Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Table of Contents:
Part I: First Principles
Chapter 1. Cornerstones
Chapter 2. Keystones
Part II: Godhead
Chapter 3. Holiness to the Lord
Chapter 4. The God of Flesh and Glory
Chapter 5. The Divine Mother
Chapter 6. Jesus Christ and the Mormon Pantheon
Chapter 7. Beyond Matriarchy, Beyond Patriarchy
Chapter 8. The Marriage of Time and Eternity
Part III: Redemption
Chapter 9. Divinity and Humanity
Chapter 10. Bringing Good Out of Evil
Chapter 11. The Case for Grace
Chapter 12. Metaphors of Salvation
Part IV: Priesthood
Chapter 13. The Nature and Purpose of Priesthood
Chapter 14. Priesthood in the Book of Mormon
Chapter 15. Women and Priesthood in the Bible
Chapter 16. A Kigdom of Priesthesses
Chapter 17. The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
Chapter 18. Woman, Ordination and Heirarchy
Chapter 19. Zion: Vision or Mirage
Part V: Sex Roles, Marriage Patterns, and the Templs
Chapter 20. Sex Roles
Chapter 21. Monogamy, Polygamy, and Humility
Chapter 22. Rending the Veil
Chapter 23. The Mormon Endowment
What are some of the themes that you'll be exploring next season?
One theme that Mark [V. Olsen] is really interested in exploring is more of just the power dynamics or power struggles between men and women, as they relate to our family and the patriarchy, the compound — and the more evil power that goes on there — and the Mormon church, which has a very specific idea as to how women and men should operate in marriage. We already visited going further into the idea of the subjugation of women. And that will get refined to a kind of specific theme that is different from last year, and that tries to go very very deep.
Does this deal with any particular wife?
We definitely have a story for Margene that's going to fight up against that notion somehow. We also know that Nicki's relationship with her ex-husband is going to be able to be harnessed into that particular theme, and we know that we're going to explore some dynamics of vis-à-vis the Mormon church and marriage that kind of is harnessed into that territory.
You got a lot of press about your depiction of a Mormon temple ceremony before the episode even aired. What was the reaction like afterwards?
It was very interesting, because I think the furor died down very quickly. There were a lot of people, first of all, the general response, the non-Mormon, non-conservative religious response was very very positive, because we did what we really said in our statement, we were trying to create a moment of great beauty and great art. Now, it could be debated whether or not the Mormons are always going to feel that we crossed a boundary by showing a secret ceremony. And that's always going to feel like it's a tremendous disrespect to them. I don't think that that's going to change. … The real thing was that the furor died down almost immediately, and I only have to assume that was because we handled it with so much respect and dignity, in context of it being a very sacred, very holy ceremony.
Are there plans for any more of that?
I don't know that we'll need to go into the temple again. Not to say that we're not going to go to other places within the Mormon world and within the fundamentalist world. And within the world of family and America that are equally challenging, in some way, for certain people.
How do you feel, touching upon some very hot-button issues?
It's really strange, I have to say. … Part of our initial schematic was that we were going to explore the American family in relationship to marriage, to religion, to culture. It wasn't an agenda, so much as a response to the way that certain people in America felt they could define families that weren't traditional. So we started there, and we definitely started before Prop. 8, and we definitely mapped out Season 3 before Prop 8, so that we were almost finished shooting before Prop 8 really became an issue. We didn't foresee that. We're not that much of visionaries that we foresaw that. We didn't foresee Warren Jeffs, and Texas, but I have to say that I think that Mark had an intuition of some sort that this was going to be material that was going to be right on the line of what was happening in American culture. And he brought me to that understanding, and we were able to together really develop the show as one of those lightning rods of what was going on in America at this current moment. So the fact that things have overlapped or proceeded us, ultimately, it is interesting and weird and yes, surprising. But in some ways, looking back on it all, I think wow, that was a prescient idea, if not a visionary one.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the forthcoming Latter-day Saint edition of the Holy Bible in Spanish. "It contains new chapter headings, footnotes, cross-references to all standard works, and other study helps that will enhance understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The 2009 Latter-day Saint edition of the Spanish Bible is similar to the 1979 English LDS edition of the King James Bible, which, with its cross-references and study helps, made the scriptures much more accessible to English-speaking Latter-day Saints. This Spanish Bible project is one of the most significant scripture projects the Church has ever undertaken. The scriptural text of this new edition is based on the 1909 Reina-Valera Spanish Bible and is comparable in the dignity of its language to the King James Version of the Holy Bible in English.
Church leaders began the process to produce a Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible in Spanish in response to the increase in the number of Spanish-speaking members of the Church.
The 2009 Latter-day Saint edition modernizes some of the outdated grammatical constructions and vocabulary that have shifted in meaning and acceptability.
"We tried to preserve the 1909 text making very conservative changes to ensure accuracy, understandability and faithfulness to the source texts,"
The Church plans to publish the Latter-day Saint edition in September of this year, the centennial anniversary of the Reina-Valera edition used as the base text.
This new edition will be available in printed, electronic and audio formats. Additional information is available in English and Spanish at SantaBiblia.lds.org.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said this morning he plans to revive his drive to crack down on crimes committed within polygamous communities, and to help people seeking to leave plural marriage groups.
"I personally believe these people who are doing this, many of them are doing things that are immoral and in many instances illegal," Reid said.
There have been allegations of welfare fraud and abuse within such groups, Reid said. "We have an obligation to help these woman and children who are being victimized," he said.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said he was "ignored by the Bush folks" when he pushed a polygamy crime bill last year. "I think that is really too bad." "Nobody seems to be concerned about (bigamy) but it is against the law in every state," he said.
FLDS Church leaders have been accused of strong-arming their followers, controlling their finances and forcing young girls into sex and marriage.
Reid's role in the issue drew even more attention since he is the most powerful Mormon church member in political Washington. He has said his actions are motivated by his personal faith, and not at the behest of church leaders.
Spokesmen for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have said Reid and others were seeking to "demonize" their entire religion for the crimes of a few.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
"Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah" Conference9 a.m. - Jenny Webb, "Slumbering Voices: Death and Textuality in Second Nephi"
10 a.m. - George Handley, "On the Moral Challenges of Reading Scripture"
11 a.m. - Kim Matheson, "Works of Darkness: Secret Combinations and Covenant Displacement in the Book of Mormon"
12 p.m. - break for lunch
1 p.m. - Joseph M. Spencer, "Nephi, Isaiah, and Europe"
2 p.m. - Julie Frederick, "Seals, Symbols, and Sacred Texts: Sealing in the Book of Mormon"
3 p.m. - Heather and Grant Hardy, "How Nephi Shapes His Readers' Perceptions of Isaiah"
4 p.m. - Sam Brown, Respondent
Details can be found at this site.
Glen Beck has told viewers and listeners of his TV and radio shows to buy a book published nearly 30 years ago by late Utah and Mormon author W. Cleon Skousen.
On Friday, after several days in the top 10, "The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World, Principles of Freedom 101" leaped to No. 1 on Amazon.com's list of Bestsellers in Books.
"Everyone should read this book," the conservative talk show host said as he passed out copies during a recent broadcast. On his radio program Friday evening, Beck touted the book's climb to No. 1.
Skousen published "The 5000 Year Leap" in 1981, nearly 25 years after he published "The Naked Communist," a national bestseller that has sold more than 1 million copies.
"The 5000 Year Leap" is now in its seventh edition. In it, Skousen lists 28 fundamental beliefs he declared were held by America's Founding Fathers. He suggested those core beliefs made possible more world progress in the first 200 years of the American experiment than was made in the previous 5,000.
Beck added an introduction to the copies he handed out on his show. "(Skousen) was years ahead of his time," Beck wrote. "And our founders were thousands of years ahead of their time. My hope is that all Americans young and old will spend time with this book to understand why we are who we are. The words of our Founding Fathers have a way of reaching across any political divide."
Beck, as Skousen was, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"They are words of wisdom that I can only describe as divinely inspired," Beck continued in his introduction. "They are here for us to help solve the unsolvable and they are the reason why we have for so long been the greatest nation on earth. But most importantly, in these pages, you will find hope."
Beck, who regularly criticizes the Obama administration and decries the nation's financial future on his shows, is the third most-watched individual on cable television. His 5 p.m. program averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers last month.
Skousen died in 2006 at the age of 92. A sometimes controversial figure inside and outside the church, where he was close to late church President David O. McKay, he caused a huge flap in 1960 when as Salt Lake City's police chief he raided a private club where new Mayor J. Bracken Lee was playing cards. Lee fired Skousen.
Skousen spent 15 years as a professor at Brigham Young University in two stints. An FBI agent who worked with J. Edgar Hoover, he ran for governor of Utah and organized the Freemen Institute, later known as the National Center for Constitutional Studies, which published "The 5000 Year Leap."
Skousen never joined the ultra-conservative John Birch Society but was a supporter. NewMajority.com writer David Frum has called Skousen a Mormon Bircher and characterizes him as one of the "legendary cranks of the conservative world, a John Bircher, a grand fantasist of theories about secret conspiracies between capitalists and communists to impose a one-world government."
Continue reading the article here
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
weekend on the SciFi channel. It was a well done remake of the late
1980s creation by Mormon Glen Larsen who had originally envisioned it
as a movied called Adam's Ark. The new series (2003-2009) won a
Peabody Award for excellence, several Emmy awards for visual effects,
and Emmy nominations for Writing and Directing. Time Magazine named
it one of the 100 best TV shows of all time.
What makes it more intriguing for Mormon viewers is that it is based
on the Book of Mormon and other LDS themes. In particular, it is the
story of Lehi and his family fleeing Jerusalem finding the promised
In the series, the twelve planets (tribes) are attacked and destroyed
(as Jerusalem was destroyed at the time of Lehi). President Roslin
(Sariah?), Captain Adamah (Lehi), and his son Lee (Nephi) lead a
fleet of ships trying to find the promised land - earth, but their
journey rife with conflict with cylons (Lamanites). The Sacred Scroll
(plates of Brass?) tell of a woman leading a tribe to the promised
land much earlier (Mulekites or Jaradites) and prophesies of the
twelve tribes being reunited with this lost thirteenth tribe.
On their journey to the promised land, they return to the planet Kobol
(from "Kolob"), the birth place of humanity with a city called
"Eden." Humans lived on Kobol with their gods ("The Lords of
Kobol"). A conflict between the gods and "one jealous god" cause a
"fall" to occur causing the humans to flee Kobol/Eden. A return to
Eden can only be accomplished by a blood sacrifice. Now, Adamah
(Lehi) sends a contingent that retrieves a Liahona-like device from
Kobol in a bloody encounter which points the way to the promised
land/earth, where they finally arrive in the series finale.
The series has prophets, competing religious ideas, resurrection,
healing, agency, sealings, miracles, temples, theological race issues,
a council of the twelve, faith, ritual, visions, angels, etc... It is
a gritty, excellent drama -- worth checking out on DVD IMO.
With all the controversy surrounding the LDS Church's involvement in the Proposition 8 election in California last fall, a more subtle dust-up was brewing at the Hawaii State Legislature last month, pretty much over the same thing.
Hawaii resident Leonor Briscoe was fired up enough over an e-mail exchange with a neighbor that she forwarded copies to her friends, including some Utah residents she believed would be interested in the issue.
The exchange began with an e-mail she got from Frank Lueder, also of Hawaii, that informed her of HB444, a bill before the Hawaii Legislature that "is attempting to once again legalize same-sex
marriage but under a new term, 'civil union.' If you wish relay your OPPOSITION to it, you could do so by [calling or e-mailing] your representative. You could access the list of ... House of
Representatives from the e-mail address I just gave."
Briscoe, who is LDS, responded: "In the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the Mormon church, there's no way you would be sending out e-mails about HB444 without the implied or expressed sanction of the leaders of the Mormon Church.
"You do not know me and I do not know you, so the only way you could have gotten my e-mail address is through your stake clerk's access to church stake records, which are not supposed to be used for political or commercial purposes."
The bill, by the way, passed the House but died in the Senate.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The California group that in November charged the Mormon Church with failing to report the full extent of its financial involvement in Proposition 8 added to its complaint on Thursday. Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate filed charges with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, accusing the church of creating the National Organization for Marriage as a front group for its efforts in the state, and of failing to report the costs as required by law.
The National Organization for Marriage was one of the leading political action committees involved in the successful campaign to ban same-sex marriage. Supporters of the ban raised more than $40 million.
Karger based his new charges on memos leaked by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that show similarities between the battle in California and a campaign fought against same-sex marriage in Hawaii in the 1990s.
The amended complaint also charges that the LDS Church underreported non-monetary contributions to the Prop. 8 campaign such as compensated staff time for church officials and funds for TV and Web commercial production.
A spokesman for the church denied the charges. A statement from the church says that the church did not establish the National Organization for Marriage and that all contributions "are a matter of public record."
The California Fair Political Practices Commission continues its investigation.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, says The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hid its role in establishing the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based group that opened a California office last year.
Karger filed his supplemental complaint Thursday with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which already is investigating his earlier allegations against the church.
A spokeswoman says the church did not establish NOM and has already reported the $190,000 of in-kind contributions it made to the "Yes on 8" campaign.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
-- Mar 18, 1834
Joseph Smith secretly ordains Lyman Wight as "Baneemy" which Wight understands as a military calling. [D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Appendix 7: Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-47"]
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all — a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.
Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend."
Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds, "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue."
Early descriptions of the Essenes by Greek and Roman historians has them numbering in the thousands, living communally ("The first kibbutz," jokes Elior) and forsaking sex — which goes against the Judaic exhortation to "go forth and multiply." Says Elior: "It doesn't make sense that you have thousands of people living against the Jewish law and there's no mention of them in any of the Jewish texts and sources of that period."
So who were the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Elior theorizes that the Essenes were really the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C. When they left, they took the source of their wisdom — their scrolls — with them. "In Qumran, the remnants of a huge library were found," Elior says, with some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known version of the Old Testament dated back to the 9th century A.D. "The scrolls attest to a biblical priestly heritage," says Elior, who speculates that the scrolls were hidden in Qumran for safekeeping.
YAOUNDE, March 17 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Tuesday reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS as he started a visit to Africa.
"It (AIDS) cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem," he said in response to a question about the Church's widely contested position against the use of condoms.
The disease has killed more than 25 million people since the early 1980s, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and some 22.5 million Africans are living with HIV.
His words were some of his most explicit on the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS since his election in 2005.
He called for "correct behaviour regarding one's body".
Monday, March 16, 2009
For a well-written report of the episode, see Mormon Mentality's:
Also, today at 11:00 AM MST and 7:00 PM MST, Radio West will discuss the episode:
In the latest episode of HBO's "Big Love," the character Barb is seen taking
part in an LDS temple ceremony. Members of the LDS church consider these
ceremonies private and sacred - and some are calling for a boycott of HBO and
its parent company. Monday on RadioWest, we're using the Big Love example to
ask the question, "What is sacred?" Are there things that should be off limits
in a respectful society, or should art ask us to rethink religion?
Do you think Big Love has gone too far? Join our on-line discussion board at
Join us for RadioWest weekdays at 11 a.m. Mountain on KUER 90.1 and on XM
Public Radio Channel 133. You can also catch a rebroadcast of the program at 7
p.m. on KUER. Links to books and other resources related to this topic are
available on-line at <http://kuer.org> This program will also be available
on-line for 3 months following its broadcast.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Volume 42 No. 1 / Spring 2009
Kristine Haglund, editor
Becoming a "Messenger of Peace": Jacob Hamblin in Tooele
by Todd Compton, pg. 1
"Who's in Charge Here?" Utah Expedition Command Ambiguity
by William P. MacKinnon, pg. 30
Fighting over "Mormon": Media Coverage of the FLDS and LDS Churches
by Ryan T. Cragun and Michael Nielsen, pg. 105
Roundtable on Massacre at Mountain Meadows, pg. 105
- John Mack Faragher, pg. 107
Philip L. Barlow, pg. 114
Donald L. Fixico, pg. 127
Richard E. Turley Jr., pg. 131
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Review: Silencing Mormon Polygamy: Failed Persecutions, Divided Saints & the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume 1
the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume 1
Author: Drew Briney, J.D.
Publisher: Hindsight Publications
Genre: Nonfiction History
Year Published: 2008
Number of Pages: 377
Reviewed by Vickie Cleverley Speek
I read this book twice. As luck would have it, I received it about the same time that my father died. I tried to read the book, but the complicated ideas didnt make sense at the time and the type was so small I could hardly read it. I decided to put it aside for awhile. Three weeks later, sporting an improved sense of concentration and a new pair of reading glasses, I picked up Silencing Mormon Polygamy and started rereading. Im glad I did.
Briney has written a valuable book that should be on the shelf of anyone researching Mormon History. The book deals with important principles that existed in the early Mormon Church and how those beliefs led to the birth of what is now known as Mormon Fundamentalism. The concepts of civil disobedience, plural marriage, the Council of Fifty, the Church of the Firstborn, and the double meanings behind the terms Kingdom of God and the Patriarchal Priesthood are extremely controversial and complicated. Briney attempts to clarify them in an objective way.
On September 26 and 27, 1886, John Taylor, prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was at the home of John W. Woolley in Centerville, Utah, hiding from federal authorities determined to take him into custody for practicing polygamy. On the afternoon of Sept. 26, he presided over Sunday meetings where the abolishment of polygamy was discussed. That night, Taylor was visited by Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith in an all-night revelation in which Taylor was instructed never to renounce the Mormon practice of polygamy.
The following day, Taylor revealed his experience to a small group of people and spent the remainder of the day instructing them in spiritual matters. Sometime on September 27, Taylor placed his hands upon the heads of five men and gave them the authority to perform plural marriage ceremonies. He also ordained them to set others apart to perform plural marriages so there would be no cessation in the work. Taylor exhorted the men to ensure that not a year would go by without children being born into the principle of plural marriage. Taylors Sept. 26 revelation is well known among Fundamentalists but unknown to most members of the LDS Church who believe Mormon polygamy ended with President Wilford Woodruffs 1890 Manifesto.
The priesthood John Taylor gave the five men is significant. The Patriarchal Priesthood or Priesthood of Elijah is a superior priesthood which dates back to Kirtland and Nauvoo days and connects to the secretive Church of the Firstborn. Also known as the Kingdom of God, the Church of the Firstborn was supposedly the true governing organization of the Mormon Church. If proven to be true, this creates a huge problem for current members of the LDS Church as it confers a higher priesthood to Fundamentalist Mormons than that practiced by the Twelve Apostles.
Silencing Mormon Polygamy is an unbiased attempt to better understand the events of September 26-27 and present reasons why those events are so significant to thousands of fundamentalist Mormons. The book contains every known firsthand account, important hearsay accounts and some circumstantial evidence of the two days. Briney extends that knowledge into an extensive collection of charts and footnotes, which are as important to read as the main volume itself. The book also draws on the minutes of Lorin Woolleys School of the Apostles, important fundamentalist materials that have never before been published,
Silencing Mormon Polygamy has its faults, but most of them deal with formatting. Even with my new reading glasses, the type font is too small and the subheads, printed in gray, are too light. The artistic design on the first page of each chapter looks unprofessional, and however useful, there is too much underlining. I wish the book had an index.
I think Silencing Mormon Polygamy would benefit from a more extensive introductory chapter that could give the reader more insight into the significance of the events. Perhaps the book could also include the biographies of the five men John Taylor ordained and an overview of the excommunication trials of the LDS apostles accused of practicing polygamy. Hopefully, these details will be expanded upon in Silencing Mormon Polygamy: Failed Persecutions, Divided Saints & the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume Two. Im looking forward to it.
Friday, March 13, 2009
The survey featured more than 350,000 interviews, and consisted of up to 42 different questions.
The survey featured questions pertaining to mental, physical and economic health of Americans, to determine their level of well being.
Generally, wealthier states faired much better on the list than did states home to a lot of poverty and lower-income Americans.
Generally, western states scored higher marks than states in the rest of the country, with lowly Kentucky coming in last on the list.
"It's not just about physical health," said Eric Nielsen, a spokesman for Gallup. "It's about their ability to contribute at work and be more productive, and it's about feeling engaged in a community and wanting to improve that community."
"Following positive comments and formative feedback, the first issue
of British Journal of Mormon Studies will be rebranded in order to
reflect a wider acknowledgment of the journal's mission. Subsequent
issues will now be published under the name of International Journal
of Mormon Studies. The editorial team welcomes academic submissions
reflecting a cross-disciplinary focus on the international experience
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The workshop "Parallels and Convergencees: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision" was held 6-7 Mar 2009 at the Claremont Graduate University, under sponsorship by the Claremont School of Religion, the LDS Council on Mormon Studies, and the Mormon Scholars Foundation, sponsored by Richard Bushman. Abstracts of the talks are below. Full presentation files and other information will (eventually) be available at the conference website:
"God, The Perfect Engineer"
Allen W. Leigh, Electrical / Software Engineer & Adjunct Instructor, retired
The Biblical scriptures declare that God created the earth. Because of additional information given by latter-day scriptures, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God organized the earth from preexisting material using natural laws that govern that material. He followed a design cycle that has a broad parallel with design cycles typically used by human engineers. A religious model of creation is given, and this model supports the idea that God is the perfect engineer. Since engineers do not always succeed with their creations, the possibility that God can fail is considered. Reasons are given that assure us that God will not fail in His role as the engineer of the Universe.
"Models of Spirit Matter"
Adam N. Davis, Assistant Professor of Physics, Wayne State College
It is a well grounded idea in Mormonism that there is much more to the universe than that which we see with our mortal eyes: the spirit realm. Despite that basic idea, very little is understood about spirit matter. I present three models of spirit matter and discuss their shortcomings. In doing so we are left with the idea that spirit matter must be conceived of very differently than our present pre-conceptions about reality allow.
"A Technical Interpretation of Mormon Physics and Physiology"
Lincoln Cannon (with Scott Howe), President, Mormon Transhumanist Association
The spiritual aspect of the universe and our bodies, as described in Mormon scripture and tradition, may be empirically accessible, and we should embrace this assumption for practical and moral reasons. Some consider the spiritual aspect to be supernatural or otherwise empirically inaccessible, thereby presupposing its exclusion from science and technology. However, an authentic interpretation of Mormon scripture and tradition supports the idea that we commonly observe the spiritual aspect, and that spiritual transactions are the basis of all observation and action. Because our salvation depends in part on learning about, governing and organizing both the physical and the spiritual aspects of our universe and our bodies, we should assume the possibility of and seek after a technical understanding of their natures.
"Materialism, Free Will, and Mormonism"
Adam N. Davis, Assistant Professor of Physics, Wayne State College
Our contemporary science is materialist; it views that everything can be understood as a physical object or the laws that govern those physical objects. Many Mormons who have reflected on the issue subscribe to the materialist philosophy given the doctrine that there is no such thing as "immaterial matter". Mormonism also requires that humans have free will. Unfortunately, free will and materialism are not philosophies that exist without significant tension. The Latter-day Saint doctrine of "intelligences" provides an avenue to reconcile the two philosophies and in the doing so has the potential to illuminate a bit more about this mysterious and ill understood doctrine of intelligences.
"Theological Implications of The New God Argument"
Joseph West (with Lincoln Cannon), Founding Member, Director and Secretary, Mormon Transhumanist Association
The goal of this paper is two-fold. First, we present The New God Argument, after which we discuss some implications for Mormonism. The New God Argument concludes that we should trust that our world probably is created by advanced life forms more benevolent than us. The argument is based on assumptions widely shared among both secular and religious persons, and is consistent with modern science and technological trends. Although the logic of the argument holds, independent of any potential theological implications, we feel that the implications for Mormonism are profound. The God in question in this argument is a natural material God that became God through natural material means, suggesting how we might do the same. As emphasized in the argument, benevolence, not only power, is among those means and essential to them. This is the God of which Joseph Smith taught us. Most philosophical arguments for God's existence have aimed at justifying traditional Christian theology. However, Mormon theology, particularly as advocated by Joseph Smith near the end of his life, diverges from tradition to posit emergent gods that organize worlds from existing matter according to existing laws. The New God Argument does not contend to infallibly prove God's existence or to provide a relationship with God. It contends only to demonstrate that a common worldview, informed of contemporary science and technological trends, leads to and is wholly compatible with faith in a particular kind of God.
A. Scott Howe, PhD, Senior Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Morality is defined in quantitative terms as a discussion on human potential – moral choices increase the potential, and immoral choices limit it. A 'potentiality test' is presented that allows value comparisons of moral choices to be made based on the depth of nodes in a decision tree, where a proliferation of future possibilities increases the freedom of the individual. In a more rigorous approach, morality is discussed from an engineering perspective, where transgression increases entropy in the environment, but wise choices build potential and order into the environment that allows an individual to thrive. Based on an understanding of entropy, a possible mathematical model for morality is discussed.
The ultimate product of a process that proliferates future possibilities is an individual that is in complete control of all circumstance in the environment, or in other words an omnipotent being characterized by obedience to natural laws as described in Latter-day Saint theology.
"Transfiguration: Parallels and Complements Between Mormonism and Transhumanism"
Carl Youngblood, Chief Software Architect, Surgeworks, Inc.
Mormon tradition teaches that, throughout history, God has inspired and endowed humanity with knowledge and power in various dispensations or epochal transitions in the relationship between divinity and humanity. In this, the "Dispensation of the Fullness of Times," Mormons believe that God has restored all the knowledge and power of past dispensations and will continue to reveal, at an accelerated pace, new knowledge and tools that will assist in bringing to pass the renewal of the earth and the immortality of humanity. Though the language employed differs, the advancements foretold by Mormon prophets bear striking resemblance to the trends predicted by Ray Kurzweil and other transhumanists. This presentation will summarize the parallels and complements between Mormonism and Transhumanism, and how these movements may benefit from a greater awareness of one another.
"Gaia, Mormonism, and Paradisiacal Earth"
Roger D. Hansen, PhD, Technology Specialist, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Mormonism provides the seeds for an extraordinarily proactive attitude toward the Earth as it evolves toward its paradisiacal glory. Latter-day Saint theology teaches that as man is progressing toward his/her eternal reward, so is the Earth. Brigham Young taught that we are co-creators of the evolving Earth, and that our participation in this terrestrial progression is part of our earthly sojourn and mortal test. I argue that the Earth is a living organism—Gaia—and rapidly progressing toward sentience, and that we are agents of many aspects of this evolution. This requires us as members of the Church to go past the role of stewardship to a more proactive stance. LDS Church members need a positive attitude toward the Earth and its future.
"Spiritual Underpinnings for a Space Program"
William R. Pickett (with Scott Howe), Senior Hardware Engineer, Antenna Range Master, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This paper presents a perspective that in addition to benefits in science and education, a healthy space program may also have significance from a theological point of view and may in fact be the result of divine inspiration. The development of space technologies for science and exploration has been recognized as an engineering achievement while at the same time described as an expensive visionary venture that distracts from more pressing human endeavors. However, a careful look at scriptural accounts, teachings of prophets and other church leaders, and our current knowledge about the solar system may suggest a different view, that the timing may not only be right for the development of this technology, but may be instrumental to the salvation of ourselves and our posterity. The paper suggests philosophical directions that may be worth further critical review.
"Welcome to the 21stt Century: The Uncharted Future Ahead"
David H. Bailey, Chief Technologist, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
The past few decades have been a time of breathtaking advances in science and technology. Our daily living patterns, and social institutions, and religious institutions have all been affected. Unfortunately for those who dislike change, the forecast is for more of the same – unrelenting, even accelerating change for decades to come. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and medical technology are all poised for dramatic advances. These developments will challenge our social and religious institutions as never before. What are the dangers ahead? How can we direct these developments for good and not evil? Such questions have particular import for Latter-day Saints, who have had a rich tradition of progress, as exemplified by the Law of Eternal Progression. To what extent are we (or should we) discovering the fundamental facts of the universe and building the kingdom of God with our efforts?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"In approaching the dramatization of the endowment ceremony, we knew we had a responsibility to be completely accurate and to show the ceremony in the proper context and with respect. We therefore took great pains to depict the ceremony with the dignity and reverence it is due. This approach is entirely evident in the scene portrayed in this episode and certainly reflected in Jeanne Tripplehorn's beautiful and moving performance as she faces losing the church she loved so much. In order to assure the accuracy of the ceremony, it was thoroughly vetted by an adviser who is familiar with temple practices and rituals. This consultant was actually on the set throughout the filming of the scenes to make sure every detail was correct."
"We know that the writers/producers of the series have gone to great lengths to be respectful and accurate in portraying the endowment ceremony. That ceremony is very much an important part of this year's story line. Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church but to those who may be offended, we offer our sincere apology. It should also be noted that throughout the series' three-year run, the writer/producers have made abundantly clear the distinction between the LDS Church and those extreme fringe groups who practice polygamy."
LDS Church statement:
Like other large faith groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes finds itself on the receiving end of attention from Hollywood or Broadway, television series or books, and the news media. Sometimes depictions of the Church and its people are quite accurate. Sometimes the images are false or play to stereotypes. Occasionally, they are in appallingly bad taste.
As Catholics, Jews and Muslims have known for centuries, such attention is inevitable once an institution or faith group reaches a size or prominence sufficient to attract notice. Yet Latter-day Saints – sometimes known as Mormons - still wonder whether and how they should respond when news or entertainment media insensitively trivialize or misrepresent sacred beliefs or practices.
Church members are about to face that question again. Before the first season of the HBO series Big Love aired more than two years ago, the show's creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn't be about Mormons. However, Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous. And according to TV Guide, it now seems the show's writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies.
Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding. Last week some Church members began e-mail chains calling for cancellations of subscriptions to AOL, which, like HBO, is owned by Time Warner. Certainly such a boycott by hundreds of thousands of computer-savvy Latter-day Saints could have an economic impact on the company. Individual Latter-day Saints have the right to take such actions if they choose.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series. As Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve Apostles have both said recently, when expressing themselves in the public arena, Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves with dignity and thoughtfulness.
Not only is this the model that Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in his own life, but it also reflects the reality of the strength and maturity of Church members today. As someone recently said, "This isn't 1830, and there aren't just six of us anymore." In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly. The Church's strength is in its faithful members in 170-plus countries, and there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church.
* During the Mitt Romney election campaign for the presidency of the United States, commentator Lawrence O'Donnell hurled abuse at the Church in a television moment that became known among many Church members as "the O'Donnell rant." Today, his statements are remembered only as a testament to intolerance and ignorance. They had no effect on the Church that can be measured.
* When the comedy writers for South Park produced a gross portrayal of Church history, individual Church members no doubt felt uncomfortable. But once again it inflicted no perceptible or lasting damage to a church that is growing by at least a quarter of a million new members every year.
* When an independent film company produced a grossly distorted version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre two years ago, the Church ignored it. Perhaps partly as a result of that refusal to engender the controversy that the producers hoped for, the movie flopped at the box office and lost millions.
* In recent months, some gay activists have barraged the media with accusations about "hateful" attitudes of Latter-day Saints in supporting Proposition 8 in California, which maintained the traditional definition of marriage. They even organized a protest march around the Salt Lake Temple. Again, the Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful. Meanwhile, missionary work and Church members in California remain as robust and vibrant as ever, and support for the Church has come from many unexpected quarters — including some former critics and other churches.
Now comes another series of Big Love, and despite earlier assurances from HBO it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show's fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints.
If the Church allowed critics and opponents to choose the ground on which its battles are fought, it would risk being distracted from the focus and mission it has pursued successfully for nearly 180 years. Instead, the Church itself will determine its own course as it continues to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
"Big Love," HBO's television drama about a polygamous Utah family, will air an episode March 15 depicting a sacred and private LDS temple ceremony, prompting an official response from the church criticizing the network.
According to a TV Guide interview with series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer published in this week's magazine, both said the episode will include the depiction of an endowment ceremony within a Mormon temple.
"We go into the endowment room and the celestial room, and we present what happens in those ceremonies," Olsen told TV Guide . "That's never been shown on television before."
In order to portray the ceremonies accurately, Olsen and Scheffer said they "researched it out the wazoo" and hired an "ex-Mormon consultant" for help in the scenes, including sets and costuming. HBO confirmed the episode's scenes Monday. "But it's not for shock value," Olsen said. "It's really a very important part of the story."
News of the episode hit the Internet last week, prompting talk of boycotts of the network and e-mail chains to church members to cancel their subscriptions to AOL, which along with Time Warner, owns the pay cable network.
In response to the upcoming episode, which has not been seen outside the network, the LDS Church issued a statement Monday criticizing depictions of the church generally in the news media and Hollywood, and specifically in "Big Love."
"Now comes another series of 'Big Love,' and despite earlier assurances from HBO, it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show's fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints."
For three seasons, the show has depicted the trials of running such a complicated household, including various depictions of mainstream Mormon characters and practices.
"Before the first season of the HBO series 'Big Love' aired more than two years ago, the show's creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn't be about Mormons," the LDS statement read. "However, Internet references to 'Big Love' indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous."
Monday, March 09, 2009
"Ranking the States: An Analysis of Depression Across the States" was researched and written by Mental Health America and Thomson Healthcare. It looks at data from 2002-2006 and was conducted from July to November 2007. The report compares depression levels and suicide rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses the information to highlight solutions to improve states' mental health status.
Using data from nationally representative surveys conducted by the United States government, Mental Health America created two different rankings of the states: one showing the state rankings of depression and one showing the state rank in terms of suicide rates.
Four different measures of depression and mental health status were used to develop one composite measure of the level of depression in a given state. The four measures were: (1) the percentage of the adult population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, (2) the percentage of the adolescent population (ages 12 to 17) experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, (3) the percentage of the adult population experiencing serious psychological distress, and (4) the average number of days in the past 30 days in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.
Age-adjusted suicide rates were also examined since suicide is the most significant negative outcome of depression.
Utah was the most depressed state. Among adults in Utah, 10.14 percent experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.58 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents in Utah, 10.14 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
Six states have a higher suicide rate than Utah.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
The California Supreme Court today appeared inclined to uphold Proposition 8, but showed obvious reluctance to void thousands of same-sex marriages already in place when voters restored a ban on gay marriage last fall.
During three hours of arguments in San Francisco, the justices peppered lawyers opposing Proposition 8 with questions that suggested they do no believe they have the authority to trump the will of the voters.
At the same time, even justices who voted against striking down's California's previous ban on gay marriage, indicated that Proposition 8 should not wipe out an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place last year.
"Is that really fair to people who depended on what this court said was the law?" Justice Ming Chin asked Ken Starr, the former Clinton impeachment prosecutor who argued that same-sex marriages shouldn't be recognized under Proposition 8.
The justices are considering a high stakes legal challenge to the validity of the measure, which was approved by voters last fall and restored California's ban on gay marriage. The ballot measure, enacted by a 52 to 48 percent vote, erased last May's historic state Supreme Court ruling finding California's prior ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional because it deprived gay couples of the equal right to wed.
Attorney General Jerry Brown also has refused to defend the law, saying it is unconstitutional and conflicts with last year's state Supreme Court ruling.
If the court upholds Proposition 8, the justices must still determine whether existing gay marriages are valid across the state. The justices agreed to review the case in November, producing an avalanche of legal arguments from all sides of the gay marriage debate. The Supreme Court now has 90 days to rule in the case, ensuring the fate of Proposition 8 will be determined before summer begins.
Here is the text of the letter. A followup letter by the Bishop stated the church did not take any official position on the matter.
From: Kristy Combs <email@example.com>
Date: March 3, 2009 12:27:59 PM CST
Subject: Civil Union bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday - calls needed
This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church.
The Civil Union Bill (HB 2234) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Youth and Family Committee this week on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield. If the bill is voted out of committee, it becomes eligible for a vote before the full Illinois House of Representatives. This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.
To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email.
Also, please take a moment and call the following members of the Youth and Family Committee to encourage them to vote no on this bill. We need 4 votes to keep it from passing out of the committee. And - as always, please pass this on to all who believe in protecting our families and our children. If you are interested in attending the hearing, it will be held on Thursday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield in Room 122B of the Capitol Building (I can give you directions to the Capitol Building if needed).
Members of the Youth and Family Committee:
Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) (Greg Harris is also the sponsor of this bill, but he needs to hear your opposition to this bill)
Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago)
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago)
Rep. William D. Burns (D-Chicago)
Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (R-Chicago)
Rep. Al Riley (D-Matteson)
Rep. Dave Winters (R-Rockford)
Directions for identifying your legislators:
You can use the following link to identify your state legislators and their contact information: http://www.elections.il.gov/ DistrictLocator/ SelectSearchType.aspx? NavLink=1 (and enter your 9 digit zip code). If this link doesn’t work, you can use the general link www.ilga.gov and then click on ” legislator lookup” near the bottom of the page, then click on “by zip+4″. Type in your zip code, and you’ll see a list of your legislators. You want your state senator and state representative as they will be the ones voting on the bill.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Sister Combs.