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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Joseph Smith III

Born - November 6th, 1832 in Kirtland, Ohio
Died - December 10th, 1914 in Independence, Missouri
(lived to be 82 years old)

"Young Joseph" as he became known was the eldest surviving son of Joseph and Emma. He was 11 years old when his father was killed and even though some reports say his father had mentioned during the giving of a blessing to young Joseph in the upper room of the Red Brick Store that he wanted him to guide the church once he was gone, it would have been impossible considering his age when his father died.

Joseph Smith III stayed in Nauvoo with his brothers and his mother while the majority of the Saints journeyed west with Brigham Young.

Joseph led the Reorganized church later in his years.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Food storage

Food storage is going to be one of my main efforts this year. Time to get the house in order.
I started a little bit last year but not near enough so this year I am going to steadily get after it. My main problem is we live in a condo with no real "cool dry" place where I can store things. The garage gets too hot in the summer so I'm going to have to make due with the food closet, the laundry room and part of my closet I guess. It is better than nothing I suppose.

Friday, January 24, 2014

With or without Romney, DC a surprising Mormon stronghold

Joseph Smith, Mormonism's founding prophet, ran for president in 1844 but was killed before Election Day.

(by Dan Gilgoff 5-12-12)

A few hundred Mormons filed into a chapel just outside the Washington Beltway one recent Sunday to hear a somewhat unusual presentation: an Obama administration official recounting his conversion to Mormonism.

“I have never in my life had a more powerful experience than that spiritual moment when the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true,” Larry Echo Hawk told the audience, which stretched back through the spacious sanctuary and into a gymnasium in the rear.

Echo Hawk’s tear-stained testimonial stands out for a couple of reasons: The White House normally doesn’t dispatch senior staff to bare their souls, and Mormons hew heavily Republican. It’s not every day a top Democrat speaks from a pulpit owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet the presentation by Echo Hawk, then head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, is also a perfect symbol of a phenomenon that could culminate in Mitt Romney’s arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year: The nation’s capital has become a Mormon stronghold, with Latter-day Saints playing a big and growing role in the Washington establishment.

The well-dressed crowd gathered for Echo Hawk’s speech was dotted with examples of inside-the-beltway Mormon power.

In one pew sits a Mormon stake president – a regional Mormon leader – who came to Washington to write speeches for Ronald Reagan and now runs a lobbying firm downtown.

Behind him in the elegant but plain sanctuary – Mormon chapels are designed with an eye toward functionality and economy – is a retired executive secretary of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A few pews further back, the special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan sits next to a local Mormon bishop who came to Washington to work for Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and now leads a congressionally chartered foundation.

Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon president if elected, is the son of a Cabinet secretary under Richard Nixon.

“In a Republican administration, there will be even more Mormons here,” whispers the bishop, Lewis Larsen, pointing out prominent Washingtonians around the chapel. “Every Republican administration just loads up with them.”

Regardless of which party controls the White House, Mormonism in Washington has been growing for decades.

When Larsen arrived in Washington in the early ’80s, there were a just handful of Mormon meetinghouses in northern Virginia, where he lives. Today, there are more than 25, each housing three separate congregations, or wards, as they’re known in the LDS Church.

“There’s been an absolute explosion in Mormon growth inside the beltway,” Larsen says before slipping out of the pew to crank the air conditioning for the swelling crowd.

The LDS Church says there are 13,000 active members within a 10-mile radius of Washington, though the area’s Mormon temple serves a much larger population – 148,000 Latter-day Saints, stretching from parts of South Carolina to New Jersey.

Signs of the local Mormon population boom transcend the walls of the temple and meetinghouses.

Crystal City, a Virginia neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, has become so popular with young Mormons that it’s known as “Little Provo,” after the Utah city that’s home to church-owned Brigham Young University.

Congress now counts 15 Mormon members, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That means the 2% of the country that’s Mormon is slightly overrepresented on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is the highest-placed elected Mormon in Washington.

Even many Latter-day Saints joke about Washington’s “Mormon mafia” – referring to the number of well-placed LDS Church members across town – though they cringe at the thought of being seen as part of some cabal. (Echo Hawk, for his part, left the Obama administration a few weeks after his chapel presentation for a job in the LDS Church hierarchy).

“No one talks about Washington being an Episcopalian stronghold or a Jewish stronghold,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. Talk of “Mormon Washington,” he says, “represents a kind of surprise that people who were thought of as provincial have turned up in sophisticated power positions.”

Bushman and other experts note that, despite Mormons’ growing political power, the official church mostly steers clear of politics. It’s hard to point to federal legislation or a White House initiative that bears distinctly Mormon fingerprints, while it’s easy to do the same for other faiths.

For example, the White House’s recent “compromise” on a rule that would have required religious groups to fund contraception for employees was mostly a reaction to pressure from Roman Catholic bishops.

Nonetheless, Mormon success in Washington is a testament to distinctly Mormon values, shedding light into the heart of one of America’s fastest-growing religions.

And though the official church is mostly apolitical, most rank-and-file Mormons have linked arms with the GOP. Romney’s own political evolution mirrors that trend.

Such forces help explain why Mormons’ beltway power is poised to grow even stronger in coming years, whether or not Romney wins the White House.

For many Washington Mormons, religion plays a key role in explaining why they’re here.

Larsen, who sports a brown comb-over and tortoise shell glasses, arrived in Washington in the early 1980s as an intern for Hatch, also a Mormon.

He landed the internship courtesy of Brigham Young University, his alma mater. The Mormon school owns a four-story dorm on Pennsylvania Avenue, not too far from the White House, which houses 120 student interns each year. It’s the school’s largest such program in the nation.

“Part of our church’s tradition is to be connected with civic life, to make our communities better,” says BYU’s Scott Dunaway, who helps place students on Capitol Hill, at the Smithsonian and other Washington institutions. “We don’t believe in being reclusive.”

It’s a perfect characterization of Larsen. He grew up in Provo, in the shadow of BYU, and wanted to prove he could make it outside of Utah.

“Kids growing up in the LDS Church have been told, ‘Go ye out in the world and preach the gospel of Christ - don’t be afraid to be an example,’ ” Larsen said, sitting in the glass-doored conference room of the foundation he runs on K Street.

“So we are on our missions, converting people to Christianity,” he continued. “And coming to Washington, for me and probably for a lot of people, came out of that interest. We see it as our career, but also we’re going out to preach the word of Christ.”

For Larsen, that usually means correcting misinformation about Mormonism or explaining Mormon beliefs and practices – you really don’t drink coffee, ever? – over lunch with co-workers or at business functions, rather than on-the-job proselytizing.

He learned about integrating work and faith from Hatch. He was initially shocked to discover that the senator prays in his office each morning. Larsen and Hatch developed what the bishop calls a “father-son” relationship, with the intern rising up through the ranks to become Hatch’s chief Washington fundraiser.

“We would go on trips, and I’d quiz him on the plane: Why did the church do this? Why didn’t the church do this?” Larsen said. “He was like a tutor to me.”

Now, as the head of a foundation that educates teachers about the U.S. Constitution, the bishop helps other young Mormons with job leads and introductions. Larsen was appointed to the role by Hatch and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Much of Washington’s Mormon professional network is still anchored by BYU, which operates a handful of big, well-connected alumni groups with major Washington chapters. The most prominent is BYU’s Management Society, a global organization whose biggest chapter is in Washington.

At the chapter’s recent alumni dinner, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the guest of honor. She has strong ties to the Mormon community and has hired Mormons as top aides. Says Larsen: “Condi’s got a ton of Mormon contacts.”

Patrice Pederson also knows how to work a Rolodex. A lifelong political activist, she moved from Utah to Washington last year and soon tapped into BYU’s local network.

Pederson served as the U.S.-based campaign manager for Yeah Samake, a Mormon running for president in the West African nation of Mali.

Samake traveled frequently to the U.S. to raise money and build political support, so Pederson enlisted the help of BYU’s Management Society and other groups to host events for the candidate.

Both in Washington and across the U.S., many Mormons are watching his candidacy.

“Members of the church on Capital Hill were anxious to introduce the candidate to other members of Congress,” says Pederson, sipping an herbal tea (Mormons eschew black leaf teas) in a strip mall Starbucks near her apartment in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It’s cool to have a member of the church running for president in Africa.”

Beyond making connections, many Washington Mormons say the LDS Church provides an ideal proving ground for careers here.

Unlike most churches, it has no professional clergy; from the bishop to the organist, each role is filled by everyday Mormons, most of whom have other day jobs. As a result, Mormons take church leadership roles at an early age, speaking publicly at Sunday services almost as soon they learn to talk.

“My kids grew up in the church, and we get together for three hours on Sundays, and each member needs to get up and speak,” says U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “By the time they graduate, they have all these speaking assignments that other teenagers just don’t have.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, says Mormonism provides ideal training for aspiring politicians.

“For those who grow up in the Mormon church, they are taught skills that allow them to be successful in a tough city like Washington,” says Chaffetz, who converted to Mormonism shortly after college.

Young Mormons also hone leadership skills by serving missions away from home. The missions last from one and half to two years and happen when Mormons are in their late teens and early 20s and often include intensive foreign language training.

“Young Mormons are more formidable in public settings and international settings than others,” says Terryl Givens, a Mormon scholar at the University of Richmond. “Normally you would have to acquire more age and work experience before you feel comfortable and useful at NGOs and think tanks.”

Chaffetz, whose son is serving a mission in Ghana, says the experience is the perfect preparation for political careers.

“They learn rejection early on,” he says. “If you’re going to be in politics, that’s a pretty good attribute.”

Christina Tomlinson served her mission in nonexotic Fresno, California. But working with the Laotian community there, she acquired the foreign language skills that landed her first internship at the U.S. State Department.

“I look back at that and it’s nothing but divine providence,” Tomlinson says one night at an office building-turned-chapel in Crystal City, after a weekly discussion about Mormon teachings. “I would have never made those choices.”

When she arrived at her foreign service orientation in the late 1990s, Tomlinson was surprised to find that a half-dozen of her State Department colleagues were also Mormon. The thriving LDS community at State even runs its own e-mail list server so Latter-day Saints can find each other wherever in the world they’re stationed.

Like former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who used the Mandarin language skills acquired through a Mormon mission to Taiwan to help secure his job as President Barack Obama’s previous ambassador to China, Tomlinson leveraged her mission to get ahead at State, where she now serves as special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I’m basically the chief of staff for the president’s representative charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she e-mailed on a recent plane ride back from the region.

Like many Mormons, Tomlinson says her professional life is driven by a faith-based patriotism that sounds old-fashioned to modern ears: “I just really wanted to serve my country.”

But that distinctly Mormon patriotism was hard-won. From their very beginning, Mormons had tried to forge a special relationship with Washington. And for decades, they failed.

Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in the 1830s, petitioned the U.S. government to protect his fledgling religious community from the violent persecution it was experiencing, even meeting repeatedly with President Martin Van Buren.

But Washington refused, provoking Smith – who Mormons consider their founding prophet – to run for president himself in 1844. He was assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Illinois well before Election Day.

In the face of such attacks, Mormons fled west, to the territory that’s now Utah. But they continued to seek ties with Washington, dispatching representatives to the capital to lobby for statehood.

Congress refused to grant it. Instead, Uncle Sam disincorporated the LDS Church and sent the U.S. Army to police Mormon territory.

In the eyes of Washington, Latter-day Saints were flouting federal law by practicing polygamy. The feds saw the LDS Church as an undemocratic rival government that threatened Washington’s power.

Mormons would eventually ban polygamy, paving the way for Utah statehood in 1896. But Congress nonetheless refused to seat the new state’s Mormon senator, who also served as a top church official.

For four years, the U.S. Senate held hearings to grill U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot and other church leaders, alleging that Mormons continued to practice polygamy despite promises to the contrary.

“The political trial was as much a galvanizing cultural moment as was Watergate,” says Kathleen Flake, a scholar of Mormonism at Vanderbilt University in Tenneessee.

When Smoot was eventually seated – after the LDS Church took further steps to stamp out polygamy – he managed to become a Washington powerbroker. He would chair the Senate Finance Committee and act as a presidential adviser.

“He was Mr. Republican,” says Flake. “For a while there, he was the Republican Party.”

Smoot’s unflagging pursuit of legitimacy in Washington, despite the city’s bias against him and his faith, symbolizes what many call a uniquely Mormon appreciation for American civic life. It helps explain the Mormon fascination with Washington to this day.

It may seen counterintuitive, but Mormons’ early exposure to persecution at the hands of other Americans – aided, Mormons say, by the U.S. government – wound up strengthening their patriotic streak.

In the face of attacks, Mormons clung to the U.S. Constitution and its unprecedented guarantee of religious freedom. They distinguished between the document and those charged with implementing it.

Mormon scripture goes so far as to describe the U.S. Constitution as divinely inspired, establishing a unique environment in which Mormonism could emerge.

“Mormons are superpatriots,” says Columbia University’s Bushman. “Joseph Smith said that if the government was doing its job as laid out in the Constitution, it would protect Mormons from their enemies.”

Mormons began to shed their Utah-only siege mentality and fanned out in the early part of the 20th century. Their patriotic streak, which translated into military enlistments and applications for government jobs, led many to Washington.

That wave included J. Willard Marriott, the hotel chain founder, who launched his business career by opening an A&W root beer stand here. He would go on to forge the kind of deep political connections that would help make Willard “Mitt” Romney his namesake.

Washington’s Mormon community got another boost in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower appointed a top church official, Ezra Taft Benson, as his agriculture secretary.

“Mormons took it as a sign of maybe, just maybe, we’re being accepted,” says Flake. “It signified a cultural acceptance of Mormonism. People thought Mormons believed weird things, but also that they were self-reliant, moral and good neighbors.”

As Mormons became more accepted, they became more upwardly mobile, landing in parts of the country that could sustain careers in commerce, academia and government - another reason Washington was a big draw.

By the time there were enough Mormons in the eastern U.S. to justify the construction of the first Mormon temple east of the Mississippi River, the church chose a site just outside Washington.

The temple opened in 1974, shortly after another high-profile Mormon – George Romney, Mitt’s father – left his post as Richard Nixon’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The Washington temple served as a symbol of the triumphant return of Mormonism to the east,” says Givens, the University of Richmond professor. “Mormons left from the point of a bayonet in the 1800s and the temple is this gigantic symbol that says ‘We’re back – and we’re back in the nation’s capital.’ ”

Unlike Mormon meetinghouses, where members meet for Sunday worship, temples are grander buildings reserved for certain rites, such as proxy baptisms for the dead.

To this day, the first monument many Washington visitors see isn’t a federal landmark. It’s the massive Mormon temple, its Georgian marble towers and gold-leafed spires looming above the trees on the Washington Beltway like an otherworldly castle.

The temple houses a J. Willard Marriott-financed mural of Jesus Christ’s second coming, which features a picture of the Washington temple itself in the background.

“Are you implying that the millennium will begin in Washington?” a temple visitor once asked Marriott, referring to Jesus’ return.

Replied Marriott: “What better place is there?”

These days, the Mormon impulse toward Washington is often as much political as patriotic.

Patrice Pederson - the campaign manager for the Mormon running for president in Mali - made her first foray into politics at 15, hopping the bus from her home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City into town to intern with a Republican candidate for the U.S. House.

“I remember that when Bill Clinton was elected, I wore all black to school that day,” says Pederson, who was in junior high at the time. “I was mourning the death of liberty.”

When then-Vice President Al Gore visited Utah, Pederson protested his speech with a homemade poster that said “Blood, Guts & Gore – Healthcare’94.” (She can’t recall the poster’s exact meaning).

Pederson’s activism as a “total hardcore right-winger” continued into her 20s. She put off college at BYU to start a “pro-family” advocacy group aimed at lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The work brought her to Washington so frequently that she decided to relocate last year: “I had more friends here than in Utah.”

Pederson’s path to D.C. speaks to the growing Mormon/Republican alliance since the 1960s, driven largely by the emergence of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and the rise of the Christian Right.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, Utah became Republican,” says Bushman. “It’s partly about being anti-communist, but it’s also a response to the 1960s and the decay of old-fashioned moral virtues. It’s an anti-1960s movement, and the Republicans seemed to be the party of old-fashioned virtues.”

Pederson’s roommate, Kodie Ruzicka, grew up squarely in that movement, with her mom heading the Utah chapter of Eagle Forum, a conservative Christian group founded by rightwing icon Phyllis Schlafly.

In the 1970s, when the Catholic Schlafly led a successful grassroots campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made gender-based discrimination unconstitutional, she enlisted the help of Mormons.

To its opponents, including the LDS Church, the ERA was the work of radical feminists who wanted to upend traditional gender roles.

Much of Schlafly’s organizing was among evangelicals, and “given the sometimes hostile evangelical line on Mormons, [Schlafly’s] Mormon outreach was kind of revolutionary,” says Ruzicka, who now works at the Justice Department. “But we’re good at organizing, and we have a lot of useful structures for it, so that was useful to her.”

Today, Mormons head Eagle Forum chapters across the West, including California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as Utah.

Bridge-building between Mormons and the conservative movement helps explain the Reagan administration’s push to hire many Mormons into the White House - which further cemented the alliance. That bond continues to lure Mormons to D.C.

Ruzicka, for one, continued in the political footsteps of her mother, arriving in Washington in her mid-20s to lead a nonprofit that promotes safe haven laws, which allow young mothers to legally abandon young children at fire stations.

Beyond hot-button social issues, U.S. Rep. Chaffetz says the Mormon faith engenders support for limited government.

“The church is very adamant about personal responsibility, and for people to voluntarily participate in service,” the Utah Republican says. “There’s this feeling that service is not something that should be mandated by government.”

The LDS Church, for its part, insists it is politically neutral and that it avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a church line. “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” the church’s website says.

Mormon experts say the church’s support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. government’s refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.

And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.

The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, California’s gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.

Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.

Mitt Romney himself embodies the reluctance of Mormon politicians to connect their religion and their public policy positions, in contrast to politicians of other faiths.

That reluctance also appears to be born of anxiety over Americans’ lingering questions and doubts about Mormonism. When Pew asked Americans last year what word they associated with the Mormon faith, the most common response was “cult.”

In recent weeks, Romney’s newfound position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has produced a mix of excitement and worry among Mormons. That’s especially true in Washington, where politically savvy Latter-day Saints send out frequent e-mail round-ups of Mormon media coverage to their LDS networks.

“A lot of us know it’s ultimately a good thing, but it’s hard to feel like it’s a good thing because so much of the publicity is about things you wouldn’t talk about in polite company, like my underwear,” says Pederson, referring to the enduring fascination with Mormon undergarments.

Like many conservatives, Pederson is suspicious of Romney.

“I don’t like his waffling, to put it gently, on life and family issues,” she says. “But if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, hand me the pom-poms. I’ll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club.”

For now, Pederson is working with the National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee to raise money for the Romney effort, even as she makes up her mind about how actively she wants to promote his candidacy.

Some of her calculus is about weighing political reality against her conservative idealism. And some of it is about her next professional move. It’s a very Washington place to be.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Liberty jail

Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin spent more than 4 months on the cold stone floor of this jail from December 1st, 1838 to April 6th, 1839 with no bedding other than some blankets and a little bit of loose straw. (Sidney Rigdon spent less time there, December 1st thru February 5th.)

At the time the only windows were two 2 feet wide, 6 inches high openings. Enough to let in plenty of cold air but little light. The dimensions inside were 14 1/2 feet x 14 feet and the ceiling was only 6 1/2 feet tall. Seems more like a medieval torture chamber than a jail.

Visitors were allowed occasionally and an interesting note is that Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum and Mary Smith, who would later become the 6th president of the church, was given his name and blessing in the jail during one of those visits.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LDS Church issues instructions to leaders on same-sex marriage

(by Tad Walch 1-10-14)

The LDS Church affirmed Friday the constitutionally protected rights of its leaders and members to express religious convictions and called for civility and kindness in the debate on same-sex marriage.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also detailed instructions relative to same-sex marriage in a letter to congregational leaders in the United States.

"Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it," the leaders stated in the letter, posted on the church's website. "The church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members."

The letter also emphasized that those who promote same-sex marriage are equally deserving of civility.

"While these matters will continue to evolve, we affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree."

The letter referred to the most recent court developments regarding same-sex marriage in Utah and stated that "changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society."

The letter also restated the church's position that its officers neither perform same-sex marriages nor permit use of LDS meetinghouses for them.

"Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there."

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve used Bible passages in the letter to reiterate the church's doctrine that marriage between a man and a woman is part of the divine purpose of the world.

"Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society," the letter says. "Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation."

The letter urges congregational leaders to teach members the church's doctrine in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," issued in 1995.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Portraits from celestial room of original Nauvoo temple donated to LDS church

(by Jason Swensen 1-2-14)

More than 170 years ago, portraits of the pioneer apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints George A. Smith, his wife, Bathsheba W. Smith, and his mother, Clarissa L. Smith, hung in the celestial room of the original Nauvoo Temple.

Now those three portraits belong to the LDS Church History Museum thanks to the generosity of the Smith Family descendants.

On Dec. 13, the L. Stephen Richards Jr. family passed ownership of the oil paintings to the Church during a small ceremony at the museum. Elder Marcus B. Nash, a Seventy and the assistant executive director of the Church History Department, presided at the event.

Mary R. Durham, a great-great-granddaughter of George A. Smith, said the portraits had been passed down from generation to generation since being pulled from the walls of the temple. The family agreed that the portraits could be enjoyed by a larger audience if owned by the Church.

“We feel privileged to be able to donate these paintings,” she said.

Elder Nash said the portraits captured the countenances of “very significant historical figures in the Church.” The generosity of the Smith/Richards’ family, he added, “was borne of the Spirit.”

The three portraits date to the 1840s and, according to a description included in a pioneer journal, hung in the celestial room alongside portraits of Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young and other members of the Twelve. The artist of the paintings is unknown.

Elder George A. Smith was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a cousin to the Prophet Joseph Smith. His wife, Bathsheba Bigler Smith, was a founding member of the Relief Society in 1842 and later became the Relief Society’s fourth general president, serving from 1901-1910.

Clarissa Smith was the mother of Elder Smith and the wife of John Smith, who served as Church Patriarch when the Nauvoo Temple was dedicated in 1846. A portrait of John Smith was donated to the Church History Museum several years ago by another branch of the Richards’ family. Now the portraits have been reunited for the first time in years.

Clint Christensen, an acquisition specialist in the Church History Department, called the donations “treasures to the church.” He learned of the paintings while surveying records of L. Stephen Richards Jr. with daughters Mary R. Durham and Irene R. Rytting.

“While going through boxes of Richards family papers, Mary Durham handed me an envelope with the portraits and notes by (George A. Smith granddaughter) Irene Richards stating the oil paintings hung in the Nauvoo Temple,” said Christensen. “It was like a priceless ‘Antiques Roadshow’ moment of heavenly design,” he added, referencing the popular television program. It’s uncertain how the portraits will be displayed in the future.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Julia Murdock Smith Dixon Middleton

The adopted daughter of Joseph and Emma Smith.

Born - May 1st, 1831 in Kirtland, Ohio
Died - September 12th, 1880 in Nauvoo, Illinois
(lived to be 49 years old)

Her twin brother Joseph died in March of 1832.
Baby Joseph had contracted measles and in an effort to protect Julia they seperated the children. Julia slept in one room with Emma and Baby Joseph in another room with Joseph. One night a angry mob stormed their house and took Joseph, in the panic no one realized Baby Joseph was being exposed to the cold air.
Several days later he died from that exposure.

Julia Murdock Smith's gravesite in Nauvoo

(by Kenneth Mays 1-1-14)

In late April 1831, Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, gave birth to twin babies at Kirtland, Ohio. The two infants lived only a few hours.

Within a day of Emma's delivery, Julia Clapp Murdock of Orange, Ohio, also gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. They lived, but their mother passed away later that day. Emma and Joseph ended up adopting the Murdock twins and named them Joseph and Julia. The boy passed away shortly after the Prophet was tarred and feathered at Hiram, Ohio, the following year.

Julia lived to adulthood and subsequently married Elisha Dixon, who was later killed in a steamship explosion. In 1856, Julia remarried. That man's name was John J. Middleton.

Tradition holds that Middleton ultimately abandoned Julia, who then returned to Nauvoo, Ill., to be with Emma. She died in 1880, about a year after Emma passed away, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Nauvoo. It is thought that Julia never bore any children.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mosiah, 4: 9

Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another 'bumper year' on LDS Church farms, ranches

(by Jason Swensen 12-31-13)

A few years ago, a Harvard University professor contacted Wade Sperry, an agricultural specialist in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' welfare department.

The professor explained that he was working on a case study about the welfare department’s vast and varied agricultural projects. He asked if he could spend a few days visiting LDS Church-owned farms, orchards and beef ranches.

Sperry accompanied the professor and a team of graduate students on their agricultural tour. At each locale, the Harvard contingent witnessed crews of happy volunteers picking fruit, harvesting crops and wrangling cattle.

They returned to Boston both humbled and inspired by the charitable spirit of cooperation and compassion they found in each volunteer who donated time and muscle to produce food that would feed families in need.

A short time later, the professor sent Sperry a copy of his case study on the LDS Church welfare agricultural projects.

“He wrote that there is nothing like this anywhere on earth — it’s unique,” said Sperry.
Since 1936, the LDS Church’s renowned welfare program has blessed lives worldwide. Much of the foodstuff that helps define the welfare program continues to be produced on LDS Church farms, orchards and ranches.

Welfare officials are calling 2013 another “bumper” year thanks largely to the efforts of thousands of Latter-day Saint volunteers. Here are a few highlights of what’s happened over the past 12 months on church-owned agricultural projects, including expected yields.

• Fifty farms and orchards located across the United States and Canada produced some 83 million pounds of wheat and dry beans; 6 million pounds of fruit (apples, peaches and pears); 250,000 pounds of fresh vegetables; and 20 million pounds of row crops such as sugar beets.

• An LDS-owned turkey farm in Moroni, Utah, yielded 5 million pounds of turkey.

• The LDS Church-owned vineyard in Madera, Calif., produced several tons of raisins.

• The church’s peanut farm in Texas supplied the essential ingredient for the church to produce its own protein-rich peanut butter.

• The church’s five working cattle ranches — staffed largely by “cowboy” missionaries — yielded hamburger and other fresh beef products that stocked the meat section of bishops’ storehouses.

The past year’s food production numbers are impressive. But the most uplifting figure, said Brother Sperry, is again the volunteer labor hours recorded at the many farms and ranches.

In 2012, volunteers performed some 350,000 hours of labor. That number is expected to be matched by the end of 2013.

The volunteers who reported for duty on the welfare farms, orchards and vineyard are a varied lot. A few are missionary couples assigned to a specific project. But the vast majority are men, women, youths and children from all backgrounds who simply answered the call to practice “pure religion.”

Most volunteer workers had little background in agriculture. Not a problem, said Sperry. “All we ask for is a willing heart and a strong back.”

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob taught that one who has “obtained a hope in Christ” will seek “to feed the hungry” and “administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:18-19).

Sperry and other welfare officials consider Jacob’s words every time they witness, say, a young family or a carload of young men and young women sling bags across their shoulders and begin picking grapes or peaches.

“They know the fundamental purpose of the church,” he said.

Sperry also noted the pivotal role that agent stakes play in organizing volunteer efforts. It’s no small task mobilizing hundreds of workers when apples are ready for picking or beans are ripe for harvest.

Even as the winter snow covers many of the LDS Church farms and orchards, welfare officials look
to 2014 for more opportunities to feed those in need. In his definitive book "Pure Religion: The Story of Church Welfare Since 1930," Elder Glen L. Rudd writes that the church’s welfare program remains the Lord’s plan to care for the poor and needy:

“This work will continue, and lives will be blessed through the united efforts of faithful, charitable members of the Lord’s living church.”