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 abide by his teachings and those of his apostles.

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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Author explores the roles and purposes of angels

(by Trent Toone deseretnews.com 7-28-13)

Angels exist and they are anxiously engaged in blessing lives.

That's one of several messages shared in Donald W. Parry's new book, "Angels: Agents of Light, Love and Power."

"It is my testimony that angels do exist," the author wrote in the book's introduction. "I testify also that the sacred work of angels continues in our own time. I am convinced that angels are at work among us now."

Parry is a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brigham Young University. He has served as a member of the international team of translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls for almost 20 years. Parry is also the author or co-author of more than 30 books and numerous articles on the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In "Angels," Parry asserts that angels have always been a fascinating topic for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He writes that LDS Church founder Joseph Smith received dozens of communications from angels. During the decades since 1971, general conference speakers have referred to angels or cited scriptures about angels more than 1,400 times. LDS Church leaders have also referred to angels in various official publications.

"One of the things that will become more important in our lives the longer we live is the reality of angels, their work and their ministry," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said in Ensign article in 1996. "I refer here not alone to the angel Moroni but also to those more personal ministering angels who are with us and around us, empowered to help us and who do exactly that."
In his book, Parry cautiously uses reliable Mormon sources to address these questions:
  • What are angels?
  • What powers and abilities are angels given?
  • How do angels communicate with mortals?
  • What are the assigned missions and roles of angels?
  • How do angels reveal truth and teach the doctrines of the gospel?
  • How do angels minister to and comfort mortals?
  • What is the role of guardian angels in the modern world?
"Angels move about the earth conducting the Lord's divine work. They serve, minister and mingle among us, usually without our awareness," Parry writes. "Most of us in mortality will never see an angel, but each of us nevertheless enjoys the blessings of the restored gospel because of the divinely directed actions of angels."

--------------------

   http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865583687/Whats-new-Author-explores-the-roles-and-purposes-of-angels.html

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mormons navigate faith and doubt in the digital age

(by Joseph Walker deseretnews.com 7-26-13)

Two upcoming conferences will explore the uneasy intersection of faith and doubt being carefully traversed by some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) will open Aug. 1 with a presentation by Michael R. Ash on the recently released second edition of his book, "Shaken Faith Syndrome," and will conclude with a panel discussion on "The Loss and Rekindling of Faith." The 2013 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium begins July 31 and will feature sessions exploring such topics as "Faithful Disagreement: A Model for the Saints."

Many Latter-day Saints, however are finding answers that confirm and renew their faith, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life for its landmark "Mormons in America" study last year. A significant majority — 77 percent — of those who identify themselves as members of the LDS Church "believe wholeheartedly in all the teachings of the church." That number is higher among respondents who have attended college (81 percent), and even higher (85 percent) among those who are college graduates.

Some Latter-day Saints, however — 22 percent in the survey — find that "some teachings of the LDS Church are hard for me to believe." That number declines as individual educational level increases. Only 14 percent of LDS college graduates in the survey expressed such doubts. But anecdotal evidence suggests that other Latter-day Saints have been frustrated because the information and materials they are finding during Internet searches may not square with the things they have learned.

For example, a recent New York Times story focused on Hans H. Mattson, a third-generation Mormon and former bishop, stake president and Area Authority Seventy from Sweden who has been speaking openly, to the Times and elsewhere, about his doubts.

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” Mattsson told the Times. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to teach and witness just crumbled under my feet.”

Ash, the scholar and author affiliated with FAIR, told the Deseret News he believes "we are seeing a growing problem" in the LDS Church — a problem that has to do with the ready availability of vast resources of information of both the faithful and doubtful varieties.

Speaking in last April’s general conference of the LDS Church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cautioned members not to “hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood and resolved.”

“They do and they will,” Elder Holland said. “In this church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.”

Doubt is not sin

“Doubt is not sin,” said Dr. Terryl Givens, the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at the University of Richmond, the noted author of a number of books on philosophy and theology and a practicing Latter-day Saint. “Doubt can be the beginning of deeper understanding, as it was for Mormonism’s founder. Mormonism claims the possibility of religious certainty, but its scripture also calls simple belief a spiritual gift.”

Dr. Richard L. Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University and Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, said he doesn’t think “you could prove there is more disaffection from Mormonism now than before.”

“People have always found something to object to,” said Bushman, who has served as bishop, stake president and stake patriarch in the church. “Throughout our history, defections have occurred among high church leaders and ordinary members. The difference lies in the issues that disturb them now.

Since the rise of the Internet, more people have come across unsettling historical facts. Earlier it might have been plural marriage or blacks and the priesthood. There has always been something.”
Ash expressed sympathy and concern for those who struggle with faith and doubt.

“The pain that comes when one feels they have been betrayed or lied to … can be agonizing,” he said. But, he added, it is especially sad because most of the issues with which people struggle "have all been addressed by able scholars for many years.”

Ash's claim that LDS Church leaders are "aware of this problem and are endeavoring to illuminate such issues before they become stumbling blocks" is illustrated by the LDS Church’s ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project; the book, "Massacre at Mountain Meadows," written by LDS Church historians Richard E. Turley, Ronald W. Walker and Glen M. Leonard; and the recent update of LDS scripture references and study aids.

Givens referred to a need for openness in an emailed response to questions from the Deseret News.

“Most of the impetus for disaffection does not come from new information per se,” he wrote. “It comes from feelings of betrayal when church curricular materials are found to have presented an incomplete account of the Mormon past.”

Ash said he understands that the church’s curriculum “is set up to draw us closer to Christ” and not to “dwell on the historical details,” but he also understands how some members can be drawn into doubt.

“Someone is working on a lesson or a talk for church, and in his or her research they stumble on some information that upsets them,” he said. “They look into it more and find a whole bunch of anti-Mormon stuff, and suddenly finding the real answers doesn’t matter anymore. Their feelings are hurt. They feel their church has lied to them. They begin doubting everything.”

Givens suggested that “members also could do more to avail themselves of reliable resources that are readily available, such as the Joseph Smith Papers, and histories and biographies by respected academic presses.”

“Sunday School class was never designed to provide a full account of church history, in this or any other denomination of which I am aware,” Givens continued. “Mormon culture also compounds problems by constructing dangerous expectations of prophetic infallibility. Faith must ultimately be about the content of divine revelation, not the means or human instruments by which it is revealed.”
Bushman agrees that providing church members with the best and most recent historical research is one way disaffection can be curtailed.

“It is true that more information has been the cause of the current controversies, but more information is also the answer,” Bushman said. “We need to know everything we can about disturbing events and then to put them in a broader perspective. Usually people can see that there is more than one way of understanding what occurred.”

Bushman, author of the acclaimed biography of Joseph Smith, “Rough Stone Rolling,” thinks that is especially true in talking about the LDS Church’s founding prophet.

“I think we should tell the whole story about Joseph Smith,” he said. “We don’t want people stumbling on to facts on the Internet that shock them. Their testimonies will never be secure if they have to be shielded from aspects of Joseph’s life.

“Whether or not Joseph Smith was seriously flawed is a matter of personal judgment,” Bushman continued. “He certainly insisted that he was subject to human error, and we should not hold him to a higher standard than he held himself. That is just asking for trouble.”

Faith that absorbs doubt

Some have asked for that trouble — and found it. During the 2012 Sunstone Symposium, Don Bradley, an editor and researcher specializing in Mormonism and author of the soon-to-be-published "The Lost 116 Pages: Rediscovering the Book of Lehi," described his journey out of and back into the LDS Church. He described a time in his life during which he came to rely more on intellectual processes than spiritual processes while studying the early history of the church and especially the life and teachings of Joseph Smith.

“Spiritual inquiry wasn’t an objective discipline,” Bradley said. “There were too many unpredictable variables — like God — that couldn’t be worked into a systematic methodology. But intellectual inquiry could always be worked into a systematic method. It was therefore easier to trust and rely upon the intellectual than the spiritual.”

And so, like Sampson pushing on the pillars to bring a building crashing down, Bradley said that historical evidence became the pillars of his faith, and by pushing on those pillars “I brought down my faith on myself.”

After leaving the church he explored a number of different faith possibilities but could never find peace and fulfillment in any of them. When his beloved brother died a few years ago, he said he “reopened the question of whether God revealed theological truth.”

Eventually his pursuit led him back to the LDS Church. He took all of the historical evidence that he had allowed to damage his testimony and re-examined it through the eye of faith and gained “new insights” — and new faith. He has since been re-baptized as a Latter-day Saint.

“It would be wrong to think that I am unaware of the weaknesses of the Mormon subculture,” he said. “But I pay no mind to them because they are not the basis of my faith. I came back focused on everything that is ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,’ and determined to nourish the wheat until it choked the tares.”

Today he is continuing his research into Mormonism’s past, but he finds that “digging into Mormon history is ultimately favorable to faith.”

“The central claim of Mormonism is not that God spoke to a fallible human being in 1820,” Bradley said. “The central claim is that God can and will talk to fallible human beings today. When we reach out to him, we will find his hand reaching out toward us, waiting.”

And that, according to Givens, is the kind of faith that can absorb doubt — and be enhanced by it.
“Faith can’t operate in a vacuum, which is presumably why LDS scripture (instructs) the addition of study and use of ‘the best books’ to build faith,” he said. “If God is a being of light and intelligence, then belief in Him and His workings must be reasonable. At the same time, there is good reason to doubt the human capacity to fully grasp the Divine rationally, to understand history completely, or to always intuit human motives accurately. Faith must always have a role to play in human relations with the Divine, and with whatever institution we take to be His church.”

And patience with each other, Elder Holland said, should always come into play with regards to faith and doubt among members of the church.

“Be kind regarding human frailty — your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a church led by volunteer, mortal men and women,” Elder Holland said last April. “Except in the case of his only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to him, but he deals with it. So should we.”

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) conference, which runs Aug. 1-2 at the Utah Valley Convention Center, is intended to provide "information and answers needed to faithfully deal with criticisms leveled against the church and gospel," according to FAIR's website.
The purposes of the Sunstone Symposium, which runs July 31-Aug. 3 at the University of Utah, include "gain(ing) insights that can come only from rigorous examination of Mormon doctrine and culture from insider and outsider perspectives," according to the symposium's schedule.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865583665/Simple-faith-in-a-digital-age.html?pg=1



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pew survey: 3 out of 4 American Mormons live in West

(deseretnews.com 7-24-13)

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. Mormons live in the West, and four in 10 live in Utah, new figures from the Pew Research Center show.

Surveys done over the last two years found that 74 percent of Mormons live in Western U.S. states even though just less than one-fourth of the total U.S. population lives in the West.

Just less than 40 percent of U.S. Mormons live in Utah, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its worldwide headquarters, the Pew Research Center survey found. Utah is home to just 1 percent of the U.S. population.

Mormon church headquarters are in Salt Lake City, where Mormon pioneers trekked to from across the country in 1847 as they fled from persecution in Illinois and elsewhere. Wednesday is a state holiday in Utah, called Pioneer Day, celebrating that historic journey.

LDS officials say there are 6.3 million church members in the U.S, less than half of the 14.7 million members worldwide.

Pew Research Center says about 2 percent of Americans self-identify as Mormons.

A previous poll done by the organization found that the perception of Mormons in the U.S. changed very little from 2011 to 2012 even though the religion received unprecedented attention with Republican Mitt Romney running for president last year.

The poll of 1,500 people done in December found that 8 in 10 people said they learned little or nothing about Mormon church during the 2012 presidential election. And fewer than half of Americans still don't know key facts about the history of the Mormon church.

There does, however, appear to be a warming in feelings toward members of the church, with the previous survey discovering that nearly a quarter of Americans now use positive terms to describe Mormons as "good people," ''dedicated" and "hardworking," whereas last year it was 18 percent.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765634599/Survey-3-out-of-4-American-Mormons-live-in-West.html

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mary Whitmer, 12th witness to the Book of Mormon


(A first edition of the Book of Mormon at Brent F. Ashworth's bookstore in Provo Friday, January 9, 2009. Photo by Jason Olson)

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 7-18-13)

Most Latter-day Saints are aware of the testimonies of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. But these 11 men, impressive as they are, were not the only people besides Joseph Smith who had direct encounters with the gold plates. David Whitmer, for example, one of the Three Witnesses, related that his mother, Mary Musselman Whitmer, also saw the plates, quite independently of anybody else and under the most matter-of-fact circumstances.

It was through David, the fourth of nine children, that the entire family of Peter Whitmer Sr. had become acquainted with Joseph Smith in 1828. Eventually, a substantial part of the translation of the Book of Mormon occurred at the Peter Whitmer farm near Fayette, N.Y. (Later, on April 6, 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be officially organized there.) During that period, the place was a hive of activity; Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, and Oliver Cowdery were boarding with the Whitmers, and other people (including curiosity-seekers) were constantly coming and going. Much of the burden of coping with them fell upon Peter’s wife, Mary.

“My father and mother had a large family of their own,” David later explained. “The addition to it therefore of Joseph, his wife, Emma, and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. And although she had never complained, she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so.”

One day, though, probably in June 1829, when she was going out to milk the cows in the family barn — where, David happened to know, the plates were concealed at the time — she met an “old man,” as she described him, who said to her, in David’s account of the story, “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil; it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.”

“Thereupon,” David said, “he showed her the plates.” And this unexpected encounter “completely removed” her feeling of being overwhelmed, said her son, “and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.”

Afterwards, Mary was able to describe the plates in detail. John C. Whitmer, her grandson, reported that he himself had heard his grandmother tell of this event several times. He summarized her experience as follows:

“She met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house (that is, the translation of the Book of Mormon), she was filled with unexpressible (sic) joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.”

Five of Mary Whitmer’s sons became official witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery, one of the Three Witnesses and the principal scribe during its dictation, baptized her into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seneca Lake on April 18, 1830, when the church was less than two weeks old, and he married her daughter, Elizabeth Ann, in December 1832. The Whitmers gathered to Missouri with the Latter-day Saints, and there Mary died at 78 years of age in 1856, still a faithful believer in the divine origin of the gold plates and the book that had been translated from them.

According to Jesus, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16). Plainly, the Lord still follows this pattern, and Mary Whitmer can justly be counted the 12th witness to the Book of Mormon.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865583267/Mary-Whitmer-12th-witness-to-the-Book-of-Mormon.html

Saturday, July 13, 2013

1820 - Joseph Smith's First Vision

Introduction

"Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." President Hinkley, General Conference, October 2002.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/10/the-marvelous-foundation-of-our-faith?lang=eng


(Path leading to the Sacred Grove in Palmyra New York. (photo from northtemple.com))

I've been thinking a lot about Joseph Smith's First Vision lately, mostly because of my own thoughts on what a testimony of the Church should consist of. This was all brought on by a questioned posed to me by my Bishop more than a year ago(more on that in the Conclusion post I will write shortly) while in an interview shortly before we blessed our newborn son.

Up until that time I hadn't thought too much about the First Vision. Then one day, I can't remember if I was listening to something on the radio or reading something on the internet but the First Vision was thrust into the forefront of my mind when I learned of the "other" versions of the First Vision.

There were other versions of the First Vision?! I had no idea.

Now you have to keep in mind I've never really been interested much in Church history, the 1800's have never really held much intrigue for me be it Church history or any other history for that matter. Well, maybe except for Wyatt Earp, but the time period has always seemed to be one of depression and hardship as shown in photos of the era with the faces of it's people solemn and harsh. Rarely if ever do you see someone smiling in photos from that time. So it isn't much of a surprise that anything outside the normal Church history we all know would slip by me unnoticed.

But when I heard there were more versions of the First Vision I was excited. For something so important to the validity of all we believe I thought the more accounts of the Vision the better. I was even more excited when I heard that Joseph Smith had mentioned angels in the visions as well.

Angels?! Cool.

Then of course everything had to be ruined by the haters. According to them if all the different versions don't match exactly then of course they all have to be made up and false. Haters gonna hate I guess. Never mind that the different tellings of the Vision took place over a twelve year period during which Joseph Smith changed from a vibrant young man to beaten down man old beyond his years.

Plus these were the days when writing took place by candlelight and with a feather and ink. Not the current digital day of copy and paste on our smart phones and tablets.

So I decided to check things out and read these different versions for myself. But then I faced another hurdle, where are these different versions?!

It turned out harder to find these different accounts than I had thought, in this digital age we expect everything to just come up with a simple Google search. But after some searching around I did finally find them however it was a little disheartening once I realized the website that had done the best job at organizing the accounts was a somewhat anti-Mormon site!

So my goal here is to first provide the different versions on a Church friendly website, no need to go to any of those negative sites.

Second goal is to give all 5 accounts written by Joseph Smith himself in order. (There are a couple more accounts out there but they were not written by Joseph Smith, they were second hand accounts by family members or associates. So those I decided not to include, I wanted only from the Prophet himself. Also, one or two of the accounts Joseph wrote go into the visitation of the angel Moroni and into the story of the Book of Mormon. I have taken those passages out since I wanted just the information on the First Vision only.)

My conclusion on the different accounts will follow in the "conclusion" post I will write shortly.

So I hope you enjoy, read them with zeal as I have.

1832

Earliest known attempt of an official recounting of the First Vision, from History, 1832, Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pages 2 - 3

Also in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, by Dean Jessee, pages 5 - 6


… thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind the contentions and divisions the wickecness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become exceedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ …

marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said the fool saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord (in the 16th year of my age) a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life behold the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not my commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to their ungodliness and to bring to pass that which (hath) been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles behold and lo I come quickly as it is written of me in the cloud (clothed) in the glory of my Father and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart  …

1835

An account given by Joseph Smith to Joshua, a Jewish Minister which was written in Joseph Smith's diary on Nov. 9th, 1835.

Also found in Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, by Dean C. Jessee, pages 75 - 77.



“being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowed down before the Lord … I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray … I called on the Lord in mightly prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision, I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication;”

--------------------

Account given by Joseph Smith to Erastus Holmes on November 14, 1835.

Originally published in the Deseret News on Saturday May 29, 1852.

Also published in the History of the Church, vol.2, page 312.

“This afternoon, Erastus Holmes, of Newbury, Ohio, called on me to inquire about the establishment of the church, and to be instructed in doctrine more perfectly. I gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from six years old up to the time I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old; also the revelations that I received afterwards concerning the Book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church up to this date.”

1838

This account became the official version, now part of the Pearl of Great Price,
Joseph Smith History, 1:7 - 20


I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father's family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to "ask of God," concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being÷just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other — This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)÷and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, "Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off." I then said to my mother, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true." It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

1844

Account in An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, edited by Daniel Rupp. Joseph Smith wrote the chapter on Mormonism.

Joseph Smith, Latter Day Saints, pages 404-405


“When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state; and upon inquiring the place of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one place, and another to another; each one pointing to his particular creed as the "summum bonum" of perfection. Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church, it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed. Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James, "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him."

I retired to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enrapt in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light, which eclipsed the sun at noonday. They told me that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and Kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to "go not after them," at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me."
Conclusion


artwork by J Kirk Richards

 
Instead of me stumbling over my words and doing a horrible job at trying to express my thoughts and feeling about the First Vision, I think it better if I post this link to a podcast from the Fair Mormon website of an interview done with Steven Harper, author of "Joseph Smith's First Vision - a guide to the historical accounts".
 


Friday, July 12, 2013

Yet another beautiful SLC temple photo


(photo/kamillefrye.tumblr)

Annual FAIR conference set for Aug. 1-2

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 7-11-13)

The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) was formed in late 1997 by a group of Latter-day Saints who frequented the America Online Mormonism message boards, where they found themselves defending the church against sometimes very fierce detractors. (The Greek word “apologia” simply means “defense.”)

This small group of besieged Mormons realized that they had no easy way of sharing helpful information with each other, much less with the rest of the church, to deal with criticisms and attacks.

Out of this realization, and out of a desire for mutual support, FAIR was born. Incorporated as a nonprofit foundation on Dec. 19, 1997, the newborn organization launched its first website in March 1998.

It has now become the principal organization for the defense of the claims of the Restoration. But it’s also entirely independent. It’s a volunteer operation, functioning on the basis of a remarkably small budget, almost entirely dependent upon private individual donations.

Many of those donations have come from its unpaid volunteers themselves — yet FAIR has been so effective that, amusingly, some exasperated critics of the church still insist that it simply must be luxuriating in large quantities of surreptitiously supplied tithing cash. (To be perfectly, unmistakably clear: It isn’t. FAIR receives no financial support whatever from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s simply a group of believing members who saw a job to be done and who organized themselves to do it.)

This year, FAIR’s 15th annual conference will be held Thursday and Friday, Aug. 1-2, at a new location, the Utah Valley Convention Center at 220 W. Center St. in Provo. All are welcome.

The program plans a range of discussions to interest a variety of people, whether scholars, apologists or neither. It will include humorist Robert Kirby on “Why It’s Important to Laugh at Ourselves,” Seth Payne on “Why Mormonism Matters: Pastoral Apologetics and the LDS Doubter,” Rosalynde Welch on “Disenchanted Mormonism” and Michael Ash on “Shaken Faith Syndrome.”

Ron Barney, longtime member of the LDS Church History Department in Salt Lake City, will address “Joseph Smith’s Visions,” and Don Bradley will speak to the topic of “The Original Context of the First Vision Narrative: 1820s or 1830s.”

One panel (made up of Kris Frederickson, Valerie Hudson, Neylan McBain and Wendy Ulrich) will be devoted to the topic “Charity Never Faileth: Healing the Distrust among LDS Women with Different Perspectives on Feminism,” while another (featuring Cody Anderson, Mike Ash, Don Bradley, Janet Eyring and Bill Reel) will grapple with “The Loss and Rekindling of Faith.”

BYU’s Ralph Hancock will reflect on “Mormonism and the New Liberalism: The Inescapability of Political Apologetics.” Morris Thurston and Lynne Wilson will examine Latter-day Saint historical issues, with presentations on, respectively, “Kidnapping at Palestine Grove: Missouri’s Final Attempt to Extradite Joseph Smith,” and “Was Joseph Smith a Product of the Second Great Awakening?”

Mark Wright will dip into potentially controversial waters with “Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography.” And, as he has done for many years now, Daniel Peterson will be deployed as the concluding speaker in order to transform audience sorrow at the winding down of a wonderful conference into sheer joy at their escape. His topic will be “Toward a More Effective Apologetics.”

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865582923/Annual-FAIR-conference-set-for-Aug-1-2.html?pg=1

'Book of Mormon' soundtrack, Hill Cumorah Pageant lead to conversion

(by Emmilie Buchanan deseretnews.com 7-10-13)

Casey Reichhart was listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” when there was an unexpected knock at her door.

It was the missionaries.

Flustered, she let them in.

“I remember melting against my front door,” Reichhart, then 16 and a native of upstate New York, said. “I had seen videos of Mormon missionaries and now here were two actual ones at my door.”

The missionaries introduced themselves and gave Reichhart a copy of the Book of Mormon.

But she already had one.

Reichhart’s journey started long before the knock on her front door.

In 2010, during her sophomore year of high school, after what Reichhart describes as a series of events, she found herself harboring great feelings of animosity toward organized religion.

“It wasn’t just Christianity,” she said. “It was any church. My mind was so angry that it twisted things, blaming all the problems of the world on religion.”

By the end of her sophomore year, Reichhart had become withdrawn and distant from her friends.
“I didn’t feel happy anymore and my friends didn’t want to be around me,” Reichhart said.

This “pit,” as she described it, left her in a place devoid of joy and laughter.

On June 10, 2011, something struck a chord.

That something was a performance of the song “I Believe” from “The Book of Mormon” during a broadcast of the Tony Awards.

Reichhart said that while the song lists many beliefs held by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the beliefs are presented in a twisted, incorrect way.

“I was laughing my head off because who would believe in something so ridiculous as this?”

That night, Reichhart, who is an avid music fan, bought the whole soundtrack to the often profane and irreverent musical and started listening to it every day.

But one lyric that made reference to Rochester, N.Y., stuck out for Reichhart.

Rochester is about 30 miles southeast of Reichhart’s hometown of Hamlin, N.Y.

Curious, Reichhart asked her mother if she knew anything about the formation of the Mormon religion. Her mother, Laura Heidrich, who was raised in upstate New York, had a small knowledge of the church and knew that it was started in Palmyra.

“Do you want to see what real Mormons believe in?” Heidrich asked her daughter.

Reichhart agreed, and Heidrich suggested a visit to the Hill Cumorah Pageant that summer. She also arranged for the two to visit other church historical sites, including the Sacred Grove.

While visiting Joseph Smith’s frame home historical site, Reichhart and her mother met two sister missionaries and filled out a card for a free copy of the Book of Mormon.

“The sisters told me that representatives would come. I thought that meant members would come drop it off in the mailbox,” Reichhart said.

That night, mother and daughter attended the pageant. And while Reichhart said she enjoyed it, she admitted there were times when she didn’t understand what was going on.

“Is this in the Bible?” Reichhart asked.

“I don’t think so,” her mother responded.

The Hill Cumorah Pageant takes passages from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, with one of the culminating scenes being when Christ visits the people on the American continent, an event recorded in the Book of Mormon.

“The biggest impression I had gotten that day was that this was the first time in a really long time I remember truly feeling happy,” Reichhart said.

As they were leaving, Heidrich picked up a copy of the Book of Mormon for her daughter at a booth.
A few days later, on July 23, 2011, came the knock at the door.

As Reichhart talked with the missionaries, she couldn’t deny that there was something special about them.

They asked if they could come back.

That’s where it got tricky, though.

“My mom is not a big socializer. If I wanted to have someone over, she would freak out,” Reichhart said. “My brain said you should say ‘no’ but my heart was telling me, ‘say yes.’ ”

Reichhart invited them back, and to her surprise, her mother wasn’t upset.

As would come to be the tradition, Reichhart was ready with a list of questions when the missionaries returned. During the next few months, they met weekly.

During one of their first lessons, they invited her to pray.

Reichhart told them she would. Terrified that her mother would find her praying, Reichhart locked herself in her bathroom and kneeled down by the tub.

“I was there a long time and remember crying through most of it,” she said.

Reichhart asked for two things: financial stability for her and her mother, a single parent, and a sign to know that God was really listening to her.

A couple days later, her grandfather unexpectedly took Reichhart and her mother to a car dealership and bought Reichhart a car.

“When we drove into the dealership, I looked up into the air and said, ‘I get it. I know you’re there.’ It was one of the best feelings in the world.”

As Reichhart continued to meet with the missionaries, her faith grew, as did her desire to be baptized.
Because Reichhart is a minor, the only thing that stood in her way was the consent of her mother.

The pair had fought for weeks about it, and Heidrich showed no sign of consenting.

During a lesson at the beginning of October, the missionaries looked at each other, then looked at Reichhart.

“We have a question for you,” one of them asked.

Suddenly, what Reichhart described as an intensity filled the room and she knew something was coming.

“Will you prepare to be baptized by a worthy priesthood holder on Oct. 29?” the missionary asked.
For Reichhart, time seemed to stop.

“It was like someone threw a baseball into my chest,” she said. “I was sitting there with my mouth agape. They stopped and asked me if I was OK. All I could do was nod my head. That’s the most powerful feeling I have ever gotten.”

As Reichhart remained speechless, the missionaries asked to speak with Reichhart’s mother.

After her initial protest at giving her consent, Heidrich agreed to think about it.

The missionaries returned the next week. This time, it was Heidrich who was waitin with a list of questions — a list of concerns she had about her daughter joining the LDS Church.

The missionaries answered her questions, her main concern being about not witnessing her daughter’s temple marriage, as only worthy members of the LDS Church are allowed inside.

When they assured her that her daughter could have an additional ceremony outside of the temple, Heidrich looked to Reichhart.

“Well OK. You’re good to go,” Heidrich said.

Reichhart was baptized a week and a half later on Oct. 29, 2011.

Since her baptism, Reichhart’s friends tell her that she has a special glow about her. “If I hadn’t joined this church, I can’t even think about where I would be right now. I was going down a slippery slope to nowhere. It saved my life.”

Reichhart was accepted to Brigham Young University and is headed west this fall to continue her studies.

Since her baptism, many of her friends have seen “The Book of Mormon.”

But not Reichhart.

Though it was the springboard to her testimony, now it hurts her to know that people find humor in the mockery of her faith.

But Reichhart said that thanks to a reminder from the missionaries who knocked on her door, the same thing that happened to her could happen to anyone else. All they have to do is believe, she added.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865582861/Book-of-Mormon-soundtrack-Hill-Cumorah-Pageant-lead-to-conversion.html?pg=1

Monday, July 8, 2013

Building the City of God

Chapter 1 - Mormonism and the American Dream

page 2-3

The visions leading Joseph Smith to found a new religion were a consequence of the young man's concern over religious pluralism in the upstate New York community where he spent his youth. In every surviving written account of the circumstances leading to his calling as prophet, he emphasized the anxiety caused him by the spectacle of competing religions, an anxiety no doubt exacerbated by division within his own family on religious questions. The central messages he took from his first and subsequent visions were that all churches were in error and that if he prepared himself, God would make him an instrument in restoring the one true church. A major aspect of his subsequent life's work was the effort to organize and unify for himself and his followers a structured haven in a society that seemed about to disintegrate from the excesses of individualism and pluralism. "Behold, mine house is a house of order, ... and not of confusion," God declared to Joseph Smith in an important revelation recorded in 1843 [D&C 132, 8]. The statement became one of the most oft-quoted maxims of church organization and government among Mormons.

The Law of Consecration and Stewardship, which Joseph Smith announced in February 1831, know variously as "the Lord's law," the "Order of Enoch," the "First United Order," or the "Order of Stewardship," was intended to be a major instrument in reorganizing the social and economic patterns of life among his followers. Moreover, it was to provide the model upon which all human society would be organized when the Savior returned to the latter-day Zion in Missouri. It would build unity among a people fragmented by their individualistic search for economic well-being. It would impose order upon the chaos of a society suffering from an excess of liberty. An ideal community of the Saints would be prepared to administer Christ's millennial reign - a people divested of selfishness and greed, living in square-surveyed towns, and villages, surrounded by productive farmlands. Order, unity, and community were the supreme values of the Prophet's ideal society - values strikingly at odds with those characteristic of antebellum America.

page 10

Nevertheless, the attempted establishment of ideal communities was an experience long reminding faithful Mormons of a promise unfulfilled that they might be called upon at any moment to bring to fruition. A frequently used measure against which Mormons still test their faith is to ask themselves rhetorically if they could live the United Order if called upon to do so.

pages 10-11

Quite simply, nineteenth-century Mormons believed that God's commands to all the modern world were channeled through the mouths of Joseph Smith and his successors. To cut oneself off from that source of divine guidance was to jeopardize a chance for eternal exaltation. Were it not for that belief, the Mormons would almost certainly have failed to sustain themselves through the trials that forced upon them the necessity and ultimately the habit of cooperation. Neither institutions nor sermons alone, but a common experience endured because of faith, established the cooperative spirit for which Latter-day Saints are known.

page 12

In many respects the United Order experiment in Brigham Young's Utah may be seen as an afterclap of the social idealism of Joseph Smith. The Prophet's experiments took place during the heyday of communal experimentation in America. Though singularly far-reaching in design, they fit appropriately into a society where social ferment was proliferating communes in unprecedented numbers. Brigham Young's reprise of Mormon communitarianism was by contrast out of time and place-an unusual manifestation of anticapitalist economic idealism at a time when Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockerfeller were becoming national heroes. A federal government that earlier, in the name of states' rights, had stood by while local officials destroyed  Mormon experimentation now aggressively pursued the same end in its own drive to stamp out Utah's "un-American" culture and economic values. The hundred-year period from the Civil War to the Vietnamese War was not an auspicious time for the launching of communal experiments in America.

pages 13-14

Nevertheless, a corollary of his observations, as he pointed out [economist Richard T. Ely in 1903], is that Mormonism has been remarkably successful in teaching individuals to sacrifice their own interests for those of the group.

A powerful demonstration of Mormon selflessness occurred in the early summer of 1976 when the Teton Dam in the Snake River Valley of southeastern Idaho burst, flooding the communities and farms of approximately 40,000 persons, over 90 percent of the Latter-day Saints. Less than three hours after reports from the flood area reached Salt Lake City, trucks were dispatched from Welfare Square to supplement supplies of commodities already available in nearby bishops' storehouses.

The Church organizational structure was employed in subsequent weeks to account for missing persons, to provide temporary food and housing for more than 15,000 homeless, and, after the waters receded, to clean and repair hundreds of damaged homes. Well into the summer of 1976, crews of Latter-day Saint volunteers from areas in other parts of Idaho and in Utah were bussed regularly to assist in the massive reconstruction effort. For several weeks an average of 2,000 volunteers rode daily from Cache Valley, Utah-Idaho (200 miles away); Star Valley, Wyoming; Davis County, Utah, and elsewhere to help in the cleaning and rebuilding process. Church leaders from the flooded areas, requesting electricians, were supplied with more than 400 trained men [one of them being my paternal Grandfather] in one week, including 263 of them from the Kaysville Utah Stake, 300 miles away.

It seems likely that when the story of this disaster is fully told, the combination of Mormon priesthood structure and the instinct for cooperative endeavor among the members will be seen as the most powerful agent combatting the effects of the Teton flood. The group character displayed during the aftermath of this disaster would be essential to the successful functioning of a society that seriously attempted to distribute goods and services according to need and exact contributions according to ability. It may be that in the degree of their social achievement as well as in the scope of their design, the Mormons remain the most accomplished of all the communitarians America has produced.

Chapter 2 - Communitarianism under Joseph Smith:
 
The Law of Consecration and Stewardship

page 15

The beginning of Mormon communitarianism, the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, was first outlined in a revelation to Joseph Smith dated February 9, 1831. Briefly, the law was a prescription for transforming the highly individualistic economic order of Jacksonian America into a system characterized by economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency. Upon the basic principle that the earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord, every person who was a member of the church at the time the system was introduced or became a member thereafter was asked to "consecrate" or deed all his property, both real and personal, to the bishop of the church. The bishop would then grant and "inheritance" or "stewardship" to every family out of the properties so received, the amount depending on the wants and needs of the family, as determined jointly by the bishop and the prospective steward. The stewardship might be a farm, building lot, store, workshop, or mill. It was expected that in some cases the consecrations would considerably exceed the stewardships. Out of the surplus thus made possible the bishop would grant stewardships to the poorer and younger members of the church who had no property to consecrate.

page 17

John Corrill, an apostate Mormon bishop, in one of the first published histories of the Latter-day Saints, emphasized the role of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship as follows:

It is believed by them [the Latter-day Saints] that the Church ought to act in concert, and feel one general interest in building up the "great cause"; and that every man ought to consider his property as consecrated to the Lord for that purpose...

page 22

Perhaps some of the immigrants, filled with the millenarian spirit of the times, did not understand the necessity of laboring to build up Zion. Officials found it necessary to caution prospective immigrants not to give away their property before leaving for Zion. Despite these hindrances, however, some participants later wrote of the Jackson County experiment with pronounced nostalgia.

"There was a spirit of peace and union, and love and good will manifested in this little Church in the wilderness, the memory of which will be ever dear to my heart...Peace and plenty crowned their labors, and the wilderness became a fruitful field, and the solitary place began to bud and blossom as the rose...In short, there has seldom, if ever, been a happier people upon the earth than the Church of the Saints now were." - Parley P. Pratt

page 23

...the bishop of the church in Jackson County, Edward Partridge, in the allotment of land purchased for the purpose, took the attitude that the inheritances ought to be tentative, entitling each settler to a right of use only, with a lease subject to cancellation on the order of the bishop. Considering the uncertainty in the number of converts for which he would have to provide land, the temporary nature of the allotments would make it possible for Partridge to make reappointment, if necessary, to provide for new arrivals. This plan would also discourage, opportunists who might join the group to acquire an inheritance, and promptly withdraw. Finally, the non-title policy gave Partridge the power, under threat of the forfeiture of the entire stewardship, to enforce standards of workmanship, social behavior, and personal morality among those receiving inheritances. The wealth of the community would never be lost to apostates, "trouble-makers," or idlers.

pages 35-36

When the revelation...was given in 1838, I [Brigham Young] was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren...The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, "Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?" Said he, "Let them be the judges themselves..."

Then I replied, "I will go and ask them for their surplus property"; and I did so; I found the people said they were willing to do about as they were counseled, but, upon asking them about their surplus property, most of the men who owned land and cattle would say, "I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, therefore this is not surplus property." Again, "I have got so many girls, and I do not believe I shall be able to give them more than forty acres each." "Well, you have got two or three hundred acres left." "Yes, but I have a brother-in-law coming on, and he will depend on me for a living; my wife's nephew is also coming on, he is poor, and I shall have to furnish him a farm after he arrives here." I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage. It is a laughable idea, but is nevertheless true, men would tell me they were young and beginning in the world, and would say, "We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property." "How many cattle have you?" "So many." "How many horses?" "So many, but I have made provisions for all these, and I have use for everything I have got."

Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person's hat off, or eyes out, or the wolves had eaten off her teats. You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, and had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung.

page 39

Brigham Young, who was a member of the church during most of the early period, later explained that "persons would conceal from Joseph that they had any money; and, after they had spent of lost it all, would come to him and say, 'O how I love you, Brother Joseph!' " On another occasion, many years after the system had been tried, George A. Smith said:

The Lord endeavored to establish the order of Zion then, but while some considered it a privilege to consecrate their property to the Lord, others were covetous, and thought about looking after their own interests in preference to those of the Work of God.

page 40

In counseling the faithful not to enter into communal economic ventures on their own, he [Joseph Smith] placed himself in a position of apparent opposition to the principles that had recently held so high a place in his millennial vision. It would be wrong to conclude from this, however, that he had given up the Law of Consecration and Stewardship forever. He frequently couched his remonstrances against the communalistic stirrings of the Nauvoo Saints in terms that permitted a possible future renewal of the system. Brigham Young, who probably knew Joseph's mind as well as anyone, quite obviously hoped to effect within his lifetime a return to the ideal economic system announced in 1831. Apparently the command to live the "more perfect law of the Lord" was seen by Joseph Smith to be simply in abeyance until some future time when God should again speak on the matter.

(more to come)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lottery winner's misfortune leads to Mormon conversion

(by Emmilie Buchanan deseretnews.com 7-3-13)

Lottery winner Clarence Jackson thought he had lost it all when he missed the deadline to claim his winnings — $5.8 million — by just three days.

And he did — as far as money goes.

But for the Connecticut native, losing may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

If it hadn't been for the lottery ticket that never was, Jackson, 40, said he wouldn’t have gained a groundswell in the political arena. He wouldn’t be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he wouldn’t have had the chance to speak in stake conference in May 2007.

Jackson stood behind the pulpit holding a small white card high into the air for the crowd to see. It was his temple recommend.

“This is worth more than any lottery ticket, more than anything in the world,” Jackson said.

But, he didn’t always feel that way.

The lottery ticket

On Oct. 13, 1995, Jackson bought the would-be winning lottery ticket.

But it wasn’t until 1996 that he realized he had won, sparking a 15-year fight in the Connecticut Legislature to pass various bills that would allow Jackson to claim his substantial winnings.

After realizing the value of his “Quick Pick” lotto ticket on Oct. 13, 1996, Jackson was frantic to redeem the golden ticket.

It was the one-year mark of the claim deadline. As luck would have it, it was also a holiday weekend, and the lottery claims office was closed in observance of Columbus Day. Jackson was unaware that he could claim the ticket by going to the store where he had purchased it before midnight.

Depressed and desperate, Jackson, accompanied by his attorney, presented the ticket to the Connecticut Lottery Corporation on Oct. 16, 1996. Jackson claimed that extenuating circumstances had prevented him from claiming his ticket, according to a 2007 OLR Research Report from the Connecticut General Assembly.

He never received a dime.

The political realm

Jackson's in-and-out presence in the political sphere while fighting for his lottery ticket inspired him to consider a future run for a legislative seat. His only problem was deciding which party to represent.
"Prior to the ticket, I wanted to be a state senator. I love politics," Jackson said. "And here I am a high school dropout. I could never be in politics. But politics came to me, thanks to the ticket."

With experience as his educator, Jackson said many of his friends involved in politics have encouraged him to run for office in the future.

His political fight was his lifeblood for many years. That was until there was a knock at his door in March 2005.

It was two Mormon missionaries.

The conversion

Jackson’s mother, who had met with missionaries in years prior, was eager to invite the elders in.
Jackson himself was deeply religious.

"I was raised on the front seat of a Pentecostal church," he said.

But over the years, Jackson had become disaffected from any specific congregation. He instead found himself on a quest to find religious truth.

"The only way I would join is if it was 100 percent what I know is right. Not 99 percent, not 95 percent, I want to know 100 percent," Jackson said. "I will absolutely live for it and lay my life down for it."

Though he knew it was a high standard, in 1999 Jackson traveled the country looking for what he called the "perfect" church.

But nothing ever seemed to fit until the two young men in white shirts with black name tags stopped by.

The elders stayed for more than two hours, talking with Jackson and his family. As it turned out, the missionaries had decided to knock on doors on Jackson’s street only if all their other plans didn’t work out.

Over the next few weeks, the elders would set appointments with Jackson that he would purposely miss.

“I was scared,” Jackson said.

One day, they caught him at home. They began teaching Jackson, who not only related to their teachings but found that he was already living some of the standards of the LDS Church.

At this point in his life, Jackson was thoroughly depressed about the misfortunes surrounding his lottery ticket.

Jackson said his lessons with the missionaries helped his depression. But he still had some concerns with the doctrine that he couldn't reconcile.

Thanks to instituting a steady habit of prayer, Jackson found the answers he was looking for.
"I was waiting for a voice to come down, or some type of dream," Jackson said.

But the dream never happened.

Instead, it was a scripture from the Book of Mormon that taught him to fast and pray to know if something was true.

"After I read that, I started praying more," Jackson said. "I really started knowing and I felt that it was true. It was slow, but constant."

Jackson realized he knew what he had learned was true in August 2005, and on Nov. 6, he was baptized.

"I found this new joy that I had found the purpose of life," Jackson said.

And because of the new life it has given Jackson, his conversion helped him put the lottery ticket ordeal into perspective. His introspection has given him the blessing of hindsight.

Jackson’s cousin is famed rapper Snoop Dogg, and before the lottery ticket came into his life, Jackson had been making plans to have a career in the music industry.

In 1994, while living in California for a time, Jackson and another cousin, Jason Brown, started an artist management company called Dove Life Entertainment, which looked for local talent in Long Beach.

The time in California also helped prepare Jackson for the turn of events that would become his future.

When Jackson went to nightclubs in Los Angeles, he always drove past a big, white building right off the freeway. He didn’t know what it was, but he thought it looked like a church.

“Every time I would look at it I would think about life. I would think about family and the most important things in life. The building made me feel at peace.”

That building was the Los Angeles California Temple.

In August 2006, Jackson was able to go inside and perform baptisms for the dead.

"The church is the reason why I live. I have been able to evaluate my life because I didn't get the (money). If they had passed my bill in 1999 or 2004 or any other time, I wouldn't have found (the church)."

At the Democratic National Convention last year, Jackson says he ran into Steven Spielberg. Jackson says the director took interest in his story, but said it was missing a key component: a happy ending.
But for this convert, happiness has been almost six years in the making, And it started on the day he joined the LDS Church, Jackson said.

“You can lose money and get money again," he said. "The same with power and fame. But the church is everlasting. Something that money, power and fame can’t achieve.”

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865582558/Lottery-winners-misfortune-leads-to-Mormon-conversion.html?pg=1

Saving seats at Mormon church in Plain City leads to assault, arrest

(by Pat Reavy deseretnews.com 7-2-13)

It's supposed to be a place of peace and worship.

But on Sunday, a man was arrested at an LDS Church meetinghouse after a fight broke out over saved seats in the chapel.

On Sunday, the Meadows Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a full house during sacrament meeting because of a missionary farewell and a baby blessing.

A family that normally does not attend that ward but was there Sunday for the blessing had sat down in a pew and was reserving seats for other family members, said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther.

When 51-year-old Wayne Dodge, a regular member of the ward, sat down in one of the seats being reserved, angry words were exchanged between the two parties.

After the meeting, more words were exchanged, Lowther said. And after church was done for the day, the two sides ran into each other in the parking lot and the argument continued. The fight became even more heated between Dodge and a male member of the other family.

"(Dodge) ended up throwing a couple of punches and striking this individual. He had some blood coming from his face, so he went inside the church to clean up. And when he exited the church, (Dodge) was in his car. I guess there was another confrontation," Lowther said.

Investigators say Dodge then hit the man with his vehicle.

"Ultimately, the victim ended up on the hood of the car," he said. "(Dodge) exited the vehicle and some other people that attended the church service restrained him. And I don't know how, but he ultimately ended up in the bishop's office until law enforcement arrived."

The man who was hit suffered minor injuries and refused to be transported to a local hospital.
Dodge was arrested for investigation of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.

Lowther said the entire incident could have been avoided if cooler heads had prevailed.

"It's not worth the injury, and it's not worth the legal consequences for something as basic as this," he said.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865582523/Saving-seats-in-Plain-City-church-leads-to-assault-arrest.html

--------------------

I only posted this article because Plain City is where I grew up so it is funny to see this.

I was in Plain City today for the 4th of July and talked to some people about it. They mentioned that this article is very one-sided and makes Mr. Dodge look like the aggressor however those that were there and know more about it said there were actually three guys, a man and his two sons, that were antagonizing Mr. Dodge through the entire Sacrament meeting and it was they that really caused the problem.

They said the three men actually went out into the parking lot looking for Mr. Dodge instead of just letting things go. Also, with regards to the man ending up on the hood of the car they said he actually jumped up on the hood as Mr. Dodge was trying to leave the parking lot.

Take that for what it is worth.

Rebuilt Nauvoo Temple


(by Kenneth Mays deseretnews.com 7-3-13)

In 1937, Wilford C. Wood of Bountiful made the first partial acquisition of the property where the Nauvoo Illinois Temple once stood. Wood made at least seven purchases over a period of about 15 years in order to get back the four acres on which the temple once stood.

President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the decision was made to rebuild the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, break ground, lay the cornerstones and build the sacred structure. He dedicated the rebuilt temple on the exact site of the first temple on June 27, 2002, the 158th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

The exterior dimensions of the rebuilt temple are almost identical to those of the original temple. The interior is quite different, but it also affords temple blessings to the Saints as the original temple did.

--------------------

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765633269/Picturing-history-Rebuilt-Nauvoo-Temple.html