Significant Anniversaries

The First Presidency circulated a letter dated January 24, 2017 that reads as follows: [Read more…]

Keeping our covenants after this week

Ross is a bishop serving in the UK. He’s been our guest before and we’re pleased he’d share his thoughts on how to aid those in need.

Today I taught a combined Relief Society and Priesthood lesson in our ward. For the past three years the Europe Area Presidency has asked us to focus on three areas as part of their area plan: bringing a friend to church, becoming spiritually and temporally self reliant and finding an ancestor for temple ordinances. Basically the three-fold mission of the church with friendlier language.

I chose to focus on how we as individuals can become more spiritually self-reliant by taking care of the poor and needy. There are a few ways we can do this. We can pay a generous fast offering which is used to look after our own ward members, we can link up with local charities to look after poor and vulnerable members in our local areas and we can work with international charities that help with the poor and needy throu
ghout the world. [Read more…]

Share your stories: refugee talks in my stake conference, how about your wards?

Our stake conference meeting today was on the topic of caring for refugees. It included a talk by an ethnically Korean member of our stake who was raised in Iran, where his family investigated and joined the church. During the upheaval of the Ayatollah’s regime, his family came to the United States as refugees. They were taken in by an American family, who cleared their own children out of one of their home’s bedrooms to make room. Other speakers drew on the scriptures and the church’s recent strong statements in General Conference and its media channels on the topic of our responsibility to care for refugees. During his remarks, the Stake President clarified that they had decided on the theme and began finding speakers 5 months ago.  That’s before Election Day, let alone the Executive Order. The Stake President testified that before any of this happened and before any of them could have known how relevant it would be, they felt a spiritual witness that this should be the theme of the conference.  [Read more…]

A Time for Prophecy

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Amos 3:7 reads, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” I know this because it was a Seminary scripture, a Missionary scripture, and perhaps the most important Latter-day Saint proof text in the entire Old Testament. At different points in my life, I have used it to “prove” that the Church is true because it has prophets, that revelation is and has always been important, and that God is a woman and her name is Shirley. It is really a remarkable proof text. [Read more…]

This is Not Us

“The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“The Department of Homeland Security said that the order also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States. In a briefing for reporters, White House officials said that green card holders from the seven affected countries who are outside the United States would need a case-by-case waiver to return.” — New York Times

[Read more…]

Ye Heralds, Sound the Golden Trump: A Postmortem of MoTab’s Inauguration Performance

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Silver lining: unisex outfits! (Source)

Remember way back last week when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang at the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States? I was one of those hand-wringing liberals (see here) who thought it was a bad idea before it even happened. Viewed through the lens of that president’s shameful yet totally predictable executive overreach, I am now convinced that it was a bad idea. But judging past events in light of present knowledge is a fraught endeavour, so in assessing the Choir’s participation at the inauguration let’s start with what spokespersons for the Church and the Choir itself had to say before the event took place.  [Read more…]

On Moral Issues and Trump – Updated

iwasastranger_siteToday, the church is hesitant to enter into the political sphere. For the most part, I think that’s the right decision: church leaders don’t have any expertise in public policy or governance.

The church has, however, reserved the right to speak to “issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences.” Over the last couple years, it has invoked its right—duty, even—to speak to issues ranging from the legalization of recreational marijuana and physician-assisted suicide to alcohol laws in Utah to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

It has been outspoken in its support of religious liberty. As far back as 1992, Elder Oaks testified in support of of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and he has continued to emphasize the importance of religious liberty. [Read more…]

My Wall

The news is full of stories about some wall that’s going to be built and how a 20% tariff on Mexican goods will pay for it. I’ve been thinking about another wall lately.

This election has shown us is that we all live in a bubble, and given what I’ve been seeing and hearing for the last 5 days, I feel like my bubble needs a little heavier fortification. It’s not that I don’t want personal connections; I just want to be sure that the people who are in my bubble are valuable contributors. I don’t want people to be in my bubble who are unfairly or disproportionately draining my time or energy which are limited resources, when I could have people in my bubble who are boosting me. From now on, it’s Angela First. [Read more…]

Newly discovered First Presidency Letter Clarifies Mormon Position on Civil Government

October 28, 1838,

Dear fellow Saints,

As many of you know, Governor Boggs issued an executive order yesterday relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Missouri Executive Order 44 reads, in part, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description.” As a result, the armed forces of our Great State have been ordered to murder all of our men, women, and children or drive us from the state. [Read more…]

Why Science Transparency Matters

Getting science right matters. We live in a wondrous age in which a breathtaking understanding of our universe is possible. We understand the nature of life though DNA and how structures arise through protein construction during embryonic development. We are discovering possibly inhabitable worlds at distances measured in light years. We are discovering what makes forest ecosystems tick. We have mapped the interior of our own planet and explored its oceans from deep under its waters and scanned them from above with orbiting satellites.

[Read more…]

Lesson 5: “This Is the Spirit of Revelation” #DandC2017

This is a really interesting set of revelations we have to discuss. They are primarily the responses to Oliver Cowdery’s efforts to help translate the Book of Mormon (D&C 6, 8, and 9). The lesson manual includes a link to a helpful write-up on “Oliver Cowdery’s Gift” from Revelations in Context. There are a lot of things to talk about here, but I’d like to focus on one particular narrative.
[Read more…]

Daughters of God

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Photograph by D’Arcy Benincosa, Washington D.C

Just so we’re clear: Marching is not a sin. Protesting is not a sin.

If you didn’t feel compelled to march in any of the more than 600 peaceful Women’s Marches around the world, that’s great for you. My conscience dictated that I do otherwise, and I don’t need anyone else to quote The Family: A Proclamation to the World in some misguided attempt to correct me.

Women asking to be heard and considered as fully people by their government is not against the family. Women asking for health care and for the education of their children to be protected is not against God. Women asking to have their elected representatives hear them is not against the Gospel of Jesus Christ- not in word nor in action. [Read more…]

My Unexpected and Exceptionally Fuzzy Answer to Prayer

Sometimes these moments come in the darkest hours–and this one certainly did.  I was coming off of a year of heartbreak, trying to deal empathetically and lovingly with some challenges that people I care for very much were undergoing.  But I was finished.  I was empty.  There was nothing left in my heart, and secretly I feared that my ability to love had been extinguished, or maybe wasn’t even there in the first place.  I was on the way home from a dreadful whirlwind business trip to Jamaica–yeah I know, but trust me, it was awful–and I was sick, jetlagged from a previous trip, and underdressed for a cold dark plane ride.  I was huddled into an inadequate cardigan and trying not to cry.  It was just one of those “this is too much” times.  And I heard a distinct and strong voice in my head:  “You need to get a dog.”

What the what???

[Read more…]

Thought experiment about baby blessings

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Sassoferrato (1609-1685)

I heard over the weekend from a friend who wanted to hold her baby while her husband blessed him. She would not be, or even appear to be, participating in the ordinance itself in any way. She simply wanted to cradle the child while it was blessed, like any mother would do during a sick baby blessing and anointing by priesthood holders. She and her husband told the bishop of their plans to bless the baby at home at an extended family gathering, and for her to hold him. Up the chain the news went, to stake president and area authority. The message came back down the chain that she was not to be allowed to do this.  [Read more…]

It Can Happen Here; Let’s Make Sure It Doesn’t

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough. “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly! We’re a country of freemen.”—Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

 

lewisEvery time that Doremus Jessup—the protagonist of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 satirical novel It Can’t Happen Here—tries to raise the specter of fascism in the United States, his concerns are dismissed by the phrase that becomes the novel’s title: “it can’t happen here.” There is too much democracy, too much freedom, and too much respect for individual rights for our country to ever go down the road that the Germans and the Italians were travelling when the novel was written.

It does, of course, happen here, and in fairly predictable ways. A populist demagogue named Buzz Windrup becomes president with a combination of ultra-nationalism and an attack on journalists, scientists, historians, and other people in a position to argue that one set of facts is superior to another. As president, Windrip begins by restricting the rights of women and minorities and ends by turning the United States into a security state, imprisoning dissidents, and arming for wars of conquest. [Read more…]

Respect the Office

Hooray for another political post!

When I tell people that I think Trump is an evil man, that I think he is an unintelligent boor who brags about sexual assault, that his election has been irrevocably tainted by the specter of Russian involvement, that his cabinet picks are a mixture between a horror show and pure comedy, that I cannot bring myself to view him with any level of respect, I frequently get this answer: “I respect the office. I respect the peaceful transition of power.”

No, I don’t think so. [Read more…]

Soundtrack to the Inauguration

Today, Donald Trump transitions from president-elect to president.

I’m struggling here to figure out what to write. I want to write that we elected a valueless misogynistic, race-baiting, xenophobic know-nothing as president, but I confess I’m not sure where to go from there.

I want to decry Mormons’ participation in the Inauguration, only I’m not sure what I can add to what Peter has already said. (Also, what Peter has already said.)

I do know, though, where I’m going to turn musically. Noah Preminger has just released Meditations on Freedom, a protest album, just in time for the new presidency.  [Read more…]

The Best Judgments are Made in Trump Tower Grill

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Wicked vs. righteous judgment—is there such a thing? (Source)

When did Mormons get so allergic to judging? As of September 2016 everything seemed fine. But sometime in the late fall/early winter an allergen spread like wildfire throughout the ancestral home of Mormonism and by January 2017 its immune system was generating antibodies like a The Piano Guys video racking up likes on Youtube–lines had been crossed and it was time to retire judgment for good! This is what Jesus would do, after all, when faced with the prospect of a religious-freedom hating casino magnate becoming the president-elect, and how could we do other?  [Read more…]

Lesson 4: “Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon.” #DandC2017

Lesson 4 in the Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School curriculum is entitled “Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon,” a phrase taken from section 84. According to the manual, the objective of the lesson is to get class members to “recognize the Lord’s hand in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and to encourage them to study the Book of Mormon, follow its teachings, and share it with others.”

I apologize in advance that the way I went with this post probably doesn’t make it a very good Lesson outline; instead of short statements followed by incisive questions that get a good discussion going, I ended up with basically a long comment on some themes in the canonical texts, followed by some questions at the end. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend following this post as a lesson plan itself, but I hope there may be some useful insights in the post and in the comments that you can work into a lesson if you are teaching this material. [Read more…]

“Thy will, O Lord, be done.” #MLK

Yesterday in the ward I attended we sang “When in the Wonderous Realms Above,” for the sacrament. This hymn has as its refrain, “Thy will, O Lord, be done.” The third verse goes like this: “We take the bread and cup this day / in memory of the sinless One / and pray for strength that we may say with Him / ‘Thy will, O Lord, be done.'”

I’ve been reflecting on this line and it seems to me to be particularly appropriate for Martin Luther King day. [Read more…]

Guest Post: #MutualNight: Afrobeat & Fela Kuti’s “Zombie”

Trevor, a relatively recent BYU graduate and Utah transplant, loves to talk music and religion (though not usually in tandem). He blogs (infrequently) at furusatoe and tweets (frequently) at @thabermeyer.

zombieThe first time I heard Talking Heads’ magnum opus, Remain In Light, I was stunned. Released in late 1980, the album sounded like none of its contemporaries in the burgeoning post-punk/new wave scene. The most striking, differentiating feature of Remain In Light is its complex polyrhythms and percussive elements, immediately noticeable even to the casual music listener on tracks like “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve.” Yet, as is the case with most music, the heart of Remain in Light is less innovation than appropriation. Following the release of Talking Heads’ previous album, ‘79’s Fear of Music, friend and producer Brian Eno introduced lead singer David Byrne and the band to the work of Nigerian musician and bandleader Fela Kuti – and it entranced them. As related by Eno, Fela’s 1973 album, Afrodisiac, became the template and inspiration for the Heads’ new album:  [Read more…]

25 Things NOT to Say to a Loved One Leaving the Church (& what to say instead)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW is the owner/director of Wasatch Family Therapy, a popular blogger, an online mental health influencer, a local and national media contributor. Dr. Hanks’ new book The Assertiveness Guide For Women (download a free chapter) helps women find and use their authentic voices to improve their lives and relationships. Julie and her husband are the parents of four children. Visit DrJulieHanks.com for more tips on facing life’s challenges and to schedule coaching sessions. For therapy services in Utah visit WasatchFamilyTherapy.com. Connect on social media with @DrJulieHanks.

Finding out that a loved one has stepped away from Church activity or no longer believes in the Gospel can bring up a broad spectrum of emotions. Intense and often painful emotions can make it difficult to know what to say to your loved one about their choice to leave the Church.

These conversations are particularly painful because our family and community identities, religious rituals, cultural traditions, and vision of eternity are tied to having shared spiritual beliefs and practices.

When Mormons don’t know what to say, we may default to what we’ve been trained to do. We start teaching, preaching, and bearing testimony. This is an important and urgent missionary opportunity, right? Wrong. [Read more…]

Book Review Roundup: JSPP, Spencer, Johnson/Reeder

Once again, three quick reviews of some highly interesting books, any one of which is worthy of serious long-form discussion. Three very affordable books that really ought to be in everybody’s library/kindle collection, quite frankly.

Ron Esplin, Matthew Grow, Matthew Godfrey, Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (SLC: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016, $10.49). Imagine if your Doctrine and Covenants study guide were an authoritative, thorough historical introduction to each section of the D&C from the best scholars in the Church. Imagine that your study guide also included the earliest extant versions of each section, with all the typos, cross-outs and errors. Imagine that this study guide were published by the Church itself. Imagine that this study guide were only available online as an e-book. Wait, what? [Read more…]

Are Mormon General Authorities Overpaid?

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-12-21-48-pmJust a head’s-up: I’m not going to answer this question. I’m a law professor. A significant part of my job is to complicate questions that appear, on first glance, simple. Like this one. If you want a simplistic yes or no, I’m sure you can find it somewhere on the internet.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported that the general authorities who are paid make about $120,000 a year. On the comments to Kevin’s recent post, there seemed to be some significant disagreement on whether they were over- or underpaid, or if their salaries were just right. So which is it?

That’s a tough question; there is no objective “right” amount that people should be paid. And the question is complicated a little by the fact that they’re paid in lockstep, meaning the amount probably represents a raise for some of these general authorities and a pay cut for others.  [Read more…]

The Peaceful Transfer of Power: At What Cost its Celebration?

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Believe it or not, power transferred peacefully between these two men. (Source)

Church authorities have been at pains lately to emphasize that neither the participation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir nor two apostles is an endorsement of the casino magnate cum president-elect. Instead, their participation is a celebration and reaffirmation of the peaceful transfer of power. Now, the peaceful transfer of power is certainly a pearl of great price, but is it a feature of American democracy that warrants celebration above all other considerations? I submit that it isn’t.  [Read more…]

Nihilist Gospel Doctrine Lesson #3

Lesson 3: “I Had Seen a Vision”

(note: Lesson 2 was skipped for being so dang sincere. Picking on it felt like kicking a puppy. I’m not a monster.)

Purpose

To strengthen class members’ testimonies of the First Vision and of Joseph Smith’s calling as the prophet through whom God restored the fulness [sic] of the gospel to the earth.  [Read more…]

Does the Source of GA Allowances Matter?

In the wake of the recent GA allowance leak, a Church spokesman made this statement: “None of the funds for this living allowance come from the tithing of Church members, but instead from proceeds of the Church’s financial investments.” I’m trying to figure out whether this caveat should make a difference in how we perceive this practice. [Read more…]

Lesson 3: “I Had Seen a Vision” #DandC2017

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of class, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the religious and cultural context in which Joseph Smith had his First Vision.
  2. Compare the various accounts of the First Vision.
  3. Summarize the relevance of the First Vision to contemporary Mormon belief and practice.

Vermont, New York, and Religious Liberty

Joseph lived in Vermont until he was about 10. In Vermont, there was no state-established church. Rather, each town could select its own minister, effectively establishing a church. Most towns chose a Congregationalist (or “Puritan”) minister.  [Read more…]

What does the First Vision mean in light of a limited view of the apostasy?

Yesterday in our priesthood class in our ward we had a lesson about the apostasy and the restoration, with a heavy emphasis on the First Vision as the event that ends the apostasy.

One of the class members raised his hand and asked, how do we reconcile a belief in the apostasy with the fact that there was so much faith and spiritual devotion in the world in the middle ages and in the renaissance? I don’t think he was trying to be a rabble-rouser, either, he was being sincere.

When I was a missionary, we used to teach that the apostasy was a loss of true doctrine, a corruption of ordinances, a loss of revelation, a loss of understanding about the fundamental principles of the gospel, and a loss of priesthood authority. Over the past 5-10 years, though I’ve been more and more convinced of a much more narrow view of the apostasy. But I wonder what that means for the First Vision? [Read more…]

Spirituality as a Skill, Not a Talent

This is an attempt to bat some ideas around that I originally picked up here in a mindfulness/fitness context. Your mileage may, and likely will, vary. It’s entirely possible that this post doesn’t apply to you at all. That’s cool.

Sometimes, when people tell me that they are experiencing a faith transition or challenge, when they fail to meet the spiritual goals they’d long ago set for themselves, I hear that they just don’t think they’re the believing type. I’ve felt that way too sometimes. I wonder if people might find more peace of mind if they thought of feelings of religious devotion as a skill to be honed and refined. [Read more…]