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, 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.