Curious Mormons

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

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.

Joseph Smith's Revelations
cover image via history.lds.org

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 LDS.org 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.

image from MormonHub.com

The writer Alain de Botton had just published his book Religion for Atheists, and he knew one thing for certain: He wasn’t going to visit Utah on his book tour.

After all, why would Mormons care about a book specifically for nonbelievers? Why would they buy a book that says atheists should embrace the positive aspects of religion? Mormons already have religion. They wouldn’t want to read about it from the perspective of a nonbeliever.

His book simply wouldn’t sell in Utah.

Right?

Imagine de Botton’s surprise when he discovered that book sales were eight times higher in Utah than in any other state.

In a radio interview, de Botton explained his theory for the booming book sales. He suggested that there are people in Utah who love parts of Mormonism but struggle with many of its public stances and truth claims. Often these people are so unsettled that they leave the fold, distancing themselves from friends and family.

This trend is a major source of cultural tension in Utah right now, as well as throughout the global Mormon community. For the most part it’s happening behind the scenes, but as sales of Religion for Atheists suggest, the tensions are more widespread than we may think.

I’ve wrestled with these tensions myself.

My wrestling started more than a decade ago, while I served as a Mormon missionary in California. Through conversations with investigators, I learned things about church history I hadn’t known before — that Joseph Smith looked into a hat to translate the Book of Mormon, that he had nearly three dozen wives (many young, many married), and that his translation of the Book of Abraham differs completely from the papyrus on which it was based.

If I didn’t know these facts about the church, what else didn’t I know?

Read Jon Ogden’s the full article on MormonHub or buy his book Mormons Who Doubt.

Image from LDSLiving.com

Original story from LDS Living. 

It all started about 10 years ago when McLean’s youngest son told his family that he was gay.

“He was hoping that if he was good enough, prayed hard enough, served faithfully as a missionary, and kept the commandments that he’d somehow experience a miracle and become straight,” says McLean. “It’s tough enough to be a gay kid in a straight world, but being the son of the songwriting icon of the Mormon Church was impossible for him. The pain was so deep that he’d considered suicide.”

To make matters more difficult, McLean and his wife, Lynne, were living in Malibu, California, when Church members in the state were campaigning to pass Proposition 8—which would only legally recognize marriages between a man and a woman.

“I would hear from the pulpit that faithful Christians needed to save the family and the future of our country and campaign for votes for this proposition,” he recalls. Meanwhile, his son was planning to marry his partner at McLean’s home if the proposition failed.

“This would have been tough for any parent, but for the songwriting apologist filmmaker for the Church, this was simply an impossible spot to be in,” he says. “I needed answers to save my family. I prayed like I had never prayed before.”

Nothing.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT LDS LIVING.

LDS Women leaders and missions
Young Women General Presidency: Carol F. McConkie (first counselor), Bonnie L. Oscarson (president), and Neill F. Marriott (second counselor)

The following is a segment of an address originally given by Latter-day Saint Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., at the FAIR Mormon conference and reposted with permission:

“Who can hold the priesthood and how do they get it?”

Men are given priesthood authority by being ordained to specific offices in the priesthood by the laying on of hands by other priesthood leaders and holders and through the ordinances and covenants of the temple. They may be given specific priesthood duties and keys that authorize them to oversee aspects of the work of the Church and they delegate priesthood authority to others.

Women are given priesthood authority to fulfill specific assignments in the Church by the laying on of hands of men who hold Priesthood keys. Women are also endowed with priesthood power in the temple. Women can thus use priesthood authority to oversee and do the work of the Church in the Relief Society and other Church auxiliaries, perform specific priesthood ordinances, bring themselves and others into the presence of God, and act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.

Read full article at LDS Living or buy Wendy Ulrich’s excellent book Let God Love You: Why We Don’t; How We Can

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Can money truly buy happiness? Most people might be inclined to say no, based on moral principles. But some researchers beg to differ, suggesting that money can indeed contribute to happiness — but only up to a certain dollar amount. According to their findings, life satisfaction, one of the two main components of happiness, increases as income rises — to a maximum of $75,000 a year. Beyond that figure, money makes little difference in a person’s overall contentment with life.

Reinforcing those findings are the annual results of a Gallup-Healthways poll measuring global well-being. According to Gallup-Healthways, “People who make more money tend to report higher positive emotions.” But income isn’t the only determinant of personal happiness. Apart from financial security, a pleasant state of being also depends on other factors, such as one’s physical health, personal purpose and social connectivity.

WalletHub’s analysts considered all of these elements to determine which states are home to the happiest Americans. In order to do so, we compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 28 key metrics, ranging from emotional health to income levels to sports participation rates. Our findings, additional expert commentary and a detailed methodology can be found below.

via wallethub.com
via wallethub.com

For the rest of the study’s fascinating findings and more details read the full post at Wallet Hub.

Front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 374–75. Image found on LDS.org

The discovery of fake ancient plates, called the Kinderhook Plates, and the excitement they caused within the LDS community teaches us a lot about how Joseph Smith received revelation and who he was as both a prophet and as a man.

A number of Latter-day Saints like to discuss ancient America discoveries and how they might relate to the Book of Mormon. This is not new to the twenty-first-century church but has been a topic of interest since the Restoration. Letters and journals from the 1830s indicate that many early Mormons—including Joseph Smith—were fascinated by any and all ancient American discoveries and, using their fallible human brains, tried to figure out if such finds were connected to the Book of Mormon.

Some early LDS critics took advantage of this interest and decided to set up a sting operation wherein they hoped to expose Joseph Smith as a fraud. In the spring of 1843, one of these men claimed to have had dreams of a treasure buried in a mound near Kinderhook Illinois. After sharing this story with a local Mormon, a group of men—including the Latter-day Saint—excavated the mound seen in the dream.

About ten feet down they unearthed some bones and six brass, bell-shaped plates that were engraved with curious characters. All of the men were excited about the find, but the Mormon in the group thought that this would help prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Word and excitement about the discovery spread quickly—especially in the LDS community. The Saints were eager for Joseph to translate the plates. Although Joseph had a lot of other things going on, he did take possession of the plates for a little less than a week.

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.

[Author’s note: This article is not intended as an endorsement of R-rated movies, or as a criticism of those who choose to either watch or abstain from them.]

I once attended a testimony meeting where a man stood and related an experience he had with his co-workers. One day after work, several of them invited him to go see a movie with the group. The film in question was The Wolf of Wall Street, which was critically acclaimed but also contained gratuitous displays of drug use, sexuality, and other mature content. In his testimony, the man announced to the congregation that he had declined the invitation of his coworkers. “I wanted to go,” he said, “but it was rated R.”

Since that meeting, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the relationship between Mormons and R-rated movies. Many Latter-day Saints avoid any film with the rating like a plague, believing that it’s against the commandments. Indeed, it could accurately be said that in LDS culture, ‘R’ has become the scarlet letter of the movie rating law.

But why is this? It’s been my experience that if you ask a Mormon why they don’t watch R-rated movies, their response will be some variation of “because the prophet said not to.” But follow-up questions (Which prophet? What exactly did he say? In what context?) aren’t likely to be answered quite so readily. This article will seek to provide answers to these questions, as well as others that may be helpful when selecting what media to consume.

Who Said It?

Read the full post at LDS Living.

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In recent years there has been a proliferation of stories, books, and movies that deal with the perception of time. Some have dealt with time or interstellar travel. Others have focused on the relativity of time or its passage during dreams. But whether one is a particle physicist or a cinematic junkie, there seems to be in every soul a desire, even a thirst, to find the meaning of and our place in this baffling concept we call time.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed, “Time is clearly not our natural dimension. Thus it is that we are never really at home in time. Alternately, we find ourselves impatiently wishing to hasten the passage of time or to hold back the dawn. We can do neither, of course. Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time—because we belong to eternity.”

What do we already know about God’s time?

In the book of Alma we get a glimpse of the nature of God’s time: “Now whether there is more than one time appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8; emphasis added). Similarly, Joseph Smith taught: “The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever ‘the morning stars sang together’ for joy; the past, the present, and the future were and are, with him, one eternal ‘now’.

In short, God experiences time differently than we do. For us, we live in the present, the past is done and gone, and the future is yet to be. But in a way we do not fully comprehend, God lives in the past, present, and future all at once; He exists outside of what we know as linear time. Which is why Alma’s statement that “time is only measured unto man” is so profoundly accurate.

How does God know what we are going to do before we do it?

READ FULL ARTICLE AT LDS LIVING or Buy Robert Line’s Book Understanding The Doctrine of God by clicking here.