness? Is that look someone just gave you worth giving up the profound, indescribable blessings Heavenly Father has to give to you? Is it worth stopping yourself from returning to live with Him again? Is it worth your exaltation?"

To all those that feel that they do not fit in, I tell you with confidence, that you're wrong. To all those who are afraid to return because of past mistakes, I say, "Come!" To all those who sit there offended and holding yourselves back, I ask, is it still worth it?

This gospel is for you. These blessings and promises are for you. You belong a part of this. This what we're a part of is real. What you do does make a difference. His ways, his promises, are worth it. And how grateful I am that I decided to keep going. How grateful I am that I made the decision to trust. The decision to have faith. How grateful I am for the decision to choose God. I do not have words adequate enough to express my gratitude I have for how I feel. For who I have become. For what my life is today. It would not be have I not made those decisions.

Choose. Choose daily. Choose God.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

General conference through the years is different but the same

(by Joseph Walker 4-1-13)

When the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings the opening notes of the opening song of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 10 a.m. MDT on Saturday, April 6, it will feel like LDS general conference just as it has always been.

Even though it hasn’t.

In fact, general conference in 2013 is hardly recognizable from what historians generally consider to be the church’s first conference, which, like most general conferences during the early years of the church, was basically a business meeting. It was held on June 1, 1830 — a little less than two months after the church was organized — in the same Peter Whitmer Sr. home in Fayette, N.Y., in which the organization took place. Records indicate 27 church members were present for the conference, along with 30-40 others who were interested in the proceedings.

While the primary purpose of those earliest conferences was to conduct business, the church-owned Times & Seasons newspaper reported that “much exhortation was given, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon us in a miraculous manner.”

“Many of our number prophesied, whilst others had the heavens opened to their view, and were so overcome that we had to lay them on beds, or other convenient places,” the report indicated. “The goodness and condescension of a merciful God, unto such as obey the everlasting gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude, and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy, in the cause of truth.”

For the first few years of the church’s official existence, conferences were held sporadically and at different locations “whenever (church founder) Joseph Smith deemed it necessary to transact business, deal with problems or when new revelations needed to be announced and ratified by the church,” wrote author, educator and scholar Richard N. Armstrong.

From about 1838 until the time of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom in 1844, the young church started to settle into a pattern of holding annual and semiannual general conferences in April and October, respectively.

“Although the business of the church was still transacted, emphasis was placed on expounding and teaching the doctrines of the church,” wrote M. Dallas Burnett in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. “A significant body of doctrine was reviewed and revealed during this period.”

The years immediately following the death of Joseph Smith were difficult for the church, filled with persecution and uncertainty. The church was driven from its headquarters in Nauvoo, Ill., and plans were made for the westward migration of the church. Still, general conferences were held with the exception of October conference in 1846.

Following the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, general conference became a Salt Lake City tradition, held through the years in three different bowery structures on the block designated as Temple Square, then in an adobe tabernacle built on the same block and then in the famous domed Salt Lake Tabernacle. Since April conference of 2000, general conference has been held in the church’s massive, 21,000-seat Conference Center across the street just north of Temple Square.

Several exceptions to the Salt Lake City orientation of general conference occurred during the 1880s, during which five conferences were held in different Utah cities — including Provo, Logan and Coalville — because so many church authorities were in hiding from federal marshals bent on enforcing federal anti-polygamy laws.

In his book “Great Basin Kingdom,” historian Leonard J. Arrington observed that during the LDS Church’s colonization period — from 1847 to about 1890 — general conference was “the cement which held together the Mormon commonwealth.”

“It was through the instrumentality of the conference that church leaders were able to effect the central planning and direction of the manifold temporal and spiritual interests of their followers,” Arrington said. “It was in the conference that Latter-day Saints experienced most keenly the sense of belonging to a whole — a worshipping, building, expanding Kingdom.”

During this time, it was not unusual for mission calls to be extended from the conference pulpit without any advance warning. Educator and former Mormon History Association president Kenneth W. Godfrey noted “during those first few years in the Salt Lake Valley, fall conference was often held in August or September so that newly called missionaries could leave before winter storms closed the mountain passes.”

Wrote Armstrong: “That these public ‘calls from the pulpit’ were accepted without question is a telling measure of the devotion church leaders of that era enjoyed from the membership.’ ”

As time passed, LDS general conference settled into a pattern and format that would be familiar to most contemporary conferencegoers, with a few notable exceptions. For most of its 183-year history, general conference was a three-day affair, with special conference sessions devoted to LDS Church auxiliary programs and welfare needs. The April conference included sessions on April 6, even if that date fell midweek. And until radio (in 1923) and television (in 1949) coverage forced organizers to keep to specific timetables, conference speakers often spoke extemporaneously — and until they were finished, whenever that might be.

Not that the congregations of the day minded. In October 1867 — the first conference in the still-unfinished Tabernacle — the congregation even voted to extend the conference for an additional day.

In the modern church era, general conference has only been canceled once: in October 1957, as a consequence of an Asian flu epidemic. Flu also forced church authorities to postpone the April 1919 conference until June, and during World War II, general conference sessions were limited to specifically invited priesthood leaders. During one such war-era conference session, LDS apostles blessed and passed the sacrament to conference attendees, and a testimony meeting was held as a way to bring peace and comfort during difficult times.

Since 1977, general conference has been established as a two-day, weekend event, with two general sessions each day and a priesthood meeting Saturday evening. Beginning in 1986, annual women’s meetings, held the Saturday before general conference, were added to the October conference agenda. And in 1994, annual Young Women meetings were similarly added to the April conference program.

In recent history, members of the church’s First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at every general conference, as they are able. Members of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the Quorums of the Seventy and the general auxiliary presidencies of the church also speak on a rotating basis.

In previous years, general conference addresses had been given by stake presidents and mission presidents, as well as government and military leaders.

Music has also been a significant and meaningful element in general conference worship. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was formed, at least in part, to provide music for general conference sessions, and to this day the choir is the centerpiece of conference music. But other choirs have also been included in the conference program — usually one for the Saturday afternoon conference session and one for the priesthood session — and guest soloists have sung at general conference as recently as 2004, when Liriel Domiciano of Brazil was invited by President Gordon B. Hinckley to sing at conference.

General conference prayers have also generated some media interest lately with reports that, for the first time, a woman will offer one of the opening or closing prayers during the 183rd Annual General Conference of the church. Historically, conference prayers have been offered by general authorities, local priesthood leaders, returned LDS mission presidents, visiting stake presidents — all of them male. More recently, general conference prayers have been offered by members of the church’s expanding Quorums of the Seventy.

Whether LDS conference history will be made during one of the prayers this weekend remains to be seen. (“We rely on heaven’s guidance in our meetings,” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “General conference is no different. That’s why we do not typically publish a program in advance”') But the spirit and objectives of general conference will remain as they have ever been.

“We gather from over the earth to bear our testimonies one to another, to hear instruction, to mingle as brethren and sisters,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley during the October 1995 conference. “We partake of that sociality which is so pleasant and so important a part of the culture of this great organization.

"Through the years the speakers have come on the stage and then moved on," President Hinckley continued. "The personalities are different. But the spirit is the same. It is that spirit referred to when the Lord said, ‘He that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together’ (Doctrine and Covenants 50: 22).”


The voice of Wilford Woodruff