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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

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

(by Taylor Halverson deseretnews.com 7-21-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865658483/When-former-Gov-Boggs-group-traveled-with-the-ill-fated-Donner-Party.html

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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

(by Sam Penrod deseretnews.com 7-18-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865658292/LDS-Church-missionaries-in-Russia-now-to-be-known-as-volunteers.html

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Book of Mormon and linguistic evolution

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 7-14-16)

As the Book of Mormon illustrates, languages evolve.

For instance, somewhere between 279 B.C. and 130 B.C. — roughly 325-470 years after they’d separately left Jerusalem — the Nephites of King Mosiah I encountered the people of Zarahemla or “Mulekites.” From the Nephite standpoint, the Mulekite language had grown so “corrupted” that neither “Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.” Accordingly, “Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language” (see Omni 1:17-18).

But the Nephite language itself had almost certainly become “corrupted” over the intervening centuries.

Likewise, during the early fifth century A.D. — that is, as the Nephites’ thousand-year history neared its tragic end — Moroni explained that their “reformed Egyptian” writing system had been “handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.” They might have used Hebrew letters, but those would have required more space on the plates and, anyway, “the Hebrew hath been altered by us also.” After a millennium of isolated linguistic development, “none other people knoweth our language” (see Mormon 9:32-34).

English manifests similar historical changes. Thus, taking just the first 20 lines of the 1603 printing of “Hamlet,” we find such spellings as “magicall,” “historie,” “meete,” “leegemen” (“liegemen,” itself obsolete), “souldier,” “releeved,” “peece,” “seene,” “wil,” “beliefe” and “fantasie.”

And, in Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400), we find words such as “contree,” “armee,” “koude” (“could”), “ooth” (“oath”), “condicioun” (“condition”) and “seyd” (“said”). Chaucer doesn’t write “eyes,” “toes” or “foes,” but “eyen,” “toon” and “foon.” His infinitive verb “to ride” seems almost German: “riden” or, sometimes, “ryden.” And his past participles often have a “y” prefix, so that “fallen” becomes “yfallen” (like German “gefallen”).

Furthermore, such spelling variations represent changes in pronunciation. “Forehead” was once pronounced “forid.” “Bone,” “home” and “oak” were spelled “boon,” “hoom” and “ook” 600 years ago — and “ban,” “ham" and “ac” around A.D. 1000.

Meanings change, too. So, when Shakespeare writes in “King Lear” of “mice, and rats, and such small deer,” he’s plainly using the word “deer” to mean “animals.” And when “Romeo and Juliet” describes a quarrel as “nice,” the word means “foolish” or “trifling.”

In 20th-century England, Americans speaking about a “campus” or “bleachers” might have bewildered their hearers. And British references to the “bonnet” (“hood”) of their car, or to parking it off the highway in a “lay-by,” would mystify many Americans. George Bernard Shaw is attributed with the quip that Britain and America are “two countries divided by a common language.”

Syntax or sentence structure also evolves. Modern English rejects double and triple negatives on logical grounds, but Shakespeare and others used them for emphasis. “I will not budge for no man’s pleasure,” reads “Romeo and Juliet.” And, literally translated, the “Canterbury Tales” say of Chaucer’s Knight that “he never did not say no harm to no kind of creature in all his life.”

Moreover, words come and go. “Trousers” are becoming “pants.” The “waistcoat,” often pronounced “weskit,” is now usually a “vest.” And what would Henry Alexander, the Anglo-Canadian linguist from whose 1940 book “The Story of Our Language” my English examples are drawn, have made of “transgendered,” “internet” or “Apple laptop”? How would he have understood the verb “to google”?

If we were transported four centuries back to Shakespeare’s day, or six centuries to Chaucer’s, we would find the language virtually incomprehensible. If we traveled back a thousand years, English would seem as foreign to us as German, French or Latin.

But, if anything, printing and widespread education have slowed the pace of linguistic change over the past half millennium. In an oral culture, it proceeds more rapidly.

Thus, William Caxton (d. ca. 1491), perhaps the first English printer, explained that “certaynly our langage now used varyeth ferre (far) from that whiche was used and spoken when I was borne. For we englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone (moon), which is never stedfaste, but ever waverynge, wexynge one season, and waneth and dycreaseth another season.”

The fact that the Mulekites “had brought no records with them” is significant. It probably explains not only why “they denied the being of their Creator” (Omni 1:17) but also why their language was so “corrupted.”

This scarcely proves the Book of Mormon is true. But the book’s awareness of linguistic evolution seems to me rather sophisticated for young Joseph Smith, who had about a third-grade education at the time of the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, and who, his mother recalled, read very little.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

LDS Church announces open house, dedication dates for Sapporo Japan Temple





(by Kelsey Schwab deseretnews.com 7-5-16)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the open house and dedication dates for the Sapporo Japan Temple on Monday.

The temple's open house will begin Friday, July 8, and continue through Saturday, July 23, excluding Sundays. The temple will be dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 21, in three dedicatory sessions. The day before the dedication, youths in the Sapporo area will perform in a “cultural celebration honoring Japan’s history as well as the history of the church in the country,” according to a news release from Mormon Newsroom.

“The 48,480-square-foot Sapporo Japan Temple sits on 9.8 acres with the statue of the angel Moroni on top of its single spire. The temple will serve more than 8,000 Latter-day Saints who live on the island of Hokkaido and in Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of the main island of Honshu,” reads the news release.

The other two Japan temples are located in Tokyo and Fukuoka. When dedicated, the Sapporo Japan Temple will become the 151st operating temple worldwide.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to construct the Sapporo Japan Temple during the October 2009 general conference.

Earlier this year, the renovated Suva Fiji Temple was rededicated Feb. 21 and the Provo City Center Temple was dedicated March 20. The renovated Freiberg Germany Temple (Sept. 4), the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple (Sept. 18) and the Fort Collins Colorado Temple (Oct. 16) will also be dedicated this year.

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865657488/LDS-Church-announces-open-house-dedication-dates-for-Sapporo-Japan-Temple.html

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Joseph Smith's growing understanding of families and heaven

(by R. Scott Lloyd deseretnews.com 6-17-16)

Over the course of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, his understanding of families and heaven “unfolded line upon line, sometimes growing out of a yearning for lost loved ones,” two presenters at the Mormon History Association Conference said in a paper given June 10.

Barbara Morgan Gardner and R. Devan Jensen of the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University authored the paper, which traced the Prophet’s understanding over his lifetime through the following conditions:
  • Revelation preceded personal tragedy and became more meaningful through that tragedy.
  • As Joseph pleaded for understanding of how to reunite with lost loved ones, he gained greater understanding of salvation’s dependence on being sealed or welded together into an eternal family chain.
  • He eventually learned that the linking needed to be both vertical (for his own family) and horizontal (among the human family).
Joseph married Emma Hale on Jan. 18, 1827, and, at the time of their marriage, there was no apparent indication of marriage lasting beyond the grave, the authors noted.
                                                 
On June 15, 1828, their baby Alvin was born and died in Harmony, Pennsylvania, during the time that the 116 pages given to Martin Harris were lost, events that caused intense soul-searching. The following year, as the Book of Mormon translation resumed, Joseph became aware of the passage in Moroni 8:12-18, declaring that little children are alive in Christ and need no baptism.

“This doctrine challenged the authoritarian stance of most organized churches regarding the practice of infant baptism,” the authors noted.

The Smiths would lose other children to death in ensuing years.

In May 1829 the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored, but the sealing keys had not yet been revealed.

In November to December of 1839, Joseph translated the sixth chapter of the Book of Moses, learning of the priesthood in regard to family and a book of remembrance. Then, the Saints were commanded to gather at “the Ohio,” where a house of the Lord would be built and they would be endowed with power from on high, the authors noted.

“A watershed moment came in February 1832, when Joseph and Sidney Rigdon learned that heaven consisted of many kingdoms. They learned that salvation came through the Atonement of Jesus Christ by way of ordinances such as baptism and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost and that they could become kings and priests receiving a fullness of the Father’s glory. Thus, salvation was bound to saving ordinances, but only for those who were accountable.”

Another key event, the authors declared, came in April 1836, when Joseph and Oliver saw the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and received from Elijah the sealing keys that would bind families together.

In 1839, after moving to Nauvoo, he introduced various doctrines and practices to accomplish Malachi’s promise to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to their fathers.”

“Just as personal tragedy led Joseph Smith to receive his revelations on the family, his nephew Joseph F. Smith later received extended insight into the eternal nature of family and heaven,” the authors wrote. “These revelations also came in the context of personal loss among family, friends and the greater society in which he was involved. These losses included his father, Hyrum, and Uncle Joseph, whom he lost as a young boy in 1846; his mother, whom he lost as a teenager; his daughter Mercy Josephine, who passed away as he started his early apostleship in 1870; and his son Hyrum, a 45-year-old apostle who passed away only months previous to the revelation in January of 1918. These deaths, in the context of millions of lives lost during World War I and the worldwide pandemic of 1918, clearly influenced his questions. Thus, President Joseph F. Smith continued the prophetic pattern of learning line upon line about families and heaven.”

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865656329/Joseph-Smiths-growing-understanding-of-families-and-heaven.html

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mormon Welfare Program


Long PBS piece calls Mormon welfare system huge, impressive

(by Tad Walch deseretnews.com 6-28-16)

Emmy Award-winning TV reporter Lucky Severson characterized the LDS Church's welfare system as huge and impressive in a seven-minute report on the PBS TV show "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly."

Both the video and a transcript are available at PBS.org's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly web page.
The piece included interviews with a bishop, a Relief Society president, service missionaries and leaders of various departments of the welfare system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Much of the information will be familiar to many Mormons, including the fact that the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, Marines and FEMA have toured and studied the system.
But Severson also included a number of interesting details.

The church has 115 bishop's storehouses throughout the United States, for example. The main storehouse in Salt Lake City is a massive warehouse with more than 500,000 square feet built to withstand a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. The overall system, Severson said, "holds enough provisions to meet the projected demands of members and nonmembers in the United States and Canada for two years."

The church also has 29 grain storage sites. The iconic silo on the west side of Salt Lake City alone holds 16 million pounds of hard red winter wheat.

The church linked to the PBS report on its "Getting It Right" blog at mormonnewsroom.org. The blog noted that Severson correctly reported the faith's approach to helping others in need "comes from the Bible and from Mormon scripture received through revelation to its prophets."

The isn't the first time Severson, a former NBC News correspondent, has highlighted the church for "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly." In December 2013, he did a similar segment titled "Mormon Missionary Expansion" about the surge in the number of LDS missionaries after church leaders lowered the age requirements.

In Utah, "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" runs Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on KUED.

The PBS site included a number of links to related resources about the LDS welfare system:

LDS Newsroom: Welfare and Self-Reliance

Wall Street Journal: “What the Mormons know about welfare” by Naomi Schaefer Riley, February 18, 2012

Philanthropy Roundtable: “A welfare system that works” by Naomi Schaefer Riley, Fall 2012

The Economist: “Bishop’s move,” February 14, 2002

San Francisco Chronicle: “Mormon food bank a private welfare system” by Matthai Kuruvila, March 8, 2009

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865657064/Long-PBS-piece-calls-Mormon-welfare-system-huge-impressive.html

Friday, July 1, 2016

How else might the Lord's name be taken in vain?


(by Taylor Halverson deseretnews.com 6-20-16)

We should be far more respectful when we invoke the name of God. We should not use God’s name in anger, as an exclamation point, in surprise or pain. We should use the name of God, the creator of all things, in reverence, awe, in joyful adoration, in thanks and gratitude, in prayer and in blessings.

But is avoiding using God’s name out of context really what Exodus 20:7 — “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” — is all about?

I think there is something far more significant meant by this verse than simply avoiding the use of God’s name as an expletive.

I propose that “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain” can also mean “Do not make a covenant in the name of the Lord without real purpose and real intent.”

Each week, the sacrament prayer is uttered verbatim from revealed scripture. Perhaps we have heard this prayer so often that we forget the words or fail to reflect on their meaning.

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen” (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

Notice first that this is a petitionary prayer addressed in the name of Jesus Christ. The priests petition God as they represent Jesus Christ. To act on behalf of Jesus Christ is a sacred and solemn duty. Just as Jesus is clean, pure and holy, so too should any priesthood bearer be when acting in his name.

Second, those in the congregation promise to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ.

The English “take upon” may be analogous to the underlying Hebrew word found in the phrase “thou shalt not take” of Exodus 20:7. The underlying Hebrew reads, “thou shalt not bear, or carry.”

The word “vain” is one of those words we all recognize but may not know the full meaning of. We hear the word “vain” in other biblical texts. For example, in the wisdom text of Ecclesiastes, the author, in the guise of the king of Jerusalem, proclaims his perspective on life: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). What exactly does this mean? The underlying Hebrew is “breath or vapor,” something that is entirely transitory, useless, empty and meaningless. Thus, Ecclesiastes 1:2 could be written, “Meaningless emptiness! saith the Preacher, meaningless emptiness; everything is meaningless!” Not a very cheerful thought, but definitely a worldview espoused by many who do not find meaning in life, or who see human striving (without God) as ultimately meaningless and empty.

Taking these ideas together, Exodus 20:7 could mean something like, “thou shalt not take upon thyself the name of God with meaningless intent.”

Such an understanding could enhance the meaning of Exodus 20:7, of the sacramental covenants, of baptismal covenants and of temple covenants.

This commandment may mean more than avoiding saying God’s name flippantly. God expects us to be fully intentional when we make covenants in his name. Do we truly intend to keep each covenant? Do we make the covenant in a meaningful way? Or are we just going through the motions without real intent, without purposeful change to leave behind our sins?

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http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865656440/How-else-might-the-Lords-name-be-taken-in-vain.html