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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Church in Slovenia

It is the twenty year anniversary of the Church in Slovenia. The event is being marked on Slovenian television. See Church Celebrates Milestone, Recognized on Slovenian National TV for details. The televised program can be viewed here. You can also access the English transcript of the program.

The Church's Slovenia Country Web Site

The Newsroom
"Media Lessons From Slovenia

LDS Church News
Country Information: Sloevenia
Slovenia/Croatia Mission

09/23/10 Elder Nelson pronounces blessings on six Balkan nations
05/24/10 Helping Hands in Slovenia
11/01/08 Season of interest
11/01/08 First member in Slovenia wasn't looking for truth
01/18/08 Faith rewarded -- Grandmother to meet grandson
10/28/06 First for LDS in Slovenia

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mormons in the Military

Occasionally, I get asked whether Mormons can serve in the military. The answer is, of course, an emphatic yes. Mormons serve honorably in all branches of the military. The Church even goes to some lengths to accommodate their special needs.

For example, there is a separate web site area in the Church's official site devoted to the Military. It includes resources for members, military families as well as information and resources for Mormon chaplains serving in the armed forces.

There is even a section entitled, "Scriptures relating to war and subjection to civilian authorities and rulers" with hotlinks.

Two videos included on the site are especially important:

Since Mormons feel strongly about regular worship, the Church tries to provide services even in the most far flung locations:
The Church tries to provide opportunities for members to participate in sacrament services and have access to priesthood leaders wherever they are serving throughout the world. In Iraq and Afghanistan, branches or groups have been organized at most locations where Church members are stationed. Diplomats, civilian workers, and humanitarian volunteers are generally able to attend Church services at military installations depending on security concerns and civilian accessibility to the military bases.
To summarize our feelings about war, I think President Gordon B. Hinckley said it best:
This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action: Movies the Church Makes

In a prior posting I discussed the movies that are made about Mormons largely by Mormons, "Mollywood" in other words. Today's posting is about the movies the Church makes.

For the first time, the Church is making a full-length movie available online. Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, the premier movie playing at the Legacy Theater on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, is premiering online. I've embedded it above and the link is hereYou can also read about the film and how it was reworked and reedited for it's online debut. Even if you have seen it before, this version is different.

The Church has been in the movie business for a long time. Currently The LDS Motion Picture Studio under the Church's Media Services creates the movies. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism gives a nice history of Church movie making.

The Church operates the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah. You can find out about their current projects, see answers to frequently asked questions or join the talent base. You could be cast in an upcoming film.

It looks like most future efforts will be coordinated through the Church's new Create web site. I'm wondering if their blog site and Facebook page are going to be shut down. Also, see their widget on the bottom of this post.

After the movies are done, naturally they are available to purchase from the Church's Online Store. They are generally $4.50 or a bit more. All are reasonably priced.

Some movies are available for viewing online or even downloading. Of course, many of the movies are just shorts, like Mormon Messages,  that are available to watch online, on YouTube or on iTunes.

The movie Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration is the only full-length movie available online. It is not available for purchase although the older version of it is available on the Doctrine and Covenants Visual Resource DVDs which is available for purchase.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Skip the Coffee Cups and Dowd

One of the ways you can assess a commentator is to read something he or she wrote on a subject you are informed on. That is the ONLY reason I happened to read the recent New York Times' column of Maureen Dowd entitled, "Coffee Cups in Hell." It's about Mormons, specifically the new Book of Mormon musical.

No, I haven't seen the musical and I do not intend to, but I think I've reviewed every review written on it in the last month, especially the last few days.  However, I KNOW Mormondom and politics.

It's been my personal policy to ignore Dowd, although I usually sample all The New York Times' commentators from time to time. Why? Well, I simply find her columns to be biased, rambling, emotional nonsense connected by illogical irrelevant subjects.

After reading "Coffee Cups in Hell," see if you don't agree with me. She starts out with Romney and Huntsman, mentions Big Love, Battlestar Galactica, Proposition 8 and just about everything but the kitchen sink.

I understand Dowd has been honored with some prestigious awards in the past. I don't doubt that.  I just wonder if she deserves any attention now given what her writing has morphed into.

For comparison purposes, I think Glenn Beck deserved more attention as a media personality than he does now as the world's first Mormon televangelist political philosopher.

I seriously doubt anyone, initially clueless about the musical, or the Mormons, will find themselves better informed after reading her.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Money off the Mormons

Nobody ever seems to complain about all the money Mormons pump into an economy or bring to an economy. It's rare to find any numbers, but the Salt Lake Tribune provides us with a few figures. In an article entitled, "LDS Church defends its sacred spaces with growth" we get an idea of just how much money is involved.
In Ogden, chamber President Dave Hardman estimates the church has spent $250 million — “the second largest financial investment in a downtown area” — to help “build an atmosphere.” The impact has helped bring in new businesses and create jobs, he says. And one bonus has been the diversity inside the church’s downtown apartment buildings — conceived for temple workers and retirees — but teeming with a mix of students, young families and seniors.

Together Ogden City Hall and the LDS Church are rehabbing 150 acres — 15 full blocks — across the downtown business center. Godfrey notes plans are under way for another 120 acres.
See this former post to get an idea of how much the Church is pumping into Salt Lake City. It is at least one billion dollars. Yes that's a "b" not an "m."

Another article talks about how much business General Conference brings to Salt Lake City, "By any measure, LDS conference impact is big."
Figures about the economic impact of LDS General Conference are notably lacking, but no doubt they are substantial.
“Twice a year, you can guarantee Salt Lake City hotels will fill up because of LDS General Conference,” said Steve Lundgren, general manager of the Downtown Marriott Hotel, 75 S. West Temple.
Although Utah Restaurant Association CEO Melva Sine has no hard figures on how much business increases on conference weekends, “we know every place is packed.
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said the church does not keep economic data, but noted that all five sessions of the big event fill the 21,200-seat LDS Conference Center. Crowds also spill into Temple Square, the Tabernacle, Assembly Hall and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
 The following quote is a telling tribute:
Executives from the Downtown Alliance are fond of saying the LDS Church is the best friend downtown could ever have. That is especially true in today’s economy. Instead of scrambling for bank financing like other developers, the church simply writes a check.
Simply writes a check . . . 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Kansas City, Missouri "Bugle Boy" is Up

The Kansas City Star announced today that the Angel Moroni had been hoisted atop the new Kansas City, Missouri Temple. I'm glad to hear it. I wish the Star would have explained who Moroni was and why he is on the temple holding a trumpet.

In "American Mormon" a documentary made in 2005, there is a short clip where a woman makes an obvious reference to the Angel Moroni on a temple as the "bugle boys" we put on our chapels.

Moroni's presence on the temple does not seem to be one of the frequently asked questions the Church answers about temples. But, surely we need an explanation somewhere. Most attention gets paid to what goes on inside temples.

At the very end of an article on the Newsroom site, I found a short explanation:
On most temples there is a golden statue of a man in flowing robes, with a long horn pressed to his lips. The statue depicts the angel Moroni, an ancient prophet and a central figure in the Book of Mormon. The statue is symbolic of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Maybe it needs to be a little more obvious. 

Update: Angel Moroni is a prominent church symbol

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Never shoot at anybody who shoots back" -- Mormon Revenge on Parker and Stone

The creators of "South Park" like to call themselves "equal-opportunity offenders," but if you think there's anything risky about "The Book of Mormon," you're kidding yourself. Making fun of Mormons in front of a Broadway crowd is like shooting trout in a demitasse cup. And while we're on the subject of imitation courage, let it be duly noted that if the title of this show were "The Quran," it wouldn't have opened. Messrs. Parker and Stone found that out the hard way a year ago when online death threats caused Comedy Central executives to censor an episode of "South Park" in which the Prophet Muhammad was shown wearing a bear costume. The boys have learned their lesson well: Never shoot at anybody who shoots back.
This Wall Street Journal review of The Book of Mormon Broadway musical seems to give us Mormons a back handed compliment. Mormons don't shoot back.

For much of our history this is true, although some of the victims of the Battle of Crooked River and Mountain Meadows Massacre wouldn't agree with that. Mormons took nearly everything aimed at them and simply went on being Mormons.

Well, at least they don't shoot back in the conventional way. There is something to be said for Mormons not exacting revenge in this life. Those of us who are truly saintly, love our enemies and wish them no ill will. Those of us less saintly, hope our persecutors get their comeuppance in the next life. But, you really have to believe in the next life in order to abstain from taking revenge in this one. And, you have to believe in a just God.

Mormons may even be able to turn mockery to their advantage.

But I can't imagine Parker and Stone being totally without fear. Will Mormons take revenge for this thinly disguised assault on scripture? Maybe not. Maybe we'll exact our own unique, Mormon revenge. Let's see . . . What could that be?

From a former post:
[Missouri Governor Lilburn] Boggs died a natural death although from what I've read over the years he was always fearful that the Mormons would exact revenge in kind.
They did in a way.
I dated a guy in my Utah singles ward who was a direct descendant of Boggs. Hunt down their posterity and convert them -- that's Mormon revenge. . .
What would be the modern day equivalent for Parker and Stone? They aren't dead yet. Maybe we could track down their ancestors and posthumously baptize them? We'd have to convert a living descendant that has the right to do that though. We can't just baptize them willy nilly.

Stationing Mormon Missionaries outside the Theater makes sense. People are going to think they are part of the show's publicity and strike up a chat. They may even be more apt to accept a copy of The Book of Mormon. Just what we need. . .

Maybe the Church could ramp up its coverage of how the Church is spreading in Africa, better yet, how it is spreading in Uganda. Wait a minute, they did that already.

Maybe Welfare Square could transport truckloads of green Jell-O to Parker and Stone. No, now I'm getting silly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Book of Jasher (Jashar)

I'll bet most Mormons would draw a blank if you asked them about The Book of Jasher. I know I would if not for a chance remark in my Seminary class as a senior in high school. My instructor said that it wasn't accepted as scripture. It likely contained some truth but it wasn't something we needed to concern ourselves with. He said he had read it but did not use it in his teaching.

Several years later, I was photocopying something in my Church library. I reviewed the library's collection, as I did so, and found a copy of The Book of Jasher and thumbed through it. I don't remember any specifics but it was a slim volume that did not contain much.

Today's post reviews the Church's position on The Book of Jasher. The book is actually mentioned twice in the Old Testament:
Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
2 Samuel 1:18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
From the Bible Dictionary we learn the following:
Jasher or Jashar. Upright. (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18.) An early collection of Jewish national songs and stories of deeds of valor, put together about the time of Solomon. Various other collections of the book of Jasher are available today and may be of some worth, but do not appear to be the one spoken of in the Bible.
The Bible Dictionary also mentions it as one of the Lost Books.

Official publications of the Church mention the book in a handful of scholarly Ensign articles in 19741977 and 1994.

In 1981, an "I Have a Question" feature answered the question, "I recently acquired a copy of a text calledThe Book of Jasher, which is claimed to be the book of missing scripture referred to in the Bible. Can you tell me if it is authentic?" It was answered by a Church Education System (CES) college curriculum writer.

There is also a brief mention of The Book of Jasher in the The Old Testament Student Manual for college students.

Turning to unofficial sources, the Mormon Wiki supplies us with the following:
The Book of Jasher is a secular history covering a period from the creation until the period of the Judges in Israel, and a work that is referenced in the Holy Bible twice by two different authors. Three purported copies of this 'Lost Book' have been translated, but only one is looked upon as authentic. The Prophet Joseph Smith quoted from it in Times and Seasons as a source which had "not been disproved as a bad author." Certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints secured the copyright and republished the work in 1887 in Salt Lake City.
The Book of Jasher is almost certainly authentic, as it contains many specific details which are in agreement with modern revelation (i.e. the Book of Moses) that was published before the Book of Jasher became available on the American continent). However, it is also almost certain that it contains modifications from its original form. When studying it, the Lord's advice in Doctrine and Covenants 91 still stands.
Read D&C:91.

Visit the Mormon Wiki site for links in the quoted paragraphs above, like the Times and Seasons source.

The Wiki site also contains a link to a Meridian Magazine article as well as a link to The Book of Jasher online. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

General Conference: About as Exciting as a Funeral . . .

On April 2-3, 2011, the Church will hold it's 181st Semi-Annual General Conference. It's an exciting time for Mormons but probably difficult for others to understand.
Every six months, in April and October, Mormons convene, as a Church, to get instruction, to be spiritually fed and to get briefed on any upcoming changes and events. To outsiders, it must look funereal, and the music like a funeral dirge. I have to concede some of this when  I look through others' eyes. But, let me tell you why we Mormons find it exciting.
1. We get to see our Prophet and hear from our other top leaders. People get excited about seeing the Pope and many of his Cardinals, the same type of excitement infuses Mormondom at Conference time.
2. Big changes often get announced. This can include new leaders being announced, new temples being built and major changes in how Mormons do things. Think of a company CEO announcing where the company will expand, new office complexes being built and major policy changes taking effect.
3. Big statements get made. Although said in a solemn, almost austere, environment, the statements can have the effect of "irrational exuberance" on Mormons.
4. Conference is a spiritual adrenaline rush that helps us live our lives, and that is exciting. See these stories to understand what I mean.
General Conference does not appeal to our traditional five senses: see, hear, taste, feel or smell. It appeals to our spiritual senses.
That is why you will find us glued to our television screens, computer screens and other media throughout the weekend. The proceedings will later be made available to us to watch, listen to, read or download which enables us to get further infusions of spiritual power.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Missionaries: Where they Get Their Training and More

People are used to seeing Mormon missionaries anywhere in the world. What you may NOT know is that they actually get training before you see them riding around on their bikes in the suits and ties.

The training is quite rigorous. Mormon Times recently began a 3-day series on how and where the Church trains missionaries. The links are below. I'll include some interesting quotes from the articles as well.

Day 1

Mormon church's Provo MTC: Exclusive look at the largest missionary training facility in the world

With a current missionary force of 53,660 volunteering 18 months to two years of their lives to spread the good word worldwide, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in its ninth decade of formal missionary training and celebrating its golden anniversary of centralized language instruction.
English-speakers train for three weeks before departing for their assigned areas. Those learning a language remain for eight weeks — 12 weeks for more difficult languages such as Russian, Finnish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese.
A look at Mormon missionary training process

This is a disciplined approach to teaching them that missionary life is work and that it's disciplined work — and for some of them who perhaps come from a rather undisciplined background, it may be a bit of a shock at first. But generally speaking, they come to love and appreciate the experience there.

Missions are a place where rejection happens every day, and it's healthy — it's a healthy thing for a young person to face rejection and to develop the faith and the tenacity and the perseverance to deal with it and to overcome it and to get up in the morning, to get dressed and go out and face it again. It builds strength — it builds spiritual strength, it builds emotional strength and it builds character.
The Missionary Training Center: a timeline

Day 2

Inside the Missionary Training Center: Arrival day for missionaries means quick goodbyes, and hello to brand new world

On a bright but chilly Wednesday last month, 361 new missionaries were scheduled to arrive at the Provo MTC. . . . .That left some 325 missionaries to arrive by car, with missionaries scheduled alphabetically by last name. Vehicles lined up 25 at a time in two queues from the 900 East entrance . . . .Each carload is given several minutes to unload the missionary, snap a photo and say a last goodbye. The MTC accommodates 100 cars every 15 minutes — but could handle as many as 600 on a single Wednesday.
New arrivals receive a red-dot sticker on their name tags, so faculty, staff or tenured missionaries can offer to help if they spot a bewildered "red-dotted" missionary.
Inside the Missionary Training Center: It takes a village to run what amounts to a small city
The Provo MTC is a little city of its own, considering the average of 2,000 missionaries who live there, and the nearly 150 full-time staffers, as many as 1,200 part-time employees and some 1,500 volunteers who provide support services.
In the kitchen, pantry and cafeteria, workers cook, serve and clean up for three meals daily for the missionaries. That means as many as 9,000 meals a day, with missionaries entering the cafeteria in 15-minute shifts and food preparation practically spanning the full 24 hours.
Day 3 

Mormon church operates 14 missionary training centers around the world
International MTCs fall into one of three categories — those that focus solely on training missionaries without a new-language emphasis, those that provide "full training" and those that offer "phased training" (all missionaries assigned to North American missions go to the Provo MTC for training).
The LDS Church had previously established MTCs in Tokyo and Seoul, Korea. However, it found it was more cost-efficient to bring those missionaries to the Provo MTC for training and subsequently shuttered operations there.
While nearly all of the missionaries arriving at the Provo MTC stay there for three to 12 weeks for training purposes before being sent across the globe, a handful of missionaries are assigned there full time for the entirety of their missions to help staff the chat services on mormon.org for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Studies show the typical person going to the mormon.org chat site is 15 to 20 years old, a high school or college student with some questions or uncertainties. Missionaries obtain parental permission before continuing with those under the age of 18.
"We've taught people where there are no missionaries nearby or if they're in countries where there are no missionaries present," said Elder Albright, adding "we joke around here that we do everything but baptize them."
 The 14 international MIssionary Training Centers (MTCs) (Slide Show)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gadgets, Widgets, Badges and other Gizmos

Most of the time I go looking for things on the Church's web site. Sometimes I find them by accident. If you've noticed that the right columns of this blog have changed you may have seen what I'm referring to.

Since my profile is on Mormon.org, the Church provides me with badges I can add to my sites. This seems to be one of the ways the Church is helping us in our individual efforts to share the gospel and educate people about the Church. What astonishes me is the sheer number of them, 28 total.

If your profile is on Mormon.org, click on this link to find the badges the Church has created for you. If you aren't on Mormon.org yet, what are you waiting for? Here is the link. Get started.

If you are not Mormons, would you like to be? Visit Mormon.org and find out more about us.

See my badges below:
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.
I'm a Mormon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Daughter Looks Like a Prostitute!

Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?
Jennifer Moses proffers this question in an article entitled, "Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?" in the March 19, 2011, Wall Street Journal. Moses suggests her own theories for this phenomenon but what interests me is the exceptions to the rule she offers. Mormons are one of them. Well, some Mormons.
We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily.
Moses suggests that modern mothers don't want to be hypocrites with their daughters but are still uncomfortable with how they conducted their own lives. This results in their floundering for ways to teach their daughters old fashioned morality when they were not particularly moral themselves. But, they now wish they were.
I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?"
Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.
But it's easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: "Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!" But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs.
I have seen plenty of young women at Church, on Sunday, whose apparel is clearly immodest in some way, be it Mormon or worldly fashion standards being applied.

The Church does what it can. It recently announced a new Youth web site that has been redesigned and revamped. Youth have always been a particular focus of the Church and this web site underscores that focus. For the Strength of Youth, especially the Dress and Appearance component, reinforces Church guidance.

If parents somehow "drop the ball" or don't "tow the line" the Church's message is not going to sink in.

Having no children myself, it is easy for me to take the high road here. I did inform one mother at church that I thought her daughter's clothing was immodest, specifically too tight. She appeared rather startled as she absorbed this information.

I recently discussed this subject with another young woman at Church. She volunteered, "I was that way." My response, "Yes, you were." She certainly isn't that way now. She is older, and much, much wiser.

Why don't we take a good hard look at ourselves, and then at our important others. Then, let's take any remedial action that is necessary.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Church and Emergencies: Kari Huus Gets it Right -- A Big Thanks to MSNBC.com!

Kari Huus is a senior reporter for MSNBC.com. Her recent article on the World Blog entitled, "In Japan, the Mormon network gathers the flock" accurately depicts how we respond to emergencies.

From the article:
The only thing that rivals the Mormon church’s ability to spread the word is its ability to cope with emergencies.

Within 36 hours of the earthquake striking off the coast of Sendai on March 11, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that all 638 of its missionaries in the country -- 342 Americans, 216 Japanese and 80 from other nations – were safe.

Within a few days, the church also had accounted for all but about 1,000 of its 125,000 members in Japan.
It is not bragging, it is a simple fact when church leaders claim: 
". . . we can locate any one of 14 million church members in the world in a matter of minutes.”
With that accomplished the Church can move on to other things, like getting missionaries out of range of any possible radiation threat: 
As the threat of radiation emerged, the church network swung into motion again, quickly shifting 72 young evangelists out of harm’s way to missions in Hokkaido in the north and Nagoya in the south of Japan. 
Now the church has shifted into the next phase: relief operations.
Relief efforts are both short and long term. Money is already being funneled into the Japanese Red Cross as well as other efforts. A special team has been dispatched from Church headquarters to Tokyo to start delivering aid.

Mormons are not egotistical when it comes to delivering aid. If other organizations exist and are better equipped to deliver aid, we use them. There is no sense in setting up more.

A new site for Japan will probably go up soon on LDS Charities like it did after the Haiti earthquake. For more information on the Church's Humanitarian Services visit the web site.

Don't forget to donate. It is easy to do online.

Related postings on this blog:
The Church in Japan: Implications for the Earthquake Aftermath
The Church: Facts and Statistics
Counting Members of the Church 

Friday, March 18, 2011


Voting on videos for the Church's International Video Contest begins March 21. I plan on making my own selections and writing them up on this blog.

In the meantime, why not check out the Church's new web site Create:


The navigation bar across the top of the web site lists the following: Home, Photos, Videos, Music, Audio, Design, Scripts, Casting and Contests. Only Photos and Videos currently have drop down menus so obviously things are in the works.

The Church is expecting members to create media and it's even telling us what it needs. It also includes the all-important model and location release forms. That is important.

Looks like some exciting things are on the way . . .

Thursday, March 17, 2011

" Let there be no strife . . ."

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. (Genesis 13:8)
This verse has almost no commentary on it. Almost no one has ever referred to it in a talk or analyzed this amazing bit of scripture.

The incident between him and Lot provides an excellent insight into Abraham’s Christlike nature. By all rights Lot should have insisted that Abraham choose first. Lot had been nurtured and protected by Abraham, and Abraham was the patriarch of the clan. Abraham could have taken his rights and given Lot what was left. Instead, his concern was only that “there be no strife” between them, so he gave Lot first choice ( v. 8 ; see also vv. 9–10 ). Lot seems to have chosen the best land—the well-watered plains of Jordan—and yet there is not a trace of resentment in Abraham. In fact, in the next few chapters is recorded Abraham’s intervention to save Lot’s life. Here was a man for whom principles came first and material things second.
Strife seems to be the main activity in most business dealings. It is the focus of most lawsuits. It is the main result from children dividing up their parents' estate. Much family and communal living, like college life, is defined by it.

Material possessions are often at the root of it all. Yet, Abraham set the example for us. Even though he was in a superior position to Lot, he let Lot choose and he accepted that Lot chose the most prosperous alternative leaving him with what was obviously less desirable

How many of us would give up something of value to eliminate strife? Precious few, I think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Right and Wrong (Moral Absolutism Versus Moral Relativism)

Some philosophical terms like moral absolutism and moral relativism can be easily understood by ordinary people. It is as simple as right and wrong.

In Mormondom, we believe in moral absolutism. In other words, we believe there are things that are always right and things that are always wrong. They were right yesterday, they are right today and they will be right tomorrow. They were wrong yesterday, they are wrong today and they will be wrong tomorrow.

Dominant in our society and culture today, moral relativism says that societies, cultures and individuals can change their minds about right and wrong.

Consider these quotes from our leaders. Mormons clearly embrace moral absolutes:

My first fundamental premise of our faith is that God is real and so are eternal truths and values not provable by current scientific methods. These ideas are inevitably linked. Like other believers, we proclaim the existence of the ultimate lawgiver, God our Eternal Father, and the existence of moral absolutes. We reject the moral relativism that is becoming the unofficial creed of much of modern culture.
But one thing is certain: the commandments have not changed. Let there be no mistake about that. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, no matter how cleverly cloaked in respectability or political correctness. We believe in chastity before marriage and fidelity ever after. That standard is an absolute standard of truth. It is neither subject to public opinion polls nor dependent upon situation or circumstance. There is no need to debate it or other gospel standards.
The saving principles and doctrines of the Church are established, fixed, and unchangeable.
Consider these quotes from our leaders. Mormons clearly abhor moral relativism.

But no one can blink at the fact that in this land, and in other lands across the world, there is an epidemic affecting the lives of millions of youth. It is a sickness that comes of a loss of values, of an abandonment of moral absolutes. The virus which has infected them comes of leaderless families, leaderless schools, leaderless communities. It comes of an attitude that says, “We will not teach moral values. We will leave the determination of such to the individual.”
D. Todd Christofferson:
The scriptures, for example, discredit an ancient philosophy that has come back into vogue in our day—the philosophy of Korihor that there are no absolute moral standards, that “every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime” and “that when a man [is] dead, that [is] the end thereof” (Alma 30:17–18).
One reason for the decline in moral values is that the world has invented a new, constantly changing and undependable standard of moral conduct referred to as “situational ethics.” [moral relativism] Now, individuals define good and evil as being adjustable according to each situation; this is in direct contrast to the proclaimed God-given absolute standard: “Thou shalt not!”—as in “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15).
The most obvious current issue where moral absolutism and moral relativism is being played out today is homosexual behavior.

Moral absolutists, which include Mormons, maintain that homosexual behavior is wrong. It was wrong, it is wrong and it will continue to be wrong.

Moral relativists, which include most non-religious people, believe that society can change it's mind. We may have viewed homosexual behavior as wrong in the past, but that was just homophobia, narrow-mindedness or prejudice. There is nothing wrong with it and we should change how we think about it now and change the laws that condemn it.

Unfortunately, many religious people are also moral relativists. This is evident from church's that vote on their beliefs or periodically change their official beliefs from time to time.

But, as Mormons, we believe that moral absolutes are moral absolutes. Right and wrong don't change, ever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

This image, and others, are made available to anyone who needs images to describe the Church and it's teachings. (Having gone through library school, I am much more conscientious about following copyright laws.) So, I am delighted to publish, on my blog, one of my favorite images of Christ. I have a framed image of this picture hanging in my home and have since 1990.

This image is of Christ in Gethsemane where we believe the process of the Atonement began. Here is a succinct statement on the Atonement from the Church's Newsroom:
The ransom paid by Jesus Christ, through His suffering in Gethsemane and His death on the cross, which nullifies the effects of sin. Christ’s atonement allows everyone to be resurrected. For those who repent of their sins, it also opens the way to continued growth and progression through the eternities.

I love the image above. I think it is a more positive image than so many of the depressing, and sometimes disturbing, images of Christ on the cross. Those images of Christ have their place, I just don't like a steady diet of them or the constant imagery on structures and other things.

For more information on how Mormons view Jesus Christ visit this web site.

Monday, March 14, 2011

But Does it Have a Name?

General Conference will be held again in a few weeks and the problem of how to get Conference proceedings to all the far-flung areas of the world will get played out once again. However, the Church seems to have hit on an excellent solution. It is described below in the quotes form "Church uses technology to send messages to far corners of the world." but I'm wondering if this media player device has a name?
Jacob Stark, a Church technology product manager, said, "Fifty-nine Church congregations from Benoni, South Africa, to Jakarta, Indonesia, were invited to evaluate different technologies for viewing Church broadcasts over the Internet. The most popular solution involved the use of a widely available media player."
The player costs about $100 USD depending on the area and is about the size of a standard Book of Mormon. It can plug into a TV, projector or monitor. A separate memory stick (about the size of a stick of gum) is required to play video. 
Instead of waiting several weeks for conference, all a member needs to do is go to a home, Internet café, or business that has Internet access and download the conference sessions onto the memory stick. The videos are then copied onto as many memory sticks as are needed and delivered to meetinghouses with media player units. The stick plugs right into the media player and general conference is ready to go. The picture quality is amazing and as good as most satellite broadcasts.
The article provides pictures and descriptions of the technology, just no name. I find this quite puzzling. Perhaps the name of the device isn't important at all, just the fact that it exists is.

I'll never be a stake technology specialist and I have no reason to explore the Meetinghouse Technology Wiki in any detail, so I guess I'll never know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When People Choose NOT to Join the Church

Dan Harrington's book “Who’s at the Door? A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries” resulted from writing his first column for a newspaper in his hometown of Augusta, Maine. He needed a new column and a new story. From, "Knock, knock ... Meeting with LDS missionaries no joke for author of locally published memoir":
Harrington said. “I was on the hunt for another story, and I was trying to think of everything that I could that my editor might want.”
Answering a knock at the door, Harrington found himself face-to-face with two neatly dressed young men, proselytizing missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “My first thought was, ‘Oh no, how can I get rid of them?’ ” Harrington said. “Then I thought, ‘I could write about these two.’ ”
Journalistic expediency and curiosity carried the day, and Harrington, now 32, invited the strangers into his home. The missionaries shared their message (about Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith) and Harrington shared his (about needing a subject for his next news writing assignment). Both parties agreed to a return appointment.
Ultimately, Harrington chose not to join the Church. Stories like his rarely get told in Mormondom.

What I found interesting was the insights we can glean to make future missionary efforts successful. Consider the following from the article above.
“There are some specific instances where Dan talks about how the elders would invite a member of the ward to visit him with them,” Fielding said. “He canceled three different times.” Many people, Fielding said, enjoy meeting with the missionaries, but don’t ever become comfortable attending church meetings or interacting in an LDS congregation because none of the members take the same level of interest in them that missionaries do.”
I think that not only is this a problem for investigators of our faith it is also a problem for members. Often no one takes an interest in them at all.

The book is available from Cedar Fort

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Church in Japan: Implications for the Earthquake Aftermath

The earthquake that hit Japan will have considerable implications for Mormons. The Church is strong in Japan and there are numerous missionaries stationed there. A recent Church News article, "'Communicating' is a critical element of preparedness" suggests that church leaders play an important part in disasters.
In 2005, public health professor Sarah Bass of Temple University noted researchers found "people universally rely on television and radio for information during an emergency. But surprisingly, they say, half of respondents would go to their clergy for information, highlighting the important role that non-traditional communicators play in emergency response."
I am confident that the informal Mormon network will convey as much information as the official ones will. Here is what we know so far:

-All missionaries outside of the Sendai Japan Mission are safe and accounted for.
-There are six dozen missionaries serving in the Sendai Mission.
-The Church is assessing what help will be needed in Japan.
-All missionaries in Japan have cell phones
-The Tokyo Temple appears structurally sound but the Angel Moroni has rotated 45 degrees (see picture, scroll down until you see two pictures of the spires and Angel Moroni side by side.)
-Anyone with concerns or questions about a missionary serving in the Sendai area could call the main church office at 801-240-1000.
-President Tateoka of the Sendai Japan Mission did send an email update to the Alumni site.
-About 2/3's of the Sendai Japan Missionaries have made contact and there are no injuries/death, all safe so far.
-Members as well as Missionaries are now the focus of the Church's efforts.
-The Laie, Hawaii temple is on higher ground than the surrounding area. People have been told to evacuate to this area in anticipation of tsunami waves.
-The Tokyo Temple annex chapel is housing refugees
- All Church missionaries are now safe and accounted for.
Missionary in Japan Shares Experience with Quake

Current News and Information
- 03/25/11 Church Humanitarian Aid, Japanese Church Members Helping People Suffering From Disaster
- 03/26/11 Church responds to Japan disaster
- 03/26/11 Members safe after 9.0 disaster

- 03/28/11 Mormon Church distributing relief aid in Japan

The Church will now update this article when updates are necessary.

Here are some sources to keep an eye on:
The Church's official web site in Japan (Have Google translate into English)
Facebook site for the Church's press service (Have Google translate page, not sure if it is official)
Japan Sendai Mission Alumni Site

Church's Official Newsroom
Church News and Events
LDS Church News
Mormon Times (from Deseret News)

news organization is now running the photos of the Angel Moroni rotation on the Tokyo Temple. Interestingly, according to another web site, other Moroni's have had the trumpet separated from their grasp during earthquakes:
The trumpets of the angel Moroni statues on the Santiago Chile Temple, Tokyo Japan Temple, and Apia Samoa Temple have been lofted out of Moroni's grasp during earthquakes.
See other facts about the temple at this official site and at this unofficial site.

I've created a simple Google RSS News Feed for this issue. Feel free to use it.

In this article, the American Red Cross provides information on how to locate loved ones in Japan whether they are citizens or travelers, including whether to check if they have left messages from their cell phones on their status.

The Christian Science Monitor details ways to help and how to contribute assistance.