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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hyrum Smith is an impressive witness

(by Daniel Peterson 9-29-16)

Joseph Smith’s elder brother Hyrum was clearly well regarded by his Palmyra neighbors — at least until the Smith family’s involvement in the Book of Mormon and related matters put it beyond the pale of respectability.

For instance, they elected him a school trustee in 1828. In this capacity, he and two others administered local educational affairs, managed school funds and hired teachers. At least as early as 1828, he was also a member in good standing of Mount Moriah Masonic Lodge No. 112, signifying that he had been nominated and unanimously approved by prior lodge members as someone whose good character would reflect well upon the organization, according to Richard Lloyd Anderson’s 1981 book “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses.”

A year after his election as school trustee, this respected resident became a witness to the Book of Mormon. Thereafter, his testimony and his loyalty to his younger brother were impressively consistent. For example, perhaps responding to suggestions that the experience of the Eight Witnesses was merely “spiritual” and visionary, Hyrum insisted during an 1838 speech on its literal reality (see “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses”).

“He said that he had but two hands and two eyes,” Sally Parker remembered in a letter written in August 1838 and it included in “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses.”. “He said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands.”

And, in December 1839, Hyrum himself wrote of his sufferings in Missouri, where he had been arrested in the fall of 1838 and then imprisoned in the ironically named Liberty Jail from early December to April: “I had been abused and thrust into a dungeon, and confined for months on account of my faith, and the ‘testimony of Jesus Christ.’ However I thank God that I felt a determination to die rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast. And I can assure my beloved brethren that I was enabled to bear as strong a testimony, when nothing but death presented itself, as ever I did in my life” (see “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses”).

And his private statements to family were consistent, too. For example, Hyrum’s brother-in-law, Joseph Fielding, reported in an 1841 letter, also included in “Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” that “My sister bears testimony that her husband has seen and handled the plates.”

Finally, in June 1844, Hyrum Smith sealed his testimony at Carthage Jail with his blood.

(Significantly, the Greek word “martyr” means “witness.”) On the morning Hyrum left for Carthage, he expected to die. And, with that expectation, he turned for comfort to Ether 12:36-38 in the Book of Mormon, which states:

“And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments are clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I … bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.”

According to those who were in the prison with Joseph and Hyrum just before their martyrdom, “During the evening the Patriarch Hyrum Smith read and commented upon extracts from the Book of Mormon, on the imprisonments and deliverance of the servants of God for the Gospel’s sake. Joseph bore a powerful testimony to the guards of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Gospel, the administration of angels, and that the kingdom of God was again established upon the earth” (see “History of the Church,” vol. 6:600).

On the morning of their murder, June 27, 1844, “Both Joseph and Hyrum bore a faithful testimony to the Latter-day work, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon” (see “History of the Church,” vol. 6:610.)

Before sunset that evening, the mob had done its work. “The testators are now dead,” wrote John Taylor, announcing their martyrdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4-5), “and their testament is in force.”

Given his excellent reputation, his consistency even under great trials, his obvious sincerity and his faithfulness unto death, Hyrum Smith is a very credible witness.


Monday, October 3, 2016

What pioneers wrote of their impressions of the Prophet Joseph Smith

(by Susan Evans McCloud 9-29-16)

Those who were privileged to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith in the flesh were universal in their responses to the experience.

President Lorenzo Snow, who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man in Kirtland, Ohio, was just one witness.

“I heard the Prophet (Joseph Smith) discourse upon the grandest of subjects,” he said, which was recorded in “Remembering Joseph,” by Mark L. McConkie. “At times he was filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking as with the voice of an archangel, and filled with the power of God; his whole person shone and his face was lightened until it appeared as the whiteness of the driven snow.”

George Spilsbury was baptized in England and later became a member of the Nauvoo Legion, seeming to expand on this same theme.

“In his preaching I have heard him (Joseph) quote scriptures in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and German," he said (see "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus). "He was a great man — a statesman philosopher, also a revealer of many things in philosophy and astronomy.”

Bathsheba W. Smith, a convert from West Virginia, married the Prophet’s cousin, George A. Smith, and became the fourth general president of the Relief Society.

She left a lively description of Joseph. “The Prophet was a handsome man — splendid looking, a large man, tall and fair," she wrote (see “They Knew the Prophet,” compiled by Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus). "He had a nice complexion. His eyes were blue, and his hair a golden brown, and very pretty.

“My first impressions were that he was an extraordinary man, a man of great penetration; was different from any other man I ever saw; had the most heavenly countenance; was genial, affable and kind; and looked the soul of honor and integrity.”

Elizabeth B. Pratt crossed the ocean from England as a young girl, arriving in Nauvoo in November 1841.

“When I was first introduced to the Prophet, he held my hand and said, 'God bless you.' There was such an influence with his words I wondered how anyone could doubt his being a prophet,” she wrote in an article in 1890 in “The Young Women’s Journal” that was published in "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

Perhaps Joseph knew this young convert would need that word of blessing, for Elizabeth wrote, “My father only stayed nine weeks in the church. He apostatized and moved away to Warsaw with the family. … I stayed on the ship Zion which has brought me safely thus far on my journey.”

She added, “We would meet to worship on the Sabbath in a large bowery where he (Joseph) sometimes addressed the assembly for two to three hours. The Saints were rapt in profound attention by the words of inspiration that fell from his lips.”

Every time Joseph Smith spoke — to individuals or to the Saints as a whole — he taught something. Every act of his, every word, was a blessing to others — for so hundreds of the people who knew him testified.

“He was visited constantly by angels, he had vision after vision … that he might comprehend the great and holy calling that God had bestowed upon him. In this respect he stands unique. Think of what he passed through! Think of his afflictions, and think of his dauntless character!” said George Q. Cannon, who knew Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and was later first counselor in the First Presidency to President John Taylor, President Wilford Woodruff and President Snow (see "Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith"). “He was filled with integrity to God, with such integrity as was not known among men. He was like an angel of God among them.”

“The Prophet’s voice was like the thunders of heaven, yet his language was meek and his instructions edified much,” wrote Joseph Lee Robinson in “The Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson.” “There was a power and majesty that attended his words that we never beheld in any man before.”

People heard him talk to God in prayer. They received blessings under his hand. They heard him preach and prophesy. They saw him teach, inspire and support women. They saw him play tenderly with their children, they saw him direct and defend their youth; upon many occasions they saw him weep. And with the power of his own humility and goodness, many times the Saints saw the Prophet forgive.

After years of faithful service and the blessings of a personal relationship with the Prophet, Parley P. Pratt fell victim to the raging spirit of apostasy that swept through Kirtland following the dedication of the temple there.

He records in “Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt": “It seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me.”

When Parley criticized the Prophet to John Taylor — whom he had helped teach the gospel — his friend’s reply had the power to awaken his senses. “If the work was true six months ago, it is true today," said President Taylor in “John Taylor,” by Francis M. Gibbon. "If Joseph Smith was then a prophet, he is now a prophet.”

"I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit," Pratt recorded. "He frankly forgave me — prayed for me — and blessed me.”

Gilbert Belnap, a convert from Canada, who later served as a bishop in Utah, wrote this of Joseph Smith: “While I was standing before his penetrating gaze, he seemed to read the very recesses of my heart — I gazed with wonder at his person and listened with delight to the sound of his voice. My very destiny seemed to be interwoven with his” (see “Autobiography of Gilbert Belnap").

Today, as ever, the gospel will go forward. As George Q. Cannon testified: “It is indestructible, for it is the work of God. And knowing that it is the eternal work of God, we know that Joseph Smith, who established it, was a Prophet holy and pure” (see “Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet”).


Monday, September 26, 2016

Remembering and applying 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World'

(by Kristine Frederickson deseretnews 9-18-16)

Over dinner earlier this year, my grandson told his family about the learning activity, or social engineering endeavor, he was participating in during his junior high school social studies class. They were studying families and were assigned various family roles. He was married, and he and his wife were parents to six children. Laughter and good-natured joking ensued.

He went on to mention that one of his friends was assigned the role of lifetime roommate to someone of the same sex. They were in process of purchasing a home, raising children and making a life together. My daughter’s “what?” led my grandson to pull back a bit and she let the subject drop. In a phone call to me, she mulled over how to deal with the situation and best explain to her son Heavenly Father’s eternal doctrine on family life.

She settled on reading and discussing "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" for family home evening. It is timeless, pertinent and historically enlightening.

The proclamation was first shared by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Sept. 23, 1995, at the General Relief Society Meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I recall at the time recognizing its significance: a proclamation to the world, signed by each member of the First Presidency. As such, it held prodigious weight in articulating the Savior and his church’s position on the family. I also recall it raised few eyebrows and generated no firestorms in wider society because, in many respects, it reflected then current American societal beliefs.

It still stands as a sterling example of God’s omniscience and how, through modern-day prophets, seers and revelators, God anticipates and prepares us for the future — in this instance for its confusions and turmoil. Prescient also because, by today’s societal standards — a mere 21 years after its issuance — the proclamation’s teachings are distinctly divergent from prevailing views on family and marriage.

Nevertheless, it is the Lord’s timeless standard and provides stunning insights into the theories, principles and doctrine behind his teachings.

In a world drowning in moral relativism, it is important that individuals both in and outside the LDS Church understand the “reasons why” — the truths upon which the proclamation is founded. The Lord has counseled, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand. …” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:78).

The proclamation (the complete text is online at begins by solemnly declaring, “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and … the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children.” It describes “all human beings — male and female” being created in God’s image, loved by him, and adds this critical truth, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Before we came into this life, while here and after we depart, gender remains a constant.

The proclamation gives meaning, purpose and understanding to life on Earth. We are here to “gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize (our) divine destiny as heirs of eternal life,” it states. Further, “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.”

How exquisite to know that loving, companionate relationships can continue beyond mortality.

We are reminded, “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for his children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Additionally, “We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.”

The Lord also emphasizes the critical role of parents and best practices for happy, successful family life: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other. … Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. … Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of … Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities.”

While espousing gender equality, the proclamation also designates gender specific duties: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

Rather than constraining women or men, the proclamation notes certain innate gendered characteristics within a broad range of personal freedoms consistent with the wise use of individual agency.

Anticipating mankind’s capacity to act inhumanely we are warned “that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

How prophetic in light of the tragedies and horrors we observe as families and communities disintegrate.

The proclamation enjoins “responsible citizens” and government leaders to promote “measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

While the world drifts from its moorings, how grateful we should be for earthly prophets, for the Savior’s ongoing concern and interest in the happiness and welfare of his children, and for the expression of his unconditional love found in his giving us "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."

We would do well to share these great, eternal truths with our families, friends and loved ones for, as Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, explained, the proclamation is a “benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world, and I testify that the principles set forth … are as true today as they were when they were given to us by a prophet of God (over) 20 years ago.” (see “Defenders of the Family Proclamation,” Ensign, May 2015).


Saturday, September 24, 2016

The reason why Mormon mommy bloggers are so successful

(by Herb Scribner 9-23-16)

Mormon mommy blogs have hit the mainstream.
Mormon mothers may be putting together the best blogs out there, according to The Toronto Star. And much of the success of these blogs seems tied to Mormonism’s history of sharing positive family values with readers.

“We don’t drink, we don’t smoke, we don’t swear. Those sort of things make us stand out naturally,” Utah mom Meredith Ethington, who runs the Perfecting Pending blog, told The Toronto Star. "But we also struggle with the same things that other people struggle with. . . I would like people to see that I’m normal and real and not perfect by any means.”

Other Mormon mommy bloggers told the Star that the success of these blogs may be because these blogs are another form of missionary work.

“Mormonism is a missionary religion. Members of the church are encouraged to share their faith with others,” Patrick Mason, a historian, told the Toronto Star. “Blogs have become a really popular way for them to do that, often times in a really low-key way.”

It makes sense that Mormons would embrace the written word in this way, too, since the church has a history with journaling, according to The Star.

Even especially liberal and nonreligious readers embrace these blogs. Emily Matchar of Salon, who claims to be an atheist, said these blogs help her see the positive and uplifting aspects of life.
“To read Mormon lifestyle blogs is to peer into a strange and fascinating world where the most fraught issues of modern living — marriage and child rearing — appear completely unproblematic,” Matchar wrote.

Of course, some of these mommy bloggers don’t use their stories to only promote a positive lifestyle. Many actually use them to spread information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helping people gain a better understanding of the faith.

Shawni Pothier, author of the 71 toes blog, told the Deseret News in 2013 that she often gets questions about her faith, so she answers them on the blog.

“I get a lot of questions from people about my religion, so it was perfect to be able to explain and give them the real deal, the Book of Mormon, to figure it out for themselves,” Pothier said.
But it's not always easy to run a Mormon mommy blog, at least as a full-time job, according to The Atlantic.

These bloggers will often create their blog and receive attention at first, especially from other family members. But eventually, as The Atlantic reported, the attention fades and the struggle to find advertisements to fund the blog rise, putting these mothers at risk of having to shut down their blog.
Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester research, told The Atlantic that bloggers should manage their expectations.

“If you can generate enough content to attract a good enough audience by working all by yourself, and you'll be happy with an income of $50,000 a year, you'll be fine,” Bidel told The Atlantic.

Still, regardless of what topics they share, it seems that the positive light Mormons shine on their lives through their blogs may be the most attractive quality for readers, as The Toronto Star reported.
“I love my family and I love my kids and I love to share the humorous and silly side of that, while still being really positive about being a mom and being a wife,” Jenny Evans, a mom fo six and blogger for Unremarkable Files, told the Star. “Mormon belief is just to look for the positive in things.”