Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Utah No. 2 in nation for urban sprawl, study shows

(by Amy Joi O'Donoghue 4-22-14)

A new study shows Utah is second only to Nevada in its rate of urban sprawl over a 10-year period and is No. 7 in the country over the past 28 years for undeveloped land giving way to development.

Overall, undeveloped acreage equal to the size of Florida has been paved over in the United States from 1982 to 2010, with 11 million acres of cropland gone and 12 million acres of pasture and rangeland lost to buildings and highways, according to the study.

"There are all kinds of reasons why cropland is like sitting ducks waiting to be massacred and mowed down," said Roy Beck, one of the authors of "Vanishing Open Spaces: How an Exploding U.S. Population is Devouring the Land that Feeds and Nourishes Us."

The study, released to coincide with Earth Day on Tuesday, also makes use of an April poll that shows the American public is concerned about protecting farmland and natural areas — for national food security considerations, safeguarding wildlife and for spiritual and emotional regeneration. The Pulse Opinion Research shows, for example, that 92 percent of Americans say it is important to protect farmland from development to ensure the ability to feed the country in the future.

"Cities have been built in the middle of where prime farm land once was, which makes sense because cities were started where you can grow crops," Beck said. Cropland is the easiest land and the cheaper land to build on."

The study, done by the nonprofit, nonpartisan NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation, was drawn on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Beck's foundation is an immigration-reduction organization centered around the premise of "environmental sustainability, economic justice, the rule of law, and individual liberty, and opposition to federal immigration policies that threaten these values by forcing massive U.S. population growth."

The NRCS data showing how states compare on sprawl indicate that from 2002 to 2010, population growth were the most important factor in the loss of non-federal land, accounting for 91 percent of new development.

And in those 10 states experiencing the most sprawl (Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Delaware, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Georgia) population grew on average more than three times as fast as the states with the least sprawl percentage.

Beck said what has unfolded in Utah and in the Salt Lake-West Valley metro area over the past 10 years has been dramatic.

"Utah as a percentage of what it already had is spreading quite rapidly," Beck said. "Consequently, people in Utah may feel the sprawl more likely than in other states. It may feel like it is more dramatic because it is."

He also predicted that the impacts from the rapid change are impacting quality of life for residents who may feel pinched by the growth.

"Almost invariably, people are a long way from the edge of the city and it is a lot more effort for people who have lived a long time in Utah to get a natural space."

The study looked at 497 U.S. urbanized areas and noted that the ongoing growth between Salt Lake City and West Valley City effectively connected the two cities. In that category, the area came in at No. 80, with Salt Lake developing out an additional 47.2 additional square miles from 2000 to 2010.

Beck acknowledged that Utah and its metropolitan parts are growing in rampant fashion because it has more "room to grow" than in other, older areas, but the growth also speaks to mindset.

"There are competing drives in the pioneer tradition. One of the drives is one that absolutely values the land that was once wilderness, one that certainly values the farmland which was the basis for these farmland economies," he said. "But there is the other tradition where if you are going into wilderness, you want to populate it quickly and establish a philosophy that bigger is better and growth is always good."

Beck and others caution that the growth comes with costs.

"We have to be wise. There has to be a local, county and state policy in place that helps drive the way we want to develop Utah," said Sterling Brown, vice president of public policy at the Utah Farm Bureau.

"We have to ask if Utah citizens want a strong, sustainable agricultural industry, and if the answer is yes, we need to establish a policy to protect that industry."

As population increases continue to drive pressure on transportation and housing options, the urban planners are observing some shifts.

"The big issue we are seeing is the demand for condos, townhomes and apartments is higher than it used to be in terms of the percentage of the market. People are choosing with their checkbooks," said Sam Klemm, spokesman with the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

"We are going to build them anyway, so why not build them around the transit stops?"

That planning approach is incorporated as a key tenet of Wasatch Choice 2040 vision, which considers how transportation, growth and open space co-exist in the decades to come. With Utah's population to nearly double by 2050, planners say the key is to be smart.

"A small amount of land developed at an urban density can replace a huge piece of land that is developed at a suburban or ranchette style density," said Ted Knowlton, deputy director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

"It only takes a small amount of strategic growth to replace a large amount of growth on vacant land."

Knowlton said cities have embraced the vision of Wasatch Choice 2040, the tough challenges remain in implementation.

"It is fair to say there needs to be a much bigger emphasis on thinking through carefully what are the landscapes we want to conserve in perpetuity and how we are going to do that," Knowlton said.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World

Transported two thousand years into the past, readers are introduced to Antipas, a Roman civic leader who has encountered the writings of the biblical author Luke. Luke's history sparks Antipas's interest, and they begin corresponding. As Antipas tells Luke of his reactions to the writing and of his meetings with local Christians, it becomes evident that he is changing his mind about them and Jesus. Finally, a gladiatorial contest in Pergamum forces difficult decisions on the local Christians and on Antipas.

While the account is fictional, the author is a respected biblical scholar who weaves into this fascinating scenario reliable historical information. Bruce Longenecker is able to mix fact and fiction and paint an interesting and valuable study of the New Testament world and early Christianity. Readers are invited to view Jesus and the early church from a fresh perspective, as his first followers are brought to life.

More reliable than typical historical fiction and far more interesting than standard textbooks and reference books, "The Lost Letters of Pergamum" provides readers with a delightful opportunity to step into the world of the New Testament. Pastors, Bible study groups, and all thoughtful readers will enjoy this book, which one reviewer said he "couldn't put down."


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Discovery of pioneer journal sheds light on Temple Square mystery

(by Ryan Morgenegg 7-20-17)

On the 170th anniversary of the Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley, a longtime question has now been answered. How long after Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley was land surveyed and designated as the official location of Temple Square? A week? A month? According to a recently discovered journal belonging to pioneer surveyor Jesse Carter Little, the location of Temple Square was known the day pioneers entered the valley, July 24, 1847.

In April, Rob Thurston of Provo, Utah, age 60, made an amazing discovery about his great-great-grandfather, Jesse Carter Little. He found his ancestor’s journal containing entries made along the journey west to the Salt Lake Valley. But the journey to acquiring the journal was an adventure in and of itself.

“When I was a young boy about age 7, I used to go down to Manti, Utah, to where my grandmother lived,” Thurston said. “In her old house I used to like to play hide-and-seek and hide under the stairs.”

In the small confines of the room under the stairs, Thurston remembers seeing an old cream-colored box filled with aged letters and photographs. At the time, the letters were of particular interest because of the stamps that could be cut out and added to his stamp collection.

It wasn’t until this past April that memories of the cream-colored box came flooding back in Thurston’s mind. “I asked my mother whatever happened to the box,” he said. “She wasn’t exactly sure but recalled that it was given to a BYU professor to take a look at. The professor was contemplating writing an article about the items in it and also indicated he would see if they held any worth.”

The only problem with the box was it was given to the BYU professor, who Thurston declined to name, in 1977, 40 years ago. “I thought, 'That’s it, they’re gone,'” Thurston said. "And to top it all off, my mother could not remember the name of the BYU professor.”

After a lot of hard work, Thurston found out the name of the professor, who, fortunately, was still working at Brigham Young University. He called the professor and mentioned the cream-colored box. Sure enough, the professor still had the box and remembered his mother. Thurston made an appointment to see him.

At the office of the BYU professor, Thurston recovered the box. It had been on a shelf for many years. “I remember what the professor told me,” said Thurston. “'There really isn’t anything in there. I didn’t see anything of value. Go ahead and take it.’”

Thurston took the box home and opened it. It held more than 180 items.

“Not knowing exactly what I had, I took the box to a document expert to help me understand. I was told that there were a number of significant things.”

The box contained a treasure trove of journals, letters and photographs from Thurston’s ancestors. “It gave depth to my ancestors I knew nothing about,” he said.

“There was a letter from Brigham Young I was excited about and a bunch of letters from an ancestor named Jesse Carter Little. He was the one ancestor I knew. He helped found the Mormon Battalion, and he met with President James K. Polk to get funds to help the Saints come west.”

The pinnacle of the discovery was an 1846 journal kept by Jesse Carter Little from the first pioneer company coming across the plains with Brigham Young. It contained tons of detailed information about the company’s trek west. “He recorded how many miles they went, where they reached, location names and coordinates for longitude and latitude with a sextant and compass,” Thurston said.

The most interesting entry was the one dated July 24, 1847. Little was in the advance party that entered the valley, and he recorded the following on two lines in his journal. Line one reads: “Salt Lake Valley 114 miles from Fort Bridger.” The second line reads: “Northern boundary of the Temple Square 40 degrees latitude and 111 degrees longitude.”

To check the accuracy of Little’s journal, the distance from the address of Fort Bridger to the address of Temple Square was calculated using Google Maps. It yielded 118 miles versus the journal’s 114. Plugging the longitude and latitude coordinates from Little’s journal into the U.S. government’s NASA website latitude/longitude finder yields the location of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“For the last 85 years these treasured items were either under the stairwell of an old house or in the office of a BYU professor. Finding these items was important. In my family, we are calling this the miracle of the cream-colored shirt box.”


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Deseret Industries helps bring hope to desperate Sioux reservation

(by Jason Swensen 7-17-17)


To say living conditions on South Dakota’s Oglala Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation are akin to a Third World nation may be an overly positive comparison.
Many of the challenges facing the reservation are identical — and in some instances even more desperate — to that of the world’s poorest nation.

The statistics are staggering: Unemployment on this reservation of about 30,000 inhabitants hovers near 90 percent. Men are not expected to reach their 50th birthday. And the annual household income is about $3,500.

Perhaps most troubling is the alarmingly high infant mortality rate and the reservation’s staggering rate of teen suicide — particularly among young women.

“If Pine Ridge were a country it would be the poorest in the world,” said Twila True, a Lakota Sioux who spent part of her childhood on Pine Ridge.

True counts herself among the fortunate from her tribal nation.

She escaped many of the troubles that define Pine Ridge and has built a successful life in the business world. She is a philanthropist, a wife and a mother. But her love for her people and their potential remain.

She founded the “True Sioux Hope” organization with a vision to deliver opportunity and hope to her people.

Now she counts the Church’s Deseret Industries as a key partner.

True’s connection to the Church began with, well, a couple of Mormons. Through her organization’s charitable efforts, she became acquainted with Latter-day Saints Kelli Brienholt and Stacy Brimhall.

The two were well aware of the challenges on Pine Ridge. When they learned True Sioux Hope was hoping to open a much-needed thrift store on the reservation they put the organization in touch with Church welfare officials.

“We knew we could help,” said Brienholt.

Last January, organization leaders traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with Deseret Industries officials. They discussed their shared goals to help others realize self-reliance, explored their options and decided to work together on the Pine Ridge thrift store.

“Once the Church understood that we had a plan and a building and that we had something that was sustainable and replicable they not only joined our [effort], they have become our number one supporter,” said True.

The Church’s guiding principles of self-reliance “match perfectly with True Sioux Hope’s vision of self-reliance,” noted Deseret Industries official Steve Peele.

Soon plans were underway to combine resources and open the thrift store by Memorial Day. The 5,000-square-foot store is located in the heart of Pine Ridge and shares a parking lot with other True Sioux Hope-sponsored properties.

“Our goal for the thrift store was not only to offer goods and service, but to provide a nice environment to be in,” said Beverly Moore, an administrator at True Sioux Hope. “Without the help of the Deseret Industries, this store would not have been possible. We are eternally grateful for their support.”

Two Deseret Industries tractor-trailers arrived at the store prior to the opening. The trucks were filled with shelves and other equipment needed to set up the store — along with several containers filled with clothing, shoes and household items that would become the store’s maiden inventory.

“We had all we needed for a successful grand opening,” said Peele.

The thrift store has been well received across the community. It’s also provided essential jobs to several residents, who have received Deseret Industries-sponsored training.

“Plus, most of the items on sale at the thrift store can’t be found anywhere else on the reservation,” said True. “To find these same items you would have to drive to Rapid City, which is 100 miles away. And many people on the reservation don’t have a car.”

The holiday grand opening was a marked success.

“We did over $1,000 in sales on the first day,” said Moore.

The benefits of the Church’s partnership at the thrift store stretch beyond reasonably priced household items and even job training and placement. It’s a signal that folks care about the residents of Pine Ridge and their future.

“The people on the reservation are proud of the thrift store. They are proud of themselves. It’s something they can go home and talk about,” said True.

It’s hoped that the success of the thrift store extends beyond Pine Ridge. The Deseret Industries plans to provide additional self-reliance training on the reservation and continue to contribute store items.
True added she envisions such efforts being replicated in other Native American communities.

Visit for more information.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Mitt Romney Transition Website Draft Uncovered

(by Dan Froomkin 11-8-12)

Mitt Romney really was all ready to go if he’d won the election on Tuesday.

For a while on Wednesday, a draft version of his transition website was visible to the public on a server belonging to the company that designed it, a Utah software shop called SolutionStream. The site, located at, was titled: “Mitt Romney Elected the 45th President of The United States of America.”

The site opened with a quote from Romney: “I’m excited about our prospects as a nation. My priority it putting people back to work.” On the home page was a placeholder link to video of Romney’s acceptance speech.

Jason Thelin, one of the owners of SolutionStream, told The Huffington Post Wednesday evening that he wasn’t sure if he was allowed to talk about the project. But he noted that it had been turned over to the campaign and was “all ready to go.” He called it a “tiny” project. “We were able to throw it together in a day and a half,” he said of the initial mockup.

Thelin said his company was first contacted by volunteers working on Romney’s transition about 10 days before the election.

Not long after HuffPost reached him, the site was no longer publicly available.

The “Believe in America” section of the site explained: “President-elect Romney has a vision for an American century and has a strategy to secure our enduring interests and ideals. He believes that liberty, opportunity, and free enterprise have led to prosperity and strength before and will do so again.”

The subsection on “Restoring America’s Leadership” said: “President-elect Romney knows many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading. President-elect Romney believes that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom call for strong leadership. “

The page on “Repealing the Affordable Care Act” declared: “ On his first day in office, Mitt Romney will issue an executive order that paves the way for the federal government to issue Affordable Care Act waivers to all 50 states. He will then work with Congress to repeal the full legislation as quickly as possible.”

There was a list of nominees — all blank, except for the position of vice president.
And the “Join the Administration” page warned applicants that “government service is not for everyone.”