Sunday, December 30, 2007

Card supposedly from Romney is a fake

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Many South Carolina Republicans got a bogus holiday greeting card this week, purportedly from White House hopeful Mitt Romney, that cites some controversial passages in the Book of Mormon.

"We wish you and your family a happy holiday season and a joyful New Year. The Romney family," the card says.

The last page features a photograph of a temple above a box that says "Paid for by the Boston Massachusetts Temple."

State Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson said he intends to "contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Elections Fraud Division and other appropriate authorities, provide them the copy of the mail piece delivered to South Carolina Republicans and ask for a thorough investigation into this matter."

The card contains passages that underscore some differences between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of denominations that are prevalent in South Carolina.

"We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first born, and another being upon the earth by whom he begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as his only begotten in this world," reads one passage from Orson Pratt, cited on the card as an "original member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles."

The card also cites a passage on Mary's virgin birth that underscores her race. "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white."

On the card, "fair and white" is in a bolder, larger font and on a separate line.

Smallest Bible

Israeli Scientists Inscribe Tiny Bible

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli scientists have inscribed the entire Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible onto a space less than half the size of a grain of sugar.

The nanotechnology experts at the Technion institute in Haifa say the book was etched on a surface that measures less than 0.01 square inch. They chose the Jewish Bible to highlight how vast quantities of information can be stored on minimum amounts of space.

"It took us about an hour to etch the 300,000 words of the Bible onto a tiny silicon surface," Ohad Zohar, the university's scientific adviser for educational programs, told the Associated Press.

The Technion's microscopic bible was created by blasting tiny particles called gallium ions at an object that then rebounded, causing an etching affect.

"When a particle beam is directed toward a point on the surface, the gold atoms bounce off and expose the silicon layer underneath just like a hammer and chisel," Zohar said.

He said the technology will in the future be used as a way to store vast amounts of data on bio-molecules and DNA.

The tiny Bible appears to be the world's smallest.

The previous smallest known copy of the Bible measured 1.1 x 1.3 x 0.4 inches, weighed 0.4 ounces and contained 1,514 pages, according to Guinness World Records spokeswoman Amarilis Espinoza. The tiny text, obtained by an Indian professor in November 2001, is believed to have originated in Australia.

Friday, December 28, 2007

answering questions about doctrine

Apparently prompted by conservative Christians, Mike Huckabee recently made a statement designed to call into question Mormonism's "Christianity" and Romney's legitimacy as a candidate by stating that the church believed that Jesus and Satan were brothers.  While the church believes this is true, the statement out of context sounds sinister.

The church responded on it's website:
Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.  

As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.

While this is also the case, the response doesn't seem to be any closer to describing the church's belief than Huckabee's statement.  It seems that both sides are dancing around the issue, rather than disclosing the full story.

Fox News submitted 21 questions to the church about some of it's beliefs.  In the response, the church took issue with those who " misrepresent or distort Mormon doctrines."   However some of the answers by the church to the questions are puzzling and don't seem to represent a correct understanding of Mormon doctrine. took a  look at the question and felt that some of the responses  'come across as "partial" or "technical" truths, but not the "whole truth."' 

Check out their commentary  on the following questions and answers.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become "gods and goddesses" after death?

A: We believe that the apostle Peter's biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul's reference to being 'joint heirs with Christ' reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women can only gain access to heaven with a special pass or codewords?

A: No.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will "rule" after their death and ascension?

A: No.

Q: What specifically does the Mormon Church say about African-Americans and Native Americans?

A: Mormons believe that all mankind are sons and daughters of God and should be loved and respected as such. The blessings of the gospel are available to all.

While some of these are leading questions, or not phrased well, or designed to point out problematic areas in church belief, the way they were answered is incomplete.  The way these questions were answered might be a good introductory statement, but it seems that more explanation is in order, possibly with a link to other explanatory material (such as related sections in church manuals).  This would be more forthcoming, providing a more complete description of church beliefs.  Incomplete answers have the potential to backfire and cause more damage than full disclosure.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Mormon Church on Trial: Transcripts of the Reed Smoot Hearings

In January (2008), Signature Books will release The Mormon Church on Trial: Transcripts of the Reed Smoot Hearings , edited by Michael Harold Paulos . "The Smoot hearings are important not only to the study of Mormonism," writes Kathleen Flake, Professor of American Religious History at Vanderbilt University, "but also to the nation's interpretation of the First Amendment." Dr. Flake continues:

Making significant portions of the hearings' 3,500-page transcript available for the first time and including rich but unobtrusive annotation, this volume should be welcomed by scholars and the general reader alike, both of whom will find the hearings as interesting and amusing as they are important.

This sentiment is echoed by U.S. Senator Orrin G. Hatch , who discloses that "Reed Smoot has long been a hero of mine." The Senator adds that he "appreciate[s] this thorough, detailed collection of [Smoot's] early experiences in the U.S. Senate. With Latter-day Saints more prominent in government today than ever before, it is noteworthy how this book chronicles the way Senator Smoot challenged and overcame the anti-Mormon prejudices of his day to represent Utah in Congress."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mosiah Hancock vision of the Preexistence

Mosiah Hancock Journal Addendum, LDS Historical Department; SLC

"When about twenty-one years of age, I was permitted by the power of God, to go into His presence and into my former abode. I saw the Eternal Father on His throne and His wives on His left side, all shining in glory, I saw the Savior and knew Him. It takes the power of the Holy Ghost to tell the difference between the Father and the Son, they look so much alike Jesus said: 'Mosiah, I have brought you here to show you how it was befor e you went to the earth.' I had been to the earth; everything looked so natural and familiar. I seemed to have been a companion of the Savior and talked with him like a friend. Again, He spoke to me and said: 'Look and see man as he came forth.' I looked in the direction indicated and saw an innumerable line of God's children extending further than I could see. They were arranged in pairs, male and female, and passed in front of the Eternal Father who named them; and they were clad in long white robes with girdles tied around the waists; each pair seemed to have been created mates.

"When thus clothed; they were arranged in classes of about two hundred; the males sitting in front and the females behind them. They were taught in the arts and sciences, and everything necessary to make the heart happy The teachers of the classes received the instruction they imparted from certain notable ones, who in turn got their directions from the Father and the Son- I thought I was one to overlook the classes; I also saw Joseph, Brigham and many others engaged in this work of education. I thought as some became more efficient than others they were advanced from class to class I thought my name was Mosiah, and the names of the other brethren there were the same as upon the earth. All at once there was a gathering of these spirits and the voice of the Great Eternal (for that is what we called God there) spoke: 'Oh, ye my children,' and His voice penetrated throughout space, so countless were His offspring 'We have an earth prepared for you, on which you can dwell and have a chance to come up, thru obeying our Heavenly laws.'

"I there heard the question asked: 'Who will go down and set an example of humility and faithful ness to these my children, that they may be brought, thru obedience to our laws, back into our presence?'

"I thought I saw one in the express image of the Father say, 'Father, I will go down and set a pattern of humility and patience that your children, thru my example, may be brought back again.' How noble, I thought, He looked when He offered Himself so patient before the children of our Father.

"I saw another, who seemed to be a very high military officer who arose and said: 'I will go down to yonder earth and surely I will bring all your children back to you so none of them shall be lost.'

"The plan of the first was accepted as being the only sure plan for an exaltation The plan of the second was rejected with great kindness, but the second was not satisfied; and while the first stood in great humility by the side of the Father, the sec ond with many who stood in with him, went about among the Heavenly hosts to advocate the plan, that was put forth as the rights of the second. This one was Lucifer, a son of the morning, for any had been with the Father for countless ages, and learned their lessons well, and he had been no dull scholar. Finally Lucifer openly rebelled against the Father and the Son and six other mighty ones who stood faithful with them and declared, 'I will have it my way.' I saw the faithful ones gather around the Father and the Son, and Lucifer's workers gathered around him, when one of the notable ones, who was called Michael, arose and said, 'We will decide the contest' It seemed that a platform was extended into space,. upon which we could operate, by what power I could not tell. We who were faithful to the Father and the Son, had a white star upon us, and the others chose a re d star, about one third of the males and females would not accept of either star, but withdrew from the conflict, the females taking the males by the arm, said, 'Come, let us not take part with either side. Let us retire-' (When they were cast out after the manner of spiritual warfare,) they had no power to return. When they were all cleared from the platform and Satan and his followers were all cast down, their female companions wept, and we all wept.

"No females took part against the Father and the Son, but all took sides in their favor, except the. neutral ones already mentioned.  After the tears were dried, from our eyes, the voice of the Great Eternal spoke again and said, 'Hear, O ye my children;' His voice penetrating the immensity of space so that all could hear it; it is decreed by the Great Eternal that the females shall not follow their ma les in their banishment, but for every male that has kept his first estate and fought valiantly for the Father and the Son, there are two females. Again it is decreed that those males who have taken no part in this great conflict shall keep their females and a race of servants shall they be.' I then saw that the notable ones who had taken such an interest in the rights of the Father and the Son were appointed to gather up those lone females whose companions had been cast down They were again placed in classes. each man having two females in the ranks behind him. I there saw that they were again taught in their classes, which now contained about three hundred. I next saw Michael and his companion proceed a long way off, to people the earth where Lucifer and his FOLLOWERS HAD BEEN CAST. As time passed, other notable ones followed as they were appointed. During all this time the classes met frequently, being taught by instructors appointed. Each member knew his or her own-place, and took it each time, and the best of order prevailed. They were asked, first the males, and then the females behind them, 'Will you obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when you go to that earth?' Some would answer, yes, but not all. Some could be asked, Will you obey that law which placed the Gods on high? And in very few cases I would hear the females say, 'I want my own mate' Sometimes the question would be asked of a male, 'Will you obey that higher law? and he would answer, 'I wish to enjoy myself with the females' Sometimes when the question would be asked of the females she would reply 'I wish to enjoy myself with the males.' Again the question would be asked of the males, 'If you will not join the Church of Christ, what do you wish to be? He would som etimes say, 'I wish to be a judge, or an officer of high rank among the people ' Then he would be asked, 'Will you sustain the laws of God and also the rights of all mankind?' and the answer in every instance was, 'yes. ' I saw there that those who were proficient in their classes were advanced more rapidly until they became most perfect in those heavenly teachings, but some males, even there in Heaven would neglect their females and their classes and not meet with them. They would go off, arm in arm, as men now go, not having any desire for their duties. I never saw a female leave her place in the class assigned her by the Heavenly powers. I saw Abraham, when he came back from the earth, and many of the notable ones, when they came back to be crowned I saw them step upon the platform of the Gods and receive their crowns, and enter into their exaltations. At last I s aw the time when Joseph was to go forth, and the voice of the Great Eternal said, 'Oh, my neglected daughters, gather around these my faithful servants who have been faithful in teaching you the principles of righteousness and of our kingdom, that others may come up and have the chance to be glorified-' I saw many of them gather around Joseph and form a ring with him and the Savior in the center.  They made a covenant with him that they would meet him on the earth and help him establish that great work upon the earth. I saw many of them gather around Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and many other notable ones, and around many who have not become so notable. They formed rings around each of them with Christ in the center each time, for He rehearsed to them the Covenant. They would take each other by the hand, in the circle and bow their faces down to Him, in the center, and in the most solemn manner agree to meet them here, until every one of those neglected daughters was provided for; and they were filled with such joy that their songs made a paradise of the realm.  

"At last The time came for me to go to the earth. The Savior came to me and said, 'Mosiah, it is time for you to prepare to go. You have been faithful so long here it is time for you to go, that you may return and be as we are.' As I beheld Him, I thought, 'How is it that I am not as you are now? For it seemed, that I knew nothing of the earth or the changes a probation there would make in me. However, I said, 'Who will go down to that earth, and be my father, and help me that I may be brought in the ways of truth and righteousness?' A male by the name of Levi stepped forth, in the presence of the Son, and said, 'I will go down to yonder earth, a nd by the help of the Great Eternal, I will try to do as well by you as you have done for me, for I am grateful to you for all your kindness to me.' He returned to his place, being an instructor of a class. I was one among others who was appointed to instruct him and the other teachers of classes. A female came out of the class and bowing before the Savior and me, said, 'I will go down and be your mother.' In a short time the man disappeared and was immediately followed by the woman. I knew my departure was near at hand and I asked, 'If on my return I could have the same position I then held.' Then the Savior said, Yes, and greater, but you have to go down to the earth, and take a lowly position and be misunderstood by man, even your brethren and endure many hardships ant set many examples of humility and patience, that you may return and enter the glory, even such a s I have.' He then added, 'Your time is now come to take your mission to the earth,' and He laid His hands on my head, as He had done to others, and set me apart for that important mission. He again said to me, 'I will see you safely thru until you return again.' I fully believe on that promise. It seemed as though a way was opened before me, and I dived down toward the earth with the speed of lightening and awoke while sailing thru space.

The End.

Mosiah Hancock

Friday, December 21, 2007

The William E. McLellin Papers, 1854-1880 - just released

Just released & reviewed.

Sample chapter

The William E. McLellin Papers, 1854-1880
Hardback. 638 Pages. / 1-56085-144-9 /

The LDS hierarchy was divided in 1837 over the militarization of the church in Missouri. Many in the leadership eventually reconciled, but one of the twelve apostles, William E. McLellin, became what might be termed a friendly critic. He retained his belief in the divinity of the Book of Mormon and kept in contact with former colleagues in the Quorum of the Twelve but could not support the new policies and directions. He resigned from the quorum in 1836 and was excommunicated in 1838.

Most interesting for readers of the present volume may be McLellin's observations about how the church changed during his separation. McLellin said that in his five years of activity in the church, he never once heard of Joseph Smith's First Vision. Available historical evidence confirms that the First Vision was not known in the church until the 1840s, after McLellin's departure.

McLellin wrote further: "I heard Joseph [Smith] tell his experience of his ordination and the organization of the church probably more than twenty times to persons who, near the rise of the church, wished to know and hear about it. I never heard of Moroni, John [the Baptist], or Peter, James, and John." McLellin believed that angels had visited Joseph Smith but not that human beings could become angels—a teaching not yet current in the 1830s—or that priesthood authority could be conveyed in that way.

In addition, McLellin wrote of his disappointment in attending the Kirtland, Ohio, temple dedication in 1836 and not seeing angels, as he had hoped. The narrative regarding the appearance of Elijah and others in the temple would not be publicized until 1852. So in many ways, it was a much different church in the 1830s. McLellin illuminates what it meant to be LDS when the emphasis was on Christ's imminent return to earth; the gathering to Independence, Missouri; revelation through seer stones; and gifts of the Spirit—all of which McLellin continued to promote as beliefs of a true follower of Christ in the last days.

from the jacket flap:
Historians, including those represented in the present volume, are divided on questions surrounding William E. McLellin's life and teachings. For instance, whether he was cordial or cranky comes down to interpretation of scant evidence. On whether he was a personal enemy of Joseph Smith, McLellin condemned what he considered excessive frivolity and drinking in Kirtland but otherwise restricted his comments to doctrine. In fact, he professed an enduring affection for his former brethren, especially for Joseph Smith, even though he thought Smith was wrong to have launched a military campaign against the State of Missouri, to have engaged in secret political machinations in Illinois, and to have married more than one wife.

How accurate was McLellin's memory? When compared to other available documents, his recollections are clear and seem factually correct, although always subject to personal interpretation. What is disconcerting to historians is that, as a high-ranking church official, McLellin must have played a larger role in some key events than he indicates. For instance, he watched for weeks as editors prepared Joseph Smith's revelations for publication and does not say he voiced an objection, so the conclusion must be he either condoned the activity at the time or reserved judgment. Yet in later years, his complaint that God's words were edited formed a large part of his narrative. For whatever reason, out of an abundance of humility, or alternately out of pride, he chose to distance himself from the history he participated in and narrated.

McLellin hoped the church Joseph Smith founded would somehow right itself, that if Joseph failed to acknowledge his alleged errors, a new prophet would emerge to replace him. In a letter to "dear friends" in 1870, McLellin wrote the following:

O I feel happy this morning! I have no doubts!!! I feel sure the Lord is at the helm. My old heart has burned within me ever since I received that glorious intelligence from Heaven. Now I feel sure that we shall prevail, because I have lost the love of money, the love of riches, honors, or pleasures. I have no object before me only to serve and only God. I mean to be humble, meek and Lowly; and not have contention with any. If any comes, and wishes to unite with us, who have not shed innocent blood, who have not been polygamists, nor run so far into abominations that they cant be forgiven, we will receive them, but polygamists will have to wait until some man rises with the Interpreters or Urim in order to tell their fate.

Utah Historical Quarterly - Online features

The Utah Historical Quarterly website now allows you to:

I was unable to get the search feature to work, however. I suspect it may be repaired soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Claremont, the Church & Sunstone

An editorial by the church recently praised the development of the new Mormon Studies program at Claremont Graduate University, stating "the Church encourages a deeper and broader examination of its theology, history and culture on an intellectual level, and this is a wonderful opportunity to expand open dialogue and conversation between the Latter-day Saints and various scholarly and religious communities."

Sunstone recently announced that the new Mormon Studies program at Claremont will host the next Sunstone West symposium. This is interesting because the church has had an uncomfortable relationship with Sunstone, the premier sponsor of theological symposiums dedicated to Mormonism. In 1991, the First Presidency issued a statement against attending "certain symposia" that clearly implicated Sunstone. Church owned Brigham Young University (BYU) has had an unwritten policy that it's faculty not participate in Sunstone symposia. I know employees at BYU who are afraid to attend (let alone present papers) because of possible repercussions to their employment.

In the editorial, the church praises the increase scholarly attention, providing a list of recent conferences on the Mormonism, but fails to include any of the several Sunstone symposia that occur across the country in the past year.

With the church's praise of Claremont' Mormon studies program, and the announcement of Claremont hosting Sunstone (both announcements occurring within days of each other) one wonders if a change is occurring in the relationship between Sunstone & the church, or if the church's endorsement of Claremont was premature.

“May These Principles Be Established”: Mormonism in the Political Arena


"May These Principles Be Established": Mormonism in the Political Arena

The balance between church and state has always been a lively and sometimes contentious issue, even, and perhaps especially, in the United States, a country with long-declared freedom of religion. From the time of Joseph Smith's presidential campaign, through the tumultuous integration of Utah into the wider American political body and up to the present day in which Mormons dot the political landscape, Mormonism has sought to define its relationship to the body politic. In the process, it has raised issues ranging from theocracy to the place of private beliefs in public policy creation.

In order to explore these issues, the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association (CMSSA) invites all interested graduate students to a conference addressing the theme of Mormonism in the political arena. The conference will be held April 18-19, 2008 at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Papers from all social scientific and humanities disciplines are welcomed, as this topic invites exploration from many perspectives, individual, organizational, historical, contemporary, theological, ethical and even international. Similar conferences on additional topics relevant to Mormon Studies are expected to be held biennially.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monthly fasting may help protect against heart diseases

Mormons have less heart disease - something doctors have long chalked up to their religion's ban on smoking. New research suggests that another of their "clean living" habits also may be helping their hearts: fasting for one day each month.

A study in Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is based, found that people who skipped meals once a month were about 40 percent less likely to be diagnosed with clogged arteries than those who did not regularly fast.

People did not have to "get religion" to benefit: non-Mormons who regularly took breaks from food also were less likely to have clogged arteries, scientists found.

They concede that their study is far from proof that periodic fasting is good for anyone, but said the benefit they observed poses a theory that deserves further testing.

Read the rest of the article here:

Missionary Diaries Online

The Harold B. Lee Library has provided digitized diaries early Mormon missionary diaries.  Some of them have been edited out of concern for "sacred and private" entries.

Excerpts from A Salt Lake Tribune article:

Much of BYU's collection of early missionary diaries make it online

...   Hyrum Smith's diary is the oldest of 575 diaries written by early missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of BYU's Harold B. Lee Library in Provo. Now 376 of these diaries - including Smith's - are available online...

    The online collection contains short biographies of the diarists and images of the original pages alongside typed, transcribed pages. The diarists served missions from the 1830s to the 1960s.

    The collection is arranged geographically by continents or island groups, including the Pacific, Asia, North America, Great Britain, Scandinavia and western Europe. The largest geographical representation comes from the three groupings of European missionary diaries, with an exceptionally strong collection from Great Britain. The British collection includes a diary from Inez Knight Allen, one of the first two single women called to serve full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1898.

    For more information, contact the library at 801-422-3514.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ballard urges members to participate on the Internet

Elder Ballard has asked church members to voice their beliefs on the internet. It was not too long ago that the church asked church members, wards & stakes to remove their websites while the church replaced them with their own large, correlated websites.  At the time, some wondered if it was wise to lower the number of "pro" websites on the internet while the number of critical sites did not diminish.  Perhaps a new approach may be underway.  Here are some excerpts from a report of Elder Ballard's talk at the Deseret News.

Elder M. Russell Ballard urged graduates at the church-owned Brigham Young University-Hawaii to share their beliefs with the world, instead of allowing people to base their opinions from news reports driven by controversies.

"We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices," .."Perhaps now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility as Latter-day Saints to define ourselves, instead of letting others define us," .."Perhaps there is no other time in its history when the church has received more attention from the news media and on the Internet than right now."  ... "There are conversations going on about the church constantly," ... "Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot sit on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches."

LDS faithful can change perceptions of the church "one conversation at a time," through a clear and simple message of the Restoration. Elder Ballard said the Internet is a great tool to start these conversations. In his remarks, he suggested members consider the following:

• Start a blog "and share what you know to be true."
• Download videos from official church and other appropriate sites and send them to your friends.
• Comment on news media sites that report on the church "and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports."

Restoration Studies Spring Symposium

2008 Restoration Studies Symposium Call for Papers
Restoration Studies Spring Symposium
Sponsored by JWHA, the Community of Christ Seminary and Sunstone
We are excited to announce our first annual theology, religious and cultural studies symposium, to be held this April 11-12, 2008, at the Graceland campus in Independence, Missouri.
For our first year, the Restoration Studies program committee has chosen to keep the theme broad, inviting scholars, students and enthusiasts to submit proposals for papers or panels on any topic that falls under the headings of Restoration theology, religious and cultural studies. Comparative studies between different Restoration traditions and/or between the Restoration and the broader religious community are welcome.
Send your one-page proposal with accompanying vita to
The proposal deadline is December 17, 2007.
Don't wait to send your idea in — with the holidays, the deadline is just around the corner!

Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism

Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism
Edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and John C. Hamer
Availability: Available 12/17/2007

This fascinating volume contains sixteen original essays on different expressions of the Latter Day Saint movement that have emerged since Joseph Smith organized his church in 1830. Included are groups which trace their path through Sidney Rigdon, James J. Strang, Alpheus Cutler or Granville Hedrick. Also included are historic (no longer extant) branches of the movement that were led by David Whitmer, William Smith and Amasa Lyman. Finally, Scattering of the Saints outlines the history of fundamentalist Mormonism and recent schisms within the Reorganized Latter Day Saint tradition.

Paperback: 347 pages

  Table of Contents
About the Contributors

The Mormon Quest for the Presidency

The Mormon Quest for the Presidency
By Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster
Price: $19.95
Availability: Available January 2007

Is America ready for a Mormon president? With Mitt Romney in the front ranks for the 2008 Republican nomination, this is a question many are asking today. But Romney is only the latest in a long series of Mormon presidential candidates stretching back more than 150 years. In the 20th century, eight other Mormons have run for the presidency, including the major candidacies of George Romney in 1968, Morris �Mo� Udall in 1976, and Orrin Hatch in 2000.

In fact, the first Mormon candidate was Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, who set out to capture the White House in 1844. Smith made history by being the first clergyman to run for president, as well as the first candidate to be assassinated during his campaign.

In this ground-breaking volume, Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster tell the stories of the Mormons who have sought the presidency and explore how their religion has shaped their political ambitions.

The Mormon Quest for the Presidency

Harvard Divinity School class on Mormonism and the American Experience

Mormonism and the American Experience

Melissa Proctor


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now the fourth-largest religious body in the United States and continues to be one of the fastest growing. Who are the Saints and what is the appeal of this homegrown religion? Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as they are sometimes called, have been variously characterized as politically dangerous vipers on the hearth, sexually deviant cult members, and the model religious minority with a reputation for wholesome living and an emphasis on traditional family life. This course explores the reasons for and sources of these competing portraits of Mormonism. Beginning with a historical overview, we will place Mormonism in its nineteenth century context and then move to a topical discussion of religious beliefs and practices teasing out the reasons why some of them have erupted in political and cultural conflict for the Latter-day Saints. We will discuss the ways in which these controversies have influenced national culture, political consciousness, and even the U.S. legal system. Throughout the seminar we will pay particular attention to the role that mass media plays in reflecting and shaping the popular American imagination of Mormonism.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Spanish LDS Bible

TT at Faith Promoting Rumor reports that a new Spanish edition of the Bible is being worked on by the church.  They have received copyright permission to use an existing influential Spanish translation.  It sounds like it may be similar to the current English LDS edition with cross references to the standard works, a  bible dictionary and explanatory notes.  Supposedly the church has hired Greek & Hebrew scholars to modify the text where it may affect LDS interpretation, or clarify the text.  These changes will not be noted in the footnotes.

If anyone has more information on this project, please pass it on.

All Blog Symposium: Mormonism and Modernity

Faith Promoting Rumor is hosting an All-blog symposium on Mormonism and Modernity to address the following topics over the course of the next 45 days. Prizes will be given to the best blog posts. To enter, simply give the link to your post in the comments on this thread. ... The following topics are proposed:

1. Mormonism and pluralism. In the age of globalization, we come to interact with religious others in more profound and meaningful ways than missionary work, and as we come to learn and appreciate the depth of other religious traditions, we are forced to wonder if our exclusivist view on truth sustainable and defensible. Do inclusivist notions in Mormonism satisfy the theological and political dilemma that exclusive claims to salvation through Jesus Christ, or Mormon rituals? Can a Mormon pluralism exist, or must we take the burden of exclusivism along with fundamentalists of other religions?

2. Skepticism of authority based in the inaccessibility of revelation- How should modern Mormons regard the authority of revelation? In the contemporary church, at least at the top levels, revelation is rarely appealed to as a source of authority (though at the local level many leaders appeal to it to buttress their personal decisions). What sorts of standards will be applied to mediate the potentially disruptive element of revelation, even revelation from important church leaders?

3. Critical Study of the scriptures, both ancient and modern- Many religious traditions coping with modern challenges to historicity and infallibility have opted for the metaphorical, spiritual meaning of the text. Is this an option for Mormons given the challenges that critical scholarship provides to traditional understandings of the text?

4. The relationship b/t Mormonism and the State- There is no question that publicly and as a matter of policy, Mormonism reveres the Church/State divide, but has crossed it at times in its history. Further, Mormonism began as a nation-building movement. Many Mormons do believe that their religious convictions should impinge on their political views. Both conservative and liberal religious groups seem to agree. How should this relationship be figured?

5. Missionary work, Americanization, and neo-colonialism- Proselytism has suffered serious critical blows in recent decades as the relationship between European hegemony, cultural imperialism, colonial rule, and the spread of Christianity was exposed. Given that Mormonism is inseparably American, and has often used this heritage in shaping its public image abroad, what is the relationship between Mormonism and neo-colonialism? How does Mormonism see itself as an extension of American Manifest Destiny, or the Western Man's Burden?

6. The Family- The nuclear family appears to have been a rather short-lived expiriment of the post-Industrial Age. How will Mormonism respond to the increased diversity of family lives, including divorce, same-sex couples, and increased fragmentariness of traditional family structures. How will the emphasis on the nuclear family affect the church's ability to form larger social communities?

7. Sex, Gender, Sexuality- Since the second wave feminist movement, Mormonism has both resisted and accommodated the changing landscape of the role of women in the church and society at large. What will the future look like, and how should Mormonism address the new realities of a highly skilled female workforce? What will happen to the "traditional" gender roles many church members cling to in their understandings of gender? How should the perennial issue of women's leadership in the church be addressed? Along these same lines, homosexuality is reaching the height of its liberation movement (belatedly). How should Mormonism respond to this issue, perhaps using lessons from its interactions with the Civil Rights and feminist movements over the last five decades?

Friday, December 14, 2007

The European Mormon Studies Association 2008 Conference

EMSA Conference 2008, Call for Papers
Date December 3, 2007 Kim

The European Mormon Studies Association
Annual Conference

Organized together with the Department of Comparative Religion
at Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

21–22 August 2008

Keynote Address: Heikki Räisänen
Professor of New Testament Exegesis Emeritus, University of Helsinki

Call for Papers
"Mormonism and the Christian Tradition"

The relationship of Mormonism and the Christian tradition is hotly
contested, especially in religious circles. Whatever the precise
nature of that relationship is, it provides rich opportunities for
scholarly probing in domains such as sociology, history, theology,
anthropology and religious studies. Keynoter and acclaimed theologian
Heikki Räisänen, for example, will speak concerning his research on
Mormonism's founder Joseph Smith and the relationship of the Bible and
the Book of Mormon, two of the faith's central texts.

Other potential topics abound. Europe's religious landscape with its
national churches presents Mormonism with a very different situation
than does the United States, the movement's homeland. How has this
shaped Mormonism's European manifestations? How has the relationship
of Mormonism and the Christian tradition, with the attendant processes
of boundary negotiation, played out in Europe historically? Who are
Europe's Mormons? What are Mormonism's contributions to the wider
range of Christian thought?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yale "open course" - Introduction to the Old Testament

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)
Available in Video, Audio or Text

This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression
of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a
foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of
methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical
school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and
canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of
the Bible. Special emphasis is placed on the Bible against the
backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)
Class Sessions
1. The Parts of the Whole
2. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Biblical
Religion in Context
3. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Genesis 1-4 in Context
4. Doublets and Contradictions, Seams and Sources: Genesis 5-11 and
the Historical-Critical Method
5. Critical Approaches to the Bible: Introduction to Genesis 12-50
6. Biblical Narrative: The Stories of the Patriarchs (Genesis 12-36)
7. Israel in Egypt: Moses and the Beginning of Yahwism (Genesis 37- Exodus 4)
8. Exodus: From Egypt to Sinai (Exodus 5-24, 32; Numbers)
9. The Priestly Legacy: Cult and Sacrifice, Purity and Holiness in
Leviticus and Numbers
10. Biblical Law: The Three Legal Corpora of JE (Exodus), P (Leviticus
and Numbers) and D (Deuteronomy)
11. On the Steps of Moab: Deuteronomy
12. The Deuteronomistic History: Life in the Land (Joshua and Judges)
13. The Deuteronomistic History: Prophets and Kings (1 and 2 Samuel)
14. The Deuteronomistic History: Response to Catastrophe (1 and 2 Kings)
15. Hebrew Prophecy: The Non-Literary Prophets
16. Literary Prophecy: Amos
17. Literary Prophecy: Hosea and Isaiah
18. Literary Prophecy: Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum and Habbakuk
19. Literary Prophecy: Perspectives on the Exile (Jeremiah, Ezekiel
and 2 Isaiah)
20. Responses to Suffering and Evil: Lamentations and Wisdom Literature
21. Biblical Poetry: Psalms and Song of Songs
22. The Restoration: 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah
23. Visions of the End: Daniel and Apocalyptic Literature
24. Alternative Visions: Esther, Ruth and Jonah

Huckabee Questions Mormons' Belief

Huckabee Questions Mormons' Belief

By LIBBY QUAID – 18 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an
ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming article,
"Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

The article, to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, says
Huckabee asked the question after saying he believes Mormonism is a
religion but doesn't know much about it. His rival Mitt Romney, the
former Massachusetts governor, is a member of the Mormon church, which
is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day

The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does
not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the
son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical

A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said
Huckabee's question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the
Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.

"We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God
is the father of all," said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. "That means
that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children.
Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we
worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the
exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for."

Romney did not respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month in Iowa, Huckabee wouldn't say whether he thought
Mormonism — rival Romney's religion — was a cult.

"I'm just not going to go off into evaluating other people's doctrines
and faiths. I think that is absolutely not a role for a president,"
the former Arkansas governor said.

While he said he respects "anybody who practices his faith," Huckabee
said that what other people believe — he named Republican rivals
Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton
— "is theirs to explain, not mine, and I'm not going to."

He also resisted wading into theology when pressed to explain why some
evangelicals don't view the Mormon faith as a Christian denomination.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Text of Mitt Romney's Faith in America speech

The text of Mitt Romney's much anticipated speech on religion has been released:,5223,695233772,00.html

Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind introduction.

It is an honor to be here today. This is an inspiring place because of
you and the First Lady and because of the film exhibited across the
way in the Presidential library.

For those who have not seen it, it shows the President as a young
pilot, shot down during the Second World War, being rescued from his
life-raft by the crew of an American submarine. It is a moving
reminder that when America has faced challenge and peril, Americans
rise to the occasion, willing to risk their very lives to defend
freedom and preserve our nation. We are in your debt. Thank you, Mr.
President. Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first
to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union. You left us,
your children, a free and strong America. It is why we call yours the
greatest generation. It is now my generation's turn. How we respond to
today's challenges will define our generation. And it will determine
what kind of America we will leave our children, and theirs.

America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam
seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our
economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government
overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.

Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best
to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic
which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious
liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would
inform my Presidency, if I were elected. There are some who may feel
that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the
context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds
with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its
greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they
discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free
land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words:
'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with
human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution
was made for a moral and religious people.' Freedom requires religion
just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the
soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune
with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone. Given
our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder
whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's
religion that are appropriate. I believe there are.

And I will answer them today. Almost 50 years ago another candidate
from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for
president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an
American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my
religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor
should he be rejected because of his faith.

Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other
church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential
decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church
affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin. As
governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law
and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular
teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the
Constitution — and of course, I would not do so as President. I will
put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and
the sovereign authority of the law.

As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America's 'political
religion' — the commitment to defend the rule of law and the
Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of
office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate
to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group,
no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the
common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would
prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that
it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or
another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon
faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my
fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that
such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are
right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people.
Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of
those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world. There
is one fundamental question about which I often am asked.

What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about
Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion
has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for
criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance
would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for
faiths with which we agree.

There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and
explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the
very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No
candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes
President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths. I
believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer
to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I
wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic
Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals,
the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident
independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews,
unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of
the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and
cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their
steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's

It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist
between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral
convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's
usually a sound rule to focus on the latter — on the great moral
principles that urge us all on a common course.

Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right
to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that
cannot speak to the convictions of religious people. We separate
church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No
religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere
with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of
the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond
its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any
acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair
with no place in public life.

It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America
— the religion of secularism. They are wrong. The founders proscribed
the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance
the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation
'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust. We should acknowledge the
Creator as did the Founders — in ceremony and word. He should remain
on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and
during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be
welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure
without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our
constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of
government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God
who gave us liberty.'

Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most
important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political
office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of
human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast
commitment to liberty? They are not unique to any one denomination.
They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are
the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand
as a nation, united.

We believe that every single human being is a child of God — we are
all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and
inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary
political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are
'thrown into the world all equal and alike.'

The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one
another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of
God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day,
here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or
nationality. Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not
an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world
have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of
thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the
last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people
throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's
terrible wars — no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure;
no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has
been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it
ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of

These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived
in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God
and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I
saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways
to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading
national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I
was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me
drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me
... '

My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and
my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we
have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values,
are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this
common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my

Today's generations of Americans have always known religious liberty.
Perhaps we forget the long and arduous path our nation's forbearers
took to achieve it. They came here from England to seek freedom of
religion. But upon finding it for themselves, they at first denied it
to others. Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled
from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode
Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West.
Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own
faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different
faiths. In this, they were very much like those of the European
nations they had left.

It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a
revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about
the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is
endowed by his Creator. We cherish these sacred rights, and secure
them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious
liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There
will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise
of our religion. I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound
implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited
many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired ...
so grand ... so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many
of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just
too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer.

The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to
Europe's churches. And though you will find many people of strong
faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.
Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by
conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom ... killing Christians,
Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do
their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds
and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than
theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and
groups could inflict if given the chance.

The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our
religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized
nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be
destroyed. In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in
a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause
of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you
can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person
who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.
And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not
insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our
nation's symphony of faith.

Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in
Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British
troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an
impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they
pray. But there were objections. 'They were too divided in religious
sentiments', what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and
Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics.

Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of
piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot. And so
together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the
grace of God ... they founded this great nation. In that spirit, let
us give thanks to the divine 'author of liberty.' And together, let us
pray that this land may always be blessed, 'with freedom's holy

God bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Intense Bias against Mormons

New Vanderbilt scientific poll reveals intense bias against Mormons; Romney must demystify his religion to gain support

Bias against Mormons is significantly more intense among the public than bias against either African Americans or women, according to a new scientific poll by three professors from Vanderbilt and Claremont Graduate universities.

The survey was designed to assess bias against Mormons, how best to combat it and its potential impact on the nomination process and general election campaign.  
A national representative sample of 1,200 people participated along with an additional over-sample of another 600 "born-again" Southerners. The over-sample was designed to measure the concerns that people have expressed about Romney's religion among the evangelical base of the Republican Party.

Geer said that while there have been a handful of surveys about Mormons and possible discrimination, they have relied for the most part on people simply indicating if they would be willing to vote for a Mormon for president.

"People today might say they would vote for a woman, Mormon, African American or other minority, when, in fact, they have no intention to do so," he said. "They may not want to be labeled a bigot, so they give a socially acceptable answer. We address this problem in our study." Geer said the study also looked at the impact of various messages on people's attitudes toward Romney.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Bias against Mormons is significantly more intense among the public compared to bias against women and blacks. The bias against Mormons is even more pronounced among conservative Evangelicals. Their bias against Mormons rivals their bias against atheists.
  • Only about half the nation claims to even know a Mormon or to know that Romney is Mormon.
  • The extent of the bias against Romney is moderated if the individual already knows that he is Mormon. That information seems to demystify the Mormon religion, making people more tolerant of the religion. Those who do not know Romney is Mormon exhibit much greater bias upon learning of his religion.
  • When participants in the survey are provided information that stereotypes Mormons, such as 'Mormons are part of a non-Christian cult" or "Mormons are polygamists," they react negatively to Romney's candidacy.
  • Participants react favorably to messages that dispel the negative stereotypes about Mormons. Examples would be "about a hundred years ago the Mormon Church banned polygamy," or "the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints stresses traditional family values." However, simple appeals for religious tolerance do not win over support for Romney from the respondents.
Geer noted that Romney's address, scheduled for Dec. 5 at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, is not without risks. "Depending upon how the speech is designed, it could stir latent bias by activating certain interests of the voting public," he said. "However, those who are biased against Mormons are not necessarily hardened in their positions." According to the survey results, Romney should provide clear, accurate information to dispel misconceptions about the Mormon religion.

With the primaries approaching, negative attacks, including some related to Mormonism, are likely, according to Benson. "The speech may be Romney's best chance to strike pre-emptively to inoculate the public from such attacks," he said. "Therefore, the speech may work if Romney can walk the delicate line of explaining his beliefs and values without driving away conservative evangelicals."

The entire article can be read here

Monday, December 03, 2007

Romney to give long awaited religion speech Thursday

Romney to give speech on his Mormon faith  
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent Reuters

Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney will give a speech this week directly addressing questions about his Mormon faith and the role it would play in his presidency, his campaign said on Sunday.

The long-awaited speech by Romney, who would be the first Mormon president, has drawn comparisons to an address given in Texas by John Kennedy confronting doubts about his Catholic faith during his successful 1960 run for the presidency.

Polls have shown some voters, particularly evangelicals, are less likely to vote for a Mormon. The former Massachusetts governor often gets questions related to his religion on the campaign trail.

The speech, titled "Faith In America," will be delivered at the library of former President George Bush in College Station, Texas, on Thursday.

"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation, and how the governor's own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected," spokesman Kevin Madden said.

It comes as polls show Romney slipping in the state of Iowa, which on January 3 kicks off the state-by-state battle to choose candidates for the November 2008 general election.

A Des Moines Register poll on Sunday showed Romney, who has led in Iowa much of the year, falling behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who draws strong support from the state's sizable bloc of religious conservatives.

Continue reading here

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gospel of Judas misrepresented?

The New York Times
Gospel Truth
Published: December 1, 2007

AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn't betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas's reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society's transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic's translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.

Several of the translation choices made by the society's scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a "daimon," which the society's experts have translated as "spirit." Actually, the universally accepted word for "spirit" is "pneuma " — in Gnostic literature "daimon" is always taken to mean "demon."

Likewise, Judas is not set apart "for" the holy generation, as the National Geographic translation says, he is separated "from" it. He does not receive the mysteries of the kingdom because "it is possible for him to go there." He receives them because Jesus tells him that he can't go there, and Jesus doesn't want Judas to betray him out of ignorance. Jesus wants him informed, so that the demonic Judas can suffer all that he deserves.

Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas's ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it's clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will "not ascend to the holy generation." To its credit, National Geographic has acknowledged this mistake, albeit far too late to change the public misconception.

So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? It says that Judas is a specific demon called the "Thirteenth." In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons — an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.

Whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas was a harsh critic of mainstream Christianity and its rituals. Because Judas is a demon working for Ialdabaoth, the author believed, when Judas sacrifices Jesus he does so to the demons, not to the supreme God. This mocks mainstream Christians' belief in the atoning value of Jesus' death and in the effectiveness of the Eucharist.

How could these serious mistakes have been made? Were they genuine errors or was something more deliberate going on? This is the question of the hour, and I do not have a satisfactory answer.

Admittedly, the society had a tough task: restoring an old gospel that was lying in a box of its own crumbs. It had been looted from an Egyptian tomb in the 1970s and languished on the underground antiquities market for decades, even spending time in someone's freezer. So it is truly incredible that the society could resurrect any part of it, let alone piece together about 85 percent of it.

That said, I think the big problem is that National Geographic wanted an exclusive. So it required its scholars to sign nondisclosure statements, to not discuss the text with other experts before publication. The best scholarship is done when life-sized photos of each page of a new manuscript are published before a translation, allowing experts worldwide to share information as they independently work through the text.

Another difficulty is that when National Geographic published its transcription, the facsimiles of the original manuscript it made public were reduced by 56 percent, making them fairly useless for academic work. Without life-size copies, we are the blind leading the blind. The situation reminds me of the deadlock that held scholarship back on the Dead Sea Scrolls decades ago. When manuscripts are hoarded by a few, it results in errors and monopoly interpretations that are very hard to overturn even after they are proved wrong.

To avoid this, the Society of Biblical Literature passed a resolution in 1991 holding that, if the condition of the written manuscript requires that access be restricted, a facsimile reproduction should be the first order of business. It's a shame that National Geographic, and its group of scholars, did not follow this sensible injunction.

I have wondered why so many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version of the Gospel of Judas. I think it may stem from an understandable desire to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians. Judas is a frightening character. For Christians, he is the one who had it all and yet betrayed God to his death for a few coins. For Jews, he is the man whose story was used by Christians to persecute them for centuries.

Although we should continue to work toward a reconciliation of this ancient schism, manufacturing a hero Judas is not the answer.

April D. DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, is the author of "The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says."