Throughout my many travels 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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

When former Gov. Boggs' group traveled with the ill-fated Donner Party

(by Taylor Halverson 7-21-16)

The Donner Party spent several weeks during the summer of 1846 cutting a wagon road through the Wasatch Mountains down into the Salt Lake Valley. Those precious weeks cost the lives of many Donner Party members months later when they became trapped by early snow in the eastern Sierras.

Those same precious weeks meant that the following year, Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24 instead of in mid-August, which provided the Mormons valuable additional time to plant and harvest crops before the winter of 1847-48 settled in (see "How the Donner Party affected the pioneers' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley," published July 21, 2015, on

A little-known, interesting fact about the Donner Party is that at one point during their journey, they traveled with the same wagon train as former Missouri Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs. He issued the infamous extermination order against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1838 at the height of conflict between Mormons and other Missouri residents.

To be clear, Boggs was not part of the Donner Party; rather, the Donner Party joined Boggs’ California-bound wagon train. Originally, Boggs had sought to be the leader of the wagon train but lost to William H. Russell, according to "Enemy of the Saints: The Biography of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs of Missouri" by Robert Nelson.

The Russell train, as it was originally called, was enormous. The census on May 11, 1846, counted 119 men, 59 women, 110 children, 700 cattle and 150 horses, according to the biography. About a week later, the Russell Party swelled in size by nearly 90 individuals as the Donner Party joined them at Indian Creek, Kansas. A few weeks later, in early June 1846, Russell resigned leadership; Boggs stepped up to fill the role. The California emigrants were now called the Boggs Party.

When they reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming, a division arose, according to the biography. The Donner Party, seeking to minimize travel time to California, wanted to take the untested but shorter Hastings Cutoff over the Great Salt Lake desert.

Boggs and his original group declined, preferring to take the well-known route to California that passed through Idaho, following portions of the Snake River, cutting south into Nevada, turning west toward California near the north end of the Ruby Mountains, following the Humboldt River, and then finding the Truckee River after the Carson Sink, crossing over the Sierras into the fertile lands of California, according to the biography.

Boggs and his caravan made it safely to California. Boggs settled first in Sonoma, California, where he worked as an alcalde, a business owner and the town postmaster, according to the biography. He later retired to Napa, California, where he died and was buried in the Tulocay Cemetery.

I have a somewhat personal connection to Boggs. I was born in Jackson County, Missouri, in 1972. Boggs’ extermination order was still on the books then; technically, it was still legal to kill Mormons in Missouri. The order was rescinded by Missouri Gov. Kit Bond on June 25, 1976 (see


Thursday, July 21, 2016

LDS Church missionaries in Russia now to be known as 'volunteers'

(by Sam Penrod 7-18-16)

A change is coming to the designation for missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are serving in Russia, with elders and sisters serving in the country to be known as volunteers, rather than as missionaries.

The change is in response to a new Russian law aimed at combatting terrorism — but one that also restricts religious organizations in the country.

All Mormon missionaries serve on a volunteer basis, but to comply with the new law set to take effect Wednesday, the LDS Church is making adjustments to what the missionaries assigned to Russia are involved with and known as.

The sweeping new anti-terrorism law also restricts missionary work to faith organizations registered with the government, requiring that all proselytizing must happen within houses of worship.

When the law was enacted earlier this month, the LDS Church responded with a statement that reads in part: "The Church will honor, sustain and obey the law. Missionaries will remain in Russia and will work within the requirements of these changes. The Church will further study and analyze the law and its impact as it goes into effect."

In a recent email message from mission presidents distributed to the relatives of missionaries currently serving in Russia, family members are instructed to refer to their family members in the future — including in social media posts and messages — as volunteers, rather than missionaries who are involved in volunteer service.

The LDS Church has seven missions established in Russia, headquartered in major cities throughout the country.

The new law impacts all religious organizations in Russia, and other faiths have expressed concerns the law is vague, leaving a lot of questions about how it will be applied.

In the 25 years since the LDS Church was first established in Russia, missionary efforts have helped the faith grow to more than 22,000 members who participate in 100 congregations throughout the country.