Church History

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing at Lyndon B. Johnson's - photo from Intellectual Reserve Inc. Found on

In the last “Saturday Night Live” episode of the year, Alec Baldwin’s faux-Donald Trump is handed a list of all the performers willing to participate at the presidential inauguration.

“They’re both great,” Baldwin says, as he looks at the tiny scrap of paper on which the names are written.

In contrast, the list of acts unwilling to appear would likely fill up a lengthy scroll, which is why the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s acceptance of President-elect Trump’s invitation has generated a great deal of controversy.

When the news broke, my Facebook feed erupted with indignation, as many of my friends saw this as a de facto Mormon endorsement of Trump’s controversial campaign.

I found the news somewhat depressing, not because I agree with that assessment, but rather because I recognize that this is how the choir’s performance will be interpreted by many. It shouldn’t be, as the choir has performed at five other inaugurations for presidents of both parties, beginning with Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965, according to a news release from the choir. If the choir had turned down Trump, that would be a partisan decision. It would also open the door to every appearance of the choir being viewed through a political lens, which would add an unnecessary complication to an organization that is committed to spreading goodwill across the globe, regardless of political affiliations.

Consider the choir’s appearance in Berlin in 1955, which required it to travel through Russian territory during the height of the Cold War. The performance took place roughly six years prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall, which means that many in attendance were ardent communists. Back then, it’s unlikely that anyone would have presumed that the choir’s visit behind the Iron Curtain should be interpreted as an endorsement of the Soviet Union or communism in general.

Read the full story and get more important details at Deseret News.

Thanks to LDS Living that put this in our feeds.

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LDS Missions
image via

On Sunday Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy announced what will now be the largest mission in the Church in terms of missionaries but one of the smallest geographically, according to Mormon Newsroom.

The Family and Church History Headquarters Mission starting January 1, 2017, will officially be called the Utah Salt Lake City Headquarters Mission and become the 422nd mission of the Church.

The missionaries in what Elder Christensen termed a very “unique mission” help assist others with family history work, serve with the Temple Department, and help with military relations, security, and building maintenance, according to Mormon Newsroom.

Read the full report at the Mormon Newsroom. Thanks to LDS Living for bringing this to our attention.

Joseph Smith's Revelations
cover image via

Laura Harris Hales sat down with Matthew Grow, the LDS Church History Department Director of Publications, to discuss the completion of an exciting project.


The Revelations in Context essays, which have been added to over the past four years, are now complete.  In addition to finding them on the Revelations in Context webpage, they can be accessed in booklet form or on the Gospel Library App. Links to the essays have also been integrated into the digital version of the Gospel Doctrine manual on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history.

The essays not only delve into the historical background of the revelations but also how the revelations were received by members at the time. These are not scriptural commentaries but rather stories about how these revelations affected the lives of individuals. They present the award-winning scholarship of the Joseph Smith Papers Project in an easy-to-read format.

We also talk about an essay written by Matt entitled “Thou Art an Elect Lady,” which discusses D&C 24, 25, 26, and 27. Thought you knew about “Emma’s revelation”? Listen in to hear new insights we gain from the fine researchers of the Church History Department.

Exploring the Revelations in Context is a seven-part series with episodes released monthly.

Children in Ethiopia receive a nutritional porridge called Atmit produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help relieve starvation Image from

A lot of people aren’t looking for a true church, they’re looking for a good church. They want to be part of an organization that is fundamentally sound and makes its members and the world around it better.

I’m not trying to say the Church is perfect. But we so often get stuck focusing on its minor faults and its truth claims that we often miss what an outstanding organization it simply is. Here are 21 reasons we are lucky to be members.

1) Takes Care of Their Own

The Church does good by those who are members. Through fast offerings, bishop’s storehouses, and job services, along with ward councils and home teachers to make sure no one slips through the cracks, the Church is wildly efficient at caring for its own members.

2) Does Good in the Community

The Church and its wards regularly serve at the community level. Whether it’s participating in local service projects, working at local food banks, or organizing with the new website, Latter-day Saints strive to make where they live a better place.

3) Does Good Around the World

But not only is the Church focused locally, they keep their perspective worldwide. They are regularly praised for their quick response to disasters. The Church’s clean-water initiative has helped over four million people in Africa alone. The Church itself is actually present in more than 137 countries doing good in its communities.


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The featured cover art is “By the Gift and Power of God” by Anthony Sweat. Used by permission of Anthony Sweat.

In this fascinating discussion, Russell Stevenson interviews Dr. Anthony Sweat, who is an artist, BYU religion professor, and illustrator of the resent publications From Darkness into Light and Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones. In recent years, LDS artwork found in church curriculum and magazines has been criticized because it does not portray the Book of Mormon translation process historically accurate.

Dr. Sweat shares that the first place his students often learn that Joseph Smith put stones into a hat when translating is through the television show South Park. He seeks to provide artwork that not only portrays the process more accurately but also respectfully.

Russell Stevenson and Anthony Sweat discuss how artists — from Arnold Friberg to the creators of South Park — have helped shape perceptions of LDS scriptures and historical events over the past seventy years.

Listen to the LDS Perspectives Podcast now. 


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Mormon Sister Missionaries at Temple Square

At a time when many Christian denominations are experiencing declines in membership in the US, one sect’s numbers have continued to grow: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church.

Granted, the rate of growth has slowed in recent decades, recently hitting its lowest level in more than 70 years. But the steady increase still marks a significant contrast to many other denominations, as fewer and fewer Americans choose to identify with an organized religion.

The first Mormon Temple in Connecticut, set to open this week, is the latest reflection of expansion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is only the second in New England, joining one in the suburbs of Boston.


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Image credit: Sione Langi of

His Majesty King George Tupou VI unveiled a monument in Tonga on Monday 8 August that recognises the landing and welcome of the first Mormon missionaries to Tonga in 1891.

The unveiling also marked the official start of a week-long celebration in honour of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Tonga Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

His Majesty was accompanied at the unveiling service by Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u, His Royal Highness Prince Ata, and Prince Tungi, the King’s nephew.

Prince Tungi is the estate holder of the land which is the birth place for the Church and the mission in Tonga, and where the monument is located—Hilatali, Tatakamotonga.

Read full story on Mormon Newsroom.

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Mormons and Muslims

Led by a controversial prophet. Seen by their neighbors as antagonistic to traditional Western ideals. Driven from one declared promised land to another, until finally accepting that the only hope for peace was to leave their country for a safer political climate. Deprived of their property by a government that declared them not to be an actual religion. Persecuted and arrested for their religious practices. Embarrassed by “fundamentalists” who profess to be part of their faith but represent them in no form or fashion.

Such is the history of the Mormons.

I’ve been more than a little dismayed in recent days by comments I have seen from members of the Church in response to terrorist attacks… I get the outrage. I share it. I kind of wish that Mormons believed in a traditional concept of Hell so that we could dispatch ISIS there. But what concerns me is when we paint with a broader brush and start to condemn Islam as a whole. Mormons, of all people, should know better.

Mormons, like Muslims, have had more than their share of kooky cousins. We have at least one violent incident in our history, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which we clearly were the aggressors and which we have spent more than a century trying to explain away or forget. It was an aberration. It doesn’t reflect our values. But our critics bring it up relentlessly, and we are judged (rightly or wrongly) by what happened there.

We also have our “Fundamental LDS” apostates who skew outsiders’ views of both our morality and our fashion sense. (Note to the polygamists: “Homespun” is not the new black). I don’t know about other Mormons, but I’m worn out from explaining to people that no matter what the FLDS call themselves, they aren’t part of our religion and don’t represent us. But again, rightly or wrongly, they are part of the baggage that Mormonism carries with it, and they will influence society’s perception of us whether we like it or not.


President Uchtdorf Rome Temple Scaffolding
from official Facebook page of Pres Uchtdorf.

On Monday we found a particularly happy picture on President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Facebook page. He shared pictures of he and his wife at the Rome temple during his visit last week. He also shared a picture of him climbing up the scaffolding of the temple with a smile the size of Texas! President Uchtdorf is a living reminder to us that the Lord wants us to be happy. We found the reactions of those who shared this photo to be particularly happy:

Mindy shares:

“I don’t know if there is anything more hopeful than this smile! The sun will come out tomorrow!”

Kirby shared:

“President Uchtdorf is awesome!”

President Uchtdorf really is awesome Kirby. We agree!

He also shared a more personal story about when he and Harriett were sealed to their families and to each other in the Swiss temple. Read his story below or go and interact on the post here.

Just a few days ago, Harriet and I visited the Rome Italy Temple site. We have enjoyed visiting this temple site as it is being constructed and eagerly look forward to its dedication. As European Saints, we feel a connection to this beautiful temple.

Harriet and I were both sealed to our families in the Swiss Temple as youth. In the 1950s, we European members saw the Swiss Temple as our spiritual powerhouse. We remained in our own countries and sought to build the kingdom of God in Europe. Harriet and I were later married in the Swiss Temple, as were our children.

How wonderful it is that various temples dot Europe now, with two more in Paris and Rome coming soon. When I think of temples across the earth, I remember that temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are places where the Lord may come. They are the most holy of any places of worship on the earth. Only our homes can compare with temples in sacredness.

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Joseph Smith Death Mask
Image from

LDS Living recently went to the Church History Museum and discovered some interesting artifacts, from Hyrum Smith’s sunglasses to Eliza R. Snow’s pocket watch. But there are two additional historic items that have a story all their own: the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Read on to find out more about what a death mask is and how the Church came to have these special memorials on display.

1. Death masks date back to ancient Egyptian times.

Joseph Smith

Photography and daguerreotypes (photographic images on a silvered copper plate) were only beginning to make an appearance during the time of Joseph and Hyrum’s death, so death masks were an easy way to preserve the memory and appearance of deceased loved ones. Though making death masks is not a common tradition today, the practice dates back to ancient Egyptian times. The masks were usually intended as a way to remember the person who had died and to create other artwork of them. Joseph and Hyrum’s casts were made by George Cannon (father of apostle George Q. Cannon) with layers of plaster and fabric strips. These casts were the basis for many paintings and busts of the prophet and his brother, starting as early as the 1850s.

2. Hyrum’s mask still shows his fatal injury.

Latter-day Saints are fairly familiar with the story of Joseph and Hyrum’s martyrdom and the fact that Hyrum was killed when a bullet entered the left side of his nose. Because the masks were made soon after their deaths, there is little post-mortem distortion. However, the bullet wound on Hyrum’s face is distinguishable as a small distortion on the mask.