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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Senior Missionaries Answer Call to Serve

( 2-20-15)

In the past two years, more seniors have answered the call to serve full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The influx follows the age change that allowed young men and women to serve at a younger age. As of this week, eight percent, or 6,609 of the 83,471 missionaries currently serving around the world, are seniors (age 40 and older). Before the age change, there were 5,778 senior missionaries serving. The increase in senior missionaries is up a total of 14 percent, according to the Church’s Missionary Department.

(full article link)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

LDS patriarch ordained by President Kimball still giving blessings at 95

(by Jason Swensen 2-17-15)

It’s been almost 80 years since Jack B. McEwan received his patriarchal blessing — but the words of that blessing continue to guide, comfort and protect him.

The 95-year-old member of the Arcadia Ward, Arcadia California Stake, approaches his own patriarchal blessing as a precious, even sacred, text. With each reading, he traces the Lord’s loving hand. He still reads that blessing over and over, and each time he learns something new of the Lord, and of himself.

Patriarchal blessings remain a defining element of Brother McEwan’s long life. Spencer W. Kimball, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, ordained him a patriarch 42 years ago. He has actively served as a patriarch in southern California ever since except for a three-year period while presiding over the Los Angeles Temple.

In all, he has pronounced 1,630 patriarchal blessings.

“Just last week I gave a patriarchal blessing to a wonderful 16-year-old girl and it was just thrilling,” he said in a voice cracked with emotion. “It was a tremendous blessing. I know that girl is going to be a leader among women.”

The nonagenarian said his greatest desire is for every young person who receives a patriarchal blessing to make that blessing a guiding force in his or her life.

Born in 1920, Patriarch McEwan spent most of his youth in Los Angeles. His own family was not active in the Church — “I missed out on the benefits of Primary.”

He was mentored in the gospel by an elderly man in his ward named Bob Wilson. Brother Wilson was a youth leader who filled his young charges with confidence and a love for the gospel.

He often told young Jack and his fellow Aaronic Priesthood holders that they may not be the fastest athletes or the smartest students, but he said, “You boys have the priesthood and that is the greatest thing in the world.”

Jack McEwan had planned to serve a mission. He even had a missionary interview with Elder George Albert Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But the outbreak of World War II changed everything. Instead of accepting a mission call, he was drafted and sent to pilot training.

“I ended up flying my mission,” he said, smiling.

He was still learning the cockpit procedures of the B-17 bomber when he was called into combat. Feeling unprepared, he sought the counsel of a Latter-day Saint chaplain.

The chaplain told the young pilot to remember the Book of Mormon account of the 2,000 stripling warriors. “He told me, ‘If you live the gospel, the Lord will take care of you.’”

Flying combat missions in the Pacific was a terrifying experience. The volatile tropical weather could be as lethal as the enemy. Seeking comfort during his sorties, the young pilot would softly sing the words of a hymn his mother taught him as a child:

The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?

By day and by night his presence is near.

At war’s end, he returned to civilian life, attended university and became a dentist. Sixty-six years ago he married “the sweetest girl in the world,” a young BYU student named Betty Clark. The McEwans have three sons, 16 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

In 1972, Elder Kimball visited California to reorganize the Pasadena stake. He called Jack McEwan as the stake’s new patriarch.

Once again, he felt scared, unprepared and unworthy for such a spiritual responsibility. The apostle and future Church president gently assured him that the Lord would assist and direct him in his new calling.

“Elder Kimball put his arm around me and I collapsed into his chest, sobbing,” he said. “And then he kissed me on the cheek.”

Decades have passed and Patriarch McEwan has given many, many blessings. But he has never grown casual in his calling. He will prepare for his next blessing as he did his first blessing — with prayer, fasting and scripture study.

Today’s young people live in an evil world, he said. More than ever, they need the divine direction and comfort found in a patriarchal blessing.

“A patriarchal blessing can inspire you and keep you close to the Lord,” he said. “A patriarchal blessing will help you know who you are.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

What happened to the brothers of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

(by Susan Evans McCloud 2-22-15)

There were six Smith sons who lived to adulthood, with Joseph Smith Jr., who was named for his father, born in the middle.

What happened to the brothers of the Prophet Joseph, who died in Carthage when he was just 38?
The two eldest, Alvin and Hyrum, were both born in February, two years and two days apart (Alvin on Feb. 11, 1798, and Hyrum on Feb. 9, 1800). After years of struggle, culminating with crop failures and a severe, untimely frost that devastated Vermont, Joseph Smith Sr. moved his family to upstate New York.

It was imperative that they buy land to farm to sustain their lives. Despite poverty, all went to work with a will. Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, set up a little business painting oil cloth table coverings. Alvin offered to leave home and work where wages were highest.

“By my son’s persevering industry he was able to return to us after much labor, suffering and fatigue with the necessary amount of money for all except the last payment," Lucy wrote. "In two years from the time we entered Palmyra, strangers, destitute of friends, home or employment, we were able to settle ourselves upon our own land in a snug, comfortable, though humble habitation, built and neatly furnished by our own industry” ("History of Joseph Smith by His Mother").

It was always Alvin’s desire to care for his parents, and he was determined to build them a finer, larger home to enjoy in their “old age.” Oh, how many hazardous, painful, anguished miles they traveled before that time.

But Alvin was not destined to go with them. At age 25, he was engaged to be married and looking forward to his future. He wholeheartedly supported the work of his younger brother, but Alvin took suddenly ill in mid-November. When the physician gave a heavy dose of calomel, it lodged in Alvin's stomach, and within days he died.

He knew he was dying, and called all his family around him, tenderly blessing and admonishing them. To young Joseph he said: “… do everything in your power to obtain the record. Be faithful in receiving instruction and in keeping every commandment that is given you … your brother Alvin must now leave you, but remember the example which he has set for you" ("History of Joseph Smith by His Mother").

Twelve years later, in the vision Joseph received in the Kirtland Temple, he saw Alvin in the celestial kingdom and was taught the beautiful doctrine that those who would have obeyed the gospel, if permitted, would be heirs with those who did.

Hyrum was as steady as Alvin, and the tenderness of his relationship with Joseph began when the boy was in tormenting pain from the abscessed infection in his leg. Hyrum would sit for hours beside Joseph's bed, holding the leg and pressing it as tightly as he could to ease the pain, even a little. He remained a true friend, counselor and support to Joseph, and he was ordained patriarch of the church following the death of his father. This humble man happily honored the role his young brother had as prophet of the Restoration. The unity, trust and love they shared was rare. His was a life of tender service and faithful obedience. Nor, in the end, would he allow his little brother face death without him.

Joseph said of Hyrum: “I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of a lamb, and the integrity of a Job, and, in short, the meekness and humility of Christ, and I love him with that love that is stronger than death” ("Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Joseph Smith").

Don Carlos, the youngest son, was born in 1816, and was 11 years younger than Joseph. He was often described as being very like his prophet-brother — 6-foot-4 and possessing the same tender kindliness of nature. He was ordained to the ministry at age 14. He bore a strong testimony and served many missions. In 1839, he became the first editor of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo and was excited about the work. He also served on the city council, as brigadier general of the Legion and as president of the high priests quorum.

On Aug. 7, 1841, after complaining of pain in his side, he died quite suddenly of uncertain causes, sometimes described as a form of pneumonia, sometimes as quick consumption. The loss was tragic and unexpected, both to his family and his many devoted friends.

In January of this same year, Samuel Smith’s wife died, and Robert B. Thompson, Hyrum’s brother-in-law and joint editor of the Times and Seasons, died of the same complaint a month after Don Carlos. September 1841 also saw the death of Joseph and Emma’s youngest son, also named Don Carlos, and the death of Hyrum’s son, named Hyrum.

Samuel Smith was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon and an original member of the church. He is also considered the first missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taking some of the newly published copies of the Book of Mormon out to whoever would receive them, and that included the brother and brother-in-law of Brigham Young.

On June 27, 1844, the day Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred, sounded a death knell for Samuel Smith as well. He was living several miles outside of Carthage, Missouri, and determined to ride in and see if he could help. But he was pursued and shot at, escaping only because of his endurance and superior horsemanship. He arrived too late but took his place in guarding the bodies of his brothers on their grim journey back to Nauvoo.

However, unable to even sit up because of weakness, he confided to his mother that “he had suffered ‘a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob, and I think I have received some injury which is going to make me sick.’” He died one month later, truly one of the martyrs to the truth ("Joseph Smith’s Brothers: Nauvoo and After," by Richard B. Anderson, Ensign, September 1979).

William was the only brother left, and from the beginning he had been a thorn in Joseph’s side, causing dissension and disunion in this otherwise strong and united family. Living in the East at the time of the martyrdom, because of his wife’s ill health, he returned to Nauvoo in 1845 and was made patriarch in place of the fallen Hyrum. He was powerful and persuasive in speech, but his disaffection increased, especially after his wife died. The Saints failed to sustain him as patriarch and he was excommunicated.

William never came West, but associated himself with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1878. Large of frame, as the Smith men were, and powerful of person, he was yet a kindly father, as maintained by one of his sons who was later converted to the LDS Church. He maintained until the end of his life “unshaken confidence in my brother Joseph Smith as a true Prophet of God” ("Joseph Smith’s Brothers: Nauvoo and After," Richard B. Anderson, Ensign, September 1979).

Lucy, the wise and stalwart mother of these sons, recorded her anguished reactions at this time:
“I was left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, only one remained … as I entered the room and saw my murdered sons … it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.’

“As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, ‘Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph’” ("History of Joseph Smith by His Mother").
May the Saints who have reaped blessings from what they have sown, never forget the sacrifice, the faith, the unfailing devotion and love of the family of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

LDS Church introduces Family Discovery Center, where sister missionaries made a heartfelt discovery

(by Trent Toone 2-11-15)

FamilySearch is using technology to take a new, innovative approach to family history work — and it’s already generated one special experience for two sister missionaries.

FamilySearch, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opened the doors of its new Family Discovery Center in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Wednesday afternoon. The announcement came in advance of this weekend's RootsTech Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

In a press release, the new center is described as a "Star Trek-meets-genealogy" type of experience. A visitor can grab an iPad, log in to FamilySearch, choose from a number of hands-on stations and use technology to learn about his or her family’s roots. The center is free and provides engaging genealogy-related activities for children and adults.

“We have tried to create experiences where everyone, regardless of age, can learn more about themselves and their family in new and interesting ways,” said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, in a press release. “Patrons who are attending as families can make fun new connections and strengthen their family bonds.”

Based on family and historical data, patrons can learn about the origins of their surnames or follow the immigration trails of their ancestors on a world map spread across a large flat-screen television.

Families or individuals can enter two video-recording studios and record memories or favorite stories.

There are also a few “nontechnology” activities, such as a game reminiscent of Jenga where a person can share a family story based on prompts engraved on large wooden blocks. Another station helps patrons to better appreciate what life was like for their ancestors.

According to the news release, the idea for the Family Discovery Center came about two years ago when FamilySearch decided it was time to give its 4,800 family history centers worldwide a makeover.

“We wanted to get families and youth more engaged and excited about their family history,” Brimhall said in the release.

Two LDS sister missionaries recently became more excited about family history work after making a powerful discovery at the new center in January during the final weeks of their 18-month missions.

Sister Emily Hansen of McKinney, Texas, and Sister Valerie Christensen of Yakima, Washington, good friends but not companions, were both invited to the Family Discovery Center during a final testing phase.

While Christensen was at one of the stations, a photo of Peder Jensen, her fourth great-grandfather, caught her eye and she began reading. She learned that Jensen, baptized in Denmark in 1861, was one of the earliest Latter-day Saint converts in her family. Jensen’s biography also revealed he was baptized by two new converts from the same country — Hans Christian Hansen and Lars Swensen. She finished up and moved on to another station.

Unaware of what Christensen had learned, Hansen sat down and pulled up the story of her fourth great-grandfather, Hans Christian Hansen. He was baptized in Denmark in 1851 and later served as a missionary in his native land.

The two missionaries connected the dots a short time later as they discussed their experiences. Christensen casually mentioned she learned about the missionaries who baptized her ancestor. Hansen was intrigued.

“What was his name? She said, ‘Hans Hansen,’ ” Hansen said. “I was like, ‘What? That’s my grandfather.’ ”

They hustled back over to the station, connected their iPads and compared notes. They also learned that Hans Hansen had helped Jensen immigrate to America.

“Everything lined up, and we realized it was my fourth great-grandfather that converted her fourth great-grandfather,” Hansen said. “Amazing.”

Christensen said the realization of what they discovered didn’t take long to sink in. Tears followed as they imagined their ancestors smiling down on them from heaven.

“We looked at each other and started crying,” said Christensen, who served as an indexing instructor before her mission. “Finding this out was not a coincidence.”

Before going home the following week, both women agreed their testimonies of family history work had been strengthened by the experience. Both vowed to continue learning about their family roots at home.

"Who cares if you have to sit in front of a computer for hours and hours? When you feel the spirit of your ancestors, that makes it all worth it,” Hansen said. “Why not do family history? You learn from your ancestors and hear stories that enrich your life. … I was able to see how it applies to me personally in my life, and it gives you a craving and a desire to do it.”

Christensen said the concept of the Family Discovery Center was inspired because it is so easy and fun.

“It will bless and impact countless lives,” Christensen said.

FamilySearch plans to install a new Family Discovery Center in Seattle this summer.
Brimhall said the Salt Lake City center will be used to brainstorm and test new ideas that can be utilized at other sites.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

'Beholding the Tree of Life' shares Jewish perspective of The Book of Mormon

(by Emily Christensen 2-7-15)

Bradley J. Kramer, an alumn of Brigham Young University and returned missionary, brilliantly wrote "Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon." It transports the serious student to an internal yeshiva, teaching well how to study by reading The Book of Mormon through a Jewish lens.

Kramer delves into the depths of The Book of Mormon by focusing on the Jewish literary qualities evident throughout and teaches the reader how to study more carefully to be able to both catch and ponder these layers.

"Beholding the Tree of Life" is divided into two sections, and the discussion includes a glossary of Jewish literary terms, a scripture index and an extensive bibliography for further study. The first section, "Contemplating the Branches," teaches how to read and study, while the second section, "Appreciating the Roots," teaches how to study using the lens of the Hebrew scriptures that include the Talmud, the Mishnah and the Tosefta. This shares new understanding and meaning to the context of ancient times.

While the content is appropriate readers of any age, the academic level necessitates an advanced reader. However, Kramer presents his material in such a way that even a novice can get started with this deeper study, while those already interested in the Jewish context or literary analysis will also gain new insights and build new study habits.

"Beholding the Tree of Life" can help readers slow down, consider what they are reading and ponder their study of The Book of Mormon with insight into the Jewish context from which it comes.
The 225-page volume is part of the Contemporary Studies in Scripture Series from Greg Kofford Books.