Thursday, March 29, 2007

Church Statement on Dick Cheney invitation by 1st Presidency

SALT LAKE CITY 29 March 2007 An invitation by Brigham Young
University to the vice president of the United States to be the
commencement speaker next month has triggered discussion and some
controversy over the issue of political neutrality.

Whatever the personal views of individual students or other members of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the invitation is
seen by the university's board of trustees as one extended to someone
holding the high office of vice president of the United States rather
than to a partisan political figure.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran two articles in its edition this morning (29
March) related to the pending visit of the vice president.

One, a prominently displayed personal opinion piece by a political
reporter, criticizes the Church, in intemperate and disrespectful
language, for inviting Vice President Dick Cheney to be the
commencement speaker.

The reporter's central point seems to be that inviting the vice
president — presumably this particular vice president — is
inconsistent with the Church's often-stated political neutrality.

The other article — in the same newspaper — is an editorial that urges
that the vice president be allowed to speak because "this is democracy
at work" and that an audience of college graduates is capable of
assessing what he says. The newspaper further says that the decision
was for the BYU board of trustees to make, "just as it is the right of
anyone who disagrees with the choice to say so."

Let's take a look at what the Church's political neutrality policy is.

First, the Church prohibits any Church leader from endorsing a
candidate in the name of the Church. In the American political
process, endorsement means officially putting the weight of an
institution or individual behind a political candidate — publicly
giving unequivocal support to the candidate's policies and platform.

Second, the Church bans the use of its chapels for party political
purposes and also refuses to allow the distribution of Church
membership rolls to anyone, including politicians and candidates.

It also carefully avoids telling its members for whom they should
vote. Neither does it tell elected Latter-day Saint officials how they
should vote.

Such a policy makes sense in a Church that operates in more than 160
countries and with a global membership that embraces many different
political persuasions and views. But the policy is also a reflection
of what Church leaders see as the organization's central mission — to
preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. To engage in partisan politics or
to take up every social cause would be to divert the Church from that

There is also another side to the neutrality policy, apart from
prohibitions. The Church "encourages its members to play a role as
responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed
about issues and voting in elections."

Further, the Church "expects its members to engage in the political
process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that
members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and
experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political

The invitation to the vice president of the United States is not a
violation of that policy, any more than inviting the majority leader
of the Senate would be. In fact, Senator Harry Reid — a Democrat from
the opposite political pole to the vice president — has already
accepted such an invitation for this fall. That invitation has been in
process for many months — long before the announcement of the vice
president's visit.

Is it appropriate for a university — even one that espouses a policy
of political neutrality — to have as featured speakers the holders of
some of the highest offices in the land? Of course it is. And whoever
the visitor — the vice president, the majority leader of the Senate or
the chief justice of the Supreme Court (another scheduled fall
speaker) — the university and the student body will listen, evaluate
and react to them as intelligent citizens capable of making up their
own minds about their messages.

The Church & Romney's bid for the presidency

The liberal excesses of the 60s & 70s caused the political pendulum to swing back towards conservatism.  Regan promoted conservative values that catered to the Christian right.  This began a legacy that Regan, Bush Sr. and now Bush Jr. have continued.

Mitt Romney would like to be the next to carry that torch.  Previously a moderate Mormon who supported gay unions, stem cell research, pro choice, and other items considered the antithesis of Christian right values, he shifted his position to a much more conservative stance.  In fact, he is now much more conservative than the church is on many positions, aligning himself  with fundamentalist conservative Christians positions.

There have been some interesting developments in LDS political front that play into this.  Utah is known to be the 'reddest" state in the nation, with a stronger approval rating for Bush than any other state.  Bush's strong Utah approval has continued despite Bush having dipped to the lowest approval rating in the US of any president since they began keeping records & Cheney with even lower approval  ratings.

But this past week the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah's LDS approval for Bush's handling of the war has begun to falter with a 20% drop since January (

At the same time, other developments have occurred that seem to underscore the church's interest in having Mitt Romney be next in line to lead Regan/Bush/Bush Christian-conservative legacy.

The 1st Presidency has invited Dick Cheney to speak at BYU's graduation ceremony. With church member's good will towards Bush eroding, and Cheney's national unpopularity, a  outcry is underway with the papers reporting a flood of concern  from around the world, with some members asking how BYU could sponsor an administration considered to be "war mongers."   But this may be seen as an attempt to solidify political alliances with conservative Christians, who view Romney's religion suspiciously at best, and heretical at worst, but never-the-less remain loyal to the Bush administration.

All of this is occurring just after Cheney's number one aid - Scooter Libby - was found guilty on charges related to questionable tactics used in promoting the Iraq war and covering up/ denying those tactics.  Jurists have reported that the evidence points to the funny business going higher that Scooter Libby (Cheney) and also to Bush's  adviser, Carl Rove.  No doubt this accounts for a large portion of the outcry over the invitation to Dick Cheney.

Additionally, the church has taken a new step that seem to promote Mitt Romney.  Their website has began linking to articles on conservative blogs and websites that are known for their political conservatism.  The links are to provide clarification over concerns over Romney's religion.  This is done, despite the church's official policy of remaining politically neutral.  The grayness of this area leaves the church in a tight position of trying to defend Romney's religion without appearing to promote his candidacy.  The church must be careful in this area, because if the government perceives them to be promoting a political party or candidate  they could loose their tax exempt status, which could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.   When it appeared that Elder Holland was organizing efforts to promote Romney last year, the church quickly denied such involvement (

Whether it wanted this or not, the church has found itself in a difficult position.  Excited at the prospect of having a Mormon president, the church wants to promote Romney anyway it can.  But it's hands are largely tied because of the Church's tax exempt status and can only use indirect methods to promote him.  Romney is courting fundamentalist Christians who despise Mormon doctrine.  The church's move to invite Cheney (one of only two schools in the country Cheney will speak at) underscores their loyalty to  Bush administration and conservative Christian values, but at the price of aligning themselves with an unpopular president who's administration has taken a less-than impeccable approach to justifying a war, and have managed that war poorly. Since courting the Christian Right, Romney's support has dropped from 8% to just 3%.

This is the best chance for the church to present itself to the public since the Olympics.  But the path surrounding a presidential election will not be as easy to negotiate.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Support for Iraq war drops sharply among Utah LDS

Utah's LDS no longer firmly back Iraq war
Support drops after Hinckley talks of 'terrible cost of war' in general, high-profile Mormons speak out
By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

As a group, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been staunch supporters of President Bush and his management of Iraq since the war began four years ago.
    So Jeffrey Jones wasn't surprised to see that a two-year compilation of Gallup polls showed American Mormons, more than any other religious group over that period, believed the United States was right to invade Iraq.
    "It seemed to make sense," said Jones, a political analyst with Gallup, a New Jersey-based national polling firm. "Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican, and party affiliation is a powerful predictor of people's view on the war."
    But that steady tide may be turning, even in the heart of Zion.
    A January poll by The Salt Lake Tribune showed a precipitous drop in support for Bush's handling of the war among Utah's Latter-day Saints.
    In the survey, just 44 percent of those identifying themselves as Mormon said they backed Bush's war management. That's a level considerably higher than Bush gets from Utah's non-Mormon population and the nation at large, but it's also a 21 percentage point drop from just five months earlier. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
Such abrupt moves in group opinion are uncommon. Pollsters say numbers generally move gradually, unless "spooked" by something.
    But what?
    LDS Church spokesman Mark Tuttle insisted there has been "no additional statement, clarification, changed policy or announcement that can account for" the rapid change in Utah church members' perceptions of the war. And he reiterated that the church has no official position on Iraq.
    But that doesn't mean prominent Mormons didn't have plenty of influence on how members were thinking about war and peace between August and January.
    Rather than one unmistakable message from the church, the change may have been ushered by a rapid series of more subtle signals that it was indeed acceptable for Mormons to question their president during wartime.
    And it all may have started at the very top.
    Spooked on Halloween
Speaking to Brigham Young University students on Oct. 31, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley lamented "the terrible cost of war."
    "What a fruitless thing it so often is," he said. "And what a terrible price it exacts."
    Hinckley recalled standing at the graves of some of history's most powerful military and political leaders. "In their time they commanded armies," he said. "They ruled with near omnipotence, and their very words brought terror into the hearts of people," he said.
    And yet, he noted, all of them were now dead: "They have all passed into the darkness of the grave."
    Though brooding heavily on the consequences of war in general, Hinckley never mentioned Iraq or President Bush specifically. But in the following days, online message boards and e-mail discussion groups lit up with conversation about what Hinckley - "prophet, seer and revelator" to millions of Mormons worldwide - might have meant in regard to the nation's current wars.
    "He may or may not have intended anything by it, and he certainly didn't mention Iraq in that speech, but the speech certainly may have been interpreted by the LDS community as an indictment against the world's violence," said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "Small phrases by President Hinckley are to the LDS community as Alan Greenspan's words were to the financial community."
    While ambiguous in relation to Iraq, Hinckley's words wouldn't be the final indication that Bush's war leadership was rightfully subject to question among the LDS faithful.
    There would be other, clearer messages to come.
    Pessimism from politicos
The month after Hinckley's speech, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. - one of the more prominent politicians who are LDS members - returned from Iraq with an unfavorable report about the chaos he saw in the war-torn nation's capital city.
    "The security situation is Baghdad is out of hand," said Huntsman, who enjoys wide popularity among Utahns. "I am less optimistic about a successful outcome."
    Huntsman's dismay echoed that of other well-known Mormon politicians from both sides of the aisle - Sens. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon - who were also issuing disappointing proclamations about what the Bush administration had hitherto referred to as Iraq's "progress."
    November and December brought on crushing congressional defeats for Republican legislators, the resignation of war architect and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a damning report on the war's progress by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel commissioned to come up with solutions to increasing violence and a burgeoning civil war.
    "That was an independent assessment of the circumstances" in Iraq, Rep. Jim Matheson said.
    The Utah Democrat, who like all of Utah's congressional delegation is a member of the LDS Church, said he believes fellow Mormons respond rationally when confronted with such evidence.
    That's an opinion shared by blogger Guy Murray, author of Messenger and Advocate - - a popular blog about Mormon issues.
    "It's true that, in general, LDS members are more conservative as a whole, but at one point the whole country backed this war and this president," said Murray. "Over the years, the country has soured on this war, and Mormons may be just following the national trend."
    Murray said he believes that, as the war has lumbered violently on, it has become less socially perilous for Mormons to express "alternative" opinions about Iraq. Especially, he noted, as "the church has gone out of its way to stress political neutrality."
    "I think there is an element of comfort in that," he said.
    On both sides
    Though The Tribune's January poll showed Bush had lost the backing of many of Utah's Latter-day Saints - bringing the "reddest state in the nation" below the mark for majority support - it also showed a nearly even split among Mormons themselves, with 44 percent expressing support and 41 percent asserting disapproval of the president's war handling.
    Even among members of tight-knit LDS families there is disagreement about how faith should inform a Saint's political views.
    "Do I still support the war? Yes," said Peter Sorensen, an insurance agent in Salt Lake City and a Mormon. "I have always felt from a religious standpoint that fighting against evil and looking out for the well-being of our earthly brothers and sisters was reason enough for going into Iraq."
    Sorensen's cousin, fellow Mormon and lifelong friend Joe Marshall sees things differently.
    "My faith is unwavering," Marshall said. "Christ advocated unconditional peace, and he expects it from his disciples. . . . I ache to see so many fellow lovers of Jesus casually letting their political agendas come before these principles, espousing this unjust act of violence, rather than despising it."
    In their family, as in Utah, the issue remains open for debate - perhaps now more than ever.
    Over the years, the country has soured on this war and Mormons may be just following the national trend.
    - Guy Murray
, author of a popular blog about Mormon issues.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

1st Presidency invites Cheney to speak at BYU

Cheney will speak at BYU PDF | Print | E-mail
Daily Herald

Vice President Dick Cheney may have a 34 percent approval rating in
the most recent Gallup poll, but Brigham Young University is hoping to
give him a warm welcome next month.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said members of the first presidency of
the LDS Church, acting as chair and vice chair of the BYU board of
trustees, extended the invitation to Cheney.

It will be one of only two graduation addresses by Cheney this spring,
said spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride, who declined to identify the other

"It turns out that in 2006, President Bush was invited and unable to
attend," McBride said from Washington, according to an Associated
Press report. "We reached out this year to the BYU board of trustees.
They were excited at the suggestion and sent a formal letter of

Kelly Patterson, director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections
and Democracy, predicted Cheney will find a "very receptive and very
hospitable" audience.

Marian Monnahan, chairman of the Utah County Republican Party, said
Cheney would find a lot of friends at BYU.

"We're still one of the reddest counties in the reddest state,"
Monnahan said. "I expect there will probably be somebody who is going
to protest, but in general I think he will be warmly received here."

Cedar Hills Mayor Mike McGee, who is the party treasurer, said he
couldn't speak for others, "But I think its an awesome opportunity to
hear something from somebody who has something important to say. I
only wish I had a personal invitation."

Cheney was in Utah in 2002 to stump for Republican congressional
candidates, and returned in 2003 to raise funds for the 2004
presidential election.

Former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush have also spoke at
the BYU campus.

Doing the Works of Abraham, Mormon Polygamy Its Origin, Practice, and Demise

Doing the Works of Abraham, Mormon Polygamy
Its Origin, Practice, and Demise
Edited by B. Carmon Hardy

Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier Series

Here for the first time are the basic documents supporting and
challenging Mormon polygamy, supported by the concise commentary and
documentation of the editor.

Celestial Marriage—the "doctrine of the plurality of wives"—polygamy.
No issue in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (popularly known as the Mormon Church) has attracted more
attention. From its contentious and secretive beginnings in the 1830s
to its public proclamation in 1852, and through almost four decades of
bitter conflict with the federal government to Church renunciation of
the practice in 1890, this belief helped define a new religious
identity and unify the Mormon people, just as it scandalized their
neighbors and handed their enemies the most effective weapon they
wielded in their battle against Mormon theocracy.

This newest addition to the Kingdom in the West Series provides the
basic documents supporting and challenging Mormon polygamy, supported
by the concise commentary and documentation of editor B. Carmon Hardy.
Plural marriage is everywhere at hand in Mormon history. However,
despite its omnipresence, including a broad and continuing stream of
publications devoted to it, few attempts have been made to assemble a
documentary history of the topic. Hardy has drawn on years of research
and writing on the controversial and complex subject to make this
narrative collection of documents illuminating and myth-shattering.
The second "relic of barbarism," as the Republican Party platform of
1856 characterized polygamy, was believed by the Saints to be God's
law, trumping the laws of a mere republic. The long struggle for what
was, and for some fundamentalists remains, religious freedom still
resonates in American religious law. Throughout the West, thousands of
families continue the practice, even In the face of LDS Church

The book includes a bibliography and an index. It is bound in rich
blue linen cloth, two-color foil stamped spine and front cover.

About the Author Carmon Hardy is an Emeritus Professor of History at
California State University, Fullerton, where he still teaches. He is
the author of Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (1992),
which was awarded the best book award by the Mormon Historical
Association. In addition to his extensive published writings on
Mormonism, he has also published in the fields of American
Constitutional History and the History of Religion.

Just Add Coffee

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (AP) -- For a coffee shop, T-shirts of a Mormon angel
with java flowing into his trumpet are selling well. But they don't have
the blessing of religious leaders.

The shirts have upset the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Not only is Moroni a revered figure - Mormons believe he appeared to
church founder Joseph Smith - but LDS members are discouraged from
drinking coffee.

The shirts show the angel Moroni, a male figure in a robe blowing a
trumpet. The trumpet is turned up at an angle as coffee is poured in.

"They've been the best-selling T-shirts we've ever done," said Just Add
Coffee co-owner Ed Beazer.

The church informed Beazer that the angel's image is a registered trademark.

"If they provide proof, we're going to comply," Beazer said. "We don't
want to break any laws or anything."

Just Add Coffee put the image on greeting cards about a year ago and
started selling the shirts before Christmas. Moroni also appeared in ads
that caught the church's attention.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter said the image is a trademark.

"It was a spoof," Beazer said. "It was meant to be fun." links to politically conservative websites

The News Room/ Public Issues section of the church's website includes the official statement about political neutrality, including the following text:

The Church's mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics.

The Church does not:

  • Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms....
  • Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints....

However,  the side-bar (titled "Additional Resources") on the same page links to several sites, some of which promote a politically conservative agenda, and to articles that seem to promote Mitt Romney.  While these are  not direct political endorsements, it seems the church is entering a grayer area driven by the need to  clarify attacks against Mitt Romney.  Here are the "Additional Resources" links:

"Mormon President? No Problem. Have Faith," The New Republic

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Anti-Mormon DVD to be distributed tomorrow to doorsteps in Utah

Some of you that live in Utah (and possibly elsewhere, most likely in
areas near temples) may be receiving an anti-Mormon DVD and
book on your doorstep tomorrow. I am involved with an organization
called FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic and Information Research) that
has the purpose of defending against such attacks by providing
information to help answer questions that people might have after
exposed to them. Someone in FAIR managed to get a copy of the DVD a
couple of weeks ago, and we've been working feverishly to put together
set of Web pages specifically aimed at refuting the half-truths and
disinformation contained in it. It is now available at if you're interested in looking at it,
if you know anyone that would be.

I'm attaching the official announcement from FAIR that has more

- Trevor

The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research

On 25 March 2007, Evangelical Christians are distributing a new
anti-Mormon DVD to thousands of homes across the United States. The
video asks viewers to compare Joseph Smith with Jesus Christ and
Christianity with Mormonism. The video has excellent production values
but, unfortunately, its contents are not of a similar quality.

Though it purports to be an objective Christian evaluation of the
teachings, history, and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, it contains much that is inaccurate and very little
that is balanced. Rather than focus on what they believe, the video's
producers have taken it upon themselves to describe and interpret LDS
beliefs and teachings, often in ways that would be objectionable or
unrecognizable to Latter-day Saints.

While they profess love in the DVD, the letter that accompanied
pre-release copies of the video, given to select non-Mormons, speaks
volumes. It says, in part:

CAUTION: This video is to be viewed by CHRISTIANS ONLY until AFTER
the nation-wide distribution which is scheduled for March 25, 2007.
In-other-words, do not allow any Mormon people to view the video or
learn of our intended evangelistic outreach until after March 25,

Why such extreme caution? If the leadership of the Mormon cult
learns of our plans, they will publicly instruct their people not
to watch the video and many Mormons will blindly obey.

This DVD contains many of the same anti-Mormon claims that misguided
critics have been repeating for years. The issues raised have been
repeatedly addressed by faithful Latter-day Saints, but the video does
not address or take those responses into account.

Though the critics have tried to keep the production and distribution
of this video a secret, we were able to obtain a copy about a week
ago. FAIR volunteers watched the DVD and have prepared a
point-by-point response to the claims it makes. This has been a
collaborative effort; we express our thanks to those volunteers who
spent many hours watching the DVD, researching information, and
responding to the various claims. We used special wiki software for
the collaboration, which means that multiple people could work on the
responses at the same time. But given the nature of wiki software, we
may continue to make refinements to our responses.

In one way, we are grateful to the producers of the DVD as it has
motivated us to address, yet again, the oft-repeated criticisms from
this small but vocal countercult group. Our response to the DVD
provides an easy reference guide for Latter-day Saints and other
interested parties who wish to investigate the DVD's claims.

To view the responses to this DVD, and to see the work of our FAIR
volunteers on this project, go to this URL:

Feel free to forward this special FAIR Journal on to other
individuals, mailing lists, Blogs, or message boards.
If you have received this FAIR Journal and are not currently on the
FAIR Journal mailing list, but would like to join, click here:

-Scott Gordon
FAIR President

For more information about FAIR or if you have concerns about other
criticisms of the LDS church, visit the following Websites:

If you would like to be involved in translating any of these articles
for us, please contact Scott Gordon at

If you would like to join FAIR and become a FAIR volunter click here:


FAIR is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided
in the FAIR Journal and on the FAIR Web site (
are the sole responsibility of FAIR, and should not be interpreted as
official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.

If someone has forwarded this e-journal to you and you would like to
join, you should go to and click on the "Join &
Support FAIR" link.

If you are interested in apologetics and would like to participate
actively in FAIR you should consider joining our apologetics e-mail
list. Visit and click on the "Join & Support FAIR"
link to join this list as well.

If you manage your own e-mail list, and wish to include some of these
thoughts or articles on your list, contact us at We have a fairly liberal policy of using our
material as long as you contact us first to gain permission, clearly
identify that your source was FAIR, and add a link to the FAIR Web
site (


For past issues of the FAIR Journal, go to

Copyright (c) 2007 by The Foundation for Apologetic Information and
Research (FAIR). All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism

The following book is now online:

The Search for Harmony
Essays on Science and Mormonism
Essays on Mormonism Series No. 6

To religious conservatives, science often seems to be at
cross-purposes with God--anthropologists digging up hominids,
astronomers talking about the universe coming to an end, quantum
physicists dismissing the possibility of prophecy, and genetic
researchers producing offspring from a single parent. Traditionalists
wonder where the divine order is in all of this.

Mormons were once confident that science would prove the "rationality"
of LDS theology. Books were written about "Joseph Smith as scientist"
and students at church schools celebrated Charles Darwin's birthday
without hint of controversy, believing that evolution confirmed the
Mormon doctrine of eternal progression.

The editors of this volume document the striking "retreat from
science" on the part of Latter-day Saints over the past three-quarters
of a century and suggest that this needless path could be averted to
the benefit of the church. They indicate how a friendlier relationship
might be established between science and religion.

1. Scientific Foundations of Mormon Theology
2. The New Biology and the Mormon Theology
3. The 1911 Evolution Controversy and Brigham Young University
4. Inner Dialogue: James Talmage's Choice of Science as a Career, 1876-84
5. A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Reactions to the Darwinist Legacy
6. The B. H. Roberts/Joseph Fielding Smith/James E. Talmage Affair
7. Harvey Fletcher and Henry Eyring: Men of Faith and Science
8. Agreeing to Disagree: Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith
9. Seers, Savants, and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface
10. Organic Evolution and the Bible
11. Fossils and the Scriptures
12. Adam's Navel
13. Astrophysics and Mormonism: Parallel Paths to Truth
14. Science: A Part of or Apart from Mormonism?
15. Eternal Progression: The Higher Destiny
16. Science and Mormonism: A Review Essay
Epilogue: An Official Position

BYU Prepares for pro-Gay Demonstration

  A gay advocacy group has arrived in Utah and is preparing for a
demonstration at BYU. BYU, which is owned by the LDS Church, is the
latest stop for the organization which is protesting Christian colleges
which they say discriminate against homosexuals. It's scheduled to
happen this Thursday at BYU.

The group known as SoulForce plans to demonstrate on campus, and that
will likely lead to them being arrested for trespassing.

BYU officials say the group won't run into trouble with the university
as long as it stays on public property.

"We have communicated with SoulForce in writing before the group's tour
even began that the organization would not be welcome on our campus
based on the group's behavior last year, where they were in clear
violation of our policies," BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins told KSL.

Last April when SoulForce came to BYU's campus, 29 protestors were
arrested and escorted off of the campus. The organization travels around
the country and holds protests, primarily at religious colleges and
universities which they say discriminate against gay lifestyles.

"Individuals and organizations can't come onto our campus and hold a
demonstration or use our campus for a public forum. We made this very
clear in writing with SoulForce," said Jenkins. "But from the very
beginning they made it clear to us that their intent was to hold a
demonstration that would result in arrests."

A press release issued by the groups says, /"The primary goal of the
SoulForce Equality Ride visit to the BYU community is to end the
suffering of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth, using
dialogue and discussion to increase understanding about their
experiences on campus."/

The group plans to march around campus for several hours on Thursday.
Again, BYU says no action will be taken as long as they stay off of
campus, but both sides are expecting the protest will lead to some arrests.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Traditional Family Becoming The Choice of the Educated, Affluent
Institution Becoming The Choice of the Educated, Affluent

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 4, 2007; A03

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Punctuating a fundamental change in American family life, married couples with children now occupy fewer than one in every four households -- a share that has been slashed in half since 1960 and is the lowest ever recorded by the census.

As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.

"The culture is shifting, and marriage has almost become a luxury item, one that only the well educated and well paid are interested in," said Isabel V. Sawhill, an expert on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Marriage has declined across all income groups, but it has declined far less among couples who make the most money and have the best education. These couples are also less likely to divorce. Many demographers peg the rise of a class-based marriage gap to the erosion since 1970 of the broad-based economic prosperity that followed World War II.

"We seem to be reverting to a much older pattern, when elites marry and a great many others live together and have kids," said Peter Francese, demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm.

In recent years, the marrying kind have been empowered by college degrees and bankrolled by dual incomes. They are also older and choosier. College-educated men and women are increasingly less likely to "marry down" -- that is, to choose mates who have less education and professional standing than they do.

Married couples living with their own children younger than 18 are also helping to drive a well-documented increase in income inequality. Compared with all households, they are twice as likely to be in the top 20 percent of income. Their income has increased 59 percent in the past three decades, compared with 44 percent for all households, according to the census.

As cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births increase among the broader population, social scientists predict that marriage with children will continue its decades-long retreat into relatively high-income exclusivity.

Jim and Michelle Fitzhenry live with their 5-year-old son, John Robert, in a four-bedroom house in a gated community high in the wooded hills west of Portland. Sixteen years ago, when Jim met Michelle, they fell in love because they liked each other's looks -- and loved each other's values.

"What attracted me to Michelle was her kindness and her honesty, but also her discipline, ambition and achievement," said Jim, who has a law degree and an MBA. He is a senior vice president at FLIR Systems, a Portland company that makes night-vision equipment.

Those same personality traits, Michelle said, drew her to Jim. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration and worked for a decade as an executive at Plum Creek Timber Co. in Seattle. The Fitzhenrys, who married 10 years ago, are an example of what sociologists call "assortative mating," the increasing tendency of educated, affluent people to unite in marriage.

When the Fitzhenrys married (he was 42, she was 32), it changed the way they managed their finances, which Jim said had been in a "death spiral" when they were single. Michelle quickly paid off $20,000 in credit-card debt. Jim cut up most of his credit cards and got rid of a BMW convertible.

Among its many benefits, marriage raises the earnings of men and motivates them to work more hours. It also reduces by two-thirds the likelihood that a family will live in poverty, researchers have learned.

"Although we didn't plan it that way and we certainly didn't marry for money, it turned out that a byproduct of the values we both care about has been financial success," said Michelle, who places the couple's annual earnings between $350,000 and $400,000, much of which is invested conservatively.

The marital unions of high earners are a significant factor in the growth of income inequality since the 1970s, according to Gary Burtless, an economist at Brookings. His research attributes 13 percent of the increase in the nation's income inequality to such couples.

The Fitzhenrys said they had no idea marriage with children was becoming an elite institution. "By getting married and having a kid, we just assumed we were doing what everyone else in the country was doing," Jim said. "We thought we were normal."

As far as marriage with children is concerned, the post-World War II version of normal began to fall apart around 1970.

"Before then, if you looked at families across the income spectrum, they all looked the same: a mother, father, kids and a dog named Spot," said Sawhill, of the Brookings Institution.

Around that time, rates of divorce and cohabitation were rising sharply -- and widely publicized.

"What I don't think the public knew then or knows now is that well-educated, upper-middle-class professionals did not engage in these activities nearly as much as less-advantaged families," Sawhill said.

College-educated women, whose numbers have risen sharply since 1980, often live with a partner and postpone marriage. But in most cases, they eventually marry and have children, and divorce at about half the rate of women who do not finish high school.

While the marriage gap appears to be driven primarily by education and income, it does have a racial dimension.

Marriage and childbearing seem to be more "de-coupled" among black people than white people, with about a third of first births among white women coming before marriage, compared with three-quarters among black women, according to a recent review of research on cohabitation. As for children, the review found that 55 percent of blacks, 40 percent of Hispanics and 30 percent of whites spend some of their childhood with cohabiting parents.

Class, though, is a much better tool than race for predicting whether Americans will marry or cohabit, said Pamela Smock, co-author of the review and a University of Michigan sociology professor.

"The poor aren't entering into marriage very much at all," said Smock, who has interviewed more than 100 cohabitating couples. She said young people from these backgrounds often do not think they can afford marriage.

Arguments that marriage can mean stability do not seem to change their attitudes, Smock said, noting that many of them have parents with troubled marriages.

Victoria Miller and Cameron Roach, who have been living together for 18 months, are two such people, and they say they cannot imagine getting married.

She is 22 and manages a Burger King in Seattle. He is 24 and works part time testing software in the Seattle suburb of Redmond. Together, they earn less than $20,000 a year and are living with Roach's father. They cannot afford to live anywhere else.

"Marriage ruins life," Roach said. "I saw how much my parents fought. I saw how miserable they made each other."

Miller, who was pressured by her Mormon parents to marry when she was 17 and pregnant, said her short, failed marriage and her parents' long, failed marriage have convinced her that the institution is often bad for children. Shuttled between her mom and dad, she moved eight times before she was 16.

"With my parents, when th eir marriage started breaking down, my dad started to have trouble at work and we spent years on government assistance," Miller said.

Her two young sons live with their father.

"For most Americans, cohabitation will continue to increase over the coming decades, and the percentage of children born outside of marriage is also going to increase," Smock said.

Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior

NY Times, March 20, 2007

Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.

Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.

Moral philosophers do not take very seriously the biologists' bid to annex their subject, but they find much of interest in what the biologists say and have started an academic conversation with them.

The original call to battle was sounded by the biologist Edward O. Wilson more than 30 years ago, when he suggested in his 1975 book "Sociobiology" that "the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized." He may have jumped the gun about the time having come, but in the intervening decades biologists have made considerable progress.

Last year Marc Hauser, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, proposed in his book "Moral Minds" that the brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules, a universal moral grammar similar to the neural machinery for learning language. In another recent book, "Primates and Philosophers," the primatologist Frans de Waal defends against philosopher critics his view that the roots of morality can be seen in the social behavior of monkeys and apes.

Dr. de Waal, who is director of the Living Links Center at Emory University, argues that all social animals have had to constrain or alter their behavior in various ways for group living to be worthwhile. These constraints, evident in monkeys and even more so in chimpanzees, are part of human inheritance, too, and in his view form the set of behaviors from which human morality has been shaped.

Many philosophers find it hard to think of animals as moral beings, and indeed Dr. de Waal does not contend that even chimpanzees possess morality. But he argues that human morality would be impossible without certain emotional building blocks that are clearly at work in chimp and monkey societies.

Dr. de Waal's views are based on years of observing nonhuman primates, starting with work on aggression in the 1960s. He noticed then that after fights between two combatants, other chimpanzees would console the loser. But he was waylaid in battles with psychologists over imputing emotional states to animals, and it took him 20 years to come back to the subject.

He found that consolation was universal among the great apes but generally absent from monkeys — among macaques, mothers will not even reassure an injured infant. To console another, Dr. de Waal argues, requires empathy and a level of self-awareness that only apes and humans seem to possess. And consideration of empathy quickly led him to explore the conditions for morality.

Though human morality may end in notions of rights and justice and fine ethical distinctions, it begins, Dr. de Waal says, in concern for others and the understanding of social rules as to how they should be treated. At this lower level, primatologists have shown, there is what they consider to be a sizable overlap between the behavior of people and other social primates.

Social living requires empathy, which is especially evident in chimpanzees, as well as ways of bringing internal hostilities to an end. Every species of ape and monkey has its own protocol for reconciliation after fights, Dr. de Waal has found. If two males fail to make up, female chimpanzees will often bring the rivals together, as if sensing that discord makes their community worse off and more vulnerable to attack by neighbors. Or they will head off a fight by taking stones out of the males' hands.

Dr. de Waal believes that these actions are undertaken for the greater good of the community, as distinct from person-to-person relationships, and are a significant precursor of morality in human societies.

Macaques and chimpanzees have a sense of social order and rules of expected behavior, mostly to do with the hierarchical natures of their societies, in which each member knows its own place. Young rhesus monkeys learn quickly how to behave, and occasionally get a finger or toe bitten off as punishment. Other primates also have a sense of reciprocity and fairness. They remember who did them favors and who did them wrong. Chimps are more likely to share food with those who have groomed them. Capuchin monkeys show their displeasure if given a smaller reward than a partner receives for performing the same task, like a piece of cucumber instead of a grape.

These four kinds of behavior — empathy, the ability to learn and follow social rules, reciprocity and peacemaking — are the basis of sociality.

Dr. de Waal sees human morality as having grown out of primate sociality, but with two extra levels of sophistication. People enforce their society's moral codes much more rigorously with rewards, punishments and reputation building. They also apply a degree of judgment and reason, for which there are no parallels in animals.

Religion can be seen as another special ingredient of human societies, though one that emerged thousands of years after morality, in Dr. de Waal's view. There are clear precursors of morality in nonhuman primates, but no precursors of religion. So it seems reasonable to assume that as humans evolved away from chimps, morality emerged first, followed by religion. "I look at religions as recent additions," he said. "Their function may have to do with social life, and enforcement of rules and giving a narrative to them, which is what religions really do."

As Dr. de Waal sees it, human morality may be severely limited by having evolved as a way of banding together against adversaries, with moral restraints being observed only toward the in group, not toward outsiders. "The profound irony is that our noblest achievement — morality — has evolutionary ties to our basest behavior — warfare," he writes. "The sense of community required by the former was provided by the latter."

Dr. de Waal has faced down many critics in evolutionary biology and psychology in developing his views. The evolutionary biologist George Williams dismissed morality as merely an accidental byproduct of evolution, and psychologists objected to attributing any emotional state to animals. Dr. de Waal convinced his colleagues over many years that the ban on inferring emotional states was an unreasonable restriction, given the expected evolutionary continuity between humans and other primates.

His latest audience is moral philosophers, many of whom are interested in his work and that of other biologists. "In departments of philosophy, an increasing number of people are influenced by what they have to say," said Gilbert Harman, a Princeton University philosopher.

Dr. Philip Kitcher, a philosopher at Columbia University, likes Dr. de Waal's empirical approach. "I have no doubt there are patterns of behavior we share with our primate relatives that are relevant to our ethical decisions," he said. "Philosophers have always been beguiled by the dream of a system of ethics which is complete and finished, like mathematics. I don't think it's like that at all."

But human ethics are considerably more complicated than the sympathy Dr. de Waal has described in chimps. "Sympathy is the raw material out of which a more complicated set of ethics may get fashioned," he said. "In the actual world, we are confronted with different people who might be targets of our sympathy. And the business of ethics is deciding who to help and why and when."

Many philosophers believe that conscious reasoning plays a large part in governing human ethical behavior and are therefore unwilling to let everything proceed from emotions, like sympathy, which may be evident in chimpanzees. The impartial element of morality comes from a capacity to reason, writes Peter Singer, a moral philosopher at Princeton, in "Primates and Philosophers." He says, "Reason is like an escalator — once we step on it, we cannot get off until we have gone where it takes us."

That was the view of Immanuel Kant, Dr. Singer noted, who believed morality must be based on reason, whereas the Scottish philosopher David Hume, followed by Dr. de Waal, argued that moral judgments proceed from the emotions.

But biologists like Dr. de Waal believe reason is generally brought to bear only after a moral decision has been reached. They argue that morality evolved at a time when people lived in small foraging societies and often had to make instant life-or-death decisions, with no time for conscious evaluation of moral choices. The reasoning came afterward as a post hoc justification. "Human behavior derives above all from fast, automated, emotional judgments, and only secondarily from slower conscious processes," Dr. de Waal writes.

However much we may celebrate rationality, emotions are our compass, probably because they have been shaped by evolution, in Dr. de Waal's view. For example, he says: "People object to moral solutions that involve hands-on harm to one another. This may be because hands-on violence has been subject to natural selection whereas utilitarian deliberations have not."

Philosophers have another reason biologists cannot, in their view, reach to the heart of morality, and that is that biological analyses cannot cross the gap between "is" and "ought," between the description of some behavior and the issue of why it is right or wrong. "You can identify some value we hold, and tell an evolutionary story about why we hold it, but there is always that radically different question of whether we ought to hold it," said Sharon Street, a moral philosopher at New York University. "That's not to discount the importance of what biologists are doing, but it does show why centuries of moral philosophy are incredibly relevant, too."

Biologists are allowed an even smaller piece of the action by Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at the University of North Carolina. He believes morality developed after human evolution was finished and that moral sentiments are shaped by culture, not genetics. "It would be a fallacy to assume a single true morality could be identified by what we do instinctively, rather than by what we ought to do," he said. "One of the principles that might guide a single true morality might be recognition of equal dignity for all human beings, and that seems to be unprecedented in the animal world."

Dr. de Waal does not accept the philosophers' view that biologists cannot step from "is" to "ought." "I'm not sure how realistic the distinction is," he said. "Animals do have 'oughts.' If a juvenile is in a fight, the mother must get up and defend her. Or in food sharing, animals do put pressure on each other, which is the first kind of 'ought' situation."

Dr. de Waal's definition of morality is more down to earth than Dr. Prinz's. Morality, he writes, is "a sense of right and wrong that is born out of groupwide systems of conflict management based on shared values." The building blocks of morality are not nice or good behaviors but rather mental and social capacities for constructing societies "in which shared values constrain individual behavior through a system of approval and disapproval." By this definition chimpanzees in his view do possess some of the behavioral capacities built in our moral systems.

"Morality is as firmly grounded in neurobiology as anything else we do or are," Dr. de Waal wrote in his 1996 book "Good Natured." Biologists ignored this possibility for many years, believing that because natural selection was cruel and pitiless it could only produce people with the same qualities. But this is a fallacy, in Dr. de Waal's view. Natural selection favors organisms that survive and reproduce, by whatever means. And it has provided people, he writes in "Primates and Philosophers," with "a compass for life's choices that takes the interests of the entire community into account, which is the essence of human morality."

The Perplexities of Nations:Current Trends and the International Church

18th Annual International Society Conference:
"'The Perplexities of Nations': Current Trends and the International Church,"

HBLL auditorium, 8:30 A.M.–4:00 P.M

Monday, 2 April 2007
Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium
Brigham Young University

8:30 a.m. BYU Administration
"Welcome/Introductory Remarks"

8:45 a.m. Keynote Address
Michael M. Young, president, University of Utah
"Perspectives on International Trends"

9:45 a.m. Ted E. Lyon, Latin American studies coordinator and professor
of Spanish, BYU
"Migrations: the Perplexity of Who is Being Baptized"

10:30 a.m. Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, BYU
"Muslims and Christians: The Troubled Interface"

11:15 a.m. Elder John C. Carmack, emeritus General Authority and
managing director, Perpetual Education Fund
"The Perpetual Education Fund: Impacting the
International Church
noon Luncheon—Sky Room, Wilkinson Student Center

1:30 p.m. Timothy B. Heaton, professor and research associate, Family
Studies Center, BYU, and Mallory Meyer
"Trends in Poverty and Implications for the Church"

2:15 p.m. Women's Research Institute Panel
Valerie M. Hudson, professor of political science, BYU
Karen Hyer, adjunct professor, Women's Research Institute
"Global Issues Facing Women"

3:00 p.m. Earl H. Fry, professor of political science, BYU
"Globalization and the Future Competitiveness of the
United States"

4:00 p.m. Conference Concludes

Monday, March 19, 2007

Author to Speak about LDS First Presidency

Author to Speak about LDS First Presidency Statements

Salt Lake City—The compiler of a book of quotes from the top
leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will
speak at Benchmark Books, Thursday, March 22, at 5:00 p.m. The store
is located at 3269 South Main Street in Salt Lake City. The public is
invited to join in this discussion.

The book, "Statements of the LDS First Presidency: A Topical
Compedium," was compiled over the course of several years by Gary
James Bergera, director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation in Salt Lake
City. Dale C. LeCheminant, a former professor with the Church's
Institutes of Religion, wrote the foreword. The book contains excerpts
from official statements, sorted alphabetically by topic.

Members of the Church are taught that the authority to speak for God
rests solely with the First Presidency, whose communications are
considered authoritative whether touching on doctrine, theology,
Church administration, or matters of individual responsibility. The
First Presidency also maintains the exclusive prerogative to interpret
scripture for the Church.

As Mormons find themselves at the center of national discussions, the
positions their Church has taken on moral and other issues are of
increasing interest to outsiders. The publisher, Signature Books,
envisions that this volume will provide journalists and scholars with
a valuable resource for understanding official Mormon concepts in
areas of theology and Church structure.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Freedom of the Mind

"We should continue to become acquainted with human experience through
history and philosophy, science and poetry, art and religion... One of
the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from
this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous,
for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong,
but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring
from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we should all
exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our
opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper
acknowledgment of our own shortcomings.

We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all
efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with
whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is
that they shall have thoughts."

Excerpts from "A Final Testimony"
by Hugh B. Brown
from An Abundant Life

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Statements of the 1st Presidency - to be discussed

Mormon Miscellaneous
World-Wide Talk Show

DATE: Sunday, 18 March 2007

SUBJECT: Gary Bergera will be my guest. We will be discussing
statements by the First Presidency. Gary has compiled a very useful
book of doctrinal statements arranged alphabetically by subject and
chronology, just released by Signature Books. This promises to be a
very useful book; a good addition to LDS personal libraries. Many are
interested for various reasons in the illusive Mormon doctrine, or
official Mormon doctrine.This book answers some questions and raises
others. How are we to view First Presidency statements, past and
present? How do they relate to Mormon doctrine? This promises to be an
interesting discussion. Participation by phone and email are invited.

TIME: 5:00 - 7:00 pm MST

HOST: Van Hale

RADIO STATION: KTKK 630 AM, Salt Lake City

LIVE INTERNET STREAMING AUDIO can be accessed at: or mms://



INTERNET PARTICIPATION: Questions and response via email during the
program are welcomed at

Newsweek cover story: Human Evolution

The role of genetics in understanding our human past continues to
increase.  Scientists now have a theory as to when humans began
wearing clothes, thanks to genetics and lice.


The New Science of Human Evolution

By Sharon Begley


March 19, 2007 issue - Unlike teeth and skulls and other bones, hair
is no match for the pitiless ravages of weather, geologic upheaval and
time. So although skulls from millions of years ago testify to the
increase in brain size as one species of human ancestor evolved into
the next, and although the architecture of spine and hips shows when
our ancestors first stood erect, the fossil record is silent on when
they fully lost their body hair and replaced it with clothing. Which
makes it fortunate that Mark Stoneking thought of lice.

Head lice live in the hair on the head. But body lice, a larger
variety, are misnamed: they live in clothing. Head lice, as a species,
go back millions of years, while body lice are a more recent arrival.
Stoneking, an evolutionary anthropologist, had a hunch that he could
calculate when body lice evolved from head lice by comparing the two
varieties' DNA, which accumulates changes at a regular rate. (It's
like calculating how long it took a typist to produce a document if
you know he makes six typos per minute.) That fork in the louse's
family tree, he and colleagues at Germany's Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology concluded, occurred no more than 114,000
years ago. Since new kinds of creatures tend to appear when a new
habitat does, that's when human ancestors must have lost their body
hair for good—and made up for it with clothing that, besides keeping
them warm, provided a home for the newly evolved louse.

If you had asked paleoanthropologists a generation ago what lice DNA
might reveal about how we became human, they would have laughed you
out of the room. But research into our origins and evolution has come
a long way. Starting with the first discovery of a fossil suggesting
that a different sort of human once lived on this planet—it was a
Neanderthal skull, unearthed in a mine in Germany's Neander Valley in
1856—our species' genealogy was inferred from stones and bones.
Fossils and tools testified to our ancestors' origins in Africa, the
emergence of their ability to walk upright, the development of
toolmaking and more. But now two new storytellers have begun speaking:
DNA and brains.

< the article continues at :  >

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation." -J. Reuben Clark, D.

Salt Lake Mormon History Association Conference

Mormon History Association
Salt Lake City Conference
May 24-27, 2007
"Crossroads and Confrontations"

Details  can be found at:

Below is the President's Greeting (Ronald K. Esplin) regarding this conference

Spring is fast approaching.  For members of the Mormon History Association,
that means we are only three months away from another annual conference
filled with stimulating presentations, the opportunity to see old friends
and make new, and the chance to once again explore together the fascinating
landscape of Mormon history.  I invite all members and friends of the asso-
ciation to assemble in Salt Lake City May 24-28 for what may be the largest
and certainly one of the best annual meetings yet.

Under the able direction of Richard Jensen and Pat Scott, our program com-
mittee has shaped scores of proposals into what promises to be a superior
program.  The variety is impressive.  Papers span the time-horizon from the
Joseph Smith era through the nineteenth-century Utah experience; and from
early twentieth-century topics through to exploration of more contemporary
issues.  The geographical spread is equally impressive, with presenters from
and presentations focusing on Latin America, Australia and the Pacific,
Asia, and Europe.  Also a profusion of topics: art, architecture, drama, po-
etry, sociology, philosophy, laweach will receive attention.

Because 2007 marks 150 years since the Utah Expedition or Utah War, there
will be important sessions exploring that experience and its repercussions
and implications.  For several years a committee of scholars has planned for
this anniversary and our MHA program is a beneficiary.  Violence in American
and the West will also come under scrutiny and not only in connection with
the unhappy legacy of the events of 1857.

I am confident that whatever your particular interests, as you look over
this extensive and varied program, you will find things of interest.  Too
much, most likely, since it is difficult to attend more than one concurrent
session at a time!  But there is hope: For the second year, sessions will be
recorded and made available at the conference.  For those inevitable hours
when two must attend sessions conflict, consider picking up the audio of
the ones you miss getting to in person.  That should help reduce anxiety for
those of us who have difficulty deciding between promising sessions in such
a rich program.


"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." -J. Reuben Clark, D.

Church of Christ appoints a woman to the 1st Presidency

Community of Christ poised to break the gender barrier

Mormon offshoot denomination may be led by a woman

By Steve Brisendine - Associated Press Writer

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Kansas City, Mo. — For the first time in its 147-year history, the head of the Community of Christ has called a woman to serve in the First Presidency — the highest level of leadership in the largest Mormon offshoot denomination.

The recommendation of Becky L. Savage is one of several to be voted on by delegates to the Community of Christ World Conference, scheduled for March 24-31 at the church's international headquarters in the Kansas City suburb of Independence.

In his letter of counsel, released Thursday, President Stephen M. Veazey also called two new members to the church's Council of Twelve Apostles and recommended a new Presiding Evangelist and Presiding Bishop.

As a member of the First Presidency, Savage would serve with the other member, David D. Schall, as counselors to Veazey. Savage is currently the church's director for leadership development.

"This is not something I expected, that's for sure, but I'm excited to be working with the First Presidency," she said Friday.

Veazey, who as the church's president is also considered its prophet, said Savage's background in leadership training and her work to integrate women into leadership roles made her the right choice to succeed the retiring Kenneth N. Robinson.

"As I began to think about what the needs are in the presidency of the church," Veazey said, "I began to understand: No. 1, how important leadership development is for the church; and No. 2, she has a background in leadership development, both in the corporate world and in the church."

With its fastest growth in developing countries, Savage said, the church must balance needs of leaders in those areas with those in its North American base.

Also, she said, "It will be my responsibility to help bring a voice to some gender and cultural biases we have: one, to recognize them; and two, how can we help people to love others in a better way, following the model of Jesus Christ?"

The church must also find ways to give its younger members opportunities to serve, Veazey and Savage said, because a generation wired for interactivity often finds worship more meaningful outside a traditional setting.

"Young adults are very spiritually oriented," Savage said. "It's in the way they find meaning that we have to do better as a church. There seems to be a greater meaning for young adults when there is an action tied to ministry. Building a Habitat for Humanity home has more meaning than sitting in a traditional service with hymns and preaching — although that is important, too."

Veazey said Robinson, a native of Perth, Australia, has been a driving force behind the church's expansion outside North America.

"Ken has been one of those voices who keeps pushing us to get beyond our Midwest American viewpoints and understand that we are a worldwide church," Veazey said. "That will be a tremendous legacy."

Veazey also called David R. Brock, now a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, to serve as Presiding Evangelist to succeed the retired Danny A. Belrose. That position focuses on evangelism and counseling.

Stephen R. Jones was selected to replace the retiring Larry R. Norris as Presiding Bishop. Jones has been a member of the Presiding Bishopric, the church's highest financial council, since 1998.

One of the council's goals, Jones said, is to make sure church properties, and not only members' financial contributions, are being used effectively for missions work.

The second vacancy on the Council of Twelve Apostles will be created by the retirement of John P. Kirkpatrick. Veazey recommended the spots be filled by missionary Carlos Enrique Mejia and by J. Andrew Bolton, the church's coordinator of Peace and Justice Ministries.

The Community of Christ, headquartered in Independence since 1920, split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1860 and was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until 2001. It has about 250,000 members worldwide.

Community of Christ doctrines, focusing on peace and social change, are closer to mainstream Protestant Christianity than those of the Utah church. But members consider the Book of Mormon scripture and believe in ongoing revelation, which is collected in the Doctrine and Covenants.

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." -J. Reuben Clark, D.

LDS Remain 4th largest Religion In U.S.

Mainline Churches Decline; Pentecostals Grow

NEW YORK -- The Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and United Methodist
churches remain the largest three denominations in the country, with
the Mormon church ranking fourth in size, according to the latest
edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

The latest edition of the yearbook counts more than 69 million Roman
Catholics in the U.S., with Southern Baptists running a distant second
at 16.3 million.

The United Methodist Church came in third, with just over 8 million
members, but that figure represents a decrease.

Other mainline denominations also continued to lose members.

The Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal denominations, however,
reported significant growth.

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." -J. Reuben Clark, D.

Statements of the LDS First Presidency

Just Released:

Statements of the LDS First Presidency
A Topical Compendium
paperback. 544 pages. 156085-195-3 / $34.95

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the
authority to speak for God rests with the President of the Church and
his counselors. Comprising the First Presidency, these men offer
guidance to bishops and other leaders in official circular letters, to
the general membership in articles and announcements published in the
Ensign magazine and elsewhere, and to the broader public in statements
read from the pulpit and distributed as news releases to the media.

These communications are considered to be authoritative, whether
touching on doctrine, theology, Church administration and practice, or
matters of individual responsibility. The First Presidency maintains
the exclusive prerogative to interpret scripture and doctrine for the
Church at large.

The current volume should therefore be of considerable interest to LDS
Church members and scholars seeking official views on doctrinal
questions and contemporary issues. For readers' convenience, the
quotations are arranged alphabetically by topic and in reverse
chronological order to present the most recent statements first.

While this compilation contains definitive positions of the LDS First
Presidency, it is not itself a publication of the LDS Church. The
statements quoted within are referenced so readers can consult the
original documents or publications.

Gary James BergeraGary James Bergera is director of the Smith-Pettit
Foundation (Salt Lake City), which supports scholarly Mormon studies.
His previous works include The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts
(editor), Brigham Young University: A House of Faith (co-author), and
companion volumes of Joseph Smith's Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1845,
and The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846 (co-editor), jointly
named the Mormon History Association's Best Documentary Book for 2005.

Dale C. LeCheminantDale C. LeCheminant is a former instructor in the
LDS Church Institute program in southern California and Salt Lake
City, where he retired. He has published in the Journal of Mormon
History and elsewhere and contributed to such works as John A.
Widtsoe's recently re-issued Rational Theology as Taught by the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His doctoral dissertation was on
the topic of "rational apologetics." He and his wife, Wanda, are the
parents of five children.

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." -J. Reuben Clark, D.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Conference on the 1978 Revelation

"Join Darius Gray & Marvin Perkins for a special conference on
using the scriptures to understand what a Deseret News study
called 'the most significant development in the LDS Church in the
last 100 years,' the 1978 Revelation."

Free Admission - Limited Seating
Attendees must register at
Friday, March 16, 2007 11:00 am

The Miller Campus Auditorium
Salt Lake Community College
9750 South 300 West, Sandy, UT 84070

Topics to be covered include: blacks & the priesthood, the 1978
Revelation, blacks in the Bible, skin color in the scriptures, and

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pope says politicians bound by Catholic teachings

NY Times, March 13, 2007
Politicians Bound by Church Teachings, Pope Says


Filed at 8:31 a.m. ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Church's opposition to gay marriage is
``non-negotiable'' and Catholic politicians have a moral duty to
oppose it, as well as laws on abortion and euthanasia, Pope Benedict
said in a document issued on Tuesday.

In a 140-page booklet on the workings of a synod that took place at
the Vatican in 2005 on the theme of the Eucharist, the 79-year-old
German Pope also re-affirmed the Catholic rule of celibacy for

In the ``Apostolic Exhortation'' Benedict says all believers had to
defend what he calls fundamental values but that the duty was
``especially incumbent'' for those in positions of power.

He said these included ``respect for human life, its defense from
conception to natural death, the family built on marriage between a
man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the
promotion of the common good in all its forms.''

``These values are not negotiable,'' he said.

``Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of
their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly
bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce laws
inspired by values grounded in human nature,'' he said.

Gay marriage is legal in several European countries, including
predominantly Catholic Spain, and Italy is currently severely divided
over the issue of whether to give more rights to unmarried couples,
including homosexuals.

The Pope's words were also applicable to countries such as the United
States, where some Catholic politicians have said they are opposed to
abortion but felt bound to support pro-choice legislation because they
represent many people.

This was an issue in the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, when
Democratic candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, supported abortion

The Pope implied local bishops could not turn a blind eye to such
politicians. ``Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values
as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them,'' he

Some bishops in the United States have refused to give communion to
Catholic politicians who back abortion rights.

The Pope also reaffirmed the Church's law on celibacy in an all
male-priesthood, calling it ``a priceless treasure.''

Liberal Catholic groups have called for celibacy to become optional
for priests in the Catholic Church, saying this would help ease the
shortage of priests in many areas.

He also re-affirmed that Catholics who divorce and remarry cannot
receive communion. The Church does not recognize divorce.

In another section, Benedict lamented that many Catholic priests did
not know Latin, the official language of the Church.

He said Latin should be used in some prayer sections of large open-air
masses held at international gatherings ``to express more clearly the
unity and universality of the Church.''

He said he wanted to see more Latin and more Gregorian chant used in
Church services.

``Certainly, as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that
one song is as good as another,'' he said.

Gallup Poll on Americans' Views of the Mormon Religion

Americans' Views of the Mormon Religion
Most frequent top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy
by Frank Newport

Key findings:

* Americans who are more religious (as measured by frequency of
church attendance) and those who are Protestant have highly negative
views of the Mormon religion. The differences in views of Mormons
among groups defined by their church attendance are significant. There
is a net negative view of -21 points among Americans who attend church
weekly, contrasted with a net positive view of +10 among those who
seldom or never attend church.

* Protestants are significantly more negative in their views than
Catholics, who are the most positive group by religion.

* There are minor partisan differences. Republicans are slightly
more negative in their views of Mormons than are either independents
or Democrats.

* There is a major difference by ideological group. Liberals are
extremely negative in their views on a relative basis; 28% have
favorable opinions and 61% unfavorable opinions. By contrast,
conservatives are essentially evenly divided in their views, while
moderates break to the positive side, with 48% favorable and 40%
unfavorable opinions.

* Opinions of Mormons are better formed in the West, where the
preponderance of Mormons live, and are slightly more positive than
negative. Only 3% of those living in the West have no opinion whatever
of Mormons.

Only 18% of Americans have no opinion or say nothing comes to mind
about the Mormon religion. That fact, plus the specificity of the
open-ended responses, underscores the idea that Americans appear to
have at least some basic concepts or associations about the Mormon

The top-of-mind impressions in general are widely varied, from the
clearly neutral ("Salt Lake City") to the clearly positive ("good
people/kind/caring/strong morals") to the clearly negative ("dislike
their beliefs/don't agree with their doctrine/false teachings").


The two most frequently occurring categories of impressions of Mormons
among those who have unfavorable opinions would appear to be the
long-time association of the religion with polygamy (mentioned by 20%
of those with unfavorable opinions) and top-of-mind impressions based
on the Mormon religion's beliefs and doctrines. These responses
suggest that the negative impression held by many may be a fairly
straightforward result of disagreements on doctrine.

There are some mentions of the Mormon religion's secretive nature, but
most of the rest of the impressions of those with an unfavorable
opinion are actually either neutral or positive.

Even among the group of Americans who have favorable opinions, Gallup
finds that polygamy is the most frequently mentioned single impression
of the religion. Officially, the LDS church has outlawed polygamy
since 1890, and those who practice it are excommunicated. But the
historical connection of the Mormon church with polygamy, more recent
highly publicized cases of polygamists in the news, and perhaps the
HBO show "Big Love" have kept the connection fresh in people's minds.

Otherwise, these more positively inclined people talk about the
positive lifestyles of Mormons, make some comments in a more positive
vein about their religious doctrine, and also mention specific people,
places, and things associated with the religion, in particular Salt
Lake City and Utah. Six percent spontaneously mention Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Two percent mention the singing
group The Osmonds.

Read the entire results at

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Engaged and Underage pointed out an MTV reality series called "Engaged
and Underage." One episode is about a Mormon couple's temple
marriage. Her family is LDS, his is not. The show focuses on the
problems of his family feeling excluded from the wedding ceremony.

MTV did a good job capturing the inherent problem of excluding
non-Members, or unworthy Mormons from temple weddings.

Check out the episode here:

Click "Play all" in the upper right hand corner.

To read discussion about this episode, check out

Romney Speaking Invitation Stirs Up Pat Robertson U students


Romney Speaking Invitation Stirs Up Evangelical Campus

Some students and alumni at an evangelical Christian university
founded by Pat Robertson are upset with the commencement choice of
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon.

Fri, Mar. 02, 2007 Posted: 16:54:55 PM EST

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Some students and alumni at an evangelical
Christian university founded by Pat Robertson are upset with the
commencement choice of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney,
a Mormon.

"My initial reaction was, how could they do this?" said Lynne Gilham,
a Columbus, Ohio, minister and former reporter who had posted a
comment denouncing the choice on a ministry blog. She said she earned
a master's degree in journalism from the school, Regent University, in

Gilham said Friday that she understands "evangelicals in an academic
context need to be exposed to other viewpoints." But she fears
inviting a speaker of the Mormon faith "would confuse young Christians
who are not so firmly grounded in Christian doctrine."

Some students have posted negative — and positive — messages on
Regent's internal electronic bulletin board and sent e-mails to
faculty members and administrators since Romney's selection was
announced Feb. 14, said Regent spokeswoman Sherri Stocks.

"It just seems to be a very healthy debate," Stocks said. "Frankly,
we're happy to see our students' thought processes in action."

Stocks did not know how many students have been involved and she said
the school has heard little from alumni.

Robertson, chancellor of the Virginia Beach school, invited the former
Massachusetts governor to be the keynote speaker at the May 5
ceremony. Stocks confirmed that the religious broadcaster recently
wrote a memo to students, faculty and alumni about his choice because
"he was hearing there were questions," but declined to release it.

A Republican presidential candidate himself in 1988 and founder of the
Christian Coalition, Robertson has not endorsed Romney.

"Governor Romney enjoys each opportunity to engage voters, introduce
his vision, his ideas and the aspirations he has for leading this
country," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said in a statement Friday.

Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network mentions Mormonism on its
Web site on a page titled "How Do I Recognize a Cult?"

"The Mormon church is a prosperous, growing organization that has
produced many people of exemplary character," the site says. "But when
it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth."

Founded in 1978, Regent has some 5,000 students.

"The alumni need to take a deep breath. Regent will survive a speech
by a Mormon," said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, which monitors Robertson's CBN
news-and-talk show, "The 700 Club."

Another GOP presidential candidate, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy
Giuliani, who is Catholic, is to speak at Regent's executive
leadership program next month.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The
information contained in the AP News report may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written
authority of The Associated Press.

Sonja Barisic
Associated Press Writer

Top Ten Reasons to Vote for a Mormon President

10) The National Cathedral could be renamed the National Tabernacle

9) NASA could commission a satellite to 'hie to Kolob'

8) The Secret Service could be renamed the Sacred Service

7) All official government prayers could include the phrase 'that we all
can get home safely'

6) Napoleon Dynamite could get someone other than Pedro elected

5) The President could not only explain things in Layman's terms, but
also in Lemuel's terms

4) The President could issue pardons in exchange for 100% home teaching

3) Not only could he pronounce 'Nuclear' but also 'Mahonri Moriancumer'
and 'Maher Shalal Hash Baz'.

2) At his inauguration he would swear on the Bible 'as far as it is
translated correctly'

1) Finally a first family large enough to fill up the White House

Mormon Studies starts at University of Wyo.

Mormon Studies starts at University of Wyo.
The new committee concentrates on 'a study in humanity'.

By Shauna Stephenson

CHEYENNE - Did you know about one in seven Wyoming residents are Mormon?

That equals about 14 percent of the population, or about 71,000 people.

That statistic is just one of many factors behind the creation of the
Mormon Studies Initiative, a committee formed out of the Religion
Department at the University of Wyoming.

Paul Flesher, director of the Religious Studies Program at the
University of Wyoming, said the department has taken an active
interest in learning about the major religions that play a role in the

"Part of (the university's) goal is to serve the people of the state,"
he said. "That means we need to understand something about the
religions practiced in Wyoming by large numbers of its population."

He said he hopes to make Mormon studies part of the curriculum at the
University of Wyoming.

"Misunderstanding comes from lack of knowledge. We would like to
improve knowledge," he said.

Flesher said this is all part of a bigger goal to create a center for
the study of religion in the American West.

"In the future, we hope to be able to explore all the other religions
that have influenced this development," he said.

Kevin Larsen, adjunct professor of religious studies and co-chair of
the Mormon Studies Initiative, said the committee is not about

"It's just to build these bridges of understanding and tolerance and
not only tolerance for Mormons, but tolerance by Mormons," he said.

Larsen said history has shown what happens when there is
misunderstanding and intolerance for certain a religion.

"There's been a lot of unhappiness in world history that someone was
so convinced they were right that they had to make everyone else
convinced of it too."

He called it a study in humanity.

"It's like studying literature and music. It's a human phenomenon," he
said. "You don't have to be an adherent to any particular doctrine to
want, or to need to know, what makes people who they are."

The Mormon faith has had a long history in the state of Wyoming. About
150 years ago, Mormon pioneers traveled through the state on their way
to Utah. The trek brought on some horrific events that took place at
Martin's Cove, where hundreds in the party died from exposure to
severe weather and famine.

After establishing themselves in Utah, some moved back east to
Wyoming, where they settled in places like the Star and Bridger
valleys. Today there are many leaders who are members of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including legislators, city leaders
and business owners.

As part of the initiative, the department is bringing in a number of
speakers including retired Columbia University professor Richard
Bushman, who recently wrote the book "Joseph Smith's Place in

Bushman said Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, was an
"immensely controversial character."

He said most Mormons see him as the prophet who restored the gospel.
But others don't feel that way.

"Other people think he was some kind of a fraud," he said.

He said he thinks many people still view Mormons as somewhat alien to
the other mainstream Christian religions.

"I think Mormons are still thought of as kind of a people apart," he
said. "From the outside, Mormons seem clannish. Mormons themselves
think they're open and friendly to everyone ... The very fact that
their community is so tight - it raises barriers."

Bushman is a member of the Mormon church. He said his history with the
organization sparked his interest in Joseph Smith, but he approached
his research like a historian.

"I just plowed through all source material and wrote what I saw there."