I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Epitaph: "Do Not Resurrect"

According to the Edmonton Journal, Alison Glass spends her time photographing headstones and uploading the results to Find A Grave. "Her favourite epitaph in Mount Pleasant reads, 'Do not resurrect'."

The person requesting exemption from the Resurrection through this novel means is in for a nasty surprise. Christ's Atonement and resurrection is universal and comprehensive.
Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we are subject to physical death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death (see 1 Corinthians 15:22). Resurrection is the reuniting of the spirit with the body in an immortal state, no longer subject to disease or death.
Given how most of us believe the next life will be far better than this one, I cannot imagine why someone would want to forgo it. But, then again, this epitaph could be just the epitome of "gallows humor." Whatever the intent, it is certainly appropriate for a Halloween posting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Joseph Smith Papers New Beta Web Site: "Marvilous [sic] Experience"

Sometimes the Church produces something that only scholars and their toadies get excited about. However, the Joseph Smith Papers probably has something for everyone. Since I now abhor buying or collecting books I wasn't optimistic that I would be able to read them. The new beta web site claims ALL the papers will be available digitally and only selectively published in hard copy available from Deseret Book.
Joseph Smith (1805–1844) was the founding prophet and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers Project is an effort to gather together all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of those documents with both textual and contextual annotation. All such documents will be published electronically on this website, and a significant number of the documents will also be published in print. . . For the first time, all of Joseph Smith’s known surviving papers, which include many of the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be easily accessible in one place.
The new beta site explains the project, lists the people involved and generally has some nice information. The "Search" feature is pathetic but that is usually the case for Church sites. It suggests that information technology people are more involved than librarian/information science people since there is nothing like boolean operators, proximity searching or truncation or anything else that august group would consider basic and essential.

All in all, it seems like a worthy addition to the Church's digital efforts. In sum:
The publication of Joseph Smith’s papers two centuries after his birth opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvilous experience.
The following paragraph caught my eye as I was meandering around the site:
His enemies may have feared Joseph Smith all the more because he was formidable personally. Josiah Quincy, soon to be the mayor of Boston, visited Nauvoo in spring 1844 with Charles Francis Adams, son of former American president John Quincy Adams. Quincy compared Smith to the Rhode Island congressman Elisha Potter, who had impressed Quincy in Washington. Quincy said both Smith and Potter “were of commanding appearance, men whom it seemed natural to obey,” who emanated “a certain peculiar moral stress and compulsion which I have never felt in the presence of others of their countrymen.” Peter Burnett, one of Smith’s attorneys in the aftermath of the Missouri war and later governor of California, saw the steel in his client’s character. “He possessed the most indomitable perseverance,” Burnett wrote after watching Smith’s conduct in prison. He “deemed himself born to command, and he did command.” By comparison, church counselor Sidney Rigdon, though a man of superior education and fine appearance, “did not possess the native intellect of Smith, and lacked his determined will.”
Only Quincy evaluates Joseph Smith in this quote but Adams' name caught my attention. After reading about Adams in Prophets of Regulation by Thomas McCraw, and using it in teaching administrative law, I have real respect for his wisdom and judgment. I would hope Adams informed the Quincy evaluation.

From my management background anything that hints at management philosophy and style evokes my interest and this passage suggests volumes. These are outsiders commenting on Smith, not starry-eyed Mormons. They did not use the term "charisma," but it is probably appropriate.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen wrote an Ensign article explaining the project. There is a special Mormon Radio program devoted to it as well (podcast).

Elder Jensen talked a little bit about the program when he came to the Kansas Olathe Stake for stake conference earlier this year. He also promised us a legal history of the Church.

There are great things at work in the Historian's Office these days.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Muslims and Mormons Building Real Bridges

The article, "The Muslims in your neighborhood: After several generations in St. Louis [Missouri], Muslims face familiar challenges of preserving their faith and culture" is part of a series on Islam in the St. Louis Beacon. 

What makes all this interesting to Mormons is that a local Mormon chapel has allowed them use of their building for Friday prayers. Muslims have been praying in a local meetinghouse for several years.
In 2007, Deborah Coffey, an LDS member, helped start the Interfaith Partnership of St. Charles County. The group has interfaith dialogue meetings once a month; and, through them, she got to know Asif. He told the group there was no community center in St. Charles, though they hoped to build one, and the Muslim community in the county needed a place for Friday prayers.
Coffey started asking around. At first, one church thought it could help, but backed out after the congregation feared a community backlash.
So Coffey went to her church and got approval. Since then, a group of Muslims in St. Charles arrives at the LDS chapel each Friday. While they offered to rent the space, Coffey says there's no charge, though the group does make a donation. And in the LDS congregation, at least, there haven't been any problems with the relationship.
"From what I have seen, the members of our church have been very enthusiastic about it," she says.
So, all of this got started because of an interfaith council, efforts by members of many religions to understand one another and work together. Real bridges have certainly been built between Mormons and their Muslim neighbors.

What was most interesting to me was the statistics on Muslim difficulties in setting up mosques and Islamic centers. It mirrors difficulties Mormons have experienced in building temples and sometimes even meetinghouses.
According to a September report from the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, the United States has 1,897 mosques. The report also maps out 35 mosques and Islamic centers that have met with community resistance, most notably, perhaps, the center in New York. Missouri, however, did not make the list 
(The interactive map from the Pew report doesn't seem to work in Google Chrome so try it is Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer.)

The Justice Department issued its "Report on the Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act on September 22, 2010. The Act was signed into law by Clinton and been in force for ten years. The report includes some sobering statistics:
While our nation has achieved great progress in advancing civil rights, many individuals and communities continue to face discrimination and hate. For example, nearly a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans continue to struggle for acceptance in many communities, and still face discrimination. Of 18 RLUIPA matters involving possible discrimination against Muslims that the department has monitored since September 11, 2001, eight have been opened since May of 2010. This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain. [My emphasis]
The report did not mention Mormons specifically. Chances are we were lumped together under the "other Christians" category which IS interesting.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are fighting many of the same battles we have fought and are currently fighting. Significant efforts such as Ms. Coffey's fall under being anxiously engaged in a good cause of our own free will. We can all learn from her example.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Voice of Warning

Occasionally I come across something connected to Mormondom that I know nothing about. This is always humbling and unsettling. It just happened.

Apparently, Parley P. Pratt wrote a book called, "A Voice of Warning" first published in 1937. First editions are rare, even rarer than a first edition Book of Mormon. The article,"One of the Rarest of the Rare Mormon Antiquarian Books on eBay for the First Time," claims most collectors have never even seen one and only three have been offered for public sale in the last twenty years.

The price tag is $75,000. But, "[s]hipping is free as they plan to hand-deliver the book anywhere in the world no extra cost." If that is a little beyond your price range you can buy a technically accurate reprint of it from Experience PressExperience Press sells other reprints of Mormon classics including first edition Book of Mormons.

But if you just want to get a good look at the current offering of "A Voice of Warning" the article instructs you to access a link off of Wikipedia. So, check out this significant book for yourself.
Those claiming that Parley P. Pratt was an Apostle of Jesus Christ will point out that A VOICE OF WARNING was the first book written by an Apostle of Jesus Christ since John the Beloved wrote his Gospel and the Book of Revelations. According to bibliographers Crawley and Flake, "A VOICE OF WARNING is the most significant book in all of Mormon literature after the canonized scripture."
I'm wondering if the Crawley and Flake claim is taken out of context. It is hard to believe that it is THAT important, especially when I've never heard of it. Oh well. Learning something new probably won't hurt me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mormons Have Always Been Tech Fans!

The Atlantic in an article entitled, "The Strange Connection Between The Mormon Church and Telegraph," details the role the Mormons played in getting the first transcontinental telegraph line up.
While Abraham Lincoln received the very first message sent all the way across the nation that day, a different kind of leader was the first to test out the Salt Lake -- San Francisco wire: Brigham Young, leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Young was given the honor because the Mormons were absolutely crucial in ensuring the construction of the telegraph line. In fact, Young was fantastically gung-ho about the telegraph, and so the ranks of the Mormon Church was were [sic] too.
The Atlantic article includes the text of Brigham Young's message. Mormon assistance was crucial in the effort because they needed Mormon labor and Mormon wood hauled across the desert for telegraph lines where there wasn't any timber.

I don't think times have changed much. The Church is still very big on pursuing anything that will allow it to communicate better inside the Church and outside.

The Church just launched its new web site that is media intensive and it continues to upgrade old digital tools as well as roll out new ones.

Monday, October 25, 2010

False Assumptions and False Logic

A Reuters blog posting by Gregg Easterbrook entitled, "Gay suicides and media hype" published October 7, 2010 caught my attention.

I along with many others have been saddened by the suicides of young people especially who have had to endure bullying and committed suicide. Recent news headlines have contained reports of several including Tyler Clementi.

But, I agree with Easterbrook that this may not constitute a trend in the technical sense.

The exact figure is disputed, but a good estimate is that three to four percent of the human family is homosexual. Based on the suicide rate for those 15 to 24, we’d expect somewhere around 150 gay or lesbian young people to kill themselves in a year. That’s terrible – but also shows a few instances of gay suicide do not constitute a trend. This ABC News report laments “five suicides by gay teenagers in the last three weeks,” implying a sudden new development. Other things being equal, statistics would suggest nine suicides by gay young adults in a three-week period.
Even though it hasn't been proved to be a trend, it is still a tragedy. Please don't mistake me. Suicide for any reason is a tragedy. Bullying for any reason is a tragedy. I fully support efforts to mitigate both.

What I don't like is the news media labeling it a trend when it isn't. Easterbrook points out that there is a proven trend in military suicides.  That fact has received relatively little attention. Irresponsible news coverage is also a tragedy.

In a country of 300 million people, you can find an instance of practically anything. Surely one could find instances of happy, well-adjusted gays and lesbians who are perfectly content with their lives. That would not prove a trend of treating homosexuals fairly, any more than a gay person’s suicide proves a trend of treating them unfairly.
No one has pointed out that Tyler Clementi might still have committed suicide if his sexual encounter was heterosexual rather than homosexual. Also, no one has suggested the young people guilty of streaming it to the Internet should also be charged with obscenity although hate crime charges, manslaughter, negligent homicide and privacy charges have been proffered.

The other portion of media hype that bothers me isn't addressed by Easterbrook but seems to be a theme running through most news, commentary and media.

There is an underlying assumption that if there were acceptance, or at least tolerance, (often considered the same concept nowadays) then gay and lesbian suicides would decrease.

By extending that logic, because the Church, including Elder Packer's recent address, condemns homosexual behavior they are seen as impediments to reducing the suicide rate.

I do not think that tolerance or even full acceptance of homosexual behavior will do anything to reduce suicides amongst homosexuals. Why? Because you cannot do something wrong and feel right. It is that simple. Engaging in homosexual behavior is wrong. That fact will trump acceptance or tolerance on any other level.

It is tempting to assume that acceptance of homosexual behavior will lower the suicide rate because that is the solution that you and others have chosen. Whether it will or not has yet to be seen. I'm going on record of the opinion that it won't.

Note: Also see
 "Activitists: Mormon beliefs factor in LGBT struggles" an Associated Press article by Jennifer Dobner from the Washington Post published, Monday, October 25, 2010. This article states there is "no hard data directly linking faith and suicide."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pornography: Out in the Light

Mormons have suffered the effects of pornography along with everyone else.

The Church has been vocal and prolific in fighting the issue. There is yet another article about it in Church owned media. This one entitled, "From fear to hope, overcoming pornography addiction is possible: Couple shares story to help those suffering," appears in the Church News.

What makes it unusual is that this effort originates in Church affiliated media instead of the Church itself. The Deseret Media Companies include companies like Deseret Book and the Deseret News.

Out in the Light seeks to marshal women and their resources in combatting the effects of pornography on families. There is a documentary hosted by Jane Clayson Johnson as well as a Facebook page,  YouTube site, Twitter feed and a RSS feed.

See the introductory video below:

There is a button you can embed on your blog or site. You can see it on the far right column of this blog.

The Church also offers excellent resources including a web site entitled Combating Pornography as well as a topic page, information from Family Services, a Family Safety Wiki from LDSTech, and even assistance for Military and their families.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Political Enemies When We Are Natural Allies?

Previously, I addressed the controversy over an evangelical church rejecting Mormon parents as scout leaders. The story went viral but was first reported in the Charlotte Observer. The author of that initial article has written a follow-up piece entitled, "Mormons and evangelicals: So alike, yet so wary of each other." Here are a handful of quotes:

In the words of legal scholar Noah Feldman, 'Mormons share nearly all the conservative commitments so beloved of evangelicals.'

Mormons and evangelicals seem so alike in so many ways that you'd think they could get along.
And maybe they will, in time. Politics often leads to the forging of alliances.

I can't help wondering whether evangelicals and Mormons will find a way to agree to disagree on theology. Then they might join forces on those issues that have divided the country but have already united most other religious conservatives.

It makes no sense for us to be political enemies when we are natural allies.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Consistency and Integrity

In a special CNN article by LZ Granderson entitled, "Gays, Mormons and Boy Scouts' discrimination" the author makes a number of points, some I agree with and some I don't. He invokes the following philosopher:
. . . consider the words of Trappist monk Thomas Merton: "Unless we live what we know, we do not even know it." 
Amongst other things, Granderson appeals to people to live their lives consistent with their own personal convictions. I like his appeal to consistency.

But if someone willingly joins a private club that discriminates against a particular segment of the population, then each time that person pays dues or attends a meeting, he or she is indirectly expressing agreement with the discriminatory policy.
Any membership requirements of any organization can be considered "discriminatory policy" by others' analysis. However, Granderson appeals to our integrity and on this I can wholeheartedly support him.

What is technically legal may not be moral. We have the responsibility to follow the moral path.

Would we have the integrity to remove ourselves from entities even if it affected our careers and other things like our personal safety?

Could we resign from a country club, a fraternity/sorority, church, civic group or even a neighborhood organization if our indirect involvement would constitute support for something we thought was wrong?

I'm reminded of a question I got from a student in one of my classes in the 1990s. He asked me if I knew whether a certain housing development in town prevented blacks from owning property in it. I didn't know and asked a colleague. The answer was that the neighborhood covenants prohibited black people from ownership. The prohibition was still on the books but was never enforced.

Should moral persons not purchase a home in such a community? Should they purchase a home and then lead an effort to change the policy? The truly moral decision is not clear.

Moral questions are never easy but I suggest we keep Granderson's point about how we may be indirectly supporting individuals and entities in mind.

If we do not support the Church we have no business being in it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rampant Discrimination Against Mormons

The Mormon couple who were rejected as Scout leaders by a Christian church because they were Mormon was first reported in the Charlotte Observer. The story is now spreading to other news outlets. From the Observer:

The Rev. Gabe Sylvia, Christ Covenant's staff liaison to the Scouting program, confirmed the Stokes' account. He called them to apologize but defends the church's decision.
"Based on a once-over, informal scan, it looked like the Stokes would be good additions to our leadership," he said. "But when it became clear that they were Mormons, they could not become leaders in our pack. Mormonism is not consistent with historical Christianity."
That view - that Mormons are not Christians - is shared by other Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches. Mormons, though, do call themselves Christians.
The Stokes were told their sons were welcome to join, and that they could volunteer. But as practicing Mormons, they couldn't be leaders.
This type of story is all-too-familiar to me. My husband and I have experienced extensive discrimination and it usually takes the form this story details.

In the beginning, individuals or entities are ecstatic about adding us to their team because of our extensive knowledge, skills and abilities. The instant they find out we're Mormon we are dropped. This holds true for Christian based or Christian affiliated organizations that receive public money. Technically this discrimination is illegal but it happens all the time. It also holds true for governing entities evaluating us for positions such as police chief, economic development director, city manager, etc. In business entities, the story is the same.

What makes these entities and people official arbiters of Christianity is uncertain but that does not stop them.

The fact that Mormons have a better grasp of the Bible than they do probably won't dissuade them.  They also appear unfazed by the fact that Jesus Christ is the leader of our Church, our Church is named after Him and built on His gospel. If that does not make us Christian what does?

It is probably this type of thinking that caused the Jews to reject Jesus because they didn't think his teachings were consistent with historical Judaism according to their definition. . .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Family Home Evening: Minimal Baseline, Not Maximum Goal

A Mormon Times article entitled, "Family home evening turns 40" commemorates when Monday nights were reserved in the Church exclusively for families to spend quality time with one another.
The month of October commemorates the anniversary of the God-given directive to set aside Monday nights as family night. For 40 years, members of the church have had the responsibility to strengthen their homes and families by spending time together on Monday evenings. . . 

In October 1970, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially designated Monday nights for use church-wide as family night. On this night, no other ecclesiastical function was to be held so that families could gather at home for family home evening.
Although the designation of Monday night was new, the counsel to have a weekly family night was not. Members of the church were first asked to hold a regular family night in 1915.
Emphasis on Family Home Evening has not waned. Currently, Church leaders devote considerable time and focus to it. The Church's web site has an entire section for Family Home Evening or FHE.

I'm not happy with how members apply this counsel. I think FHE on Monday nights should be considered a minimal baseline rather than a maximum goal. In other words, one night a week of quality time with the family is the minimal amount of time for FHE type activities you should aim for. You should probably try and do much more if you truly want to strengthen your family in the gospel. Less than one night a week is obviously inadequate.

It is sad that Church leaders have to order us to spend only one night a week with our families. It suggests that we aren't even achieving this modest target.

My husband and I are empty-nester's. I once told a friend, "Every night is Family Home Evening"  for us, and it is. Our lives are built around each other. Sometimes it astonishes other people how much time we spend together. We've been doing it so long it just seems natural to us.

Societal forces seem to be pulling families apart. Our best efforts should be exerted in keeping them together. Let's view Family Home Evening as more than a modest one night occasion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Laie, Hawaii Temple to be Rededicated

Existing temples around the world are sometimes remodeled so extensively that they are rededicated.  Prior to this an open house is held where anyone can tour the temple before its rededication and entry is restricted again.

Open House Dates for the Laie, Hawaii Temple will be Friday, 22 October, 2010 - Saturday, 13 November, 2010 (except Sundays). You will need
reservations and tickets. This will be the first time in 32 years that the public has been allowed to view it. Other renovations did not require a rededication but this one did. The Church has an extensive history in Hawaii.

So, if you have been putting off that Hawaii vacation for an opportune time, now may be the time to plan it. I've seen a lot of temples but NONE of them can compare to the Hawaii temple grounds. NONE of the pictures do it justice. It is breathtakingly spectacular. The first time I saw it my jaw dropped. I'd seen pictures of course, but nothing prepared me for it.

The pictures don't seem able to show the depth. There are extensive gardens, waterfalls and grounds leading up to the temple.
When I lived in Hawaii I loved going up the stairs and walkways past all the waterfalls. I love waterfalls. The picture above is taken from the Visitor Center looking up towards the temple. Everything in between are the grounds.

The picture below is taken from the opposite perspective, from the front of the temple looking down. This view also inspires. It is also difficult to show depth here.
The drive in front of the temple extends all the way to the beach -- Temple Beach. Click on the picture so you can get a better perspective. The drive extends for blocks. I don't know how many. The tiny blue pin prick in the middle of the picture is the ocean.

I've never seen pictures of any grand estate that has such a magnificent view and entrance. Only an aerial side shot can help you get any perspective.

When I lived in Laie attending school at BYU-Hawaii I was told that there is a natural reef off of the shore which affords natural protection. Tidal waves and such would break on this natural reef before hitting shore and doing damage.

Hawaii is pretty but no structure any where on the islands can rival this temple. And, I'm betting no where in the world are temple grounds as extensive and beautiful.

*Pictures are from the Church's official web site and Wikipedia.

Update: New articles on the temple are available from Deseret News and the Church Newsroom including Laie, Hawaii temple facts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Swashbucklers: Religious and Non-Religious

I recently completed listening to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and saw the movie The Three Musketeers, also by Dumas. It reminded me of the Church's Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled Swashbucklers. See the embedded video below:

This PSA was recognized in 2009 by the Noral Group through their National Media Survey. Naturally the Church was pleased with the honor. (see this link and this link.)
Eva Kasten, President and Founder of Noral Group International, Inc, said, “Media directors, in selecting this PSA, are recognizing that there is no more relevant issue in their communities than their children and families. In the words of one, ‘good people start with good parents.’ We are very pleased to celebrate this spot for so cleverly elevating parenting skills as a priority issue in our communities and our country.”
Swashbucklers was created, produced and distributed by Bonneville Communications, a division of Bonneville International. The Church has several profit and non-profit companies. These are two of them.

Swashbucklers is part of a thirty year effort entitled the Homefront series. You can view their current catalog of offerings for television, radio and print media.

Some of the videos are available on Bonneville Communications' YouTube site including Swashbucklers, SciFi, Runaway Stage and A Little Attention.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a masterpiece. It has replaced Gone With The Wind as my favorite all-time book. The unabridged audiobook is read by John Lee who pronounces the English, French, Italian and Latin flawlessly. It is a delight to listen to. The ebook is available at the Gutenberg Project of course. At approximately over 1,300 words, 117 chapters and 47 audio hours it is not for the faint-of-heart.

So, enjoy swashbucklers whether religious or non-religious.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Here and Hereafter

A memorable line from a Billy Joel song is "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints." I think it refers to many religion's tendency to view this life as a necessary evil in order to have a good life in the next. The song continues with, "the sinners are much more fun" and from casual or serious observation this would appear so.

However, we Mormons feel that we should have joy in this life as well as the next.

Lasting happiness is different than momentary pleasure, because true happiness lasts. This earth life has a purpose and we can find happiness in it.

We often fall into the trap of thinking a new car, job promotion, beauty makeover, or fame will make us happy. And often they do—for a time. But it never lasts because wealth, power, beauty, and fame simply don’t bring lasting happiness, as much as we wish they would.

If these things caused happiness then the people with the wealth, power, beauty and fame should be the most happy but they clearly are not.

And yet, people with none of these things are often very happy. Money doesn't buy happiness as we've all been told many times. However, it is difficult to be happy without it, but not impossible.

Sinning isn't fun. Usually, it is enslaving. I am grateful that my Mormon beliefs have spared me from any obvious enslavement such as alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography. This is no small thing. It has also spared me from non-obvious enslavement to such things as procrastination or temper.

True happiness comes from Jesus Christ and His gospel, here and hereafter

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Church and Russia

Blog statistics Google compiles for me tells me I get a number of hits from Russia. Today's post is primarily for these viewers. See basic facts about Russia as a country. Below is some basic information and links concerning the Church in Russia.

There are about 20,000 members in Russia. The country is divided into eight missions.  See this link for more statistics and the history of the Church there. A shorter legal history can be found on the Church's Newsroom site.

The Church's official country site is available in Russian but can be translated to English. The site for all official news in Russia is also in Russian.

I found only two profiles on Mormon.org of Russians: Ksenia and George, although there are several profiles of members who have served missions in Russia: AJ McCleary, Jaron, William Hale, Chad, Kimberly Ann, Shawn, B. Hansen, Charlie, John, Lorald, Bethany Lynn, Becky, Elizabeth Kuhn, Drew and Briant.

A recent article in Mormon Times entitled, "Future of the LDS Church in Russia seen as very bright" suggests that since the Church's formal recognition in 1991 it has experienced rapid growth. This article was published October 13, 2010.

The video below entitled, "Oct. 2010 World Report: Mormon Church in Russia" is from the Church's official October 2010 World Report.

See a prior posting for information on the Kyiv, Ukraine temple which is now available to Russian members.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

Having grown up in Mormondom I was used to asking people about their heritage and getting a quick answer. I could give a quick answer too, "English and Scandinavian." But, when I left Mormondon these simple questions produced very different results.

I once asked a black fellow student what his heritage was. He said, "Well, my Daddy was an Alabaman and his Daddy was an Alabaman but we're pretty white-skinned so there's a white man back there somewhere." At this point in his response I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Having not learned my lesson from this experience I posed a question to one of my students at a school I worked at. I was puzzled by him because I could not pin anything down with any confidence. He could be part black, native American, possibly from the Philippines, Polynesian, likely Fijian, Indian, Hispanic or others. I was genuinely perplexed. His quick answer floored me -- Hungarian Gypsy.

There are a lot of surprises out there even when we think we know who we are. Recent research suggests Joseph Smith was actually Irish. Tracing family history is a popular activity. My Church offers the extensive Family Search web site to help you discover who you are.

This posting's title comes from a recent news article on efforts in California to introduce people to these resources and what my Church has to offer. A booth at a Morgan Hill festival was entitled, "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Additional resources, not on Family Search, may be available at a local Family History Center that are located around the world. I once heard that eighty percent of the people that use these facilities are NOT Mormon so no one should feel shy about utilizing them. This statistic was before computers became ubiquitous so the percentage may have risen.

Also, states and communities often buy resources for their citizens and patrons usually through the State Library. These are underutilized resources. They often provide databases like Heritage Quest for free. Most states I've researched do. Kansas is one of them. Contact your local library to learn how to gain access.

Perhaps who you think you are may not be who you really are. Why not find out?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Angels in Fur: Baron & Greta

Greta Von Kansas 07/18/00-10/07/10

All God's creations will live again, including our two beloved doggies. This world is not as bright since they left it. But the knowledge that they still exist in another realm brings comfort to us.

Knowledge transmitted from this other realm to our hearts is sacred and must be kept such.

Elder Richard G. Scott once said:
Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. That practice enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light. “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 86.
This infers that if spiritually sensitive information is not used, recorded or accessed properly that further spiritually sensitive information will not be transmitted to us.

We should all want to keep the communication channels open between Heaven and our hearts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flickr and the Church

Sometimes the Church's lack of publicity baffles me. After only a brief mention of its new Flickr project they've gone silent. I can't find any mention of it on the Newsroom, the official web site, Mormon.org or L.D.S. Tech. There is just a brief mention of it on "Today in the Bloggernacle" and the original Mormon Times article from June 2010.
Photographers would retain the copyright to their images, according to the online announcement at Flickr.com, under the group name "Official LDS call for photos," but church officials are asking for a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to publish the images. . . . The pool of images is also intended to be a resource for members of the church, who may find it useful to glean images for gospel-related activities.
The Church has asked us not to use outside copyrighted material in our Church activity and callings. This new Flickr project is a neat way to create a repository of materials available to us.

The Church tests a lot of pilot projects that people only seem vaguely aware of like the LinkedIn project. Some become large continuous projects and some get scrapped. I think this Flickr project ought to be one that takes hold.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We CAN Get Along!

In a New York Times article entitled, "Lesbian Candidate for Oakland Mayor Gains Surprise Allies," contains an interesting encounter between a devout Mormon and a committed lesbian running for office. What interests me is how the encounter in a political forum ended up being positive and productive for both sides.

Most news media has people fighting one another. But, this is a refreshing example of how two people came together amicably and influentially. For that reason alone, I want to point it out and encourage you to consider the example both Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Hoopes set.
This summer, at the urging of Paul Cobb — a mutual friend who is the publisher of the black newspaper The Oakland Post — Mr. Hoopes and Ms. Kaplan met for what Ms. Kaplan likened to President Obama’s beer summit. She arrived with her Hebrew bible, he with his Book of Mormon. And for 45 minutes, they quoted Scripture and debated translations.

“We both came into it thinking we would not get along, and we were both kind of shocked how well we got along,” Ms. Kaplan said.
By the end, there was an accord. Ms. Kaplan said she would vote for Mr. Hoopes to remain on the Paramount board. And Mr. Hoopes said he was supporting Ms. Kaplan’s bid for mayor by talking to his friends. He also wrote her campaign a $200 check.
Just a concluding note: Mr. Hoopes probably brought more than just his Book of Mormon. He probably brought his entire Scripture set that would include the King James Version of the Bible (Old and New Testament) that is cross-referenced and footnoted with other scripture unique to Mormondom.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Alterations to Elder Packer's Address on Same-Sex Attraction

Much was made of President Boyd K. Packer's October 2010 Conference Address. Much is still being made of it. I don't want to beat a dead horse but I want to point out a few things:

1. Editing the written transcript of a talk is very common.

Elder Packer made his own changes and those changes are now online

For some time now I have read and listened to archived Conference talks at the same time to increase comprehension. Editing and substantive changes occur all the time. They catch my attention but that is all. They clarify meaning and intent. No one should read anything significant into it. This is even pointed out in the gay press.
But officials say the alterations are commonplace. 

“The Monday following every general conference, each speaker has the opportunity to make any edits necessary to clarify differences between what was written and what was delivered or to clarify the speaker's intent,” Scott Trotter, spokesman for the LDS, said. “President Packer has simply clarified his intent.”
2. The changes he made may have more to do with translation and interpretation than anything.

Refer to my prior post for a discussion of translation and interpretation.

I'm reminded of when I lived in Hawaii and went to school for a short time. I interacted with people from numerous cultures, countries, languages and traditions.

I found out the hard way that sarcasm does not exist in some cultures. I had to stop using it because I was giving offense to people. And even if sarcasm does exist, it is voice inflection, tone and intonation. With a language barrier most people aren't going to understand it anyway.

The sentence that Packer removed, "Why would Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" is a rhetorical question. I'm wondering if there are cultures, countries, languages and traditions that do not utilize rhetorical questions and would simply not understand this or worse, misconstrue it. The talk is going to be translated into dozens of other languages after all.

If any misinterpretation and confusion is occurring it is with the news coverage and commentary associated with it. The Church's position hasn't changed and is abundantly clear.

Added Trotter: "As we have said repeatedly, the church's position on marriage and family is clear and consistent. It is based on respect and love for all of God's children."
I find all these protests, marches and demonstrations that resulted from Elder Packer's talk much more destructive and pointless than anything the Church has said. Read my prior post on this topic if you haven't already done so.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Have You Got Better to Offer Me?

People in academia are often incredulous that I am a faithful Mormon, actually a faithful adherent of any religious belief. So, sometimes I set aside the actual beliefs and argue my position from a different point-of-view. Consider the following:

From a very young age I was taught to work, value work and develop self-discipline.

From a very young age, I was taught homemaking skills such as cooking, baking, meal preparation, nutrition, home food storage and preservation, emergency preparedness, etc. I can also knit, sew and crochet. I have my own sewing machine and have used it extensively over the years for a variety of things.

From a very young age, I was trained to teach others. I've honed and developed this skill in every forum I've ever been in, but especially in teaching in higher education as a profession.

From a very young age, I was taught interpersonal and social skills while interacting with a broad range of people and environments in all socioeconomic spheres.

From a very young age I was required to do public speaking regularly. This has cultivated my oral skills to an exceptional level.

From a very young age, I was taught organizational and management skills allowing me to organize, manage and lead events as well as people.

From a very young age I was taught to avoid alcohol, tobacco, tea/coffee and drugs. This has left me free of any chemical dependencies or addictions.

From a very young age I was taught to avoid psychological dependencies and addictions such as gambling and pornography.

From a very young age I was taught to treat others the way I would like to be treated.

From a very young age I was taught to be honest in all my dealings.

From a very young age, I have been taught to value education. In fact I have earned a B.A., M.P.A., a Ph.D. and M.L.S. This education has been enormously valuable to me.

My education was made very affordable because my first two degrees were earned at B.Y.U. My Church heavily subsidizes the school.

Everything I have been. Everything I have done. Everything I have. Everything I am. Everything I can do in the future was made possible by my membership and activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What have you got better to offer me?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Different Perspective on Judas Iscariot

A question was posed in a class once, "If you were able to ask Jesus one question, what would it be?" I know what I would ask him:

"Why did you choose Judas Iscariot as an Apostle?"

This and other issues concerning Judas Iscariot have troubled me for a long time.

Elder Holland remarked:
This was also a telling time among those who knew Jesus more personally. The most difficult to understand in this group is Judas Iscariot. We know the divine plan required Jesus to be crucified, but it is wrenching to think that one of His special witnesses who sat at His feet, heard Him pray, watched Him heal, and felt His touch could betray Him and all that He was for 30 pieces of silver. Never in the history of this world has so little money purchased so much infamy. We are not the ones to judge Judas’s fate, but Jesus said of His betrayer, “Good [were it] for that man if he had not been born.”
I've never thought that what we know about Judas and what he did was logical. At least the way it is taught and assumed in the Church.

We know that Judas intentionally betrayed Christ. But, Judas returned the money and regretted his action bitterly. Didn't he know what he was doing? Of course he did. If he did it for the money, why did he throw it back? Did he just all of a sudden experience a reversal in his thinking? That doesn't make sense to me. It never has. I don't think Judas experienced a sudden temptation, acted spitefully and then regretted what he had done.

Judas had to know what his betraying Jesus would mean. Maybe Judas had a particular end in mind. When something different resulted, he regretted his action.  He regretted it because it produced a different result than the one he intended.

Judas betrayed Jesus. But I think he engaged in a negative act because he wanted to bring about a positive result. This would make it a simple "ends justify the means" situation.

Being an Apostle, Judas would have witnessed Christ's miracles. He probably saw Lazarus raised from the dead, Jairus' daughter and possibly others. He undoubtedly saw Christ perform numerous miracles. So, if Judas knew Christ could restore the dead to life it would make no sense to seek Christ's death. Judas knew Christ could command miraculous power to preserve himself, others and restore life to someone thought to be dead.

So, what did Judas hope to accomplish?

Christ kept most of His work relatively confidential. He often told people not to reveal or publicize the miracles He had performed. We know his Apostles were frustrated with this. In John 14:22 we read:
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Perhaps Judas Iscariot was frustrated. Perhaps he wanted Christ to show his miraculous powers to the world in a very public way. Perhaps Judas Iscariot wanted to push events into being because he was frustrated with Christ's timeline for events. Perhaps he did not understand the delay. Perhaps he just took matters into his own hands to force events according to his own timeline.

Perhaps Judas betrayed Jesus because he wanted to force Jesus to demonstrate his authority, his power and his miraculous abilities to Jewish leaders and the public openly. He knew Jesus could save himself or protect himself. What he probably didn't bargain for is that Jesus would allow himself to be crucified. Perhaps Judas didn't think Jesus would take such a passive approach. Jesus told him to do it quickly so Judas must have thought Jesus approved of his action.

Being frustrated with the Lord's timeline and wanting to impose our own by forcing events is not unique.

Sometimes parents facilitate their child being arrested for something because they think a night in jail will do them good and will help reform them. A parent would bitterly regret this action if their child died as a result of this incarceration. This has happened before. I'm not conjuring up a hypothetical here. This would be taking a negative action in order to facilitate a positive result.

All this simply illustrates what Judas may have done. At any rate, I think it makes more sense than what I've always been led to assume.

It doesn't make it any more acceptable, just more understandable.