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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Articles of Faith


In 1842, in response to a specific request from John Wentworth (editor of the Chicago Democrat ), Joseph Smith sent a succinct overview of his own religious experiences and the History of the Church over which he presided (see Wentworth Letter). At the end of the historical sketch, he appended a list summarizing the "faith of the Latter-day Saints." Later titled "Articles of Faith," these thirteen items were first published in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons in March 1842 and were later included in the 1851 British Mission pamphlet The Pearl of Great Price, compiled by Elder Franklin D. Richards. That pamphlet was revised in 1878 and again in 1880. In 1880, a general conference of the Church voted to add the Pearl of Great Price to the standard works of the Church, thus including the thirteen articles. The Articles of Faith do not constitute a summation of all LDS beliefs, and they are not a creed in the traditional Christian sense, but they do provide a useful authoritative summary of fundamental LDS scriptures and beliefs.

For more info see http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Articles_of_Faith

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We needed Christ to become one of us

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 12-24-15)

As I write, I’ve just returned from a funeral. Snow covers the ground; the trees are barren, seemingly dead. It’s the season described by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73:

“When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

“Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

“Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

The holidays are a terrible time to associate with the death of a loved one. And yet, in some ways, it’s the best possible time because Christmas reminds us of the One who put an end to death.

Before his advent, death was a grim, hopeless inevitability. In the 11th book of Homer’s “Odyssey,” for example, the hero Odysseus describes his perilous journey to the underworld, to Hades, where he converses with the spirits of the dead. He entices them with the blood of a sacrificed animal, something earthly and physical that they crave.

Among those he meets is the great warrior Achilles, an old friend. Odysseus praises Achilles for his past glory and great deeds, but Achilles responds that earthly status means nothing to him now: “I’d rather serve as another man’s laborer,” he says bitterly, “as a poor landless peasant, and be alive on Earth, than be lord of all the lifeless dead.”

The dead, for the ancient Greeks, did live on, but only as “shades,” dwelling in literally Stygian darkness. (The term “Stygian” derives from the River Styx, which formed the boundary, in their conception, between the underworld and the land of the living.)

Even the Hebrews often saw little, if anything, hopeful after death. Their appeals to God were continually for this-worldly salvation: “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth” (Isaiah 38:18); “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalm 6:5); “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10-12).

President Joseph F. Smith, too, who saw the spirit world in a marvelous October 1918 vision, explained that, before Christ’s arrival there, “the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:50).

And, for many today, the prospects are even bleaker. To them, only nothingness awaits us after death. The dead have ceased to exist, and all of us will soon follow them. Bertrand Russell, perhaps the most articulate and visible atheist of the 20th century, strikingly expressed this viewpoint in his 1903 essay “The Free Man’s Worship”:

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

For Christians, however, the advent of Christ marked the beginning of the end of death’s dominion. Of all good news, this is the best news possible: Because of God’s Word, death doesn’t get the last word. Because he lived, we will live.

Easter couldn’t have happened without Christmas. On our own, we could never have overcome death. God himself needed to come among us, to become one of us, to burst through the prison gates of death as the first of our kind, before the reign of sin and mortality could end. And he did it. (See Clayton Christensen’s eloquent words at mormoninterpreter.com/he-did-it-a-christmas-message.)

As it turns out, God does show wonders and declare his lovingkindness to the dead.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865644338/We-needed-Christ-to-become-one-of-us.html

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Day Elvis Presley Attended Early Morning Seminary

(by Danielle Beckstrom ldsliving.com 1-28-15)

Elvis didn't relish his title of King.  As he said, “there is only one King,” and that was Jesus Christ (Brother Paul’s Mormon Bathroom Reader, Paul B. Skousen, 2005).


Deeply religious and a heavy reader of spiritual topics, Elvis showed considerable interest in the LDS Church and maintained many close connections with Mormons.  In fact, after his death, a copy of the Book of Mormon was found in his room with the message, “Priscilla needs to read this” written within the well-worn cover (Brother Paul’s Mormon Bathroom Reader, Paul B. Skousen, 2005).


Elvis received his first Book of Mormon through the gates of Graceland, his home in Memphis.  A young LDS woman and ardent Elvis fan, Cricket Butler, often sat vigilantly outside his home or hotel—coming early in the morning and staying late in the night—waiting for a chance to speak with her idol.  Butler’s persistence finally paid off when late one evening Elvis walked out to his gates to visit with Butler.  During their conversation on life and its purpose, Butler handed him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Found in his room after his death, this ordinary 1976 version of the Book of Mormon took quite the journey, passing from the hands of Cricket Butler to Alan Osmond before finally ending up at Church headquarters (“Elvis Almost LDS?” Lynn Arave).


Inside this well-traveled Book of Mormon were a series of hand-written notations reportedly made by Elvis.  During an interview for a 2007 documentary entitled “Tears of a King,” Butler claims she became good friends with Elvis following their late night discussion, and even sat in on missionary discussions at Graceland.  In fact, Butler claims to know the date Elvis planned on being baptized (“Elvis Almost LDS?” Lynn Arave ).


Whether Elvis’ baptismal date is fact or fantasy, there is no doubt that Elvis had many close ties with LDS families.


Elvis’ good relationship with Mormons was due in large part to Latter-day Saint and martial arts expert Ed Parker.  After training Elvis in self-defense, Parker became Elvis’ personal body guard.  Knowing Elvis’ affinity towards religion, Parker gave Elvis a series of LDS books, one of which is still on display at Elvis’ Graceland home.  Elvis read these books avidly, asking Parker all kinds of questions on limo drives to and from concerts.


One night, after giving Parker a brand new Cadillac, Elvis drove with his body guard from Las Vegas to Pasadena--who knows what kind of conversations the two men shared along the long drive.  Elvis and Parker arrived in California early in the morning, and Parker invited Elvis to meet his two girls who were attending early morning seminary. Elvis met with and embraced Parker’s daughters outside the seminary building.  Then, he surprised everyone with his own request: could he speak with their whole seminary class?  Elvis complimented these young faithful Saints for taking the time to learn more about the one, true King and provided his own witness of the Savior, Jesus Christ.


While Latter-day Saints like Butler and Parker influenced Elvis’ beliefs and understanding of the Church, Elvis also had a significant impact on the young members in Pasadena.  After the early morning witness Elvis gave during seminary, the attendance record for seminary classes remained at 100 percent for years, aided no doubt by rumors that Elvis might return for another visit.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Why We Fear Mormons

(by J. Spencer Fluhman nytimes.com 6-3-12)

Mockery of Mormonism comes easily for many Americans.

Commentators have offered many reasons, but even they have found it difficult to turn their gaze from Mormon peculiarities. As a result, they have missed a critical function of American anti-Mormonism: the faith has been oddly reassuring to Americans. As a recent example, the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon” lampoons the religion’s naïveté on racial issues, which is striking given that the most biting criticisms have focused on the show’s representations of Africans and blackness.

As a Mormon and a scholar of religious history, I am unsurprised by the juxtaposition of Mormon mocking and racial insensitivity. Anti-Mormonism has long masked America’s contradictions and soothed American self-doubt. In the 19th century, antagonists charged that Mormon men were tyrannical patriarchs, that Mormon women were virtual slaves and that Mormons diabolically blurred church and state. These accusations all contained some truth, though the selfsame accusers denied women the vote, bolstered racist patriarchy and enthroned mainstream Protestantism as something of a state religion.
 
Despite internal division, persecution and periods of rampant defection, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued to grow, even though it continues to make Americans uneasy. The political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell found that Mormonism ranked with Islam near the bottom of the list of Americans’ “most respected” religions.
 
Making Mormons look bad helps others feel good. By imagining Mormons as intolerant rubes, or as heretical deviants, Americans from left and right can imagine they are, by contrast, tolerant, rational and truly Christian. Mitt Romney’s candidacy is only the latest opportunity for such stereotypes to be aired.
 
Contemporary anti-Mormonism tends to emerge either from the secular left or from the evangelical Protestant right. For the left, Mormonism often functions as a stand-in for discomfort over religion generally. Mormon religious practice offers a lot of really, well, religious religion: ritual underclothing, baptism for the dead, secret temple rites and “clannishness” (a term invoked in the past in attacks on Catholics and Jews). Any religion looks weird from the outside, but the image of Mormonism seems caught somewhere between perpetual strangeness and strait-laced blandness.
 
When a perceived oddity is backed by Mormon money or growing political clout, the left gets jumpy. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and HBO’s Bill Maher have resorted to caricature, stereotyping and hyperbole in their anti-Mormon attacks. Liberals were outraged by Mormon financing of Proposition 8, the 2008 ban on same-sex marriage in California. They scoff at Mormonism’s all-male priesthood and ask why church leaders have yet to fully repudiate the racist teachings of previous authorities.
 
For the right, Mormonism figures in even more complicated ways. The Mormon road to respectability has often led, as it did for Mr. Romney, through Harvard Business School; pro-business Republicans have found ready friends among well-placed Mormons. But many rank-and-file evangelical Protestants call Mormonism a cult — as the pastor Robert Jeffress did last fall — or a “non-Christian religion.” Indeed, evangelical hatred has been the driving force behind national anti-Mormonism.
Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan’s minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.
 
Many conservatives, in fact, seem more concerned with Mr. Obama’s political heresies than with Mr. Romney’s religious ones. It may be that Mr. Obama’s unpopularity will prove a key factor in Mormonism’s continued mainstreaming. With politics and religion so inextricably linked in our culture, a Romney presidency would entail lasting effects for Mormonism and its image. Segments of the religious right might finally make peace with, if not quite accept, Mormonism’s various heterodoxies. The left may struggle to comprehend a steadily diversifying faith that has increasingly global reach.
 
This election, regardless of outcome, unquestionably pushes the United States onto new political terrain because neither candidate represents the religious old guard. But until Americans work through our contradictory impulses regarding faith, diversity and freedom, there is no reason to believe anti-Mormonism will go away anytime soon.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/opinion/anti-mormonism-past-and-present.html?_r=3

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sociologist shares how the world may be more religious today than ever before in 'The Triumph of Faith'

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 12-17-15)

Several generations of sociologists and anthropologists have confidently predicted the fading of religious belief from the modern world. And very recently, some prominently reported survey numbers have seemed to confirm that the world is becoming more secular. Christianity is shrinking, and the ranks of the religious “nones” are swelling rapidly — to the dismay of believers and the delight of unbelievers.

But now along comes a book by Rodney Stark, one of the most prominent, respected and consistently insightful sociologists of religion in the business. In “The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever” (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, $24.95), Stark draws upon a wealth of survey data from around the planet to contend that “Contrary to the constant predictions that religion is doomed, there is abundant evidence of an ongoing worldwide religious awakening.

“The conventional wisdom about secularization,” he says flatly, is “unfounded nonsense.”

While, for example, he points to how not very long ago there were virtually no Protestants in Latin America, they now number in the millions. But has this come at the simple expense of Catholicism and Catholic numbers? No. “Latin American Catholics are far more religious” today than ever in the past, he writes.

Across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Islamic belief is more fervent than at perhaps any time in recent centuries, he writes, and from small beginnings in the relatively recent past, there are now more church-going Christians in Africa than anywhere else on Earth.

“Hinduism has never been stronger” than it is today, he writes, and pilgrims to sacred Hindu sites are straining the resources of the administrators of those sites and of the Indian transportation systems that serve them.

China is experiencing an unprecedented surge in its number of Christians, and tens of thousands of traditional temples have been rebuilt since the days of Mao.

Regarding “Religious America,” as he terms it, Stark argues that many commonly accepted notions simply can’t be justified by the actual data: Young people aren’t leaving churches in droves. Young evangelicals aren’t becoming more liberal. Church attendance isn’t in decline. The number of American atheists isn’t increasing. American Jewry is becoming more faithful and more Orthodox. Even the “nones,” by a large majority, believe and act in ways that can only be described as religious. For example, “the overwhelming majority of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation pray and believe in angels.”

Stark discusses in detail the decline of the churches that once rather smugly described themselves as the American religious “mainstream,” correlating the rise of “modernist” theologies — focused not on traditional Christian doctrine but on often-socialist politics — with the mass exodus of their membership to more conservative denominations in a free marketplace of religious options. People seeking the bread of hope and meaning in their lives here on earth and the promise of life beyond the grave simply weren’t satisfied with the stone of secularism that liberal theology too often offered in its place.

It’s true that churches are still rather empty in parts of Europe — long the model representative of the supposedly godless world in which all of us will soon live — but this isn’t, Stark argues, “the reliable sign of secularization it has long been said to be.” Complacent and often unbelieving religious functionaries working for state churches in an uncompetitive religious marketplace have simply failed to serve their congregations, and as a result, those congregations have opted out, he writes. Europe, he says, quoting another scholar, is a continent full of not unbelievers but “believing non-belongers.”

“The world,” Stark writes, “is more religious than it has ever been.” In fact, among all of the globe’s great religious traditions, only Buddhism may not be growing. People naturally resist attempts to reduce their lives to brief and cosmically meaningless episodes on a pointless planet in a blindly purposeless cosmos, Starks writes.

The Soviet Union leaders aggressively pushed atheism not only through relentless propaganda but also through the often ruthless persecution of believers. Nonetheless, after more than 60 years of this intense crusade, a 1990 survey found that just 6.6 percent of Russians described themselves as atheists, a figure only slightly higher than the roughly 4 percent reported for America since the mid-1940s.

I enthusiastically recommend this stimulating book to religious leaders and to those generally interested in what’s going on in the minds of people around the world. It has much to offer, not only for understanding but also, in my judgment, for action.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865643849/Sociologist-shares-how-the-world-may-be-more-religious-today-than-ever-before-in-The-Triumph-of.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'Not written in this book'

(by Daniel Petersen deseretnews.com 12-10-15)

" And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25).

So ends the gospel of John, forthrightly acknowledging that it has omitted a very great deal of information about Jesus. And the gospel’s previous chapter closes with a similar sentiment:

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).

In other words, John’s gospel itself admits that it represents only a selection of Jesus’ miracles and deeds.

We also know that some teachings of Jesus were excluded from the four gospels. The apostle Paul, for example, reminded the leaders of the Christian church at Ephesus, among other things, that disciples of Christ “... ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

This is a very famous teaching of Jesus, yet it appears nowhere in any of the four Gospels — which probably hadn’t been written by the time Paul met with those Ephesian leaders, anyway. Plainly, Paul knew of at least one saying from the Savior that didn’t find its way into the Gospels. And there seems no good reason to assume that it’s the only such omission. (Moreover, only Luke 23:43 includes Jesus’ promise to the penitent thief on the cross that “... To day you will be with me in paradise”; the other three Gospels fail to mention it.)

Neither the New Testament Gospels nor, for that matter, the other books of the New Testament contain everything that Jesus taught or that we would like to know.

The apostle Paul’s tantalizing account of his visit to “paradise” and “the third heaven” (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4), for instance, leaves us wanting very much more, but it informs us only that he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Jesus himself shows similar reticence at John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say unto you,” he tells his disciples the night before his trial and crucifixion, “but ye cannot bear them now.”

So when would they be ready? When would he tell them? One possibility is that he taught those things to them after his resurrection. After all, Acts 1:3 records of Christ and the apostles that “after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (New International Version).

But the New Testament tells us nothing about what he taught during that 40-day span.

Another possibility, perhaps more helpful, can be found in John 16, where the Savior explains (in verses 13-14) that after his departure, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears ... He will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you” (NIV).

Put another way, after the departure of Jesus, the church will be led by revelation through the Holy Ghost — revelation that will include information not taught by the Savior during his mortal ministry. This is why the apostle Paul, probably writing from Rome to the Ephesian saints in the early A.D. 60s, after his departure from Miletus, encouraged them to seek revelation, praying “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Ongoing revelation is clearly the biblical way to run a church, not mere dependence on finite and incomplete written texts — however useful, important, sacred and inspired those texts may be. The demonstrable incompleteness of the ancient written record makes the cry of so many — predicted by the Book of Mormon at 2 Nephi 29:3 — rather puzzling: “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”

To devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, any new information about him would, one would expect, be a desirable treasure of infinite value.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865643384/Not-written-in-this-book.html

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Sacrament—a Renewal for the Soul


(by Cheryl A. Esplin 12-12-15)

"The more we ponder the significance of the sacrament, the more sacred and meaningful it becomes to us. This was what a 96-year-old father expressed when his son asked, 'Dad, why do you go to church? You can’t see, you can’t hear, it’s hard for you to get around. Why do you go to church?'

The father replied, 'It’s the sacrament. I go to partake of the sacrament.'

 May each of us come to sacrament meeting prepared to have 'a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for [our] soul.'"

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https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/the-sacrament-a-renewal-for-the-soul?lang=eng

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why There’s No Such Thing As A Same-Sex Mormon Family

Since Mormons have led political compromises between religious liberty and LGBT demands, their refusal to condone homosexual behavior has surprised some. It shouldn’t.

(by Merina Smith thefederalist.com 12-8-15)

The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—the Mormons—recently revised their handbook. This may not sound like dramatic news, yet it has caused great weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth among some members and nonmembers alike, because the church has made it clear there is no such thing as a same-sex Mormon family.
 
For Mormons, the handbook serves a similar purpose to a synod. It explicates beliefs and procedures that guide local leaders in a worldwide church. The handbook changes indicate that members who enter into same-sex unions, whether through marriage or cohabitation, will be subject to church discipline, which could mean loss of membership. Children whose primary residence is with a same-sex couple will not be baptized at age eight, as most Mormon children are, without special permission. Such children will be required to wait until age 18 for baptism, but then only if they accept church doctrine regarding marriage, which is that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.

Mormons Aren’t Contradicting Themselves

The new policy may seem to contradict Mormon church leaders’ recent moves that were widely regarded as gay friendly, such as church support for legislation that protects gay housing and employment rights in Utah, and a recent statement by Mormon leader and legal scholar Dallin Oaks, who sided against Kim Davis’s protest about issuing licenses for gay marriages. These actions had led many to believe the church was softening its stance against legalized marriage redefinition.

About 1,000 church members were so upset by the handbook changes that they staged a dramatic show in Salt Lake City in November, journeying there to hold a rally and tender letters of resignation to church authorities. In spite of the protests, however, the changes are in keeping with longstanding church policies toward children of polygamous families, whose minor children cannot be baptized. Out of deference to parental authority, the church also refuses to baptize other minor children without parental permission.

Mormons are law-abiding folks who nevertheless maintain community though shared belief and close-knit, faithful families. The Mormon Articles of Faith, a kind of Mormon creed, state that “we believe in honoring, sustaining and obeying the law,” while still maintaining, as most religious people do, that God’s law is different than man’s law.

Like many Christians, Mormons try to live in the world while not being of the world. Oaks’ pronouncement on Kim Davis’ protest helps members understand how to live in the world while rejecting much of what the world approves. In essence, the message is that church members should do their job, understanding that doing so does not sanction a behavior that is not compatible with church teachings. The changes to the handbook send a clear message that the Mormon understanding of marriage within the church has not changed.

Why Marriage Is So Central to Mormonism

Marriage has been central to Mormon theology from the earliest days, even before it instituted polygamy. Shortly after it was organized, the church delineated which marriages—those sanctioned by the church and performed by its priesthood bearers—were valid in the sight of God.

Some may think it is ironic that Mormons are unwilling to embrace a new understanding of marriage in light of their church’s unorthodox polygamous past. Polygamy, however, was not a new form of marriage, but rather an ancient one found in the Old Testament, which led within Mormonism to an older form of cultural and physical reproduction and regeneration.

Early Mormon leader Brigham Young, husband to over 50 wives, said, “The whole subject of the marriage relationship is not within my reach or in any other man’s reach on this earth….it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity.” Even after polygamy was abandoned at the end of the nineteenth century, Mormons maintained a reliance on family structure and connection as central to its theology.
 
In light of the importance of marriage to Mormon theology, it is not surprising that Mormons have totally rejected the sexual revolution. Faithful Mormons do not live together before marriage, and reserve sex for marriage.
 
While the Mormon divorce rate has unfortunately followed the arc of the national rate, couples married in the Mormon temple see themselves as sealed together for time and eternity, along with any children born to them. Adopted children are sealed to parents in Mormon temples so that they also participate in eternal family connections.
 
Far from accepting the ethos of no-fault divorce, temple divorces require special permission from leaders in Salt Lake. If redefined marriage can be seen as part of a trajectory the sexual revolution initiated, it should surprise no one that Mormons reject it, because they have rejected the entire “revolution.”

Mormons’ Holistic Beliefs about Family

The upshot of the centrality of marriage to Mormon belief and culture is that Mormons maintain a holistic theology about marriage and family. The process of meeting, falling in love, marrying, having children, raising and caring for those children, and children caring for their parents in old age are all essential aspects of an intertwined plan that leads to family and individual salvation and exaltation, while giving people a blueprint for life on earth.

Mormons believe that children need a mother and father, that their identity stems from their family and faith, that children benefit from knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that beyond this they should also know about their ancestors. Mormons believe that contemporary innovations like third-party reproduction do not help give children a strong sense of identity and the values to live by that are so essential to their well-being.

The new handbook policies have struck some as unfair to children, as a form of punishing children for their parents’ behavior. Remember, however, that the policy serves to save children from an uncomfortable disconnect between home and church until they are old enough to figure out what path they want to follow in their own lives. It also prevents the church from drifting away from its beliefs and principles when compassion for the plight of children of same-sex attracted members would tempt adherents to compromise a belief system that is incompatible with redefined marriage.
 
Love and compassion are necessary to life. Jesus displayed these qualities in abundance, yet when he encountered the woman taken in sin and the woman at the well, he sought to convert them instead of condoning their sins. All through time, believers have conformed themselves to the gospel instead of conforming the gospel to the shifting sands of human desire. The gospel would not have survived without this kind of determination.
 
In 1995, when redefined marriage was only a blip on the horizon, the Mormon First Presidency issued “The Family, A Proclamation to the World,” in which they “solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” It goes on to reiterate the importance of family to Mormon theology and to lay out parental duties and responsibilities toward children. The proclamation has since been adopted into Mormon scripture.
 
In light of this, the new handbook policy should surprise no one, yet we must adhere to it with love and compassion toward all, recognizing that we are all works in progress and sinners with struggles to overcome.

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http://thefederalist.com/2015/12/08/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-same-sex-mormon-family/

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Literally hard facts at the beginning of Mormonism


(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 12-3-15)

One way of explaining the Book of Mormon, if Joseph Smith’s own explanation is rejected, is to regard it as merely the product of Joseph’s subjective imagination — whether that imagination is judged to have been sincerely deceived or, for whatever motives, deceptive and dishonest.

The historical evidence, though, seems lethal to such theories. And it’s instructive to note that, while modern skeptics commonly assume that the golden plates never existed, many of Joseph’s very earliest persecutions came because some of his neighbors were completely convinced that he had them.

“These records,” Joseph later wrote, “were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness.”

Why, if he were merely pretending, go into such detail? Wouldn’t it have been easier simply to have claimed inspiration, without manufacturing ancient civilizations or claiming to possess tangible ancient artifacts? After all, as Anthony Sweat observes in his excellent chapter in the new book “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” edited by Dennis Largey, Andrew Hedges, John Hilton III and Kerry Hull, this was how most of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received:

“Joseph Smith did not describe the coming forth of the Book of Mormon the way he described many of his revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants: as inspired words of the Lord that came to his mind and that he then dictated to a scribe. No, Joseph said the Book of Mormon came forth from a nearby hill, by removing dirt, using a lever to lift a large stone, and removing actual engraved plates and sacred interpreters for the translation of its inscriptions. The Book of Mormon didn’t just pass through Joseph’s trance-induced revelatory mind: its palpable relics passed through a clothing frock, hollowed log, cooper’s shop, linen napkin, wooden chest, fireplace hearth, and barrel of beans.”

Sweat’s article lays out some of the salient evidence by examining “multiple historical accounts of persons who interacted with actual, physical, tangible objects” that, “taken collectively,” “provide compelling evidence to the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s account of the Book of Mormon’s ancient origins.”

Such accounts don’t prove the Book of Mormon ancient, divine, or even correctly translated — no single piece or type of historical evidence can cover everything — but what Sweat terms the “indisputable physicality” of the plates and related relics goes a very long way toward establishing the plausibility of Joseph’s overall story and claim.

For example, Sweat considers the stone box in which the artifacts of the Book of Mormon were preserved on the side of the Hill Cumorah. Several witnesses, both believers and nonbelievers, apparently knew the place where it had been, and some may even have seen it. Lucy Mack Smith reported that she had seen and held both the Urim and Thummim and the breast-plate found in the box, describing both of them in strikingly concrete detail. And, if there were no “actual relics hefted and handled, touched and transported, from one place to another and by one person to another,” all the stories about such things, and about the great efforts expended to protect the plates from people seeking to steal them, represent nothing more than a charade.

Looking at the same sorts of evidence, Mormon scholar Terryl Givens has remarked of Joseph Smith, “This continual, extensive, and prolonged engagement with a tangible, grounding artifact is not compatible with a theory that makes him an inspired writer reworking the stuff of his own dreams into a product worthy of the name scripture.”

If the “keystone” of Mormonism was delivered wrapped in fabrications, regarding it as nevertheless somehow “true” becomes — to put it mildly — much more difficult. Like the bodily resurrection of Christ from death, the physicality of the Book of Mormon — recovered from a dead pre-Columbian civilization — resists attempts to treat it as merely symbol or metaphor. It forthrightly demands to be understood as literally, tangibly true. It virtually forces a sharp decision.

I strongly suggest Sweat’s summary of the available evidence to any who might be interested in pursuing this subject. Believers can be heartened, and honest skeptics should find themselves challenged.

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

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865642903/Literally-hard-facts-at-the-beginning-of-Mormonism.html

Monday, November 23, 2015

Former LDS missionary creates graphic novel based on experience


(by Megan Marsden Christensen ksl.com 11-22-15)

Each day for 18 months, Brittany Long Olsen kept a journal in the form of comics as she served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tokyo, Japan.

On Nov. 11, she published those comics in her new graphic novel, "Dendo: One Year and One Half in Tokyo."  Olsen has been keeping a journal this way since 2008, when she started college. She thought it would be a fun way to keep track of her life events, and she put some comics on her blog.  While on her mission, she found it easy to share her experiences with family as she took pictures of her journal pages and sent them home each week.  "It was a fun way for them to follow along, and it's a really fun memory for me to have as well," Olsen said.  Within the graphic novel are missionary experiences others can relate to, such as learning a new language, adjusting to a different culture and dealing with difficult mission companions.

She also addresses her experience with the influx of missionaries who came into her mission after the LDS Church lowered the age at which missionaries can serve.

"I think one of the most uplifting parts of the book is the spiritual journey that I go through," Olsen said. "... Someone who's reading it can really see how I change from being really self-absorbed and dwelling on how hard it was for me. … Over time, I open up and really love the people and just want to share all the goodness in my life with them and become their friends."  Olsen's graphic novel is available on Amazon's CreateSpace for $24.99. If readers buy it directly through the publisher, Olsen will donate 10 percent of its proceeds to the LDS Church's missionary department.  To keep up with Olsen's comic journal, visit her website, where she draws comics about adjusting to newlywed life.

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http://www.ksl.com/?sid=37449324&nid=1284

Sunday, November 22, 2015

4 women witnesses to the Book of Mormon translation process

(by Marianne Holman Prescott deseretnews.com 11-19-15)

Within the first few pages of the Book of Mormon, readers come across the names of 11 witnesses, each who has signed his name as someone who has either seen or felt the ancient plates that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon.

Although their names aren’t included in the official list, four women can be added as additional witnesses of the physical reality and divine process Joseph Smith went through in the translation of the Book of Mormon.

“Each of these women — Mary Whitmer, Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy Harris and Emma Smith — aided in the translation of the Book of Mormon and offered her own witness of the plates' reality,” said Amy Easton-Flake during one of the sessions of the Sperry Symposium on Oct. 23. “By recognizing their contributions, we not only place women back into the narrative in which they were integral actors, but we also expand the scope of ways to witness and what it means to be a witness.”

Recognizing the four names are familiar to many Church members, Sister Easton-Flake joined with Rachel Cope, both assistant professors in the religion department at BYU, in sharing insights regarding the important role the four women played in the translation of the Book of Mormon.

“Touch, sound, spiritual impressions and visions may in fact produce as these women illustrate so clearly, a more lasting and more powerful experience than sight,” said Sister Easton-Flake. “In turn, through these women’s witnesses, we see how the translation of the Book of Mormon both required and created a community — male and female, young and old, family and friends — who worked together on this important project.”

Mary Musselman Whitmer

Sometimes referred to as the “12th witness” by historians because of the parallel experience to that of the canonized witnesses, Mary Whitmer is the only known woman to have physically seen the plates, Sister Easton-Flake said.

In June 1829, Mary and her husband, Peter Whitmer, opened their home to Joseph and Emma Smith, and Oliver Cowdery. Because of the Whitmers' hospitality, Joseph was able to focus his efforts on translation, allowing the process to move forward rapidly.

On top of a large family of her own and many responsibilities of the home, Mary Whitmer began to feel her labor was too much. As those feelings began to grow, a stranger appeared to her, explaining the work that was going on in her home and showed her the plates. He encouraged her in her work and soon vanished.

Because of that experience, Mary was able to continue in her labors, helping the work move forward. Many of her family would later be witness to the plates.

Although the Whitmer family members had a falling out with the Church, Mary is among those who “never altered or denied her testimony of [the plates'] reality, their divine origin and the message contained in the book translated from them.”

Lucy Mack Smith

“As a memoirist and as a participant in the events surrounding the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, Lucy Mack Smith introduces various ways of witnessing beyond the visual, including record keeping, sensory experiences and spiritual impressions,” said Sister Cope.

The prophet Joseph would often share his experiences with his family, including descriptions of the account on the plates before he even had them in his possession.

“Although the Smiths lacked tangible evidence of the plates at this time, they experienced spiritual confirmation and thus they anxiously awaited the day when Joseph would receive the important record he had described,” Sister Cope said. “Together, the family became witnesses of the Book of Mormon even prior to Joseph’s acquiring of the plates.”

After Joseph had obtained the plates, Lucy and other family members saw their outline through the cloth that covered them, and even handled them on occasion.

In addition to the visual and audible witness, Lucy would help find hiding places for the plates' protection, and oft defended the reality of the plates.

Lucy Harris

“I know she is a little bit more unusual, but I think there is a lot more to her story than we know or recognize,” said Sister Cope. “Within the pages of her memoir, Lucy Mack Smith introduces her readers to Lucy Harris. Although Lucy Harris is typically remembered for her antagonism toward the Book of Mormon … it is important to recognize that Lucy Smith’s history reveals another side to this complex figure.”

Shortly after Joseph and Emma had obtained the plates, Joseph asked his mother if she would speak with their wealthy acquaintance, Martin Harris. The mother agreed, but decided to first meet with Harris’s wife.

According to Lucy Smith’s account, Lucy Harris was intrigued and expressed an immediate interest in the plates, offering to donate a considerable sum of money from her own private purse for Joseph’s translation efforts. But prior to the donation, Lucy Harris wanted to see the plates and Joseph refused.

“[Lucy] Harris, who was staying in the Smith home overnight, retired to bed following her conversation with Joseph,” said Sister Cope. “The following morning, Lucy Harris shared a very remarkable experience that she had had that night with the Smith family.”

In her dream she recalled a personage that appeared to her and chastised her for interfering with the work. The angel then showed her the plates, resulting in a powerful witness. Upon waking up, Lucy Harris insisted on giving Joseph $28 — personal money she had received from her mother prior to her mother’s death.

“Although Lucy Harris did eventually become antagonistic to the work, … Lucy Smith confided that she continued to believe in their physical reality,” said Sister Cope.

Emma Smith

As the person closest to Joseph and with him from the beginning to the very end of the translation process, Emma “was arguably more intimately involved with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon than any other individual besides Joseph,” said Sister Easton-Flake.

Emma’s involvement began the day she accompanied Joseph to the Hill Cumorah to obtain the plates and continued as she later acted as a scribe, witnessing the translation process. Although she never saw the plates, at times they were placed under their bed, she would sometimes move them as she cleaned and other times she would see them wrapped in a small cloth.

“Her witness of the plates physically takes on an added dimension when she describes, ‘tracing their outline and shape,’” Sister Easton-Flake said. “She reports that the plates seemed to be pliable and would rustle with a metallic sound. … This complete assurance of the reality of the plates — despite her never seeing them — is a powerful statement about the validity of every witness to see beyond the visual. …

“Almost two centuries later, the miracles of this great work may resonate more and grow greater faith when we recognize how God used dedicated men and women to bring forth this great work of translation and restoration.”

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865641953/4-women-witnesses-to-the-Book-of-Mormon-translation-process.html?pg=1

Friday, November 20, 2015

Israel, Israel, God Is Calling‏

http://www.mormonchronicle.com/israel-israel-god-is-calling%e2%80%8f/

(by D. Rolling Kearney mormonchronicle.com 4-27-15)

A homosexual friend of my wife recently read my article on homosexuality and commented that it was a good article but did not present anything new to the discussion. I was not offended; I do not claim to be a prophet. Rather, it is my contention that we have everything we need already before us and that deep insights can be found if we will properly utilize what we have. Pres. Benson basically said this same thing when he called the Church to repentance for neglecting The Book of Mormon, the most foundational of all our scriptures.

In this article, I would like to take a deeper look at one of our most beloved hymns, “Israel, Israel, God is Calling,” currently hymn number 7 in the hymn book. Often with hymns, as with scriptures, we hear things so frequently that they lose their meaning. The Lord has said that songs are the same as prayer (see D&C 25:12), and that when we pray we should avoid “vain repetition” (3 Nephi 13:7; Matthew 6:7). It would seem, then, that we ought to know what it is that we are singing about!
 
The First Presidency preface to the hymn book, which most members have never read, includes the following guidance:
 
 
“Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns…We hope leaders, teachers, and members who are called on to speak will turn often to the hymnbook to find sermons presented powerfully and beautifully in verse…We hope the hymnbook will take a prominent place among the scriptures and other religious books in our homes.”
 
 
1.
Israel, Israel, God is calling,
Calling thee from lands of woe.
Babylon the great is falling;
God shall all her tow’rs o’erthrow.
 
 
To begin with, this message is directed to us–you and I, the members of the LDS Church–since we are modern-day Israel. He is calling us out from “lands of woe,” from Babylon, as the next line informs us. Woes are curses, or promised destruction. D&C 130:21 explains that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Curses work the same way, simply because they are the opposite of blessings. You will always get one or the other, depending on what choices you make, because they are two sides of the same coin. Babylon is the world and its ways. As the world moves itself further and further away from the ways of the Lord, they inherit greater and greater woes, perpetually worse and more numerous.
 
 
If we are already members of His Church, why must the Lord call us out from Babylon? Well, unfortunately, we love Babylon and all she has to offer. We love her entertainment, we worship her idols, we prefer her philosophies to the Gospel, and we are content to have one foot in Heaven and the other in Hell:
 
“Elder Neal A. Maxwell…once said, such people know they should have their primary residence in Zion, but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon” (as quoted in The Best Is Yet to Be, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU devotional address, January 13, 2009.).
 
 
All throughout the scriptures, the pride of the world is represented by lofty things: tall trees (Isaiah 37:24), hills and mountains (Isaiah 40:4), and enormous buildings in the air (1 Nephi 11:36). Here, the pride of the world is represented by towers. When we place our own ideals above those of the Lord, we exalt them, lift them up, build them up as towers. Here, He warns us to leave those towers behind because they will all be “overthrown,” or toppled. As mentioned previously, the lofty ideals of the world always “bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World), because they are not founded upon eternal principles.

 
2.
Israel, Israel, God is speaking.
Hear your great Deliv’rer’s voice!
Now a glorious morn is breaking
For the people of his choice.
 
 
We are here reminded to heed the words of the Lord if we wish to be delivered from the calamities that are forthcoming. We are also told that “a glorious morn is breaking for the people of his choice.” What does this mean? Isaiah, in chapter 58, verses 8 and 9, informs us that after we have sanctified ourselves (partially through fasting, which is the focus of this chapter), then our “light [shall] break forth as the morning…and [our] righteousness shall go before [us]; the glory of the Lord shall be [our] rearward. Then [shall we] call, and the Lord shall answer; [we shall] cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” What greater blessing could we ask for? But how do we become “the people of his choice”? We turn our backs on Babylon and our hearts fully to the Lord. Blessings or cursing, we decide. Father Lehi laid it on the line for his own sons this way, in 2 Nephi 1:19:
 
“O my sons, that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his ways are righteousness forever.”
 
In other words, you can have it your way for a little while, but God will always have His way in the end.
 
 
3.
Israel, angels are descending
From celestial worlds on high,
And to man their pow’r extending,
That the Saints may homeward fly.
 
 
Heavenly Father wants so badly for us to return to Him that He sends angels to assist us and give us the power necessary to do so. This includes the priesthood, of course, but it is also courage, faith, hope, charity, endurance, and the blessings and gifts of the Spirit.
 
 
4.
Israel! Israel! Canst thou linger
Still in error’s gloomy ways?
Mark how judgment’s pointing finger
Justifies no vain delays.

 
In all honesty, it was this verse that inspired this article. Think about what the Lord is saying here! He calls us Israel again–a reminder of who and what we are supposed to be, His chosen people–and then He asks why we are still hanging around doing stupid things! He is basically saying, “You know better! Repent!” The final line is the most poignant to me: Mark how judgment’s pointing finger justifies no vain delays. It is hard sometimes to truly understand old English like this without stopping to ponder, and it is difficult to ponder in the few seconds between closing the hymn book and the start of the next talk, or the closing prayer. The message is simply this: the Judgment Day is real, the Judgment Day is coming, and when it does, Satan will be there with a full and complete record of all our sins, ready to accuse and condemn us before the Father. Your days are numbered, yes, but only God knows what that number is! Can you say for certain that you will live through tomorrow? We delay the day of our repentance with all sorts of justifications, but they are all in vain. The word vain here should be taken with both its meanings: 1) without meaning, and 2) in vanity. Think about that for a minute. Go back and read it again. Now, hear it described by the prophet Amulek, as recorded in Alma 34: 31–35:
 
“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
 
 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
 
 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
 
 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
 
 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”
 
 
Chorus.
Come to Zion, come to Zion
Ere his floods of anger flow.
Come to Zion, come to Zion
Ere his floods of anger flow.
[i.e. “ere” is old English meaning “before” or “prior to”]

 
It should be noted that the chorus is almost half of the song! From a scriptural standpoint, we know that repetition equals importance, therefore the chorus holds the most importance. Throughout the song, the phrase “Come to Zion” is repeated a whopping sixteen times! We can immediately dismiss the ridiculous notion that this refers to Utah, and proceed to the real meaning. On one hand, Zion is a literal place, a city where the Lord will personally come. In order to be in that place, however, we must become a Zion people, and that begins now, before the city has even been built. Zion people forsake Babylon and live the commandments to the fullest; they are loving and kind, patient and loyal. They are earning the right to the presence of the Lord by becoming like Him:
 
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
 
 
Conclusion
 
 
As you can see, I didn’t have to present any fancy new interpretation or revelation in order to make this hymn meaningful. The meaning was already there, we just haven’t been looking. I hope that this exercise inspires you to ponder more deeply the meaning behind the hymns that you sing on a regular basis, so that they can cease being vain repetitions and begin to represent the true praises and desires of your heart.

Monday, November 16, 2015

God’s Human Delivery System – Sustaining Living Prophets, Seers, and Revelators


http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/gods-human-delivery-system-sustaining-living-prophets-seers-and-revelators/

(by J Max Wilson sixteensmallstones.org 11-8-15)

Regarding personal testimony in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Uchtdorf, of the First Presidency of the church, has taught that even though each of our individual testimonies are unique and may be a little different from each other, there are five truths that a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will always include.
The five truths are:
  • That God lives and He is our loving Heavenly Father
  • That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the World
  • That Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the Gospel of Jesus was Restored
  • And that the Book of Mormon of Mormon is the Word of God.
  • That current President of the Church, his Counselors, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators in our day.
It is this fifth truth that is essential to a testimony of the Restore Gospel that I wish to address.

Sustaining the prophets and apostles has become increasingly difficult and controversial. It used to be that what was expected of good members of society aligned reasonably well with the teachings of the church.

But that is no longer true.

In the General Conference of April 1975, Ezra Taft Benson, who was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at that time, said thatpractically all objections that have ever been made against the Church by nonmembers and dissident members alike […] hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation.

In my experience, President Benson was right about this. Objections to the church almost always to boil down to whether or not the modern prophets are really receiving direction from God or not.

I know quite a few members of the church who have lost their confidence in the leadership of our prophets and apostles. It may be that some of you here today have lost, or are losing, confidence because of teachings or policies that seem wrong or don’t make sense to you. And if you are not, you probably know someone who has.

For many years now, there has been a concerted effort by motivated individuals to undermine the faith of members of the church in living prophets. They use the internet to amplify their influence in ways not previously possible. The information they present is more subtle today than in the past.

They don’t necessarily need to get you to stop believing in Joseph Smith and the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, or God the Father. They have found that it is often easier and more effective to cultivate disagreement with the current prophets and apostles, until members start to lose confidence in them. So they emphasize the humanity and fallibility the men who lead the church.

In the October 2004 General Conference, President Henry B Eyring explained:

It has always been hard to recognize in fallible human beings the authorized servants of God. […] Satan will always work on the Saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them.[…]

If we look for human frailty in humans, we will always find it. When we focus on finding the frailties of those who hold priesthood keys, we run risks for ourselves. When we speak or write to others of such frailties, we put them at risk.

The reason why it is so easy to fall into this trap is that it is absolutely true that our prophets are fallible. Prophets throughout the history of the church from Joseph Smith to the present have reiterated that fact.

Back in the October 1978 General Conference, Apostle Marvin J. Ashton explained thatThere is a tendency on the part of some to ignore, criticize, or rebel because they cannot accept the human delivery system.

And so I would like to take a few minutes to discuss why it is that we can sustain, trust, and follow the living apostles and prophets, the human delivery system through which the Lord reveals his will, even though they are fallible individuals– and especially when their directions run contrary to our expectations or views.

The Lord has established a specific system by which decisions are made in the church. That system was given by revelation and is defined in verses 22 through 29 of Section 107 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants:

22. Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, [..], form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

23. The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, […]

24. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

25. The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel […]

26. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.

27. And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other— […]

29. Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently […].

The Lord requires that the presiding quorums of his church make decisions unanimously. Let me use an analogy to help illustrate how this system helps to counteract potential individual error.

In the church, a prophet has often been compared to a metaphorical “watchman on the tower”.

Let’s explore that image a little more closely. Imagine a watchman who stands on a tower of a citadel or fortress to watch for danger. While the eyesight of the watchman may be just as fallible as anyone else’s, the tower upon which he stands allows him to see farther than those with equally good eyes but who are not situated upon the tower. His view is better, not because his eyes are superior, but because his location on the tower allows him to see father and more; not necessarily because of something inherent or different in his person, but because of something inherent in the position in which he has been placed for the protection and benefit of all.

Now, as I have just read from the Doctrine and Covenants, the church is not led by just one watchman on the tower, but by 15 Prophets, Seers, and Revelators.

So, continuing with the analogy: one watchman has a more advantageous view than those who are not on the tower, but still may make a mistakes attributable to normal human error. However, potential errors can be mitigated and minimized by requiring that what one watchman sees be confirmed by additional watchmen who are similarly set on towers of defense.

If one watchman raises a warning cry, his warning should not be cavalierly ignored even though he might be wrong.

If seven watchmen raise the same warning, we should be loath to reject their warning simply because we cannot perceive the danger that they see.

And if all fifteen of the watchmen raise the warning in unanimity, then it would be a very serious thing indeed to declare to your fellows that you know that they are wrong and that they should be ignored or even resisted.

Just over a year ago, in the October 2014 Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson explained how this system is a protection to the church:

The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity? These 15 men have varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things. Trust me! These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached! They are committed to see that the Lord’s will truly will be done. […] Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray.

So even though individual prophets and apostles are fallible, we can sustain them and follow them because the Lord’s system requires inspiration and revelation to be confirmed by the Holy Spirit to them unanimously.

The corollary of this process established by the Lord is that statements made by individual apostles or prophets on singular occasions are not necessarily considered church doctrine. In the April 2012 conference, Elder Todd D. Christofferson emphasized this saying,

It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.

Elder Christofferson then goes on to repeat a story about President Brigham Young, which was originally recounted by Elder J. Reuben Clark. It goes like this:

During the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk.

The thing that I find remarkable in this story is not that President Young was fallible and preached something that did not coincide with the Lord’s will. The thing that is remarkable is that the Lord corrected him before the day was done.

The important message of this story is not that leaders of the church can make mistakes, because they can, but that the Lord is perfectly capable of correcting them, regardless of their personal weakness.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared in the April 1982 Conference that, “Prophets need tutoring, as do we all. However, this is something the Lord seems quite able to manage without requiring a host of helpers. The Lord provides discreet but needed feedback, as He did to Peter by the shattering sound of a rooster crowing…” (April 1982 Conference)

On closer inspection, saying that the prophets cannot receive clear messages is really saying that God is not powerful enough to make his will known; it is not an expression of doubt in the prophets, but of doubt in a God who speaks.

We are not asked to have faith in the prophet or the apostles as men. We are asked to have faith that, if God has spokesmen at all, He is powerful enough to pierce the smog of human weakness and make His will known to them. If He couldn’t make His will known to even His own authorized representatives, then He wouldn’t be a very powerful God.

The Restoration of the Gospel rests on the truth that God does speak. That He does direct His church. He does speak to man. And not only to prophets and apostles, but to you and me.

Last month in October Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard declared,

Too many people think Church leaders and members should be perfect or nearly perfect. They forget that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to accomplish His work through mortals. Our leaders have the best intentions, but sometimes we make mistakes.[…]

Looking for human weakness in others is rather easy. However, we make a serious mistake by noticing only the human nature of one another and then failing to see God’s hand working through those He has called.

Focusing on how the Lord inspires His chosen leaders and how He moves the Saints to do remarkable and extraordinary things despite their humanity is one way that we hold on to the gospel of Jesus Christ and stay safely aboard the Old Ship Zion.

So how do we gain the confidence that the Lord is directing His church, despite the human delivery system?

Returning to President Eyring’s sermon from 2004, in which he said that it has always been hard to recognize in fallible human beings the authorized servants of God, he taught that:

To keep ourselves grounded in the Lord’s Church, we can and must train our eyes to recognize the power of the Lord in the service of those He has called. We must be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us know that men who lead us hold this power.[…]

The answer to your prayer is not likely to be as dramatic as it was when some saw Brigham Young, as he spoke, take on the appearance of the martyred Prophet Joseph. But it can be as sure. And with that spiritual assurance will come peace and power. You will know again that this is the Lord’s true and living Church, that He leads it through His ordained servants, and that He cares about us.

A witness from the Spirit found through prayer and service will give us confidence that the Lord is guiding His church through His apostles.

We shouldn’t pretend that this is not hard doctrine. It has always been hard. Most of the time God gives us only the information we need right now, not everything we might want to know. When the direction of the prophets and apostles contradicts our own understanding and feelings it takes faith and humility to trust and follow.

Even Brigham Young struggled when he was first introduced to the doctrine of the three degrees of glory recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 76. It was so contrary to his traditional understanding of the afterlife that at first he could not understand it. But he did not reject it. He waited and prayed and sustained Joseph Smith.

So let us be patient with each other. We can love and cherish each other when the doctrine is hard and we struggle to sustain our prophets and apostles when their teachings contradict our expectations.

This is God’s church. He leads it and guides it. President Monson is His living prophet. The members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators. They possess the authority and priesthood keys to reveal God’s will for us. You can trust them and follow them in deed as well as word. And He will lead us right.

LDS daughter of 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz talks about father's commitment to family, wholesome entertainment


(by Morgan Jones deseretnews.com 11-2-15)

Charles Schulz believed that America likes decency.

It is an idea that may seem far-fetched in a society that embraces edgy and vulgar entertainment on a daily basis. But according to his daughter, Amy Schulz Johnson, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip “never swore a day in his life.”

“He always said, ‘“Rats” covers everything,’” Johnson said. “That’s why he always had Charlie Brown say ‘Rats’ when things went wrong.”

It's also why in the nearly 18,000 comics Schulz published between 1950 and 2000, the "Peanuts" characters never uttered anything objectionable.

It would seem that Schulz’s faith in America was not misplaced. Although he died of colon cancer in 2000, Schulz will earn $40 million this year, placing him behind only Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley in posthumous earnings, according to Forbes. Friday marks the release of “The Peanuts Movie,” which is projected to earn more than $56 million at the box office during its opening weekend.

Still, perhaps more important than money earned or the number of adoring fans, past or present, is how a man is remembered in the eyes of those who knew him best. It takes only a few minutes speaking with his daughter to recognize that Schulz’s comic strip characters were a reflection of his own personal character.

Johnson, who lives in Alpine, remembers her father as "a normal, nice dad who was a good person" and a man who always had time for his children. Schulz and Joyce Halverson, Amy's mother and Schulz's first wife, created an environment that Johnson compares to "living at Disneyland." She witnessed the impact her father's character and the childhood he provided had in the lives of others. It was her parents' influence that prepared Johnson to later join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now a mother of nine, Johnson said Schulz never talked about himself or his profession and would stop everything he was doing when his kids entered his office. His availability led her to conclude that he didn't have a job.

“I distinctly remember walking into the room, where he would be in the middle of drawing a strip, and he would immediately stop drawing,” Johnson recalled. “He would say, ‘Hi, Amos,’ and would just sit and talk to me; therefore, I assumed he was never busy. He never acted like he was too busy for any of his children.”

The Schulz family lived on 28 acres in Sebastopol, California. Over the years, the Schulzes added a swimming pool, baseball fields, a park and a golf course, making it a place where their children — and their friends — wanted to be.

“Some of my friends didn’t tell me until they were in their 40s the things that were happening in their homes,” Johnson said. “And … I can’t really word this properly, but they said, and this had everything to do with Dad, that coming to our house every weekend is what saved them emotionally.

… Seeing a normal, nice dad who was a good person helped them survive what they were going through themselves. … Our home was a shelter from the storm for them.”

Johnson refers to her adolescence as “wonderful, happy and clean-cut.” She often tells people, “If you think Utah Valley Mormons are sheltered, you should’ve been a Schulz!” Johnson believes the Schulz residence was a place where God's influence could be felt because “the Spirit is in homes of goodness.”

Johnson feels her home life prepared her to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 22 years old. She summarizes her conversion with a quote from LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.”

“I see my life as taking all the good that I had, how I was raised from this great mom and dad, and then adding the gospel to the family that my husband and I are raising,” Johnson said.

Johnson learned about the LDS Church while dating a Latter-day Saint. The Word of Wisdom caught her attention because the commandment to abstain from alcohol was something she already observed. Her parents never told her not to drink alcohol, but because they never drank, she didn’t either.

“Our great life prepared me because I didn’t have to change much of anything,” Johnson said.

Upon learning that Johnson is a member of the LDS Church, some have commented, “I knew your dad was a Mormon because all of his strips were always so decent.”

While Schulz did not believe in the LDS faith himself, he was always supportive of his daughter.

When Johnson opened a full-time mission call a year and a half after she was baptized, she immediately went up to her dad’s office. She announced, “Dad, I got my mission call. I’m going to England.”

“He got up from his desk, walked around to where I was standing with his arms outstretched, gave me big hug and said, ‘Even Jesus didn’t get to go to England,’” Johnson remembered.

Schulz spoke at her mission farewell, and as his daughter served, Schulz never missed a week of sending handwritten letters that Johnson now considers her biggest treasure.

“It’s funny because if I read you parts of them, you would think that my dad was a stake president in our church or something,” Johnson said. “He would have the most beautiful things to say about Christ and the scriptures.”

Schulz's support for Johnson continued when she was married in the Oakland California Temple. Schulz stood outside the temple on a cold and windy day, waiting for his daughter.

“He would never want me to feel anything but happiness for my new life,” Johnson said.

He also attended the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple open house with Johnson in 1996. And once, as Johnson's daughter, Stephanie, played hymns on the piano in a room full of Schulz’s family, he leaned over to Johnson and said, “Isn’t it too bad that you and I are the only ones who can appreciate this?”

Today, Schulz’s legacy lives on in the lives of his children and grandchildren. Johnson is particularly proud of her brother, Craig Schulz, and his efforts to honor their father with the release of “The Peanuts Movie,” which he wrote and produced along with his son, Bryan, and friend Cornelius Uliano. The film is a four-generation family affair as Johnson’s grandson, Micah Revelli, provides the voice of “Little Kid.”

“They absolutely have it perfect,” Johnson said. “You just want to reach out and grab these characters. You want to jump through the screen and live in their neighborhood. They’re all just so beautifully done.”

Johnson says her brother fought to maintain the wholesome quality of the "Peanuts" brand, avoiding any kind of bathroom humor or innuendo.

For 50 years, Schulz offered something decent, and the world loved it. This weekend, "The Peanuts Movie" will test the appeal of Schulz's work once again.

When asked whether the movie is something her father would endorse, Johnson answered without hesitation: “He’d be immensely proud; he’d be stunned.”

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