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 30, 2017

Elder Oaks urges all Church members to defend religious freedom

(by Jill Adair 1-24-17)

Urging all Church members to take a stand in defense of religious freedom, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church officials addressed more than 1,100 people at the Tempe Institute of Religion at Arizona State University on Jan. 21. Over 11,000 more, age 16 and older, viewed a live broadcast of the event at 81 stake centers in Arizona.

“The leadership and membership of The Church of Jesus Christ are irrevocably committed to the principle and preservation of religious freedom because it is necessary for the divine plan for mortals to exercise their agency to make the choices necessary to progress toward eternal life,” said Elder Oaks. “In furtherance of what we believe to be the inspiration of God, our national and state constitutions guarantee the free exercise of religion by forbidding government laws or actions to restrict it.”

He explained that core principles of Church doctrine, such as those identified in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” are divinely given doctrine of the restored Church and cannot be changed.

“The most important Church doctrine being currently attacked is our practice and reliance on the traditional man-woman marriage and family,” Elder Oaks said. “The Family Proclamation begins with the declaration that ‘marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.’ ”

He said when the proclamation was presented by President Gordon B. Hinckley in 1995 many Church members questioned why such an official pronouncement of commonly accepted beliefs was necessary. Today, “we see the hand of the Lord in identifying our doctrine in clear terms,” Elder Oaks said.

“There are many political, legal and social pressures for changes that de-emphasize the importance or change the definition of marriage, confuse gender or homogenize the differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan,” he said. “Our eternal perspective sets us against such changes.”

Speaking prior to Elder Oaks was Elder Von G. Keetch, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, general counsel of the Church and an emeritus General Authority Seventy.

Elder Keetch, who conducted the meeting, said the purpose of the Religious Freedom Conference was to assist Church members in understanding the role they can and should play in defense of basic constitutional rights.

“Religious freedom is definitely under fire,” he said. “There will be serious challenges ahead.”

“We should stand where we are and do the very best we can when a religious liberty fire erupts,” he said, referring to a story he told of a volunteer firefighter who left his post briefly and returned to a raging fire in a building he was assigned to protect.

Elder Wickman spoke of the creation of the U.S. Constitution by those who labored extensively to form “a more perfect union.”

“It was a product of hard work,” he said. “It requires us to do hard work as citizens to protect it.”

“We’ve left too much to the courts,” he said. “ ‘We the people’ must do the hard work in defense of religious freedom ‘in order to form a more perfect union’ today.”

There was also a presentation by two religious liberty lawyers, Hannah Smith and Alexander Dushku. They showed the Church’s new webpage,, which features videos and information that defines religious freedom and what can be done to protect it.

For example, under “Get Involved” there are “10 Ways to Protect Religious Freedom” and “Seven Keys to Successful Conversations.”

Under “Examples,” there are videos and information on “Everyday Conversations: Creating Mutual Respect in Heated Conversations” and “Religion in Public Schools: 7 Religious Things You Can Still Do.”

The presenters also took questions submitted by audience members and talked about how to speak up with courage and civility.
Sister Smith also recognized members of other faiths who were in the audience and pointed out a doctrinal perspective from Church history when the Prophet Joseph Smith said that he was just as willing to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good person of any denomination because he realized that the same principles that would trample upon the rights on those other faiths would be used to trample on the rights of Church members.

Joseph Smith said: “It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”

She also quoted the Church’s 11th Article of Faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

“I hope, as members of the Church,” she said, “we would be the first to stand up for religious freedom for all people.”

Those participating in the conference reminded audience members of the need for civility and understanding when discussing and defending religious freedom and dearly held personal beliefs.
Elder Oaks said: “Notwithstanding opposition, the Lord Jesus Christ commands His followers to show love and seek peace.”

“Whatever our differences, most of us want to live together in happiness and harmony, with goodwill toward all,” he said. “We want effective ways to resolve differences without anger or contention and with mutual understanding and accommodation. We all lose in an atmosphere of hostility or contention. We should encourage all to refrain from the common practice of labeling adversaries with such epithets as ‘godless’ or ‘bigot.’ We all lose when debates on ideas and policies turn into personal attacks, boycotts, firings and other intimidation of adversaries.”

He added, “To achieve these goals, we must have mutual respect and Christian love toward others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from our own.”
Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev, who represents the Sikh religion on the Arizona Interfaith Movement, was one of many belonging to other religions who attend the conference. He said after the meeting that it was one of the best conferences of its kind that he had attended and would like to see more of them to help people better understand each other’s beliefs.

He said he was taking away the thought shared by Elder Oaks of the metaphor of a two-sided coin: “Love of others and tolerance for their opinions and behavior is only one side of a two-sided coin,” Elder Oaks said. “The other side is always what is true or right. One of these sides cannot govern without consciousness of the other. Those who question why the Church does something they consider contrary to love overlook the companion requirement of truth.”

Dr. Sachdev said of the message: “I believe we can find ways to live in harmony.”


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are Utah and Mormon mommy bloggers creating a false perception of reality?

(by Morgan Jones 1-24-17)

Utah mother Stephanie Nielson is a pioneer in the world of blogging.

According to “History of mommy blogging,” a web page created by university communications professor Elizabeth Kerns, fewer than 25 blogs existed at the turn of the century. The term "mommy blog" is believed to have originated when a single mother named Melinda Roberts launched her blog, "," in April 2002. Nielson was not far behind, publishing four blog posts in May 2002.

Six and a half years later, Nielson was involved in a plane crash that burned over 80 percent of her body. In the days, weeks and months following her accident, readers of her blog from all over the world united in sharing their love and appreciation by writing in and sharing their favorite posts.

Nielson attributes a significant part of her recovery to people she's never met.

“I have been so blessed by other people who I don’t even know, who when I went through my accident were there for me, just strangers,” Nielson said. “And their words of comfort and kindness and prayers were just a crazy world that I didn’t even know existed and I loved it. I thought, ‘What if there was more of this? This goodness and this sisterhood that I feel?’”

Blogging has created a worldwide community, and many of the key members are, like Nielson, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But with all the goodness and sisterhood Nielson experienced, there is also the question of whether family-centered blogs create a false perception of reality. It's a question that was raised in a recent post by a writer critical of mommy blogs, and a concern that is shared by some prominent bloggers. But these successful writers also know how the medium can be a force for good and have insight on how readers can avoid the pitfalls of comparison.

The rise (and fall?) of blogging

There has certainly been more blogging since 2002. At 11:15 a.m. MST on the day of the 2017 presidential inauguration, over 2.2 million blog posts had already been posted for the day, according to Worldometers.

Blogging has introduced women all over the world to each other and to new ideas.

“In the old days, it used to be that you had to learn from other moms in your own little circle, but now you can find all of these wonderful ideas from Australia and from England,” said Shawni Pothier, whose blog, 71toes, has documented her family’s life over the past decade.

There are fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, food blogs and photography blogs. And while blogging has grown to be a full-blown industry of its own, Mormon mommy bloggers continue to thrive.

Blogging may be the perfect hobby for Mormon mothers, a demographic that is encouraged to keep a journal and to share the things that are most important to them. A wide-range of people are drawn to their blogs and the attraction to them has not gone unnoticed.

“Atheist followers say the attraction is the escapism of picture-perfect lives filled with wholesome values and DIY crafts, while scholars say various tenets of Mormonism — sharing the faith, the value of creativity and the importance of family — make the religion a perfect fit for the blogging medium,” the Toronto Star’s Katrina Clarke wrote last year.

Earlier this month, these types of blogs came under fire when a male LDS blogger named Mike Thayer posted an article titled “Utah: Lifestyle Porn Capital of the World,” in which he compares their "picture-perfect lives" to porn, both of which he argues create "unrealistic expectations."

Thayer illustrates his point with the example of a blogger who invited a friend over to help her make elaborate cookies. When they were done, the blogger retrieved her daughter from the nanny in order for the mother and daughter to pose for a photo with the cookies, as if no assistance was needed.

“It isn’t real,” Thayer said. “Watching all of this is addictive and it sets unrealistic expectations for marriage and life that can lead to feelings of disappointment and inadequacy.”

But disappointment and inadequacy are not what Nielson hopes to convey. And as a mom who really does enjoy making cookies with her kids, it hurt Nielson to read Thayer's description of homemaking skills as fake and a false idea.

“I am that mom that goes in the kitchen with her kids and makes the treats,” Nielson said. “I am the mom that likes to make things and do things with my kids ... and who loves every second of it. I mean it’s hard of course but I enjoy doing that and I’m really good at it so why don’t we do things that we’re really good at and enjoy that?”

Blogging: a full-time job

More than 88,000 Instagram users follow Utah native Corrine Stokoe, who now lives with her family in southern California. Stokoe’s blog, Mint Arrow, shares deals on high-end fashion and works with companies like Anthropologie and Nordstrom.

And while Stokoe believes it was in poor taste to compare blogging to pornography, she agrees that “consumerism can get totally out of control.” You see, Stokoe didn’t set out to become a professional blogger.

After the birth of her first child, Stokoe struggled with postpartum depression. At the insistence of family and friends that she find ways to get out of the house during the cold Utah winter, Stokoe began pushing her baby in a stroller around Target or the mall. She couldn’t afford many of the things she would find, even when they were on sale. But when she found a good deal, she would post a picture on her personal Instagram account. Her friends and family loved it and encouraged her to start a blog.

“It kind of just started because it was something I was doing anyway to entertain myself for fun,” Stokoe said. “It’s something that I never would’ve envisioned in the beginning, but it just kind of took on a life of its own.”
As Stokoe’s blog began to take off, her husband lost his job and couldn’t find another job for several months. She worked hard to support her family in the meantime.

Today, Stokoe’s blog employs Stokoe, her husband and a team of people who help her. It is a full-time job, and Stokoe treats it as such.

“I want people to know that I’m a real person," Stokoe said. "I want them to feel like if they see me in public somewhere they’re going to get exactly what they think they’re going to get when they’re reading what I’ve written online or reading an Instagram post because I want to be me. But at the same time, it’s my job to put together a professional product when I’m working with a sponsor. ...just like anyone else wants to show up and do a good job at their job, that’s what I’m doing too.”

On the other hand, Brooke Romney has never made money off of her blog. She writes for businesses and does speech writing but after looking into the possibility of monetizing her blog, Romney decided she didn’t feel comfortable pushing her blog in that way.

Still, she echoes Stokoe’s sentiments.

“You have to decide if you’re really looking at things as a business or if you’re looking at it as actually being someone’s life,” Romney said. “And I think that’s when it almost needs to be put on the consumer of the media, ‘This isn’t real.’”

Romney, a frequent contributor to, points out that it is natural for women, and men for that matter, to “want to put our best face forward.”
“I take pictures in two places in our home because those are the only decent looking spots right now,” Romney said. “I post photos that are flattering to me, just like most people do. I would do that whether I had 50 followers or 50,000. Now, if you are making big bucks by promoting items in a beautiful setting with flawless photography, then I think there is a lot more pressure. I knew I would never be able to keep something like that up, so I have sacrificed popularity and profit, but I have been able to keep my sanity. Some people can do both, which is awesome.”

Pothier, for one, appreciated Thayer’s article.

“I think it’s a great article to get people thinking,” said Pothier, who even has a disclaimer on her blog to remind readers that they are viewing a filtered version of her life. “Because I think there is some responsibility on both sides. I think bloggers could be more real in things they do but I also think that readers have a responsibility to kind of turn off things that are going to make them feel uncomfortable or feel lacking in any way.”

The responsibility

Brooke White finished in fifth place on the seventh season of "American Idol," and has maintained a strong social following in the nine years since through various mediums. White is not from Utah and doesn't currently live in the Beehive State, but she is a mother and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And she "understand(s) where some of these people are coming from and it’s just gone to an extreme level.

“I do understand that it’s a business and at the same time it would be great to see some more transparency with content creators: to give credit to the person who helped you create the recipe or maybe sometimes to let your following know that ‘Yes, I have help because this is a job and I need help so I have a nanny’... It would be beautiful and wonderful if people took away some of the illusion behind it," White said.

Consumers, however, should beware of continuing to follow accounts that make them feel inadequate, Romney and White agree.

“I think it’s OK to look at someone who has a talent for decorating and think, ‘I love that house. This looks amazing,’” Romney said. “I think appreciating someone else’s talents is just fine but I think wanting to be that person or considering your life to be less because you looked at someone’s post, maybe then it’s time for that person to self-reflect and take a few of those accounts off of their Instagram.”

“If something is bringing you down and causing you to feel dissatisfied with your own personal life, you do need to unfollow and I think we need to be more intentional,” White said. “At some point we’ve got to be more intentional with what we do and with what we consume and what we create.”

And if unfollowing accounts that cause negative emotions is not enough, it may be time to consider a “media fast.” Dr. Lexie Kite, co-director of Beauty Redefined, says research has shown the benefits of “media fasts,” including social media, for at least three days.

“Refraining from all that media consumption quickly makes us more sensitive to messages that leave us feeling more self-conscious, anxious, and in need of ‘fixing,'" Kite said. "Studies show that for most women and girls, time spent on social media leads directly to feelings of body shame, low self-esteem, loneliness and depression."

Comparing vs. connecting

White still remembers sitting in the audience during rehearsals of “American Idol” and wondering with tears in her eyes why she was there. She listened as “Olympic-type singers” performed and she was “a very simple singer/songwriter.” She felt she would never be good enough.

And then one day a very clear thought came to her: “Stop competing and comparing and start connecting.”

“I feel like the same can go on in this community where we’re creating connections each day with each other on the internet because let’s be real, he’s (Thayer) totally right,” White said. “‘Between breastfeedings and diaper changes,’ women are turning to the internet to connect. ... Let’s wake up and let’s be intentional about the way we’re using this and how we want to feel and how we want to make other people feel. For me, my goal is to connect.

“If we can succeed in creating a more connected environment as opposed to a competitive or perfectionist environment then I think we’re using it for its best, highest good. As women, if we can aim at connection as opposed to competition or comparing then we all win and we can all look at each other with more grace and more enthusiasm and kindness and instead of being depressed, to be inspired.”

Kite said there is power in this idea.

“We are more powerful together when we aren’t comparing ourselves to each other and judging ourselves and others harshly for how well we decorate the world. We can stop comparison in its tracks when we recognize what we are doing and instead show compassion to ourselves and the women to whom we are comparing ourselves.”

White echoed this sentiment by quoting the LDS hymn “Lord, I would follow thee.”

“Remember that no matter who you’re looking at, ‘In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see,’” White said. “And you just have to know this about every human being you ever look at. No matter how big their kitchen is or how fancy their purse is, they have brokenness inside of their heart and some people are just not comfortable sharing and let’s give people grace no matter how perfect they look.”

Sharing faith

In the fall of 2015, in an effort to be more transparent and open about who she is, Stokoe decided to share with her followers an important aspect of her life: her LDS faith. Up until that point, Stokoe says she was hesitant to open up about her faith because she didn’t want to offend or bother anyone. Her concerns were validated when she lost over 3,000 followers within a few days of her initial post.

“But as I’ve continued to post about being a Mormon and about my love for the Book of Mormon and just who I am, I really feel like it’s strengthened my following,” Stokoe said. “Even people who are not Mormons, know who I am. They know exactly what they’re getting from me, it’s not a filtered version of me. It’s not just the part I think they are going to like. It’s just, ‘This is who I am.’”

White believes Stokoe’s efforts should be celebrated.

“I want to celebrate her," White said. "There’s someone who does something that could look perfect and creates beautiful imagery and works with companies who probably expect that. But she says, ‘No, I also want to create a place where people know that other things are important to me and that my soul and my spirit and my family matter equally to me.’”

The opportunity to share her faith is what originally drew Nielson to blogging. She recalls talks by LDS Church leaders that encouraged members to share their faith through the internet and the excitement she felt as a result. Nielson has a specific spot on her blog where readers can request a free copy of her “favorite book,” the Book of Mormon.

The number of requests that have flooded in from all over the world were such that other members of Nielson’s ward have pitched in to help with shipping costs. Nielson even goes to the Missionary Training Center on Wednesday mornings to chat online with the recipients of her gift. She has heard back from many who have been baptized and even more who wrote to simply say “thank you.”

“Maybe people who see my blog think, ‘Oh she’s just a mommy blogger. She writes about dumb things that happen to her kids and who cares about what they’re doing,’ but for me, it’s chatting with these people in Sweden who got a book from me and now they’re learning from the missionaries and we’re chatting together and that’s what it’s about for me," she said. "It’s just so much bigger than me sitting down and blogging. It’s the gospel and that’s why I do it.”

When Stokoe’s blog began to gain popularity, she found herself wondering why this happened to her. It wasn’t until she began to share her faith that she found her “real purpose for doing this.”

“I just hope that somewhere in some little town there’s a mom that reads my blog and two Mormon missionaries knock on her door, I hope that instead of being like, ‘I’ve never heard of you, go away,’ maybe she’d say, ‘I actually follow this girl and she seems really happy and she seems like a normal person and she has talked a lot about this. And I am interested. Come on in.’”


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pope seizes power from the Knights of Malta, brutally ending 900 years of their sovereignty

(by Damian Thompson

The Knights of Malta – an ancient Catholic order that dates back to the crusades – have enjoyed the privileges of a sovereign state for 900 years. Last night the Order of Malta was effectively stripped of its sovereignty in what appears to be a brutal power-grab by the Vatican.

Pope Francis has demanded and received the resignation of the Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, a devoutly orthodox Englishman of (even his critics agree) unimpeachable orthodoxy and personal morality. The Vatican has now taken charge of the order while the knights search for a grand master acceptable to Francis. Canon lawyer Dr Edward Condon this morning tweeted out the reaction of many Catholics:

In terms of international law, the Holy See just annexed another sovereign entity.

A source close to the order puts it more bluntly: ‘It’s like an invasion. Nine hundred years of sovereignty wiped out overnight.’

Festing’s ‘resignation’ follows a complicated row over the dismissal of the order’s Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, who was accused of permitting the distribution of condoms by the order’s international charitable arm.

Boeselager appealed to his friend, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who set up an inquiry made up of Boeselager’s allies. Festing and the leadership of the order refused to accept the authority of the inquiry, because – they argued – the Vatican had no temporal authority over a body that is independent under international law.

The argument over Boeselager and the condoms is convoluted, to say the least. This Catholic Herald report explains much of the background. The former Grand Chancellor may or may not have a case; what is certain is that he is extremely well-connected. Allies don’t come more powerful than Parolin, the Pope’s foreign secretary, whom many suspect of twisting the Pope’s arm in this matter.

The humiliation of Festing is a dreadful business. He is a good-natured and holy man who, until his appointment in 2008, was an archetypal English ‘Catholic toff’ – Ampleforth and Cambridge, former Guards officer, son of a field marshal, no less, and on his mother’s side descended from Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, martyred in 1539.

Pope Francis likes him – so why has he sacked him so abruptly, without adequate explanation? Is it another manifestation of the erratic behaviour I described in a Spectator article earlier this month?

Boeselager – himself monumentally grand, and the son of one of the 1944 Wehrmacht plotters against Hitler – must feel vindicated today. Whether he can afford to relax is another question.

Let me draw your attention to today’s report by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, which contains the following intriguing information:

Also behind the dispute were allegations of an ambitious German association vying for control of the Order, accusations that the Grand Master was being overly authoritarian, and conflicts of interest among members of the Holy See commission. Three members of the commission along with Boeselager have also been involved in a $118 million donation held in a trust in Switzerland. Despite documentation proving the contrary, the trust denied any connection with the Order.

Will the Vatican, which has just hounded a good man out of office and trashed the sovereignty of its most ancient and loyal chivalric order, now also investigate this mysterious donation?


Friday, January 27, 2017

How biblical sacrifices connect to today's sacrament

(by Taylor Halverson 1-22-17)

Readers of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon are often puzzled, if not baffled, at the focus on animal sacrifice. Why kill animals? The Pearl of Great Price may provide the most relevant and beautiful explanation, “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:7).

Here is context from the ancient world for how sacrifice was understood, but let’s start in the modern world.
Our Westernized modern world is carnivorous. We are voracious meat-eaters. Yet, the majority of our society is totally cut off from the realities of meat production.

I’ll say it simply: Something must die for us to live.

Anytime we eat plants or animals, something has died to sustain us. Death, ultimately, is a natural part of life or, at least, in the sustaining of life. But again, most are entirely cut off from and likely unfamiliar with the process of raising animals, killing them and then preparing their bodies for consumption. Because we have industrialized the process of meat production, very few of us raise animals and then kill them for our evening meal.

The ancient Old Testament and Book of Mormon times were different (see "The Essential Old Testament Companion" by Kerry Muhlestein and "Sacrifice in the Old Testament: Its theory and practice" by George Buchanan Gray). People were closer to the process of meat production and consumption. People typically lived with the animals they would eventually eat.

The ancient Old Testament and Book of Mormon times were also different in how they approached killing animals and eating them (see "Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament"). Killing animals was a ritualized, sacred activity to be shared in a community and culminating in a feast attended by family, priests and God. Instead of the sterile and industrialized killing of animals in our modern food processing, in ancient times the act of killing an animal was prescribed in ritualistic order and detail.

Portions of the animal were consumed by the priest (as payment for his services), a portion consumed by the individual or family offering the sacrifice and a portion was consumed by God via the smoke that ascended to heaven from the sacrifice. The purpose of eating this sacred meal together was to strengthen the community (see "By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in Scripture and Practice," by Daniel L. Belnap), to reinforce the truth that life is sustained by death, to remember that the Lamb of God would eventually give life to all through his death and to renew the covenantal commitments of the community. Truly, this was a sacred, communal meal.

Although we are no longer required to make animal sacrifices, the meaning is retained today.

Consider the weekly sacred meal that we call the sacrament, or the act of making something sacred.
This symbolic meal represents the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. In turn, the sacrifice of his flesh and blood meant that the flesh and blood of animals were no longer required elements of the sacred meal that brought priest, people and God together into holy communion. Now we celebrate this communal feast quite simply, at least it appears simple from an outward perspective.

Notice that at our weekly reenactment of the Last Supper three parties are in attendance. First, the people have gathered together — often in families — petitioning for God’s presence and grace.

Second, the priests are there to officiate in the ritual and to mediate the experience. Analogously to ancient priests, modern priesthood holders prepare the “flesh and blood” of the holy meal. Finally, and most importantly, God joins the holy meal, communing with his supplicating people.

Remember the words of the sacrament prayer, uttered in humility and precision by the representative priesthood holder:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen” (see Moroni 4:3).

The last phrase of this oft-quoted verse has long struck me: “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” If people always remember Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice of flesh and blood, then they have the promise that God’s presence will always be with them.

Now think of that. If God’s presence is always with a person, he or she will always retain a remission of their sins. Because God cannot dwell in unholy temples, as we remember Jesus Christ we are continuously accessing the never-ending Atonement to become clean and pure for the presence of God to attend our lives.

Just as individuals and families in ancient times needed a priest to prepare and bless their sacred meals, meals that pointed minds toward the Lamb of God who sustains all life, so too, in the modern day, people gather as individuals and families for priesthood holders to prepare and bless the weekly sacred meal that renews our memory of Christ’s sacrifice and covenant with God.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

LDS Church history missionary shares insightful passages from apostle George Q. Cannon's journal

(by Trent Toone 1-21-17)

Early Latter-day Saint apostle George Q. Cannon recorded in his journal that he lived long enough to turn a few enemies into friends.

Stemming from his time in politics, Elder Cannon wrote that a "Gen. Maxwell … used every means that a man of his type could use to disgrace and scandalize me in the eyes of the public," but in later years "expressed his gratitude for the manner in which I had returned good for evil."

"He was on the train and drunk, and he went through the cars, relating to all who would listen how fairly and handsomely I had treated him, and praising me in language more forcible than elegant," the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote on Aug. 30, 1896. "I had the opportunity afterwards of showing him kindness, and up to his death he never failed to speak highly of me, especially when under the influence of intoxicants."

The colorful, richly detailed entry was one of several that Elder Richard D. Rust featured in an hourlong presentation about Elder Cannon's journals, a collection that spans five decades (1849-1901). The presentation was given to a small gathering of employees and missionaries at the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday.

Rust and his wife have served as full-time missionaries in the Church History Library since July 2012. Before his mission, Rust was a professor of English and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he specialized in the works of writers Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Henry James.

Rust's presentation came a week after the Church Historian's Press announced the online publication of Cannon's personal writings from 1876-1880, released on Jan. 11, the church leader's 190th birthday.

"The George Q. Cannon journals are among the most important sources of Latter-day Saint history during the latter half of the 19th century," said Richard E. Turley Jr., a co-editor of previously published volumes of Elder Cannon’s journals.

The online journal, found at, now covers Elder Cannon's writings from October 1849 to December 1880, with 11 years still to go. The website features an engine for searching journal entries, photos, a timeline and other information.

"While Cannon's life has been told well by Davis Bitton in 'George Q. Cannon: A Biography,' carefully prepared online transcriptions of Cannon's journal give readers a window into Cannon's immediate world," Rust said. "They allow us unfiltered access to Cannon's thoughts and actions recorded essentially when they occurred. They give us insight into the life of a remarkable man."

Having studied Elder Cannon's journal, a friend asked Rust to identify three characteristics that he admired most of the man. Rust selected faithful endurance to the end, trust in the Lord, and caring about family and children. Rust then shared excerpts from Elder Cannon's journal that demonstrated these characteristics.

Faithful Endurance

Born in Liverpool, England, in 1827, Elder Cannon was baptized in 1840 and emigrated with his family to America and arrived in 1843. His mother, Ann Quayle Cannon, died during the voyage. His father died in 1845. These circumstances give some context for an entry written on Jan. 11, 1887:

"My life, I feel, has been a very remarkable one; and in looking back, I can visibly perceive the hand of God and his overruling providence in my preservation, in my guidance and in the shaping of my destiny. I feel to dedicate myself anew to him and to his service."

Elder Cannon wrote another entry that depicts his faithful endurance while serving time in prison on charges of polygamy. The entry is dated September 1888:

"During these days I have felt very well. My cell has seemed a heavenly place, and I feel that angels have been there."

Trust in the Lord

In several entries, Elder Cannon referenced his prayers to the Lord during trials. He also rejoiced when prayers were answered, as he did an entry dated June 16, 1880:

"It is a blessed thing to know that the Lord hears and answers prayers when offered aright. This has been my comfort and support here. I have never applied to him in vain. No matter how thick the clouds of darkness have been, or how much Satan and his servants have raged, the Lord has been my rock of refuge. He has given me peace, joy and happiness and my life has been a great pleasure to me."

Caring about Family

Elder Cannon was a man who cared about his family from his ancestors to the children. He wanted to be fair to his family members. He wanted the children to have the best possible education and fostered love and union in the family. The apostle's devotion was amplified through his service as a leader and writer, Rust said.

On April 7, 1901, five days before his death, Elder Cannon's legacy was described by his son, John Q. Cannon, who wrote of his father:

"Father seemed quite bright and cheerful, and desired to take the carriage ride, but was deterred by the physician's advice. We administered to him several times. During the afternoon when we were surrounding his bed he took us each by the hand in the following order: John Q., Frank, Hugh and Charles H. Wilcken, and bestowed upon us a blessing. … He spoke of the comfort and pleasure afforded him by our presence. … For all this he uttered blessings upon us, adding that these same blessings he felt to bestow upon all his family."


Monday, January 23, 2017

How Mormon Principles and Grassroots Ideals Saved Utah

Fearful of rampant growth, officials put control in the hands of citizens who preferred collaboration to government dictates.

(by Colin Woodard 1-18-17)

Imagine getting 90 municipalities in 10 counties in one of the nation’s fastest growing regions to get on board for a 20-year land use planning effort intended to conserve water use, promote clean air and avoid the destruction of open spaces by slashing housing lot sizes, encouraging higher-density development and imposing new taxes to build a light rail network and commuter rail system from scratch. Imagine that it worked so well the effort expanded statewide.

You might assume it must have started in a liberal bastion like Portland, Oregon or Burlington, Vermont, where people are proud to be tree huggers and planning isn’t a dirty word. But the most ambitious and successful long-term land-use planning effort in American history is happening in ultra-conservative Utah, a state with powerful ranching, mining and energy interests and a reflexive distrust of top-down government solutions. And it was led not by state officials, but by a bipartisan alliance of business, industrial, religious, political and civic leaders, working from plans crowd-sourced from tens of thousands of Utah citizens and executed on a completely voluntary basis by their local governments.

“Our purpose is not to lead somewhere, our purpose is to let the public see their choices and let them lead,” Robert Grow, president, CEO and a co-founder of Envision Utah, the public-private partnership that put the planning questions on Utahns’ agenda 20 years ago and helped keep them there ever since. “They are going to chose the future, so we’re empowering them by letting them see what their choices are and helping them implement those choices.”

The results have been impressive: Per capita water use has been cut by more than a quarter and air emissions slashed by nearly half, while 300 square miles of rural and open land have been spared from development. Automobile use has actually dropped slightly in terms of vehicle miles travelled, even as the region’s population has increased by a third, thanks to what is one of the largest transit transit rail systems per capita in the country. Taxpayers have saved billions in avoided infrastructure spending and maintenance and Envision Utah has been feted by city planners across the country as a model for how to do things right. Envision staff have traveled across the country, providing advice to groups in Detroit and Omaha, North Carolina’s Piedmont Triangle and North Dakota’s Oil Sands, Yellowstone and Eastern Oregon.

“They’ve made a remarkable and important and indelible contribution to who we have become and how we will become,” says Pamela Perlich, director of demographic research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, who has observed the effort since its inception. “It’s energized people to understand that they can and must be part of how the future is shaped.”

This approach—voluntary, bottom-up, large-scale and long-term—has clicked with the people of a conservative state and bridged historic divisions between Mormons and non-Mormons, environmentalists and mining interests, farmers and city-dwellers. And it came out of an unlikely gathering 30 years ago. Some of the most influential figures in a staid and recession-shocked state came together at a dude ranch owned by the man who was the model for American fiction’s most famous bulldozer-destroying environmental activist.


In some respects, Utah's embrace of long-term planning should come as no surprise. The impulse to protect and perfect this place, and to steward it on behalf of future generations is part of a cultural and religious heritage that dates to initial Euro-American settlement in the 1840s.

For the Mormons—who still constitute 60 percent of the state’s population—this is literally the Holy Land, and the early settlers saw parallels between their experiences and the Biblical Hebrews. They were fleeing in an exodus—from attacks by non-Mormons against their previous capital of Nauvoo, Illinois—to find a place to build a new Zion. When Brigham Young crossed the Wasatch Mountains and gazed down on the valley, he declared “This is the place.” It appeared a perfect analog of the Holy Land, where the freshwater Sea of Galilee feeds the salty Dead Sea via the 65-mile River Jordan. Freshwater Utah Lake feeds Great Salt Lake via a 30-mile stream the Mormons named the Jordan River. Mirroring Jerusalem, the Mormons placed their capital near the shores of their salty sea, centered on a grid extending from a point Young chose for Temple Square, the 40-acre ecclesiastical center of their nation, at the time located in territory claimed by Mexico, but governed by nobody.

The Mormons worked from Young’s detailed plans. Salt Lake City consisted of 135 10-acre lots, each broken into eight individual parcels, with homes set back 20 feet from all boundaries for fire control. Roads were a uniform 132 feet wide, so a team of oxen could turn around in them, and residents initially tended a communal 25-acre garden. Outside the city, farmers were assigned 40- to 80-acre lots and worked to construct dams, ditches and canals to irrigate the fields under the direction of a Mormon bishop. By Young’s decree, towns were situated every 25 miles, the distance a wagon could travel in a day. “All of those decisions by Young were urban planning constructs, and somehow that ethic has seeped into the sinews of the state,” says three-term governor Mike Leavitt who, like the majority of Utah elected officials past and present, is a member of the Mormons’ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “Utah is a culture of planners and I think that may in some way even be mystical.”

But Utah is also part of the Interior West, a region where much of the land is controlled by the federal government, and whose traditional resource extraction economy has often clashed with federal environmental and land use laws and regulations. Between the Pentagon, tribal reservations, the National Park Service, Bureau of Public Lands and other federal agencies, 60 percent of Utah is federally controlled, and even outside those areas, state and federal authorities have crossed swords in the past over everything from church-state relations to abortion. So despite its early origins as a Utopia-building theocracy, top-down government initiatives and centralized planning have been long held suspect. “There’s been this interesting dynamic in Utah’s history between individualism and communitarianism,” says former Envision Utah executive director Alan Matheson, who now heads the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. “All these people come to an area with a harsh environment and had to pull together to survive, but they also had the tension with the idea of the rugged individual on the Western frontier.”


For its first century, planning for long-term growth wasn’t an issue because the state was vast and it’s population small. Even the 120-mile long valley along the front of the Wasatch Mountains—home to Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden and 80 percent of the state’s people—appeared to have plenty of elbow room in 1950, when Utah had less than 690,000 residents.

But by the end of the 1960s, all of that was changing. The construction of the Interstate highway system and the advent of mass air travel decreased Utah’s isolation, and the Cold War investments in Hill Air Force base and research on intercontinental missiles brought large numbers of outsiders to the state. Captivated by the beauty of the mountains and the proximity to ski resorts, many of the newcomers stayed. Salt Lake County grew by more than a third during the ’60s to nearly 300,000, even as the city itself shrunk by 14,000, simultaneously creating sprawl and slums. Out-of-state speculators were building subdivisions in prime farmland in rural counties that had no planning capacities of any kind, or simply sitting on the land, which went fallow, reducing employment and weakening the agricultural economy.

In 1973, Governor Calvin Rampton advanced a law that would create a land use commission empowered to help local governments follow planning guidelines. With the support of 28 of Utah’s 29 county commissions, state health officials, environmentalists, garden clubs, both of Utah’s U.S. senators, the federal agencies, and the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, it passed the Republican-controlled legislature. But developers hated it and mobilized a petition drive that put the issue up for statewide referendum. The John Birch Society and the far-right American Party told voters the law would contravene God-given property rights and allow state officials to dictate what color to paint their homes. The American Party’s leading light, Ezra Taft Benson—president of the Latter Day Saints’ Council of Twelve Apostles (the second highest governing body in the church) and later the church’s president—declared their effort to be based on “divine and eternal principles” and followed the philosophy of his “own church people.” Voters overturned the law by a margin of more than 60 percent, dealing Rampton the greatest political defeat of his career.

So resounding was the backlash that nobody in fast-growing Utah dared speak of planning for two decades.

Innovation is often born of crisis, and in Utah that crisis was the metals recession of the mid-1980s, which shook its traditional economy to its core. It prompted U.S. Steel to close the massive Geneva Steel plant—which had been built during World War II on the shores of Utah Lake because it was beyond the range of Japanese bombers—laying off 2,400 and indirectly killing the jobs of another 7,500. Another major employer, Kennecott Copper’s massive open pit mine south of Salt Lake City, halted operations. “We saw a period where Utah’s biggest exports were our own children, because they were well-educated and had to leave the sate to find a job,” recalls Grow, who bought the Geneva mill with a partner and would later put it back into production. “So a lot of farsighted people worked really hard to strengthen and diversify our economy so we would never suffer that kind of situation again.”

The convener of this effort was local television station KUTV whose civic-minded owners, George and Gene Hatch, tasked it with making public policy documentaries and championing the preservation of natural treasures like what is now Arches National Park. “They were people who don’t care about money, but they cared about the community,” recalls Steve Holbrook, then a state legislator. “This was their way of contributing and having some say.”

As the state reeled in the recession in the fall of 1987, the Hatches invited two dozen movers and shakers to a retreat at the Pack Creek Ranch, a rustic lodge and cabins in the foothills above the southeastern town of Moab owned by river runner Ken Sleight, the model for the developer-fighting radical Seldom Seen Smith in Edward Abbey’s bestselling novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. The guests included some of the state’s most wealthy businessmen, a state Supreme Court justice, university president, and low-income advocate, a former governor and the editor of the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, the former president of the state senate and the soon-to-be speaker of the Utah house. “Somehow they had the firepower to get some of the top leaders in the state to come and talk about Utah’s future,” recalls Karen Shepherd, publisher of a magazine for professional women and later elected to the U.S. House. “Everyone agreed there was a leadership vacuum, and that there were no women or people of color or people from the outside with different ideas.”

The Deseret News would describe that vacuum this way: “a void created by the irony that the state runs under a homogenous political system largely dominated by white, Mormon men, while at the same time, some say, the LDS Church no linger chooses to provide leadership in state affairs, preferring instead to define itself as a worldwide church.” The consensus at the ranch: the state desperately needed a coalition of diverse, dynamic leaders who could put selfish, short-term concerns aside and think and act for the long-term future of the state. Absent clear alternatives, the participants decided to take on the task themselves.

The result was the Coalition for Utah’s Future, a 34-member group that used its influence over the next several years to grow the software industry, promote investments in light rail and child care and to pass laws requiring that insurance companies cover children up to age 26. But Utah recovered quickly from the recession in the early 1990s, becoming one of the fastest growing states in the country. Highways, water supplies, and open land were feeling the strain, especially along the Wasatch Front where four-fifths of its people lived. “You could begin to feel the seams creak in the infrastructure and in people’s patience and in the cultural change it was bringing,” recalls Mike Leavitt, who left the coalition in 1993 to start a successful run for governor.

The Wasatch Front region’s quality of life was in danger, and for Utah that represented a threat to the entire economy. Utah had a nascent technology cluster— Wordperfect and Novell were based here—and economic development officials were making the pitch to Silicon Valley companies that greater Salt Lake City was a cheaper, nicer and easier place to grow their businesses. “I set an objective that I wanted to be in Silicon Valley more than the governor of California,” recalls Leavitt, who later served as a cabinet secretary in George W. Bush’s administration. “My pitch was: ‘You have your engine going, but now your constraint is where people are going to possibly afford to live. And here you can buy a home, live affordably, hunt and fish and hike and enjoy open lands and it will make you more competitive.’ That was our economic strategy, but growth was going to eat our seed corn, which was the quality of life.”

That Salt Lake City had just been selected to host the 2002 Winter Olympics only heightened the sense of urgency.


A year into his first term,  coalition members approached Leavitt with a proposal that the state sponsor a planning effort to address the problem. He declined, citing the moral of Governor Rampton’s 1973 effort: Utahns won’t tolerate anything viewed as a top-down effort to manage their lives. But the governor championed a more innovative approach: a bottom-up, collaborative decision making effort backed by state and private sector know-how. “You’re organizing a community or a society, not an entity, so you’re dealing with shared power not unilateral power,” Leavitt says of the philosophy. Utahns resist dictates from above, he reasoned, but they are also unusually willing to collaborate if given the chance.

The coalition was willing to guide the process, but how to get everyone’s trust? The first strategic step was to reach out to what came to be called the “brass roots,” leaders from every influential sector. Grow, who had been a developer’s attorney before rescuing Geneva Steel and was active in the LDS church, was recruited to head the effort, and brought industrial interests, church officials, local mayors and—most critical—leading homebuilders into the fold before the effort was even unveiled. “Had we not been brought to the table early on, with an opportunity to make our feelings known and understood,” a prominent developer later told M.I.T sociologist Xavier de Souza Briggs, “…I don’t know if Envision Utah would have ever found its legs. The real estate industry would have gone about the same thing [as it did] in ’73.” Holbrook had wide contacts in the legislature and environmental community. By the time Envision Utah was unveiled, there were 110 board members and Governor Leavitt had signed on as honorary co-chair alongside Larry Miller, the popular owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team.

By design, Envision Utah would have no powers whatsoever; it would foster discussion of what to do about growth, but participation was voluntary and action would remain entirely up to local officials. Its initial focus would be on the future of the 10 counties of the Wasatch Front and the Wasatch Back, the treasured rural area on the other side of the mountains where many of Utah’s most popular ski resorts and outdoor recreational attractions are located. And the time horizon would be distant: 2020, then more than two decades away. “If you have the horizon too close in then you are in the middle of today’s battles,” Grow explains, “but if it’s far enough out you can see a convergence of people’s best ideas.” It would draw on state planners to crunch data, but look to the public to decide what to do with the results.

Another secret ingredient was Richard Wirthlin. The son of a Mormon bishop and brother of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Wirthlin had been Ronald Reagan’s chief strategist and pollster, who pioneered something called “values research” and used it to help industries and politicians build and sell an image. Wirthlin’s job was to reveal how people’s values intersected with a public policy issue. “We asked what Utahns really wanted in their future, then what the characteristics were of that future they wanted, and finally the emotional reasons for why they wanted them,” recalls Grow. The focus-group data revealed two things. First, semantics mattered: “Nature and the outdoors” were far more popular than “the environment,” for instance. Second, people were ultimately seeking peace of mind, and a lot of that had to do with having a place that their families would want to remain rooted to. “People want to make sure that their children and grandchildren stay close, to have the opportunity to get a job, to live in beauty and open spaces, and to have a comfortable and convenient life. That was an emotional driver for policy,” says Matheson, who later headed Envision Utah. “Understanding people’s values was a really important way not just to understand what people want, but to motivate action to get there.”


Envision Utah's official launch in January 1997 was high-profile and symbolically savvy. New Urbanist consultants Peter Calthorpe and John Fregonese came in from Portland, Oregon to outline alternatives to expensive, sprawling growth. They were backed up by a costumed actor playing Brigham Young, who reminded the audience and assembled media of his strong support for urban planning.

The LDS church—the state’s biggest landowner after the federal government— quietly supported the process, especially via supportive coverage in the Deseret News and participation of senior officials. “They are a smart organization and they recognize the value of public feedback and the grassroots work Envision Utah does,” says Nate Currey, a former Envision Utah public relations director.

“Envision Utah works for everybody—LDS and non-LDS—using mechanisms that don’t exist in the church’s very top-down structure. I think the LDS church respects and supports that.” (The LDS Church declined an interview request.)

To ascertain what Utahns actually wanted the Wasatch Front to look like in 2020, the organization convened scores of town hall meetings across the region and later distributed half a million mail-in surveys in the daily newspapers. At the town hall meetings and in the surveys, residents were offered four growth scenarios, ranging from hands-off to Norway-like planning, that showed what the region would look like once there were 2.6 million people instead of 1.6 million. At the workshops, participants were given maps to let them toy with where to put everything, showing the trade-offs in terms of open space, lot sizes, commuting times, air pollution and water use. “At the table you might have a developer, a realtor, a Mormon bishop and a female council member working on this together,” recalls Holbrook, the executive director of the coalition. “It was surprising how much people agreed.”

Ted Knowlton, a planning consultant at the time, grew up in the area and was flabbergasted at the level of consensus at the meetings. “The light bulbs just went off as people started to understand the link between development patterns near them and the broader regional consequences,” he recalls. “There was such a groundswell of support for dong something decidedly different.” Nearly 60 percent of respondents chose one of the two most restrictive options (more at the Norwegian end of the scale). The most popular option was a moderately compact alternative to sprawl that encouraged the development of neighborhood and village centers using region-wide light and commuter rail. “The fundamental things, like do you want transit and walkabilty and clean air and an undeveloped Wasatch Back, the public was already there.”

The result was a blueprint released in 1999, the Quality Growth Strategy, which laid out a scenario that, by measures like reducing lot sizes, building transit, bike paths, trails and walkable, mixed-use developments, would theoretically reduce infrastructure costs by $5 billion, save 300 square miles of farms and open land, and slash air pollution and water use. But only if people actually acted on it.

That’s when Envision Utah pivoted from creating a blueprint to helping willing towns, counties, developers and state agencies to implement it. It didn’t hurt that it’s new chairman in 1999 was one of the most influential businessmen in the state; Jon Huntsman Jr., who would be elected governor five years later, and much of the state’s “brass roots” were committed to the effort. Legislators allocated grants for local planners and a $6 million fund to help buy conservation easements from farmers.

Governor Leavitt launched a public awareness campaign on the site where Brigham Young declared “This is the place.” Once again, an actor again appeared as the Mormon prophet to put in a good word for planning and neighborliness. Newspapers and television stations donated airtime and advertising space. “There were a lot of people who had invested effort in the initial vision,” recalls Matheson. “They didn’t want it to just be put on the shelf. There was too much at stake.”

Although Envision Utah was simply offering expertise, data and tools to local officials, it started as an uphill struggle. “The attitude, especially in local government, was that we don’t want some outside group telling us what to do when we develop our community,” says Tom Dolan, who has been mayor of the central valley city of Sandy, for 20 years. But it did. In Sandy, where existing plans centered around lots of two-story office buildings surrounded by seas of parking, Dolan worked with Envision Utah to devise a 30-year master plan featuring higher density areas and, ultimately, four light rail stops. “If Envision Utah hadn’t existed, we would have developed the way we had been,” he admits, adding he was an opponent of light rail until after it was built. “It was a lack of vision.”

Momentum slowly gathered. Envision Utah staff worked with other cities on demonstration projects to show the merits of walkable, mixed-use, village center types of developments. With the Olympics approaching, Salt Lake County residents in 2000 approved a sales tax increase to build the region’s first light rail loop to move spectators around the capital, creating a foundation and demonstration project for a wider transit system. But the biggest experiment in the new model would be executed by the last entity you’d expect.


The Oquirrh mountains (pronounced Oh-ker) on the west side of the Jordan valley are home to one of the West’s more unusual tourist attractions: the largest open pit copper mine on the planet. Situated at the top of Bingham Canyon, the Kennecott mine’s pit is two and a half miles wide and more than half a mile deep, an inverted pyramid that’s the only active mine to be designed a national landmark and is the largest manmade excavation in the world. When it opened in 1906, it was out of the way, bordering on alfalfa fields and pasture in the sleepy farming hamlet of South Jordan. But by 2000 it stood on the edge of an expanding metroplex of 2 million people. Between the mine and the expanding city were thousands of acres of empty Kennecott buffer land. Rio Tinto, the London-based mining conglomerate that had acquired Kennecott in 1989, had long seen that the best use of the land would be to develop it. Now they approached Envision Utah about making it a showcase of all their principles.

“The people within Rio Tinto brought a sense of sustainability that maybe previously hadn’t been a part of Kennecott and they wanted to leave a legacy,” says Cameron Jackson, marketing director for the resulting development, Daybreak. “Envision Utah was going on at the same time, so it made sense to hook up with them.” The mining firm hired Peter Calthorpe—the same planner Envision Utah had brought in—to create a master plan for a city-size development on roughly 4,100 acres. Instead of traditional third-of an-acre lots on cul de sacs, Daybreak would feature homes on lots half that size with front-facing porches and back alley-loaded garages, built around lakes, open parks, swimming pools, and bike paths. There would be numerous “neighborhood centers” (with a school, park or community facility), frequent “village centers” (with a local market or coffee shop) and the occasional “town center,” with condominium or apartment buildings and ground-floor restaurants, grocery stores or retail. Greater density would form around two light rail stations with office buildings, bigger retail and taller residential structures. By the 2030s, planners expect a total of 20,000 units will be built, more than doubling South Jordan’s population.

Today, Daybreak is half-complete and is one of the top-selling master-planned communities in the United States. Some 15,000 people live there, most in homes built in the Craftsman, European Revival and Victorian styles that dominated the tree-lined urban residential neighborhoods of a century ago. Nine in 10 children walk to school and almost every home is within a five-minute walk of some combination of shopping, light rail or park. “When you do the math, the tax base is actually improved, because there’s more homes per acre that pay property taxes, and that level of density has attracted businesses at a higher rate because they’re looking for rooftops,” Jackson notes. It also uses less water, consumes less land, and its residents travel fewer vehicle miles because they can walk, bike or ride the rails for at least some of their daily trips.

Daybreak, and other demonstration projects, have transformed popular attitudes about density and rail transit, even among developers. Lane Beattie, a real estate professional who had been president of the state senate when Envision Utah was getting off the ground, recalls the shift. “People started to see that growth and development could be done without creating ghettos and hardship,” recalls Beattie, now the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “They got us thinking what we needed as a state and what we were going to be as a people in 10, 20 or 50 years. And as we looked into the distance, the business community could also see that if people got gridlocked on the freeways, it would cripple our economic growth.”

The chamber didn’t merely get behind a proposal to build a 90-mile commuter rail line the length of the Wasatch Front, with four new light rail spurs to places like Daybreak and improvements to the adjacent highway, it sponsored the requisite ballot measure, which was also backed by Governor Huntsman, the state’s Sierra Club and Congressional delegation, and a majority of the region’s mayors. In 2006, Salt Lake County voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax increase on themselves by a nearly two-to-one margin, a result that would have shocked Ezra Taft Benson, the Mormon leader and planning critic, had he been alive to see it.

“It used to be you would go to a planning commission meeting and the people in the public would be saying ‘Not in my backyard,’” Matheson recalls. “Now it was ‘How does this fit into our broader community vision.’ It didn’t mean NIMBY was gone, but it changed the dialogue quite a bit.


Now the Wasatch Front is one of the largest transit rail systems per capita in the country: 88 miles of commuter rail and 52 of light rail serving 69 stops, many of them now hubs of the sort of walkable, mixed-use, higher-density development that New Urbanists salivate over. (More than 9,000 housing units have been built within a half mile of a station in the past six years alone.) The town of Sandy is using its bus links to the four ski resorts in the adjacent Cottonwood Canyon to market its downtown as the “ultimate basecamp.” In 2012, the LDS Church completed a $2 billion mall-and-residential complex across from Temple Square at the heart of Salt Lake City: 111 apartments, 424 condos, 104 stores, seven restaurants, and a 1,000-seat food court, all with the intention of reversing blight. “We believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually, Keith McMullin, head of the church-owned real estate holding company, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It's for furthering the aim of the church to make, if you will, bad men good, and good men better."

But growth hasn’t stopped, and the challenge ahead is daunting. Last month, the Census Bureau revealed Utah was the fastest growing state in the country, and the majority of the growth is due to its people having the nation’s highest birth rate. Projections show Utah will nearly double its population to 5.4 million by 2050, further compounding the challenge of maintaining the quality of life its people treasure. So in 2013, current Governor Gary Herbert asked Envision Utah to do their magic again, only this time working statewide to determine what Utahns want the place to look like at mid-century.

The latest public outreach effort surveyed 53,000 Utahns on their scenario preferences for not one but 11 topics, from development and transportation to disaster resilience and the utilization of public lands. The resulting vision calls for water conservation measures to reduce consumption by at least 10 percent, extending outward the interconnected, mixed-use development patterns set forth by the original project and prioritizing the cultivation of food rather than feed crops for animals. The current effort on the Wasatch Front focuses on the so-called Point of the Mountain area, where the Wasatch and Oquirrh ranges pinch the valley between Salt Lake City and Provo and technology jobs are spurring rapid growth; in December, area stakeholders met for the first time to start talking about what they want the place to become.

“We’re still a geographical area bounded by mountains and lakes and we’re still continually thinking and reinventing and bringing people together to continue asking the big questions,” says Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, an inter-government association responsible for planning transportation projects in Salt Lake and three other counties. “How do we absorb more than a million people in the next few decades? How do we want to grow?”


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Activating the Atonement

(by D. Rolling Kearney 8-26-16)

My sister stopped me in the hall at church. “Have you ever heard anyone use the phrase ”activating the Atonement” before?” She was referring to a talk that was recently given by one of our High Councilors. The phrase bothered her. To my sister, this phrase was offensive because, as she explained, the Atonement is always active. In fact, I don’t believe I had ever heard anyone use this phrase. Is it correct? What could have been meant by it?

To many in the general (non-LDS) Christian world, it is believed that the Atonement effectively saves all men from their sins regardless of their actions. I believe this is what my sister pictured when she heard the phrase “activating the Atonement”–Jesus came to earth, pushed the bright red “save everyone” button, and that was that. Atonement activated!
Those who hold this belief often point to passages like John 3:16 for support:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“Look!” they say. “Belief, alone, is required for salvation!” The mistake, however, lies in the choice to elevate a point made in a few verses, while ignoring the rest of the Bible. When interpreting the scriptures we must be cautious: the Savior and His Apostles spoke to many different groups at different times and locations, and with different goals and purposes in mind for each time and location. They knew much more about the Gospel than they ever revealed. In fact, they told their audience so on at least one occasion.
“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:2).
If our scriptures–the ones we must live our lives by–are nothing but the records of what Jesus and His Apostles said to these people, and if what they got was milk, then where is the meat?
We begin to see the larger picture, though, when we look for clarifications in the scriptures, themselves. Gospel truth, like all truth, is established in layers. Our finite minds are incapable of instantly comprehending the depths of all Gospel truths, just as we are incapable of comprehending Calculus without previous layers of the basics, beginning with addition, subtraction, division, and so forth. Thankfully, different aspects of Gospel truths were defined by Jesus and the Apostles in each discussion, and we can find deeper understanding by taking these different aspects into account.
James tells us that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Here we learn from an Apostle that faith needs works, and if faith is not accompanied by works, it does not exist. No works = no faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is not just any belief, then, like claiming to believe in Santa Claus or the flying spaghetti monster, but it is belief supported by the witness of the Holy Ghost. So, if the Holy Ghost witnesses to us that Jesus is the Messiah, and we believe it, this is true faith.
If what? If we do something about it!
James continues:
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). This was a challenge: “Go ahead, show me your faith without performing any works!” Can it be done? If I believe in something and do nothing about it, how am I any different than a man who does not believe? Men often choose to justify inaction by saying “It’s the thought that counts.” If this were true, why didn’t Jesus stay in Heaven and just think about saving us?
At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself gave support to this interpretation, when He said, “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” (Matt. 7:21). According to Him, doing the will of the Father (works) trumps calling Him Lord (faith). He wants action!
How does this apply to the Atonement? gives the following definition for Atonement:
“As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God… Because of [Jesus’] Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.”
In latter-day scripture, the Savior explained, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16–17). You will suffer for your own sins if you do not repent and allow the Savior to do it. The catch is that while your suffering will satisfy the demands of justice, it can never justify an eternal reward. Your lack of repentance will keep you from receiving the blessings your Heavenly Father wants to give you.
The scriptures speak regularly of a Judgment Day, but how could we be judged if our actions didn’t matter? Is God going to judge our faith? No. But wait, some will object that this is a day of judgment only for the unbelievers. If faith is the only requirement, then how can there be sinners in Zion, as Isaiah describes in Isaiah 33:14? In the same verse, Isaiah calls these people hypocrites. What is a hypocrite? Someone who says one thing but does another. You see, actions trump words!
But what about faith? Doesn’t that count for anything? I thought the scriptures said we would be saved if we had it. Indeed, they do. But ask yourself: what is faith? It is belief, is it not? It is also trust. If you believe in and trust the Savior, won’t you do what he says?
Many today claim that baptism is unnecessary. “It’s like a wedding ring,” they say. “You’re just as married without it!” Of course, if we believe in the Savior, and trust what He tells us, how can we disregard the counsel of the resurrected Christ in Mark 16:16 that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”? When he said to have faith, did He say that was all? No, it is a starting point. When He added that baptism is required, did he say that that was all? No, it is the next step. The scriptures are full of counsel we are expected to follow. Otherwise, the Bible would be a pamphlet with one verse in it–John 3:16. But it isn’t.
Modern-day Mormons often fall into this same false comfort, believing that if they are worthy to attend the temple they are also worthy of the Celestial Kingdom. But this is not so. We often hear that the temple is the goal, everyone worthy and holding a recommend–and don’t get me wrong, it is a goal!–but the temple is not the ultimate destination. The Celestial Kingdom is! King Benjamin pointed out, in Mosiah 4:29, that there are more ways to sin than we could ever count, and the Lord says that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16).
This is why we are commanded to “endure to the end” (Matt. 24:13).
Has the atonement been “activated” in your life? I hope so, and I hope that you will continue to use it, once it has been activated, to keep yourself in good standing before the Lord. The last thing we want is to be turned away from the Judgment Bar of Christ as hypocrites and sinners.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017