Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 22-25, 2008: Mormon History Association

From Signature Books "news and events" page:

May 22-25, 2008: Mormon History Association

Salt Lake City—It was 160 years ago, sixty miles west of Lake Tahoe, that a group of Mormon laborers gathered to see what James Marshall held in his hand. He had just discovered gold. The Mormon-owned newspaper in San Francisco, the California Star, was the first to advertise the discovery, which set the gold rush into motion.

On May 22-25, a few hundred historians will meet in Sacramento to discuss these and other topics. More specifically, they have researched the involvement of Mormons in California history. The event is hosted by the Mormon History Association of Salt Lake City.

One of the principal addresses will be delivered by Professor Kenneth N. Owens of California State-Sacramento on the topic, "Not Quite Zion: California's Gold Rush Saints." A recently retired professor from Victor Valley College, Edward Leo Lyman, will speak on a similar theme: "Amasa M. Lyman: Apostle in the Gold Fields."

Other presenters include professors from Butte College, Cal State-Fullerton, Claremont Graduate University, College of the Sequoias, and San Francisco State. Professor Patrick Arthur Polk of UCLA will explain "Early Black Mormons and Dilemmas of Identification."

Other historians from out of state will be participating. Colonel Sherman L. Fleek of the Walter Reed Medical Center will address the background to the Stephen Kearny/John Fremont Feud involving the Mormon Battalion. From Harvard, Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye will consider the lives of Asian Mormons in the West.

Several papers will be presented by independent researchers. Camilla Miner Smith of San Francisco will introduce other historians to California's first Poet Laureate, Ina Coolbrith, who was a stepdaughter of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Richard K. Behrens of Brentwood will speak on William B. Ide, a Mormon who led the Bear Flag Revolt. William P. MacKinnon will examine California's role in the 1857 Utah War.

The Mormon History Association meets annually in a different location around the world. This year's conference will include an excursion to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and other sites. The meetings will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Sacramento. Over 100 papers will be read. At an evening banquet, book awards will be announced and presented.

The first Mormons in California came in 1846 when some 230 Latter-day Saints arrived on the ship Brooklyn at what was then called Yerba Buena, now San Francisco. They were the first Americans to reach the newly conquered Mexican province by sea, and historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote that, for a time, San Francisco was "largely a Mormon town."

That same year, the U.S. Army enlisted some 500 Mormon men to serve in the war with Mexico. At the time, the Mormon Church was still located in the Midwest. Soldiers marched 2,000 miles from Florence, Nebraska, to San Diego, only to arrive late; the war was over. Instead, they ventured north to meet fellow Latter-day Saints. Looking for work, nearly 100 acquired employed at Sutter's Mill, where gold was soon discovered.

Ironically, Sam Brannon, the Mormon whose newspaper sparked the gold rush went on to use his fortune to plant some of California's first vineyards in Napa Valley. A teetotaling people, the Mormons eventually excommunicated him.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Varieties of Religious Experience

One of the most important studies of religious experience is  online, "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James.

"William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, delivered the Gifford lecture in Edinburgh for 1901-2 at a high point in his career. His theme was a systematic analysis of phases of the process of religious conversion. He examines (mostly Christian) descriptions of conversion phenomena. He analyzes psychological phenomena connected with saintliness, and mysticism. James believed that science and religion are not incompatible and that both could benefit from each other."

Over 100 years later, these lectures  have stood the test of time.  In my opinion, this is required reading for anyone who takes the study of religion seriously.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finding Pratt's remains

Descendants of an early Mormon leader who was killed in Arkansas 151 years ago say archaeologists found no "identifiable human remains" when they dug up his grave in an attempt to move his remains to Utah.

The descendants feel certain, however, that they located the grave where Parley Parker Pratt was buried after the estranged husband of the woman Pratt took as his 12th wife killed him. The four-day dig that ended Tuesday was intended to carry out Pratt's dying wish to be buried in Utah.

"We were digging in his grave but Parley's remains are now part of the soil of Arkansas," family spokesman Robert J. Grow said Wednesday. The Salt Lake City man, who attended the dig, said the family has done everything humanly possible to honor Pratt's request....

Pratt's descendants include former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is Pratt's great-great-grandson.

Read the entire story here:

Canada considering action against Canadian FLDS

The polygamist community in Bountiful, British Columbia, poses a "vexing problem" for the provincial government, Premier Gordon Campbell admitted Wednesday.

"I'm as upset by what I understand is happening in Bountiful as I think most British Columbians are," he said in a telephone interview. But the B.C. leader said his government has to tread carefully to ensure that it doesn't make matters worse.

"Our goal is to deal with this as effectively and as quickly as we can to protect, particularly young people, who are possibly caught in this," he said.

Residents of Bountiful, in southeastern B.C., are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Continue the story here

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Joseph Smith Photograph

Eborn Publishing Invites You to




The Joseph Smith Photograph

You've Seen the News — Now Examine the Facts!





 The Joseph Smith Memorial Building

15 E. South Temple

Downtown Salt Lake City


 Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 2PM to 10PM

 The Empire Room


 See the Documentary

"Picturing Joseph" by Nick Galieti  Showing hourly


 Author Signing

Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again:

 The Joseph Smith Photograph

by  S. Michael Tracy

Discuss the book, the photograph, and the forensic evidence


Meet the Artist

Ken Corbett and see his new paintings of

Joseph and Hyrum Smith


"Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again"

This event is sponsored by the publisher

Eborn Publishing, LLC, www.ebornbooks.com – not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Joseph Smith Chronology

BYU Studies has published an entire issue containing a chronology of Joseph Smith's life that is also available online. A good review and commentary are available at Times and Seasons where reviews are positive and it is noted as a helpful study aid even though religiously incorrect items have been skipped. I like the links to source materials -- which reminds me of The Parallel Joseph, a more limited chronology with source material included right in the chronology (such as sermons, meeting notes [for example], and other source material).

Below is a two month section from the chronology. A few missing items from this time frame that I am aware of are the organization of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, becoming an entered apprentice, introduction of the temple endowment and at least two polygamous marriages.

March 9, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Edward Hunter at West Nantmeal, Pennsylvania.
March 11, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Edward Hunter.
March 11, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith commanded the Nauvoo Legion (the local civilian militia) on parade through the streets of Nauvoo.
March 15, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. An installment of Joseph Smith's translation of the book of Abraham, including facsimile 2, was published in the Church newspaper Times and Seasons.
History of the Church 4:519–34
Book of Abraham
March 17, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society of Nauvoo, with Emma Smith, his wife, as the president.
March 20, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith preached a sermon on death and resurrection, baptized a large number of individuals in the river, confirmed many of them in the grove near the temple, and then performed additional baptisms in the font of the temple.
March 24, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith attended the Relief Society meeting to complete its organization.
March 27, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith witnessed the landing of Latter-day Saint immigrants from England on the steamboat Ariel, and performed ordinances for 107 individuals after speaking on baptism for the dead.
April 1, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith published a lengthy editorial in the Church newspaper Times and Seasons entitled "Try the Spirits" about the gift of discernment.
April 9, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith preached at the funeral of Brother Ephraim Marks in the morning.
April 10, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. While preaching in a grove near the Nauvoo Temple site, Joseph Smith "reproved and rebuked" the Saints for wickedness and all forms of iniquity.
April 15, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith published an editorial in the Church newspaper Times and Seasons concerning baptism for the dead.
April 24, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith preached on the hill near the Nauvoo Temple concerning the building of the temple.
April 28, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith met with the members of the Relief Society and lectured on the privileges and blessings of the priesthood.
History of the Church 4:602–7
Journal of Discourses 5:175
May 4, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith met with Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Judge James Adams, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and William Law in the upper room of the Red Brick Store, where he gave them instructions on the priesthood and celestial marriage.
May 7, 1842
Nauvoo, Illinois. Joseph Smith commanded drills for the Nauvoo Legion throughout the day.

Apostles Participate in Papal Prayer Service

The Catholic News Service reports: Ecumenical meeting marks first time Mormons join in papal gathering

'For the first time, representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in a papal prayer service -- and it all started over coffee... Representing the Latter-day Saints at the April 18 meeting in New York were two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook [who met out of] a growing respect between Catholics and Mormons, which began under the leadership of the late Gordon B. Hinckley, longtime president of the Latter-day Saints. .. Media representatives of the Latter-day Saints did not respond to a request for comment on the papal prayer service. [However] a statement on "respect for diversity of faiths" was posted on the church's Web site the same day as the New York meeting.'

Saturday, April 19, 2008

FLDS and common heritiage

Everyone must be aware of the raid on the FLDS compound in Texas where over 400 children have been removed from their home in the largest such case in U.S. history.   If you want to explore the topic further, CNN has set up a special web page to track all the stories.  Also, the Messenger and Advocate blog is doing a great job tracking the story with commentary and comments.

A lot of info about their church is coming out. I find I have mixed feelings about the whole affair.  On one hand, I think polygamy is inherently bad for women and I'm glad to see  efforts to destroy it.  On the other hand, I think about individual's rights to live their lives the way they want.  I also think about our own heritage and history of government persecution against us in the 1870s and 1880s over polygamy that seem quite similar to what is happening to these people. 

In fact, when I think about persecution against the FLDS, there are:
  • The current campaing of 2008 with Warren Jeffs as their prophet,
  • The Short Creek Raid (that ultimately failed) in 1953 with Joseph White Musser as their prophet
  • an earlier one spanning several decades, but most focused in the 1880s with John Taylor as their prophet
The fact that LDS and FLDS both share a common history of government persecution against polygamy ought to add enhance our perspective of what is currently going on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

FAIR 2008 conference

2008 FAIR conference (unfortunately in conflict with the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium [is FAIR trying to steal Sunstoners?]) will be held Aug. 7-8.

South Towne Exposition Center
9575 South State Street
Sandy, Utah 84070

More info here

Summary of speakers (courtesy of Geoff B. at Millennial Star)

* Mike Ash: Author of the new book "Shaken Faith Syndrome."

* Brian Birch: Director, Religious Studies Program and Associate
Professor of Philosophy at UVSC.

* Matthew Brown: Author of "Symbols in Stone" and many other books.
He will speak on Temple Worship among the Ancient Hebrews and
Early Christians.

* Brant Gardner: Author of the new, very popular "Second Witness,
Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon."

* Darius Gray and Margaret Young: Producers of the just released
documentary "Nobody Knows" examining the struggles, trials, and
joys of black Latter-day Saints.

* Brian Hauglid: Addressing issues related to the Book of Abraham.

* Vicky Pahnky Taylor: A favorite EFY speaker.

* Ugo A. Perego: The Director of Operations and Study Research
Coordinator for the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. He
will be speaking on "Joseph Smith's DNA Revealed: New clues from
the Prophet's genes."

* Dan Peterson: Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic, co-author
of "Offenders for a Word" and an annual speaker at the conference.

* Larry Poulson: Researcher on Book of Mormon geography.

* Mark Wright: Mark will take a break from leading his MesoAmerican
tours with Liahona Tours and fly up to speak at our conference. We
want to thank Liahona tours for letting us steal Mark for a couple
of days.

* Blake Ostler: LDS philosopher will be participating in a roundtable
about LDS philosophy.

* David Paulsen: LDS philosopher will participating in the roundtable
with Blake Ostler.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sex in FLDS temple

I've been told that at one time young couples could spend the night at the St. George temple while on "The Honeymoon Trail."  Perhaps the current FLDS practice stems from this earlier practice.  If anyone has any info on the Honeymoon Trail and staying overnight in the temple, I'd appreciate it.


Informant: Men had sex with underage girls in FLDS temple
Judge rules sect can challenge massive search

By Brooke Adams: The Salt Lake Tribune

SAN ANGELO, Tex. - Adult FLDS men were having sex with underage brides inside the massive limestone temple at the polygamous sect's Texas ranch, a confidential informant told authorities.
   According to a request for a search warrant unsealed today by a Texas judge, Schliecher County Sheriff David Doran has been working with a confidential informant who has shared information about the ranch over several years. On Saturday, as a sweeping raid was underway at the YFZ Ranch, the informant spoke to Doran and made the allegation about the temple, the court filing said.
   The affidavit was from Texas Ranger Leslie Brooks Long, who reported being at the ranch and observing a bed inside the temple with disturbed linens and a long hair, apparently from a female.
   The document was filed in support of the state's request for a second warrant to search the ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That warrant was signed Sunday; an earlier warrant had been signed on Thursday, the day the raid began.
   Since then, authorities have removed 419 children, accompanied by 139 women.

continue reading here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Multiple migrations to the New World look less likely

 "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas", The American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 82, Issue 3, 583-592, 28 February 2008.



It is well accepted that the Americas were the last continents reached by modern humans, most likely through Beringia.  However, the precise time and mode of the colonization of the New World remain hotly disputed issues.  Native American populations exhibit almost exclusively five mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups (A-D and X).  Haplogroups A-D are also frequent in Asia, suggesting a northeastern Asian origin of these lineages.  However, the differential pattern of distribution and frequency of haplogroup X led some to suggest that it may represent an independent migration to the Americas.  Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models.  A detailed demographic history of the mtDNA sequences estimated with a Bayesian coalescent method indicates a complex model for the peopling of the Americas, in which the initial differentiation from Asian populations ended with a moderate bottleneck in Beringia during the last glacial maximum (LGM), around ~23,000 to ~19,000 years ago.  Toward the end of the LGM, a strong population expansion started ~18,000 and finished ~15,000 years ago.  These results support a pre-Clovis occupation of the New World, suggesting a rapid settlement of the continent along a Pacific coastal route.


Nelson J.R. Fagundes, Ricardo Kanitz, Roberta Eckert, Ana C.S. Valls, Mauricio R. Bogo, Francisco M. Salzano, David Glenn Smith, Wilson A. Silva, Marco A. Zago, Andrea K. Ribeiro-dos-Santos, Sidney E.B. Santos, Maria Luiza Petzl-Erler andSandro L. Bonatto,


The maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been widely used to understand the peopling of the Americas. Since the first studies, it has been found that extant Native American populations exhibit almost exclusively five mtDNA haplogroups (A-D and X) classified in the autochthonous haplogroups A2, B2, C1, D1, and X2a.  Haplogroups A-D are found all over the New World and are frequent in Asia, supporting a northeastern Asian origin of these lineages.  This distribution, together with the similar coalescence time for these haplogroups, was used to suggest a single-migration model.  However, a different pattern of diversification and distribution of haplogroup B found in some studies led some authors to hypothesize that it could represent a later and separate migration from the joint arrival of haplogroups A, C, and D.  The history of haplogroup X is more elusive; it is presently found in the New World at a relatively low frequency and only in North America, it is rare in West Eurasians, and it is almost absent in Siberia.  In addition, some have claimed that Native American haplogroup X is less diverse and has a younger coalescence time than haplogroups AD.  These differential features have been cited to argue that haplogroup X represents an independent migration to the Americas from Asia or even Europe.  More specifically, it has been used to support a putative connection between the European Solutrean and the American Clovis lithic technologies.  This so called Solutrean hypothesis proposed the colonization of North America by Europeans through the North Atlantic, even though this interpretation is heavily debated.  All the five founding haplogroups have been shown to be present in Native Americas in pre-Columbian times.

Our results strongly support the hypothesis that haplogroup X, together with the other four main mtDNA haplogroups, was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population; therefore they do not support models that propose haplogroup-independent migrations, such as the migration from Europe posed by the Solutrean hypothesis.  We infer that haplogroup X experienced a more limited expansion in intensity than the former four haplogroups, and this is compatible with its current very limited distribution.

The fact that the five most common Native American mtDNA haplogroups display similar diversity patterns strongly indicates that they have not been much affected by natural selection.  Because human mtDNA does not recombine, directional selection upon a specific substitution would favor the haplotype in which this variant occurs, mimicking a demographic expansion.  It is very unlikely that in all haplogroups specific variants that would be favored by natural selection with similar intensity would have occurred by chance and at a similar time. Therefore, our results strongly indicate that the diversity pattern in Native American mtDNA results from a demographic expansion in the founding population in which all founding haplotypes were present.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Solemn Assembly

A Solemn Assembly is a sacred gathering in the Church which is held, most often, for the purpose of sustaining a new president and prophet of the church. Historically, solemn assemblies have also been held for dedication of temples or for specially called meetings to express the will of the church as a whole.

At the first general conference after the death of a church president and the calling of his successor, the session at which the sustaining vote takes place is called a Solemn Assembly. At a Solemn Assembly sustaining, groups of Latter-day Saints are asked to stand in succession and sustain the new president of the church. Typically, the order is: First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorums of Seventy, the remaining Melchizedek Priesthood holders, Aaronic Priesthood holders, Relief Society members, members of the Young Women organization, and then all members together.The names of all other general authorities are then read, and a sustaining and opposing vote is called for.

The most recent solemn assembly sustaining of church officers of the church took place on April 5, 2008 at the church's Saturday morning session of general conference, where President Thomas S. Monson was sustained by the general membership as prophet, seer, and revelator of the church.

The Sunday morning session of the April 2000 general conference was also considered a Solemn Assembly in celebration of the Conference Center dedication.

More can be read here or here.

183 women, children removed from fundamentalist Mormon ranch

183 women, children removed from Mormon ranch

HOUSTON: Texas officials investigating a child abuse case said 183 children and women had been removed from a ranch that is home to a breakaway Mormon sect linked to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

Texas authorities descended on the ranch after allegations that a 50-year-old man there had married and fathered a child with an under-age girl.

Monson approves meeting with gay Mormon group

Gay Mormon group to meet with church officials
April 6th, 2008 @ 4:40pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- After decades of silence, Mormon church officials have agreed to meet with a gay Mormon support group that has sought to forge understanding between the faith's leaders and its gay members.

In a letter received last week, leaders of Affirmation were invited to meet with Fred M. Riley, commissioner of Family Services for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Harold C. Brown, the agency's past commissioner.

"We're pleased the church is opening up the possibility for dialogue," said Dave Melson, Affirmation's assistant executive director. "Affirmation has tried 5 or 6 times over the past 31 years to meet with church leaders. This is their second response. The first resulted in platitudes and nothing more."

In February, just three days after 80-year-old Thomas S. Monson was named president of the 13 million-member church, Affirmation petitioned the new leader to meet and begin an unprecedented conversation about gays in the church.

Riley's letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says he and Brown were asked by Monson to meet with Affirmation on his behalf.

"We believe that is always important to have the opportunity to be given better understanding of your points of view so that the church can appropriately understand your organization and how best to be helpful," Riley wrote.

The meeting is scheduled for August, Riley confirmed Sunday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Among the specifics Affirmation wants to address: the historical treatment of gays by the church, including recommendations for aversion therapies to "cure" homosexuality; recommendations for more effective counseling methods; ways to avoid family break-ups; and a change in the honor code at church-owned Brigham Young University that can result in expulsion for sexually active gay students. The same standard applies to straight students.

"None of this requires a change in doctrine," said Melson. "They're good for both gays and the church."

Melson, who spoke with Riley on Friday, said he asked if the meeting would result in any change or was simply and effort to placate Affirmation.

"They said that there won't be immediate changes, but they are definitely interested in helping ... that they are sincere," he said. "We would like to start to a dialogue, even if it isn't immediately fruitful.

For Affirmation, which has about 2,000 gay, lesbian and transgender members worldwide, an official meeting with anyone from the church organization is unprecedented.

Founded in secret by gay students at BYU in 1977, Affirmation has traditionally been ignored by church leaders, Melson said.

Latter-day Saints are taught that gay sex is a sin. Gays can continue to hold church callings if they remain celibate. Those who act on what the church calls "same-gender attraction" have sometimes been excommunicated.

In the 1990s, the church openly fought same-sex marriage legislation nationwide and, in 2006, joined other religious denominations in asking Congress for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LDS Family Services, with offices across the country, is the only church-endorsed source of counsel for gay members and their families. All therapists are licensed and trained to use treatments that best fit the individual, Riley said.

But gay Mormons say the agency's track record of assistance is marked by a lack of understanding and a prescription for clinical treatments that were sometimes horrific and painful.

"My personal story -- I got recommended for electroshock therapy. They told me to hate and be angry at my parents for making me gay," said Rob Killian, a Seattle physician who has frequently spoken publicly about his experiences. "They've destroyed families."

It's not clear what treatment methods LDS Family Services therapists currently recommend, but in a 2007 interview posted on the church Web site, Apostle Dallin Oaks acknowledged that some abusive practices, including over-medication and aversion therapies, had been used in the past and phased out by professionals over time. Oaks said the church has no position on the types of treatment used by doctors and accepts no responsibility for out-of-date treatments.

"Even though they are addressed at helping people we would have liked to see helped," Oaks said in the interview. "We can't endorse every kind of technique."

Killian called a meeting between Affirmation and the church a "small improvement" and said he thinks the church may be acting for public relations reasons. He fears it will perpetuate a false belief that the church will change.

"There is no way under the current system or the current administration that our story would be even listened to or heard," he said.

Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, is more hopeful.

"Any time that two groups come together there's a possibility, and I hope the possibility can lead to more understanding, more acceptance and less isolation," said Larabee.

Many gay, lesbian and transgender church members seek support from the center after failing to find the help they need at LDS Family Services, she said.

"Part of the reason Affirmation does their work is to build bridges," Larabee said. "This is definitely the building of a bridge ... sometimes that process is long and arduous."

80% of young single Mormon women inactive

"Between the Sunday sessions, the three women named Saturday as new leaders in the church's Young Women's Organization described their approach and priorities regarding the 554,600 Mormon girls between 12 and 18 years old in 170 countries."
   "When asked how they planned to cope with the fact that as many as 80 percent of the single Mormon women between 18 and 30 are no longer active in the LDS Church, Elaine Dalton, Young Women president, said, "That is the question of the day. . .I don't know that we have all the answers right now.""
   "Dalton said she and her two counselors plan to "reach out and strengthen those young women. . .to help them understand who they are and the divine mission they have on earth." "

The entire Salt Lake Tribune article can be read here

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mormon Tabernacle Choir director finds new job

Utah State University on Friday confirmed that Craig Jessop, longtime director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, will return to Cache Valley to lead the Logan school's music department.
    "We are pleased with this marvelous addition to the very strong music program," Edward Glatfelter, dean of USU's College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said in a statement. "Professor Jessop brings with him a wonderful quality, not only from the choral aspect, but in furthering the continued growth and development of the entire department."
    Jessop directed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from 1999 until his abrupt resignation on March 4. At that time, he said he planned to remain active in the musical world "including teaching - the career that . . . originally began my musical journey."
...    "Utah State is my home," his statement said. "The people of Utah are my people. My wife and I met, dated and courted at Utah State University. There is no place I would rather spend my time than here in my home state and home university."
...    Speculation has been rampant about where Jessop would end up since his surprise resignation from the choir. No one has said for certain why he left.
Full Article here

Friday, April 04, 2008

Parley P. Pratt's remains to be moved to Utah

Remains of early Mormon leader can be moved to Utah

VAN BUREN, Ark. (AP) - Early Mormon leader Parley Parker Pratt could soon be returning to Utah.

Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell ruled Wednesday that Pratt's remains may be unearthed from an Arkansas grave. Pratt was buried there after his 1857 murder by the estranged husband of one of his wives.

The ruling answered a request by Robert J. Grow of Salt Lake City, an attorney and Pratt's descendant.

Pratt was an original member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Grow must now get a disinterment permit from the Arkansas Department of Health. That usually takes a couple of days.

He says Pratt will be buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery with two wives on each side.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Religiously Unaffiliated double since the 1980s



Survey reveals a nation on the spiritual hunt 

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a major study of America's religious makeup. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (available online at religions.pewforum.org/reports) shows a nation of people changing their religion, with churches simultaneously gaining new members but losing old ones, and with the fastest-growing religious group being the "unaffiliated."

Currently, 51 percent of Americans are Protestants—down from 60 percent to 65 percent in the 1970s. Of these, 26 percent of Americans are members of evangelical churches; 18 percent belong to mainline Protestant churches; and 7 percent belong to historic black churches.

Roman Catholics make up 24 percent of the population. The Eastern Orthodox make up 0.6 percent. In addition to "other Christian" groups (0.3 percent), the survey throws Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7 percent) and Mormons (1.7 percent) into the Christian camp, which thus includes 78.4 percent of all Americans.

Other world religions claim the adherence of only 4.7 percent of Americans. These include Jews (1.7 percent), Buddhists (0.7 percent), Muslims (0.6 percent), and Hindus (0.4 percent). The survey includes in this breakdown the 0.4 percent who follow New Age religions (the same percentage as Hindus and the Presbyterian Church in America), and other non-Christian sects, such as Unitarians (0.7 percent).

Christianity's major competitor is thus not other religions but no religion. The "unaffiliated" comprise 16 percent of all Americans—roughly the same percentage that belong to mainline Protestant denominations and more than double the number of unaffiliated in the 1980s. And the unaffiliated are growing the fastest, taking members from virtually all other religious groupings, including evangelicals.

Perhaps the study's biggest finding is the extent to which Americans change their religious affiliations. Over 28 percent have changed from the religion in which they were brought up—and 44 percent have left the church of their childhood.

If America has become "post-denominational," what is the cause and effect? Do people lack denominational loyalty because they no longer care about theological distinctives? Or is it because different denominations are increasingly indistinguishable?

<continue reading here>

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sunstone Seeking Candidates for Editor/Outreach

After more than seven years in his position, Sunstone's editor, Dan Wotherspoon, has decided the time is right to pursue other opportunities—which he will do following the conclusion of the 2008 Sunstone Symposium (to be held 6-9 August).

Sunstone has benefited tremendously from Dan's  vision and direction, and we wish him well as he begins to pursue the next phase of his career along with new writing and publishing endeavors. There will certainly be interest in his plans, and Dan will be outlining these in the coming magazine and in other forums.

As part of the transition, the Sunstone Board of Trustees has elected to restructure the staff positions to better facilitate its desire to increase the frequency of Sunstone magazine production along with continual expansion of the annual Symposium and regional symposia.

We are seeking candidates for two positions: Director of Publications and Editor, and Director of Symposia and Outreach.

If you are interested, or know someone who may be a potential candidate, you may find detailed information and application procedures at www.sunstoneblog.com , or www.sunstonemagazine.com