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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why There’s Hope for the Middle Class

(by Tyler Cowen nytimes.com 4-15-16)

America has often thought of itself as a middle-class nation — one in which most people are merely comfortable and neither very rich nor very poor.
 
That notion has come under siege lately. Income inequality has been rising since the early 1980s, and the median household income is now lower than it was in 1999. The status of the middle class has become a highly charged political issue. Nonetheless, a sober look at the trends of recent years reveals some reason for optimism: Pathways that already exist offer some chance of rejuvenating the middle class.
 
The weakness of recent middle-class wage growth has stemmed from a number of factors, including foreign competition, technological changes that favor highly skilled workers and persistent poverty. Let’s consider each in turn.
 
Much of the competition for American manufacturing has come from China, and recent research has shown that China’s economic impact in the United States has been bigger than many economists initially thought, and in some ways, it has been more painful. China’s manufacturing has held down American middle-class wages, while soaring Chinese demand for commodities has pushed up resource prices. Of course, cheap Chinese imports have made American paychecks go further, but that is no consolation for people who have lost their jobs or suffered lower wages as a consequence.
 
Better times may be ahead, though. Higher wages in China — and other emerging nations — are now limiting the competitive advantage of those economies. And perhaps more important for Americans, as China reaches technological maturity, it is likely to shower innovations on consumers, creating a net gain for people in the United States.
 
China is already the major producer of solar panels and electric cars, for example. It is likely to contribute important innovations in consumer drones and driverless cars and in many other fields: The Chinese government is pouring immense resources into biotechnology, including new gene editing techniques. When it comes to mobile apps, messaging and electronic payments, China is arguably ahead of America. Imagine a future in which Chinese innovations benefit Americans just as the United States benefited Europe and vice versa.
 
This would mean more competition from China, of course, and lost jobs in some fields, but to simply focus on the negatives would be shortsighted. The reality is that innovators do not capture all or even most of the benefits they bring to the world. Once an idea emerges, its benefits begin to expand, and those benefits will surely spread to the United States.
 
What economists call skill-based technical change may also shift in a more egalitarian direction. The advent of information technology increased the value of workers and managers who could manipulate these new talents effectively, while smart software eliminated the jobs of many travel agents and paper-filing clerks. But consider a universe in which all it takes to work with a computer is to talk to it. That could lower the wages of technicians, while opening a new world where less skilled laborers could work with information technology effectively.
 
That new world is already emerging. Consider the Amazon Echo, a small stationary computer that responds to voice commands. It can play music, call a car service or build a shopping list. Imagine fully functional voice-activated computers created for the workplace as more people grow up with information technology at their fingertips.
 
Finally, income inequality may begin to reverse itself through the evolution of social norms. Poor people who see no way out of their plight won’t all be able to advance without outside help, but some of the impoverished will succeed despite the barriers they face.
 
Religions and social movements with strong moral codes may be able to help improve life prospects. It is striking, for example, that Utah fits the economic profile of an older, more middle-class-oriented America. The reasons for this are complex, but they may stem in part from the large number of Mormons in the state.
 
Mormons have done relatively well in economic terms, perhaps, at least in part, because their religious culture encourages behavior consistent with prosperity, such as savings, mutual assistance, family values and no drug and alcohol abuse.
 
I am not a Mormon and am not advocating that religion or any other. But it seems reasonable to observe that changing social norms, sometimes associated with religion, can help improve living standards.
 
All of these mechanisms involve some degree of speculation, and the speed at which they will develop will vary. Still, these processes can already be found around us to a limited degree.
 
Furthermore, all of them could happen without requiring any major change in American public policy and thus they could bypass possible government gridlock.
 
Most people agree there is plenty of unfairness built into the current political system, such as bad public policies, which often favor the well-off and erect barriers to the advancement of poorer and less educated individuals. How to change these policies will no doubt continue to be a matter of political debate.
 
But there is reason to believe that when inequality trends start to run in reverse — whenever that might be — it will be because of processes that are operating largely outside of politics. Technology, trade and even religion may help restore prosperity to the middle class.
 
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dying Christopher Hitchens considered Christianity, new book claims

(by Kimberly Winston religionnews.com 4-20-16)

Before his death at 62, Christopher Hitchens, the uber-atheist and best-selling author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” considered becoming a Christian.

That is the provocative claim of “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist,” a controversial new book winning both applause and scorn while underscoring, again, the divide between believers and atheists that Hitchens’ own life and work often displayed.

The author is Larry Alex Taunton, an evangelical Christian who knew Hitchens for three years and, he says, had private, unrecorded conversations with him about Christianity.

Those 2010 conversations, shortly after Hitchens was diagnosed with the esophageal cancer that would kill him 18 months later, took a serious turn.

Once, he asked Taunton if his friend understood why he, Hitchens, did not believe in God.

“His tone was marked by a sincerity that wasn’t typical of the man,” Taunton writes. “Not on this subject anyway. A lifetime of rebellion against God had brought him to a moment where he was staring into the depths of eternity, teetering on the edge of belief.”

Taunton, 48, founder of Fixed Point Foundation, an organization that defends Christianity, acknowledges in the book there are “no reports of a deathbed conversion” for Hitchens.

But Taunton writes that during the same time period, “Christopher had doubts … and those doubts led him to seek out Christians and contemplate, among other things, religious conversion.”

“At the end of his life, Christopher’s searches had brought him willingly, if secretly, to the altar,” Taunton writes at the end of the book. “Precisely what he did there, no one knows."

The book, published by Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson, is proving popular among evangelicals, winning praise from Douglas Wilson, another of Hitchens’ Christian friends and debate partners, and from Chris Matthews, a Catholic, who said during an interview with Taunton on his MSNBC show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” that the book is “beautifully written.”

But among members of Hitchens’ inner circle, the book’s claims that Hitchens was too famous an atheist to admit his late-in-life change of heart, that he was privately “entering forbidden territory, crossing enemy lines, exploring what he had ignored or misrepresented for so long,” are getting a decidedly different reception.

Steve Wasserman, who was Hitchens’ friend for 30 years, co-executor of his estate and with Hitchens’ family at his death, called the book’s claims “petty” and “appalling” when they were read to him.

“I am not in the position to dispute what Taunton says were private conversations,” he said by phone from New Haven, Conn., where he is executive editor-at-large for Yale University Press. “But I really think it is a shabby business. It reveals a lack of respect. This is not a way to debate Christopher Hitchens’ beliefs — to report unverifiable conversations, which amazingly contradict everything Christopher Hitchens ever said or stood for.”

Benjamin Schwarz, Hitchens’ editor at The Atlantic, where he published some of his best work, said, “That Christopher had friends who were evangelicals is testimony to his intellectual tolerance and largeness of heart, not to any covert religiosity.”

And Michael Shermer, an atheist and founder of Skeptic magazine, who read the book’s manuscript and liked its description of the friendship between the two men — enough to give it a favorable jacket blurb — said Taunton’s claims of Hitchens’ flirtation with conversion were “exaggerated.”

Reached by phone at his home in Birmingham, Ala., Taunton stood firm in the face of such criticism. Asked about the fairness of publishing such claims about Hitchens after his death, he said: “The things that I relate, I think by and large I substantiate. What I am saying is this: If Christopher Hitchens is a lock, the tumblers don’t line up with the atheist key and that upsets a lot of atheists. They want Christopher Hitchens to be defined by his atheism, and he wasn’t.”

Taunton first met Hitchens in 2008 in Edinburgh, Scotland, where both were involved in a debate about religion. Hitchens famously said he would debate anyone, and Taunton often arranged and moderated debates between Hitchens and noteworthy Christians.

The two men became friends and spoke warmly of each other in public — Hitchens once said in an interview, “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton has, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.”

Taunton writes of his deep concern for Hitchens — for both his soul and his physical well-being. The two took two cross-country road trips after Hitchens became ill, and Taunton’s recollections of those trips and the conversations they had — untaped and unwitnessed by anyone else — form the heart of the book.

“I would say to any would-be critics, read the book,” Taunton said. “You will see that this a gentle treatment of Christopher Hitchens, far more gentle than his (book-length) assaults on the Clintons or Mother Teresa. I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt.” 
 
Hitchens tried to ensure that anyone claiming he turned to religion at the end of his life would be discredited. In 2010, he made a video with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in which he said, “In the event of anyone ever hearing or reading a rumor of such a thing, it would not have been made by me. … No one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark."
 
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

To Lincoln, the face of Mormonism was George Q. Cannon

First Presidency circa 1880: George C. Cannon, President Taylor, Joseph F. Smith 

(by Tad Walch deseretnews.com 4-14-16)

Abraham Lincoln never met Brigham Young. The "rough-cut" Utah figure never visited Washington, D.C.

Instead of Young, the face and voice and perceived political strategist of Mormonism in the eyes of Lincoln and other national and world leaders for the final 40 or 50 years of the 19th century was George Q. Cannon, Young's chosen ambassador, a brilliant, genteel man who kept a journal so complete and perceptive one historian calls it "one of the most valuable journals in American religious history."

For the first time, Cannon's journals are now being published in full, with the first installment from 1855-75 available online today from the LDS Church Historian's Press. Lincoln's experience with Cannon illustrates the immense value of 2.5 million words written by a man who knew Joseph Smith — Cannon helped create the founding Mormon prophet's death mask — and served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Smith's four immediate successors: Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow.

At one time, Cannon was simultaneously a congressional delegate from the Utah Territory, a member of the church's First Presidency and a prominent publisher in the American West. While in Congress, he famously went to prison for practicing polygamy; Congress notoriously expelled him for it.

The digital release of his journals is the latest major LDS publishing event because historians consider them to be among the very most important journals not only in Mormon history but also in the history of religion, politics and publishing in the second half of the 1800s.

Pivotal figure

"Cannon is so connected and the journal is so complete, the journal ranks as one of the most valuable journals in American religious history," said Matt Grow, director of publications for the LDS Church History Department.

The journals of Woodruff, the church's fourth president, have been famous among Mormons.

Cannon's now will assume their rightful place alongside Woodruff's as the Church Historian's Press publishes the rest of the journals in quarterly online releases.

The late official church historian Leonard Arrington once said the three most important journals in LDS Church history were those by Cannon, Woodruff and Spencer W. Kimball, the fourth and 12th presidents of the church.

Grow would add to the journals of David O. McKay, the ninth president of the church, and Emmeline B. Wells, the fifth general president of the Relief Society, to that conversation. He said Cannon would make any top five list because of his national political profile, his international experiences, his nearly unique church leadership service and the length and perceptiveness of his journal keeping.

Cannon was an important figure in printing and publishing in the American West. He founded the first publishing house in Utah, which later became Deseret Book, and he twice was editor of the Deseret News, which he owned himself for a time and for which he wrote numerous influential editorials.

"He was the voice of the LDS Church to the world" for nearly half a century, Grow said.

The church republished one of Cannon's editorials in the current, April 2016 edition of its Ensign magazine.

Since 1992, George Q has been known to a generation of BYU football fans as the name of the cannon fired by the university's Army ROTC in the north end zone at LaVell Edwards Stadium after every Cougar score. Now George Q. Cannon will enjoy a renaissance among scholars and regular church members, Grow said.

Meeting Lincoln

In 1861, Lincoln was the new American president and Cannon was in Liverpool serving as president of the European Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Young urgently recalled Cannon without telling him the Deseret territorial legislature had elected him one of the proposed state's two senators.

For six weeks in the summer of 1862, as the American Civil War raged, Cannon visited every U.S. senator and President Lincoln, lobbying for votes for statehood for Deseret.

"The President has a plain, but shrewd and rather pleasant face," Cannon wrote on June 13, 1862. "He is very tall, probably 6 feet 4 inches high, and is rather awkwardly built, heightened by his want of flesh. He looks much better than I expected he would do from my knowledge of the cares and labors of his position, and is quite humorous, scarcely permitting a visit to pass without uttering some joke."

Lincoln received Cannon and three others "very kindly and without formality," Cannon wrote. They talked about Utah affairs and other matters, but he was non-committal about the admission of Utah to the Union.

A month later, Cannon attempted to visit Lincoln again as he was leaving to return to Utah, but Lincoln was busy with his cabinet, preparing to meet with members of Congress from the Border States: "He had a proposition to lay before them," Cannon wrote, "respecting the gradual emancipation of the slaves in their several States."

Printer's apprentice

Cannon was born in Liverpool to parents from the Isle of Man. The family joined the LDS Church when Cannon's uncle, John Taylor, came to England when Cannon was 13. His mother died as during the family's migration to Utah in 1843, and in Nauvoo, Illinois, his father sent him to live with his uncle, John Taylor, then editor of two newspapers.

Cannon apprenticed in the Nauvoo print shop at age 15, the same age Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain became printer's apprentices, said Jed Woodworth, a historian in the Church History Department.

"He's immersed in print," Woodworth said. "He's reading constantly. This allows him to become a great writer."

In 1855, Young sent Cannon to California to set up a press and publish a newspaper and a Hawaiian-language edition of the Book of Mormon. Young gave him a blessing. Cannon recorded, "I should be blessed in writing and publishing, and when I should take up the pen to write I should be blessed with wisdom and the Lord would inspire me with thoughts and ideas that what I should write and publish should be acceptable to the people of God."

"He had a gift for writing and publishing," Grow said, "a gift Brigham Young encourages him to use, and he becomes the voice of the church to the world."

Much of his efforts in the power corridors in the American East are really the work of public affairs or public relations on behalf of the church, Woodworth said.

"He's trying to persuade outsiders that the Latter-day Saints have been misrepresented."

Transition figure

Woodworth sees Cannon as an important bridge between the first generation of Mormons, driven from place to place, and the second, settled in Utah. The first generation built testimonies on a willingness to gather together, suffer shame, opprobrium and violence and be driven. The second generation, Cannon foresaw, needed institutions to teach the young, so he launched the Juvenile Instructor magazine and the Deseret Sunday School Union.

"He was the leading figure in Mormonism to show how powerful print could be as opposed to simply the spoken word," Woodworth said. "Cannon then is the quintessential modern Mormon who's educated, albeit self-educated, like for Franklin and Twain. ... I'm not saying Cannon's a Twain or a Franklin, but he had a genius that was beyond any of his brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after Brigham Young dies."

After Young's death, Cannon emerges in the view of Americans in the East as the force in the First Presidency, Woodworth said.

"Everyone thinks he's driving decisions made in the church. In this way he is like Gordon B. Hinckley. When Spencer W. Kimball was diminished with age, Gordon B. Hinckley was making the decisions. Well, it's the same with Cannon. With John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow, Cannon is the dominant force in the First Presidency. In the East, everyone's thinking that whatever the Mormons are doing, Cannon wants it done."

The view was shared at home.

"Inside the Quorum," Woodworth said, "we have numerous comments from junior members who say Cannon laps us all in his brilliance."

Decades to publish

In the 1940s, Cannon's grandson, Adrian Cannon, received church permission to access the journals so he could write a biography, said assistant church historian Richard Turley. Adrian Cannon eventually decided instead to create a typescript of the journals, but he died of cancer in the 1980s before he could finish.

The Church History Department reached an agreement with the family that it would finish the project and publish Cannon's journals.

"It's impossible to overstate how happy I am the church is doing this," said Adrian Cannon's son, Joe Cannon, a former editor of the Deseret News like his great-grandfather. "From a church history perspective, it will be amazing. What you get with his journals is the spinal column of church history in the second half of the 19th century."

The Church History Department set out to publish Cannon's journals in similar fashion to the Joseph Smith Papers Project, in printed volumes full of footnotes and information about each person who appears. Two volumes were produced. One is about Cannon's time as a gold rush missionary for the church, "The Journals of George Q. Cannon: To California in '49." The second is about his legendary mission to Hawaii, "The Journals of George Q. Cannon: Hawaiian Mission 1850-54."

That project would have taken decades, Grow said, so it transitioned to a digital, text-only project with fully searchable text. Future installments will provide the remainder of Cannon's journals, from 1876 to his death in 1901.

"It provides us with an intimate look at the devotional practices of a church leader," Grow said. "George Q. Cannon's faith just really jumps off the page. Another thing that people will find of interest is that this is a journal of a member of the First Presidency, and we just don't have many of those available."

Woodworth said the journals reveal Cannon's lifelong concern for common people.

"Cannon's journal pays inordinate attention to the lowly, the downtrodden and the huddled. There are some beautiful passages where he tends to the suffering of the Saints."

In 1894, Cannon published an editorial in "The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star," the precursor to the Ensign.

"Have I imperfections?" Cannon wrote in a section republished in this month's Ensign. "I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. ... No man ought to say, 'Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.' He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them."

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865652190/To-Lincoln-the-face-of-Mormonism-was-George-Q-Cannon-whose-journals-the-LDS-Church-is-publishing.html?pg=1

Saturday, April 16, 2016

'Out of small things'

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 4-13-16)

Long ago, I studied one on one with a famous Egyptian authority on Islamic philosophy who was also a Dominican Catholic monk. Often, plainly fascinated, he inquired about my own faith. How wildly improbable it sometimes seemed, speaking with that deeply learned man in Cairo, that the fullness of God’s revealed truth was to be sought neither in Rome nor among the great Muslim philosophical theologians we were discussing, but with a small sect headquartered in remote Utah. How unlikely that God would choose an obscure 14-year-old Yankee farmer living outside a tiny frontier village to restore his church!

Yet, history suggests that the Lord might do precisely that. He seems uninterested in our notions of learning, grandeur and “importance.”

In 1869, Mark Twain published an account of his travels in Europe and the Holy Land titled “The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress.” It was his biggest hit — more popular, even, than “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.” In fact, “Innocents Abroad” still ranks among the best-selling travel books of all time.

“The word Palestine,” Twain recalled, “always brought to my mind a vague suggestion of a country as large as the United States. I do not know why, but such was the case. I suppose it was because I could not conceive of a small country having so large a history.”

He had grown up along the Mississippi River, and the famous “Father of Waters” formed his concept of what an important river should be:

“When I was a boy, I somehow got the impression that the river Jordan was 4,000 miles long and 35 miles wide. It is only 90 miles long, and so crooked that a man does not know which side of it he is on half the time. In going 90 miles, it does not get over more than 50 miles of ground. It is not any wider than Broadway in New York.”

Yet this small stream flows powerfully through both sacred and secular history.

“Leaving out two or three short journeys of the Savior,” Twain continued, sounding more religiously orthodox than he really was, “he spent his life, preached his gospel and performed his miracles within a compass no larger than an ordinary county in the United States. It is as much as I can do to comprehend this stupefying fact. How it wears a man out to have to read up a hundred pages of history every two or three miles — for verily the celebrated localities of Palestine occur that close together. How wearily, how bewilderingly they swarm about your path!”

We might imagine, though, that Jerusalem itself was a grand place, entirely unlike rural Palestine or, for that matter, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Palmyra, New York. Didn’t its elite regard their peasant countrymen with snooty contempt (John 7:49), recognizing them by their accents (e.g., at Matthew 26:73)?

An article in the May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review titled “Ancient Jerusalem: The Village, the Town, the City” suggests that Jerusalem, too, was a strikingly humble place. Written by BAR’s editor, Herschel Shanks, it summarizes recent work by the Israeli archaeologist Hillel Geva.

Geva is a self-proclaimed “minimalist” who refuses to go beyond what archaeology can demonstrate. For example, whereas earlier scholars have estimated the population of pre-Israelite Jerusalem at 880-3,000 people, he places it at 500-700, according to the article. Others have suggested that the city held perhaps 5,000 people during the glory days of David, Solomon and their successors, but Geva proposes just 2,000, according to the article.

Owing to an influx of refugees fleeing Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom in 720 B.C., Jerusalem’s inhabitants may have numbered 8,000 by the time of Lehi, when 1 Nephi 2:13 calls it a “great city.” (These refugees probably included Lehi’s own ancestors, who were of the northern tribe of Manasseh. See Alma 10:3.) After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the city wouldn’t reach that size again until nearly the time of Jesus. (In 1860, when the young English convert Charles W. Penrose voiced his yearning — in the hymn “O Ye Mountains High” — to gather with the Saints in Zion, “sacred home of the prophets of God,” Salt Lake City held just over 8,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census.)

“However you cut it,” BAR’s summary concludes, “Jerusalem was a tiny place in ancient times. Yet it played a major role in the march of history.”

As usual, in the words of Doctrine and Covenants 64:33, “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865652157/Out-of-small-things.html

Friday, April 15, 2016

More expansive boundaries, not 'bubbles,' for LDS Church, Otterson says

(by Tad Walch deseretnews.com 4-12-16)

The LDS Church is expanding its boundaries today far more than restricting them, the managing director of LDS Public Affairs said Tuesday at Utah Valley University.

Michael Otterson, 67, has been the chief spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for eight years. He provided an expansive and candid view of the church’s public engagement over the past decade during his keynote address at UVU's 17th annual Mormon Studies Conference, "Mormonism and the Art of Boundary Maintenance: Negotiating Identities in and Around Mormonism."

Otterson said the LDS Church is expanding its boundaries today by building relationships outside the church with interfaith leaders, academics and minority communities, including woman and lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

He also provided an in-depth response to a question about women and the priesthood from Kate Kelly, an excommunicated former leader of Ordain Women, during the question-and-answer session.

And he warned against what he called "bubbles," or seeing the church through a narrow lens of interest or bias.

"I don’t see boundaries in the same way as some commentators, who believe that the church today is simply battening down the hatches, rigidly resisting any change that seems progressive," he said.

"That is an odd criticism of a church that believes in modern revelation through apostles and prophets, which in itself implies the ability to change or adapt — at least in organizational and structural terms. Rather, I acknowledge the right of leaders to establish boundaries for doctrine and behavior."

Born and educated in Britain and a former international journalist, Otterson is well-known for his essays about Mormons published by the Washington Post's On Faith blog. His address drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 to an auditorium in the UVU library.

Otterson made a case that the church was known in the 19th century as pushing boundaries, and that its doctrine still does so.

"The Latter-day Saint concept of individual agency, accountability, judgment and eternal progression is the antithesis of Calvinist predestination," he said. "Our doctrine of a personalized Plan of Salvation is Mormonism at its most expansive, boundary-challenging best."

Otterson outlined how LDS leaders have accelerated their outreach to national faith leaders since 2008. Churches are finding they have more in common and are more effective with a collective voice as soceity grows increasingly secular.

"The relationships we’ve built together and the expanded boundaries will, I predict, prove to be extremely valuable to all faith groups in the years ahead."

Church leaders have expanded boundaries by increasing the transparency of the faith's history through Gospel Topics essays on its website and the Joseph Smith Papers, he said, and took issue with those who criticize the church's past history curriculum and claim church leaders deliberately painted a false picture.

"You would expect me as a church spokesman to reject those claims," he said, "and I do. But I want to go further and reject it wholly, utterly and irrevocably because I simply do not believe it, and it does not square with my personal experience about how church leaders think and act and what motivates them."

He noted the Washington Post and the Associated Press have described the current age as "a new era of transparency" for the church.

"The realization by church leaders that they needed to substantially strengthen and deepen church curriculum and introduce better resource materials was a natural evolution as audience needs, interests and study habits changed," he said. "Responding gradually to these changing needs is a very long way from betrayal."

Otterson rejected the assertion that LDS boundaries on LGBT rights are established out of fear and hate of LGBT people as well as the idea that it's only a matter of time before the church accommodates same-sex marriage within its doctrine.

It's a distortion and propaganda to say Mormons hate gays, he said. First, hatred of any person or group should be anathema to any Latter-day Saint.

Second, church boundaries on LGBT issues are doctrinal, based on LDS understandings of chastity and the purposes of marriage, life and human destiny.

"The doctrine of the church in relation to sexual morality — that sex is proper only between a married man and a woman — has not changed, and there is no sign whatsoever that it will change in the future," Otterson said. "The law of chastity applying to heterosexual and homosexual behavior is inviolate."

Kelly, a founder and former board member of Ordain Women excommunicated by her local LDS leaders in 2014, asked about the church's position on women in the priesthood and if those who advocate for women to receive the priesthood should be punished in their local congregations.

For the church's position, Otterson referred her to the Gospel Topics essay on women and the priesthood.

"People aren't punished for opinions," he added, "and I think there is a significant degree of misunderstanding. Having opinions, even about whether women should hold the priesthood, is certainly within the purview of any member of the church. However, when those opinions transfer into advocacy or lobbying, particularly when they're clearly lobbying against what has been declared as clear doctrine by church leaders, that crosses a line, and in a few cases, and you mentioned your own case, in a few cases that has led to a disciplinary council."

During his presentation, Otterson said he is encouraged by recent LDS changes that increase the visibility of women.

"I’m personally encouraged to see those changes, and I assume in the normal course of events we will see other such initiatives as the male and female leadership of the church continue to discuss this topic," he said.

Otterson noted that many people criticize politicians and Beltway media for being inside the “Washington Bubble,” always seeing the world through the narrow lens of their own professional or vocational biases. He suggested some critics should avoid similar thinking when addressing issues in a global church.

"I simply ask you," he said, "if you are in your own bubble or echo chamber, to recognize that the issues we are sometimes fixated on along the Wasatch Front or even in the United States are not necessarily important to our members in East Africa or Central Asia."

Otterson said the conference's title is apt, that boundary maintenance is an art.

"And if it’s an art, who are the artists?" he asked, answering they are Jesus Christ and prophets.
"The point is that there is a cornerstone," he added. "There are boundaries, both of behavior and of doctrine. There are commandments. There is obedience. Believing this as I do doesn’t rob me of my agency or of my opinions. Rather it compels me constantly to evaluate my own behavior against that standard, knowing that ultimately I will be accountable to God for where I draw those boundaries for myself."

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865652045/LDS-Church-boundaries-more-expansive-than-restrictive-Michael-Otterson-says-at-UVU.html?pg=1

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Times columnist Ross Douthat says future of religious liberty similar to 19th-century Mormon experience

(by Tad Walch deseretnews.com 4-11-16)

The future of religious liberty debate in the United States might look a lot like what happened to Mormons in the 19th century, New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat said Monday night at Utah Valley University.

"I think it's entirely possible we're living through a strange era in which essentially all religious conservatives are the new Mormons, and the treatment that was meted out to Mormons in the 19th century is a more violent but possibly relevant prologue to what is to come," said Douthat, who delivered the opening, combined keynote address for UVU's annual Mormon Studies Conference and Religious Freedom Symposium.

"The 19th century is a good template for what we'll be seeing in religious liberty debates next 20 to 30 to 40 years."

In the 1800s, American religious liberty operated on a Protestant moral consensus with no room for Mormon polygamy or Catholic hierarchy, he said. Polygamy, for example, was called a relic of barbarism by the Republican Party in the late 19th century.

Douthat, a Catholic who sees bigotry and racism in those attacks on Catholicism, made a case for how Mormons and conservative Catholics, Jews and Muslims could hope for a different outcome in coming years, but he said American elites and liberals expect religious traditions to adapt and conform to a new moral and ethical consensus based on the sexual revolution.

"Religious groups have conformed themselves before, they believe, so it's not crazy for them to expect that will happen again," he said.

Mormons jettisoned polygamy and became the example of American family values. Catholics adopted a different stance on religious liberty. Those changes brought them into the mainstream — but now make outsiders believe they simply can be expected to adapt again to a new "consensus" that accepts same-sex marriage and reproductive right, Douthat said.

"The irony is particularly rich for Mormons themselves, because essentially Mormonism spent a great deal of time and energy adapting itself to a 19th-century Protestant view of marriage, pushing polygamy away, pushing polygamist communities to the margins of a greater Mormon community, so that by the mid-20th century there is no group in the United States that is more classically American in its orientation toward family and family values than Latter-day Saints."

Douthat said that he hopes what he called "elite America" will spend less time worrying about the problems it sees in Biblical sexual morality and recognize the importance of the contributions of religious groups in American society.

"Elite American should be sending fleets of experts out to Utah to basically try to figure out what Mormons are doing right and how that could be operationalized on a mass scale, because the reality is that if you look at all of the things that contemporary American liberalism is most concerned with — issues of inequality and upward mobility and the successful assimilation of immigrants and so — Utah and what you might call the greater Mormon region in the United States is doing far better than almost any other part of the U.S.

"It's also the part of the United States that is most resistant to Donald Trump. Those two things are not unconnected."

Conservative religious groups can change the future trajectory of American religious liberty debates by remaining steadfast. If outsiders see the internal debates in these religious traditions fragmenting those traditions, they will continue to bring pressure to motivate what they see as inevitable acceptance of the new consensus, Douthat said. If religious traditions do not fragment, liberals may decide it isn't worth trying to change them and leave them alone.

For example, if the LDS Church defends BYU's tax-exampt status, and the Catholic Church defends Notre Dame's and evangelical leaders defend that of Baylor University, it's possible liberals will decide to avoid fighting such sustained battles.

Douthat has a second hope for the future of the debate.

"The core reality of contemporary American life is that religion is in decline in the United States, but where religion is resilient and flourishing, those are usually places where the American social fabric is still resilient and flourishing," he said.

"My hope for the future of the religious liberty debate is that that reality and the implications of that reality will prevent the sort of low-level warfare that we're seeing now from turning into a kind of epic religious-institution breaking or destroying conflict, that basically the people who lead and run American will look at the good that American religion clearly does and the good that conservative religion especially very clearly does, and essentially stay their hand from some of the conflicts that they've already started and that I fear they're about to push a little further."

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865652032/At-UVU-Times-columnist-Ross-Douthat-says-future-of-religious-liberty-similar-to-19th-century-Mormon.html

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The surprising story of a Book of Mormon in the Harvard library

(by Taylor Halverson deseretnews.com 4-9-16)

The Book of Mormon is the most literarily beautiful, doctrinally truthful and everlastingly applicable book I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years.

During one six-month period in graduate school, I read 100 densely packed scholarly books and nearly that many more articles on biblical studies and related topics (see the full list here at taylorhalverson.com).

Over a holiday break, I’m known to plow through a half dozen books or more.

My wife and I own several thousand books, and we have individually or collectively read nearly every book on our shelves.

I love learning, and digging into a book can be one of the most rewarding experiences. With a book you may access a lifetime of others’ learning and experience structured and condensed into the most meaningful, accessible and applicable parts.

Even though I have experienced thousands of books in my lifetime, many of them truly incredible experiences, the Book of Mormon still remains the most literarily beautiful, doctrinally truthful and everlastingly applicable book I’ve ever encountered.

How would you expect this book to be regarded in one of the most important libraries in the world?

The following incredible story about an unusual copy of the Book of Mormon at the Harvard University library was shared with me by Paul Alan Cox, who is an ethnobotanist and conservationist based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Paul gave his permission to share the story he wrote below.

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In 1978 when I was studying for my doctorate, I spent a lot of time in Widener Library searching obscure literature on tropical rain forest ecology. The Widener Library, which is at Harvard, is second in America only to the Library of Congress in terms of number of volumes, and is a wonderful resource for scholarly studies.

After a long day of working in the library, I decided to take a break to see if they had any books about my church. The librarian at the reference desk kindly gave me the call numbers. I went up the elevator and into the shelves. I was amazed by the number of books, both pro and con, on the shelves about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A small dusty volume on an upper shelf caught my eye, and I pulled it down.

To my amazement, I found that it was a second edition of the Book of Mormon. When I looked at the front pages, I saw that it was inscribed as a "Gift to Harvard College" by "Brigham Young, of the City of the Great Salt Lake."

Excited by this find, I went back down the elevator to the reference desk to see if I could check the book out. I wanted to show Brigham Young's signature on the Book of Mormon to my wife, Barbara, and our two small children, Emily and Paul Matthew. The librarian told me that I could indeed check out the book, but when she went to stamp the due date at the back of the book, she stopped. "There is no circulation paper here. I will have to glue one in."

When she returned, I asked her if that meant that the book had never been checked out. "Correct,” she said, “this book has never been circulated."

She stamped the book. I exited the massive front doors of the Widener Library and descended the long stone steps. I crossed Harvard yard towards my small graduate student office in the basement of the Biological Laboratories, passing en route some of the world's most advanced and expensive laboratories. I thought of the 130 years that this copy of the Book of Mormon I carried had sat on the library shelves untouched, collecting dust, until a young Mormon student finally saw it.

As I thought of the extraordinary truth of the Book of Mormon and the impact that it has had on my life and that of my family, Paul's prophesy to Timothy came to my mind: in the last days people would be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

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No matter how many books I read for my doctorate program, or the number of volumes in my personal library, Paul’s story reminds me to never neglect the one, most important book. I conclude simply. May the Book of Mormon and its unfailing message be ever in your life.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865651869/The-surprising-story-of-a-Book-of-Mormon-in-the-Harvard-library.html

Monday, April 4, 2016

Editing out the 'bad grammar' in the Book of Mormon

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 3-31-16)

Since its first publication in 1830, the Book of Mormon has been mocked for what seems to be occasionally poor English and bad grammar. In its original version, for instance, Mosiah 10:15 spoke of people who “had arriven to the promised land”; “they was yet wroth,” reported 1 Nephi 4:4; “I have wrote this epistle,” said Giddianhi at 3 Nephi 3:5; “I was a going thither,” Amulek recalled at Alma 10:8; the original version of Helaman 7:8 and 13:37 referred to events “in them days”; and “they done all these things,” reported Ether 9:29.

Virtually all, if not all, of these apparent errors have since been corrected. Indeed, many were corrected by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. But they can’t be altogether hidden, and critics have made light of them for nearly two centuries. A genuinely inspired text, those detractors sniff, would have used correct grammar.

This can appear to be a pretty decisive and even embarrassing argument. But it’s not, and it needn’t be. In fact, the supposed grammatical errors may actually represent remarkable evidence for the inspiration of the Book of Mormon. What now seems bad grammar was once entirely acceptable English, even in highly educated circles — but in a period long before Smith. For instance, in 1598, the highly educated English poet and military writer Robert Barret published a book in London titled “The Theorike and Practike of Modern Warres” that we would surely describe today as “academic.” And yet he could write that “The wars and weapons are now altered from them days.” Moreover, in parallel fashion, recent research demonstrates remarkable and specific connections between the vocabulary of the original English text of the Book of Mormon and the English language of the period between 1540 and 1740.

The two principal figures in that research, Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, will address such issues frankly and directly in a program titled “Editing Out the ‘Bad Grammar’ in the Book of Mormon” on Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. at 1102 Jesse Knight Building on the campus of Brigham Young University. Sponsored by BYU Studies, the Interpreter Foundation, and BYU’s College of Humanities and its Department of Linguistics and English Language, the event is free and open to the public.

Skousen is a professor of linguistics and English language at BYU. He is known among linguists internationally for his theory of analogical modeling and for the quantum computing application of it known as quantum analogical modeling. He is also known for his monumental Book of Mormon critical text project, which is rapidly nearing its 30th birthday. The program will celebrate the publication of the two newest books to emerge from his efforts — the first of six that, together, will comprise “Grammatical Variation,” the project’s third volume. They are massive, each totaling roughly 650 pages, and they discuss in meticulous detail the nonstandard English in the original text of the Book of Mormon and the ways in which not only subsequent editions but also the early scribes and typesetters have tried to “fix” it.

Carmack is an independent scholar holding a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a law degree from Stanford University, along with a doctorate in Hispanic languages and literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His current research focuses on the language of the Book of Mormon as it relates to early stages of English, and he is collaborating with Skousen on Volume 3 of the critical text project.

Skousen’s remarks will explain the history and purposes of the critical text project and then provide an overview of the two newly published books. He will discuss the kinds of grammatical editing the Book of Mormon has undergone since Smith first dictated it to his scribes in the late 1820s — including attempts in subsequent editions to make it read more like the modern standard English we speak and write today.

In his presentation, Carmack will exhibit evidence arguing that the grammar of the earliest text of the Book of Mormon can no longer be dismissed as defective and substandard. In fact, in case after case, the forms and usage patterns in the Book of Mormon strikingly resemble those found in Early Modern English. They aren’t wrong; they’re simply different. But different in a mysterious and intriguing way.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865651207/Editing-out-the-bad-grammar-in-the-Book-of-Mormon.html

Sunday, April 3, 2016

LDS Church now has 15.6 million members, 74,000 missionaries, church announces


(by Tad Walch deseretnews.com 4-2-16)

The LDS Church had 15,634,199 members as of the end of 2015, said Brook P. Hales, secretary to the First Presidency.

Hales presented the church's annual statistical report on Saturday afternoon to the 186th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church announces total membership once a year in April. The total always represents the number of church members at the end of the most recent calendar year.

A year ago, the church announced membership at the end of 2014 was 15,372,337.

At year's end, there were 74,079 full-time Mormon missionaries. A year earlier, there had been 85,147, a reduction of 13 percent. A decrease had been expected.

The number of missionaries remains 27 percent higher than the 58,500 missionaries who were serving in October 2012, when LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the age change that allowed missionaries to serve at younger ages.

That announcement led to a surge in the number of missionaries that peaked at 89,000 as suddenly eligible 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds streamed into the mission field. The surge now has subsided, the executive director of the church's missionary department said earlier in the week.

Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy also said the number of missionaries will gradually rise again.
"As that surge passed, we're now down to around 75,000 missionaries, which is where we think we'll stay for a period of time as that gradually increases," he said.

The number of church service missionaries rose, from 30,404 to 31,779.

Hales said the church has 3,174 stakes and 558 districts. The number of wards and branches rose to 30,016, up from 29,621 at the end of 2014.

The church had 418 missions at the end of 2015, Hales noted. Since the new year, the church has added a new mission in Vietnam and two in Africa, bringing the number of missions today is 421.

The number of operating temples rose to 149 from 144. The temples dedicated in 2015 were in Cordoba, Argentina; Payson, Utah; Trujillo, Peru; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Tijuana, Mexico.

Since the end of 2015, the Provo City Center Temple was dedicated and became the 150th operating temple.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865651410/LDS-Church-now-has-156-million-members-nearly-75000-missionaries-church-announces.html

Progress in building temples reflects growth of the LDS Church


(by Trent Toone deseretnews.com 3-28-16)

As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entered the 1980s, it would have been fairly easy for members to list or even memorize the names of 17 temples around the world.

Within five years, as the pace of temple building began to increase, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then second counselor in the First Presidency, told members they were living in "the greatest era of temple building ever witnessed."

Fast forward 36 years, and memorizing the names of 150 temples, with 23 more announced or under construction, is no easy feat. Now church members talk about temples in the hundreds as evidence of a greater work taking place.

"The building of temples is a very clear indication of the growth of the church," President Thomas S. Monson said in April 2015. "The process of determining needs and finding locations for additional temples is ongoing, for we desire that as many members as possible have an opportunity to attend the temple without great sacrifices of time and resources."

After initially building four temples in Utah following arrival of the Mormon pioneers, the church sought to establish temples upon each continent of the world except Antarctica. The use of multimedia technology in various languages has enabled temples to operate in diverse locations. Progress increased with the concept of building smaller temples in remote areas. In recent years, the church has built additional temples in cities and countries where membership is growing rapidly, making the crowning blessings of the gospel more accessible than ever before, President Monson has said.

"Today, most of us do not have to suffer great hardships in order to attend the temple," President Monson said in April 2011. "Eighty-five percent of the membership of the church now lives within 200 miles (320 km) of a temple, and for a great many of us, that distance is much shorter."

Firsts

Did you know that by 1900 there were strong Mormon settlements in areas far from Utah? This fact was addressed by President Joseph F. Smith in the April 1901 general conference, according to "Temples of the New Millennium," by Chad S. Hawkins.

"I foresee the necessity arising for other temples or places consecrated to the Lord for the performance of ordinances of God's house, so that the people may have the benefits of the house of the Lord without having to travel hundreds of miles for that purpose," President Smith said on that occasion.

In 1919, the Laie Hawaii Temple was the first to be built outside of Utah (not counting Kirtland or Nauvoo).

In 1923, the Cardston Alberta Temple was the first temple constructed outside the United States.
In 1955, the Bern Switzerland Temple became the church's ninth operating temple and the first in Europe. Switzerland was an ideal location geographically. It guaranteed religious freedom and held neutrality during World Wars I and II, and it represented a number of languages and ethnic backgrounds, according to a 2015 Deseret News article. These factors led the church to incorporate multimedia technology that served multiple languages in a temple for the first time.

The Sao Paulo Brazil Temple was first in South America, in 1978; the Tokyo Japan Temple was the first in Asia, in 1980; and the Johannesburg South Africa Temple was the first in Africa, in 1985.

Small temples

From the 1830s to the 1970s, the LDS Church averaged about one temple per decade, with the most productive decades being the 1950s (Switzerland, Los Angeles, New Zealand and London) the 1970s (Ogden, Provo, Washington, D.C., and Brazil).

Temple construction boomed over the next three decades as 25 temples were completed in the 1980s; 26 in the 1990s; and 62 in the 2000s.

The majority of the temples erected in the late 1990s and 2000s are referred to as "small temples," designed to accommodate smaller numbers of church members in remote locations. They were cost-effective and easily built in a matter of months, President Hinckley said in October 1997.

In April 1998, President Hinckley announced the church's goal to build 30 small temples in addition to 17 traditional temples under construction at that time.

"This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add two more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century," President Hinckley said. "In this program we are moving on a scale the like of which we have never seen before."

Recent trends

While the church prepares to build temples for the first time in countries such as Haiti and Thailand, one recent trend has been building additional temples in countries and cities with growing membership.

South America is a prime example. There are six operating temples in Brazil, with one under construction and one other that has been announced. Argentina gained a second temple in Cordoba last year, while its neighbor to the west, Chile, has a second temple under construction in Concepcion; Colombia also has a second temple on the way, with ground broken recently in Barranquilla.

The Lima Peru Temple was dedicated in 1986. Since then, growth has caused church leaders to add the Trujillo Peru Temple (2015) to the north and plan for a third in Arequipa, in the south. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently visited Latter-day Saints in Peru and came away impressed, according to an LDS Church News article.

"I left … Peru happy and satisfied with the growth of the church — not only numerically, but also with the growing maturity of the leaders and the strength I saw in the youth," Elder Holland said.
Mexico has 13 temples, with the most recent coming in Tijuana last December.

There are eight operating temples in Canada with one yet to be built.

The state of Idaho has temples in Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Twin Falls and Boise. Twelve miles from the Boise Temple, a second temple is under construction in Meridian, according to the LDS Church News.

"The decision to build a temple in a particular location is about the hearts of the people," Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at the Meridian Temple groundbreaking. "The Lord has inspired his servants to construct a temple here as a reflection of devotion and dedication and faithfulness and for that, on behalf of all the brethren, I love you and express gratitude."

Almost 20 years after the Johannesburg South Africa Temple was dedicated, the first temple in West Africa was dedicated in Accra, Ghana, by President Hinckley.

In his book, "Safe Journey: An African Adventure," Elder Glenn L. Pace, an emeritus general authority, described the positive difference this new temple would have on West Africa, a region historically torn by poverty, civil war, disease, famine, illiteracy and hardships.

"Like an atomic bomb has been dropped right in the middle of Satan's stronghold in West Africa," Elder Pace wrote in his book. "It will be the most significant thing that has affected West Africa since the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It will be the beginning of the end of Satan's hold on these countries."

The next 23 temples

Temples in Sapporo, Japan; Philadelphia; Fort Collins, Colorado; Star Valley, Wyoming; and Hartford, Connecticut, all will be dedicated this fall.

Another 10 temples are under various stages of construction in the following locations: Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Meridian, Idaho; Cedar City, Utah; Tucson, Arizona; Concepcion, Chile; Lisbon, Portugal; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Barranquilla, Colombia; and Fortaleza, Brazil.

The church has announced the groundbreaking for the Durban South Africa Temple will take place April 9.

President Monson has announced seven additional temples in recent years at general conference: Urdaneta, Philippines; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Arequipa, Peru; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand.

'Wherever they are'

While speaking of the Rome Italy Temple in April 2011, President Monson expressed his gratitude to the Lord for every temple around the globe, "wherever they are."

"Each one stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that he desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless his sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth. I so testify," President Monson said.

"My beloved brothers and sisters, may we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attend the temple and to have the spirit of the temple in our hearts and in our homes."

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865651019/Progress-in-building-temples-reflects-growth-of-the-LDS-Church.html?pg=1

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A great 'cloud of witnesses' at Easter

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 3-23-16)

Since the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 and its formal organization in April 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has resounded with testimonies of the risen Savior.

Notable among these is the joint declaration of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the first president of the LDS Church, and Sidney Rigdon following their February 1832 vision of the three degrees of glory: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God …” (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-23).

Also noteworthy is the collective witness of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as it was expressed in January 2000 in a proclamation titled “The Living Christ.”

Less known are the statements of President George Q. Cannon that I discussed here a few weeks ago (see “Remembering the history of the LDS Church on the Hawaiian Islands,” Feb. 18, 2016): Speaking during the 1893 dedicatory services for the Salt Lake Temple, he testified of having “seen and conversed with Christ as a man talks with his friend, ‘face to face.’”

“I know that God lives,” he wrote in the Deseret Evening News on Oct. 6, 1896. “I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen him. … I testify to you of these things as one that knows — as one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Noteworthy, too, is President Lorenzo Snow’s September 1898 experience in the Salt Lake Temple. Just hours after the death of President Wilford Woodruff, the Savior appeared to President Snow, directing him to reorganize the First Presidency immediately and not wait for months or even years as had previously been done (see “A Visit from the Savior,” Ensign, September 2015).

Elder Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles between 1906 and 1931, had a life-changing experience while serving as a missionary in Pennsylvania:

“One night I dreamed — if dream it may be called — that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw him as plainly as I see this congregation.” The vision continued, he said, until “I was perfectly familiar with his appearance — face, form and movements.”

“Then came the divine illumination, which is greater than all dreams, visions and other
manifestations combined. By the light of God’s candle — the gift of the Holy Ghost — I saw what till then I had never seen, I learned what till then I had never known, I loved the Lord as I had never loved Him before. My soul was satisfied, my joy was full, for I had a testimony of the truth, and it has remained with me to this day. I know that my Redeemer liveth. Not even Job knew it better. I have evidence that I cannot doubt” (see “The Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, December 2003).

Elder David B. Haight, an apostle from 1976 until 2004, missed general conference in April 1989 because of a life-threatening health crisis that required a serious operation. In the October conference of that year, however, he reported on what had happened when he lost consciousness during his illness.

“The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. … I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere. During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. … I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry. … I was being taught, and the eyes of my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things. … During those days of unconsciousness, I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. … I cannot begin to convey to you the deep impact that these scenes have confirmed upon my soul” (see “The Sacrament — and the Sacrifice,” Liahona, April 2007).

It’s appropriate to recall such accounts — which might be multiplied considerably — at Easter season:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …” (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865650754/A-great-cloud-of-witnesses-at-Easter.html