I'm frequently asked by persons who don't know much about Mormons, Are Mormons Christians? With a smile I always give the same answer, "Yes we are, very much so."

Mormons quite often are referred to as Latter-Day Saint Christians due to the official name of the church which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But it's more than just a name, Latter-Day Saints strive daily to live the life of Christ and study his teachings and those of his apostles to become more like him.

The Bible tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The word Christian means “a follower of Christ" but the word disciple means “student” or “pupil.” Hence a true Christian is not someone who simply says they believe in Christ but rather someone who ardently follows and studies the Savior their entire lives. Mormons do exactly that, therefore we are very much Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Kansas City teacher astonishes with $2 million gift to Jesuits

Pope Francis celebrates a mass with the Jesuits in Rome's Jesus' Church, January 3rd, 2014
 (by Sally Morrow and David Gibson religionnews.com 2-9-16)
Even people who knew Anna Kurzweil well wouldn’t have guessed she was a millionaire.
She grew up on a farm outside of Kansas City, the youngest of eight children, and entered the convent for a few years but spent most of her life as a schoolteacher. She earned less than $20,000 a year, cared for her elderly mother and eventually retired — on a pension of less than $1,000 a month. She died in 2012, just shy of her 101st birthday.

Kurzweil was “just a plain, ordinary person,” Ina Jane Bryan, who worked at the local bank, said recently of the customer who patronized what was then called Farmers Bank on Main Street in Grandview, Mo.

Kurzweil never married, had no children and lived simply and unpretentiously — she wore modest clothing and drove an old car — splurging only on travel abroad.

So when it emerged that the teacher had left a bequest of nearly $2 million to the local province of the Jesuits, nobody could believe it — not her neighborhood acquaintances, not the Jesuits, not even her surviving relatives.

“Even the bank wanted to know how she got the money,” John Van De Vyvere, the trustee on his aunt’s estate, said in an article in the quarterly newsletter of the Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province, which first reported news of the bequest last fall. “They were surprised a schoolteacher had that much money.”

The Rev. Luke Byrne, a retired Jesuit priest who knew Kurzweil in the 1970s while serving as pastor at her neighborhood parish, St. Francis of Xavier in Kansas City, admitted he was taken aback when he heard about the gift to his order.

“Well, that is something else!” Byrne recalled thinking at the time.

“She didn’t come across as a woman who wanted to be treated special, she wasn’t thinking of any special recognition for what she was doing or would in the future,” he told RNS.

Some of Kurzweil’s relatives were astonished by the extent of her estate, though they weren’t completely surprised that this independent-minded woman did what she wanted with it.

“She was a jolly person — kind of strong-headed. She had to have things pretty much her way. She didn’t care to hear anything else,” Van de Vyvere said in an interview with RNS.

Indeed, Kurzweil’s surprising bequest revealed not just an unknown fortune but also a remarkable life that is a tale as rich as her financial legacy.

‘All things ended. I suffered greatly’

She was highly educated, earning a Life Teaching Certificate from what is now called the University of Central Missouri, a Bachelor of Science from Avila University and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

According to her obituary — which she wrote herself — Kurzweil attended school in Alaska and Europe, and she spent six weeks working at a leper colony in New Guinea during the summer of 1972. She traveled around the world — went to Europe, Egypt, Australia, and the Holy Land multiple times.

She also worked at Pratt & Whitney — a plant that manufactured plane engines — during World War II.

But her life’s work was education and helping others.

Besides teaching fourth- and fifth-graders for 25 years, she volunteered at a shelter every Saturday for 14 years and for more than a decade helped coordinate classes in an intensive writing therapy program popularized by the late Ira Progoff that aims to help writers get in touch with their true self.

Yet it was Kurzweil’s own inner life, and deep sense of spiritual longing, that animated her — and only emerged in the reams of diaries, poems and other writings discovered after her death.

It is Kurzweil’s poetry in particular that reveals a thoughtful person with a deep spirituality and devotion to God. She was a life member of the International Society of Poets and was elected into the International Poetry Hall of Fame Museum.

In an undated poem titled “My Balcony,” she wrote: Sitting on my balcony, Focusing on the beauty of nature, Realizing all life is sacred, Responding to the call of duty, Knowing my peace is in His Will.

To be sure, her Catholic faith was the golden thread that ran through her life.

She sang in the church choir and, as she noted in her obituary, was a lifelong member of various parish clubs and sodalities even as she later grew fascinated by more esoteric fare like mandalas and the Enneagram. She also became a devotee of Anthony de Mello, an Indian Jesuit and psychotherapist known for his unconventional spiritual writings.

“I have a deep hunger for prayer, and my thinking on the spiritual life has changed drastically,” she wrote in an undated diary entry, according to the article in the Jesuit newsletter.

As a young woman in 1935, she apparently had her heart broken by a fellow teacher.

“It ended. All things ended. I suffered greatly,” she wrote in her journal many years later.

“Then,” she added, “I made my commitment to live for God.”

She seemed to finally fulfill that commitment 13 years later, joining the Sisters of Loretto, a teaching order, in 1948. She took the veil and a religious name, Sister Frances Vincent Kurzweil, and professed first vows two years later.

But in 1954, before taking final vows, she had to leave the order to care for her aging mother, Bertha, who died in 1964. (Her father had died during the war, in 1944.) Kurzweil seemed torn between her loyalty to her mother and her love of religious life, and confessed in her diaries to her deep conflicts, but never shared that inner turmoil.

“It was a very private part of her life,” her niece, Linda Kurzweil of Freeman, Mo., told the Jesuit newsletter. “Maybe she had some regrets” about leaving the convent, she said.

‘When I am dying, how glad I shall be … ‘ The other mystery, of course, is how she managed to save all that money.

Relatives said she did inherit a small nest egg left after the family’s three farms were sold and divvied up among the children. Then, basically, she did it the old-fashioned way: saving and not wasting. “She had good investors. She saved her money — wasn’t a big spender,” said Van de Vyvere.
She left just $5,000 to each of her nieces and nephews, but the Jesuits certainly appreciated her generosity.

“Ms. Kurzweil has exemplified the power of planned giving,” John Fitzpatrick, provincial assistant for advancement of the Society of Jesuits, Central and Southern province, wrote in a statement to RNS. He said her gift was “unrestricted,” which means the Jesuits can “apply this gift where it is most needed.”

When asked about possible reasons why Anna chose the Jesuits to benefit from such a generous gift, Van de Vyvere explained that when his aunt was taking care of her mother, the priests from Rockhurst University came every day give her mother Communion. Kurzweil did sell her house to Rockhurst for a dollar.

“It was a nice surprise that both she had the resources and that she wanted to give it to the Jesuits for their youth and ministry,” said Byrne, her longtime pastor. “She wanted to be a good teacher and do what she could for her students.”

Her legacy will certainly live on, thanks to her bequest — as, perhaps, will curiosity about her own spiritual journey. It was one marked by hidden sadness that many can relate to, but also, it seems, faith in an ultimate happiness for which many also long.

As she wrote in a poem titled “Rabboni,” which Kurzweil had printed on her funeral program: When I am dying, how glad I shall be, That the lamp of my life, has been burned out for Thee! That sorrow has darkened the pathway I trod, That thorns, not roses, were strewn o’er the sod.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Finding the first use of the name Christ in the Book of Mormon

(by Taylor Halverson deseretnews.com 2-8-16)

Some years ago while teaching a Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young University, I discussed with the class titles and names for Jesus Christ used throughout the Book of Mormon. As is well known, the Book of Mormon is saturated with references to Jesus Christ.

We reviewed some of the names for Christ used early in Nephi’s record: Messiah, Holy One of Israel, Lord, God, Lord God Almighty, God of Israel, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, Savior, Redeemer and Son of God. It was clear that many of these titles originated in an Old Testament religious context.

We also discussed the frequency of use of the name Christ, which appears nearly 400 times throughout the Book of Mormon.

As we studied this topic further, I had the following exchange with the students, trying to invite them to read the Book of Mormon more carefully, looking for details, asking questions, and seeking answers:

TH: “Where is the first use of the name Christ in the Book of Mormon?”

After some searching, and especially with the help of electronic devices, the students responded: 2 Nephi 10:3.

TH: “Great find. Now, if Christ is the central figure of the Book of Mormon, why isn’t the name Christ used until 78 pages in to the Book of Mormon? We are nearly 15 percent through the Book of Mormon and this is the first time that the name Christ is used. Why is that?”

The students, practicing careful reading, responded: “Because Jacob explains in 2 Nephi 10:3 ‘for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name.’”

TH: “Excellent. But this raises other questions. Why didn’t Jacob know Christ’s name before that time? For example, why didn’t Lehi or Nephi teach Jacob Christ’s name or title? Why did it take an angel to reveal this to Jacob? Shouldn’t Lehi and Nephi have received that revelation as the prophet-leaders? Shouldn’t they have already known the name of Christ?”

The students were stumped by the questions.

TH: “I’ll provide some context that may help answer these questions. The word Christ is Greek. The same term in Hebrew is Messiah, which Nephi uses on a number of occasions.”

The students began to comprehend: “Oh, Nephi and Jacob didn’t know Greek. They would not have used a Greek word to talk about him when they came from a Hebrew speaking culture. They would have used other names for him from their own language and culture.”

I explained further: Exactly. That is why other phrases, familiar in the Old Testament world, were so often used by Nephi. Nephi didn’t know Christ’s name in Greek. So Nephi used a title from his Hebrew background that referred to Jesus Christ — “Messiah.” It wasn’t until Nephi’s younger brother Jacob received revelation about the name “Christ” that suddenly Old Testament world phrases like “Messiah” fall out of use in the Book of Mormon and “Christ” becomes one of the primary terms used to name him.

In fact, the Hebrew term Messiah is used 28 times by Nephi (not including his quotes of Isaiah) before Jacob’s revelation about the name Christ. But after that Nephi only uses the term Messiah 10 more times. And it is striking to note that Jacob never uses the term Messiah. After the death of Nephi, Messiah is used only three times in the remainder of the Book of Mormon.

Before Jacob’s revelation, Christ is never used in the Book of Mormon. After Jacob’s revelation Christ is used nearly 400 times with the highest percentage going to the writers Jacob, Mormon and Moroni.

We can learn something from Nephi as well. Even though he was the older brother and the prophet-leader, he was willing to learn from his younger brother. Nephi did for Jacob exactly what Nephi’s two oldest brothers never did for him. Nephi listened to Jacob. Nephi encouraged Jacob to receive revelation. He then encouraged Jacob to teach and preach what he shared. Nephi was not bent on total rulership as were Laman and Lemuel. Nephi had the humility to listen and learn from his younger brother Jacob. He did not use his position, his authority, his influence, his experience, or his own access to revelation to be beyond learning truths great or small from those around him.

Finally, the way that Book of Mormon writers use names and titles of God underscores that the Book of Mormon is ancient scripture.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dieter F. Uchtdorf Recounts Childhood Refugee Ordeal

LDS Church donates additional $5 million to refugee crisis; President Uchtdorf shares refugee experience

(by Lindsey Williams deseretnews.com 2-7-16)

In an article released Thursday by Mormon Newsroom, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared experiences from his childhood. As a child, President Uchtdorf was a refugee.

The Uchtdorf family went to East Germany from Czechoslovakia when President Uchtdorf was 4. When he was 11, the family left East Germany and went to West Germany.

“Within those few years, we lost everything twice,” President Uchtdorf said in a video associated with the article.

In the video, President Uchtdorf said that through these experiences, he learned to never label people. President Uchtdorf asked LDS Church members to do the same through a Facebook post.

“We are all children of Heavenly Father and therefore brothers and sisters,” President Uchtdorf wrote. “Let us look for opportunities to help wherever we can. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts; let us notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us; let us be an answer to those prayers; let us be instruments in the hands of the Lord.”

The LDS Church is donating an additional $5 million to help in the European refugee crisis, according to Mormon Newsroom.

“We don’t want to focus all our efforts on one single refugee activity,” President Uchtdorf said in the video. “We want to use our talents which we have as a church to bless the lives of individuals through all phases as a family, as individuals, in seeking to become self-reliant to help them to learn to help themselves.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund, a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also has a connection to the refugee crisis. His father was a European refugee.