Sunday, June 29, 2008

Emergence of the FLDS

The LDS church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has put a lot of effort in distinguishing itself from the FLDS church (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The two churches split about 70 years ago over the issue of polygamy. Before the church's split, President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto in 1890 stating the his intention to stop promoting polygamy in the U.S.  However he and other apostles continued to practice and sanction.  Polygamy secretly continued under leadership of presidents Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith.   When congress tried to bar Mormon senator and apostle Reed Smoot from being seated over the issue of polygamy in 1904, the church issued a 2nd manifesto against the practice and disciplined two apostles to demonstrate their commitment to following U.S. dictates.  These efforts resulted in the church being able to have an LDS apostle as a senator.   Later under Heber J. Grant, the church completely abandoned secret polygamy and excommunicated all practicing LDS polygamists including a group in Short Creek, Utah in 1935, headquarters of today's FLDS church.

Church members had received dual messages from the church leadership for decades.  The public voice had been against polygamy, but many knew those outward voices were for public consumption and many knew  of others who had privately been sanctioned by the church leadership to continue practicing polygamy.  Many held to the revelation received by John Taylor stating that the law of polygamy would never be revoked and that it was a requirement for exaltation.

The culture of conflicting messages resulted in subset of Mormons resolute in keeping the practice of polygamy alive, and the subsequent formation of the FLDS and other Mormon polygamist groups.

Today there are about ten thousand members of the FLDS church.  Tens of thousands of other Mormon polygamists are members of other groups.  Their beliefs & practices more closely resemble the those of the 19th century LDS church under the leadership of Brigham Young and John Taylor.  The LDS church continues it's abandonment of many earlier Mormon practices and beliefs, motivated in part by it's quest for respectability and desire for recognition as a mainstream Christian church.  It has vigorously reiterated the distinction between itself and the FLDS reflection of it's former self.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Letter to California Mormons regarding the media

Letter from public affairs official in California regarding Sunday's
announcement encouraging LDS support of anti-Gay legislation

Brothers and Sisters,

We have been informed that Sunday morning, June 29, after members have
heard the letter from the First Presidency read from the pulpit, some
news crews may attempt to interview members of the Church as they are
leaving services.

While we cannot, nor should we, do anything to stop the media from
interviewing rank and file members -- who are not speaking on behalf
of the Church, it would be against the guidance from headquarters for
any such interview or for news cameras to be in our Church buildings.

Please note that SLC, and the California office of Public Affairs are
both referring any media inquiries on the subject to the coalition
handling the campaign. It is imperative that DPA's and their
Assistants do the same. Any institutional media inquiries on this
issue should be referred to Frank Schubert or Jeff Flint at 916 448
4234 at coalition headquarters.

For further questions regarding the role of Public Affairs, please
call Keith Atkinson @ 800 533 2444.

Thank you.

Keith Atkinson

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jeffrey Nielsen: Open Letter to California Mormons

Open Letter to California Mormons
Jeffrey S. Nielsen

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a
supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am
asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our
religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over
our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage
equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as
a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.
To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would
legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no
small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument,
no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious
proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the
wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to
the great progress in civil rights we've made in our country
respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more
certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our
religious leaders' encroachment into political matters. In fact, a
growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family
members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are
as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians
as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60's when they opposed equal
rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70's when
they opposed full legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the
right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy
for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to
interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse
democracy without reasonable justification, then members,
especially faithful members, of that religious organization have
the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such
dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate
your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to
live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically
harm another person. After all, religious values must be something
an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her
by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether
state or federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a
particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy.
Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but
tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to
legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to
take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.
I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any
more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to
discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity
under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this
case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected
outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could
give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in
our civil society, which doesn't make fallacious appeals to
tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some
ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear
it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single
justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very
important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian
couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and
commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would,
in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our
country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more
considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents.
I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow
Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the
unreasonable and unjust call to discriminate against our gay and
lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mormon Stories Collection

As I understand it, John Dehlin is no longer adding new material to Mormon Stories.  John



The best way to access all of these podcasts is to:

  • Install iTunes (if it is not installed already)
  • Click on this link to bring up the podcast page
  • Click the subscribe button for the Mormon Stories podcast to make it easier to download these episodes into iTunes
  • Click on the Podcast link in the upper left column of iTunes, look for the Mormon Stories podcast, and then click the right-pointing triangle next to the Mormon Stories podcast name to expand the list of episodes available
  • Click "Get" on the episodes you wish to listen to. Wait for them to download. Or you can click "Get All" to get them all at once (will take a LOOOONG time).
  • If you are blessed to have an iPod, plug it in to your computer, and all these episodes will automatically be downloaded to your iPod, and you can listen at your liesure — in the car, exercising, mowing the lawn, etc..

My Interviews for Sunstone Magazine

Mormon Matters Panel Discussions

Foundational Presentations For Me

Select Writings

Utah Reality

Are Utahns taking over reality TV
Vince Horiuchi
The Salt Lake Tribune

Is it something in the proverbial water?
Or are Utahns taking classes in "How to Be a Reality Show Star"?
Currently, four summer reality televisions shows have local
contestants. I haven't seen an explosion like this since first
covering the phenomenon in 2002 when Davis County's Neleh Dennis
blurted out, "Oh my heck" on "Survivor: Marquesas."
* Of the 20 finalists, there are four Utah contestants -count 'em,
four - on this season's hit Fox show, "So You Think You Can Dance."
They include Chelsie Hightower, 18, Pleasant Grove; Matt Dorame,
22, who studied at Salt Lake City's Odyssey Dance Theatre; Gev
Manoukian, 21, Centerville, a background dancer in "High School
Musical"; and Thayne Jasperson, 27, Springville, another featured
dancer from the "HSM" movies.
* Marcus, of West Jordan (no last name, how chic) is in the
running on this season's NBC series, "Last Comic Standing."
* On the Food Network's "Next Food Network Star," there's Utahn
Kelsey Nixon vying to be a cooking-show star on the highly rated
fourth season premiere.
* NBC's "Nashville Star," which was ported over from the USA cable
network, has Murray's Charley Jenkins, 30, competing to be a country
music star.
All this coming after a couple of amazingly successful seasons of
Utahns on reality shows.
Local reality show stars include Utah ballroom dancers starring on
every season of ABC's megahit "Dancing With the Stars" (Park City's
Julianne Hough won two of the seasons in a row), Todd Herzog's win on
"Survivor: China," and Roy's Sabra Johnson winning the last season of
"So You Think You Can Dance." Then there was the most-watched journey
of all, David Archuleta's run to second place on the last season of
"American Idol."
It once was a novelty to hire a Utah Mormon for your reality show
in an effort to boost the conflict between the righteous and the
beer-drinking (think Brigham Young University's Julie Stoffer in the
2000 edition of "Real World").
But locals now are proving they aren't on these shows just to
heighten the drama, but because they can effectively "outwit, outplay
and outlast" as well if not better than other contestants around the
The Wasatch Front, for example, has become an epicenter for
talented and nationally renowned professional dancers, which has
sparked the success seen on "DWTS" and "Think You Can Dance." That, in
turn, has caused Hollywood to view Utah as a pool for dancing talent.
"Think You Can Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe said he had such a
successful set of auditions in Salt Lake City earlier this year for
his show, he decided to hold the first "American Idol" auditions here
in the fall for next season.
Like I said, must be something in the water.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Church asks members to support CA amendment against gay marriage

1st Presidency letter to be read in California Sacrament Meetings on June 29th 2008:

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008 Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

The Church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between and man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Sincerely Yours,

The First Presidency

Strongest evidence yet that gay brains are hard-wired at birth

Gay brains are hard-wired at birth

  * 18 June 2008
  * From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
  * Andy Coghlan

BRAIN scans have provided the most compelling evidence yet that being gay or straight is down to biology rather than choice. Tantalisingly, the scans reveal that in gay people, key structures of the brain governing emotion, mood, anxiety and aggression resemble those in straight people of the opposite sex.

"This is the most robust measure so far of cerebral differences between homosexual and heterosexual subjects," says Ivanka Savic, who conducted the study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Previous studies have also shown differences in brain architecture and activity between gay and straight people, but most were based on people's responses to sexually driven cues that could have been learned, such as rating the attractiveness of male or female faces.

To get round this, Savic and her colleague, Per Lindström, chose to measure brain features that are probably fixed at birth. "That was the whole point of the study, to show parameters that differ, but which couldn't be altered by learning or cognitive processes," says Savic, whose results appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0801566105).

Firstly, they used MRI scans to measure the overall volume and shapes of brains in a group of 90 volunteers consisting of 25 heterosexuals and 20 homosexuals of each gender. Most notably, they found that lesbian women and straight men had asymmetric brains, with the right hemisphere slightly larger than the left. Gay men, meanwhile, had symmetrical brains like those of straight women.

Secondly, they used scans based on positron emission tomography (PET) to measure blood flow to the amygdala, an almond-shaped region found in both lobes of the brain that plays a key role in emotional reactions. The images revealed how the amygdalas are connected to other parts of the brain, giving clues to how this might influence behaviour.

They found that the patterns of connectivity in gay men matched those of straight women, and vice versa (see Diagram). In straight women and gay men, the signals from the amygdala ran mainly into the regions of the brain that mediate mood and anxiety.

This finding is significant, says Savic, as it might explain why women are three times as likely as men to suffer from mood disorders or depression. Gay men have higher rates of depression too, she says, but it's difficult to know whether this is down to biology, or having to deal with homophobia.

In straight men and lesbians, the amygdala fed their signals mainly into the sensorimotor cortex and the striatum, regions of the brain that trigger "fright or flight" in response to fear. "It's a more action-related response than in straight women," says Savic.

"This study demonstrates that homosexuals of both sexes show strong cross-sex shifts in brain symmetry," says Qazi Rahman, a leading researcher on sexual orientation at Queen Mary University of London. "The connectivity differences reported in the amygdala are striking."

"Paradoxically, it's more informative to look at things that have no direct connection with sexual orientation, and that's where this study scores," says Simon LeVay, a prominent US author who in 1991 reported finding differences between straight and gay men in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.

But as Savic herself acknowledges, the study can't say whether the brain differences are genetic, or result from unusually high or low exposure in the womb to sex hormones such as testosterone.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review: Massacre At Mountain Meadows (Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy)

Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Title: Massacre At Mountain Meadows (Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy)
Author: Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year Published: 2008
Binding: Hardcover
Number of pages: 408
Genre: Non-fiction
ISBN: 978-0-19-516034-5
Photos, Images, Maps included (not listed)
Index (listed but not included)

Reviewed by Melvin C. Johnson, Angelina College, Lufkin, Texas

Professionals and laypersons have long waited for this book, and finally an uncorrected advance reading copy of Massacre At Mountain Meadow by the Oxford University Press has been released for review.  Authored by Ronald Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard, all important LDS scholars, it gives a detailed investigation of one of Western Americas greatest tragedies of the 19th-Century.  This book will not end debate, however, concerning the context and responsibility for the massacre.  It does try, in some fashion, to explain why fundamentally upright Utah Latter Day Saints wiped out an emigrant train at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857, the majority of victims women and children, to narrate the story and fix the blame.

In the spirit of open and full disclosure, the LDS Church has given Walker and his colleagues access to all pertinent church resources and documents, including restricted material in the First Presidencys records.  Such access, coupled with the unparalleled cooperation and support of hundreds of other individuals and scores of institutions and libraries, should make this a definitive work.  Secondly, here is the opportunity to demonstrate that the LDS church is ready to meet its history with open and full disclosure.  Will the LDS church permit open access to all scholars, not just vetted historians that the church leaders approve?

The incident is worthy of renewed inspection.  The massacre of 120 immigrants by Mormon militia and American natives on September 11, 1857, in southwestern Utah, has been the genesis for articles, histories, novels, and motion pictures.  "Massacre At Mountain Meadows," however, is unique in that it is the first work created under the imprimatur of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Walker, et al, attempt to answer the question that has provoked all since the emigrants innocent blood soaked the killing fields.  Who was responsible?  Who decided to massacre men, women, and children?  Right from the beginning many blamed President Brigham Young and Apostle George A.  Smith.  For more than a hundred years the LDS argued that their own were barely involved, blaming it on Federal Indian agent John D.  Lee and local Indians, and Lee would be the only participant executed for his role in the crime.  Nonetheless, the question of culpability and responsibility has intrigued scholars, professionals, and lay individuals alike.  The writers have decided for themselves if the local LDS priesthood and militia leadership perpetuated the massacre on their own, or if they were working at the direction of President Brigham Young in Salt Lake City.  These LDS historians condemn the local leaders in Parowan and Cedar, and, unsurprisingly, exculpate Brigham Young and Apostle George A.  Smith of

The book is well structured with a Preface, Prologue, fourteen chapters, and an Epilogue.  Four appendices give partial listings of the Emigrants and their Property, the Mormon militia members present at the Meadows, and the Indians who may have been present.  Almost 140 pages of notes follow the narration.  A Bibliography is not included.  An Index is listed in the Table of Contents as beginning on page 409 but has been omitted from my copy of the book.  No list is given for the nearly four dozen maps, sketches, prints, photos, and portraits in the work.  This should be corrected for the official edition.  Two of the maps, one of southwestern Utah and a more particular one of the killing ground, are particularly helpful in orienting the reader geographically to the events, thus increasing ones understanding of the storys timeline and locations.

Good history writing is good literature.  Three writers styles and singular interests naturally provoke contradictions and conflicts of what is and is not important to a work, and that is certainly the case with "Massacre At Mountain Meadows." However, these authors always present a methodical and professional yeomanly work ethic; the narration is acceptable and at times grows better.  The first three chapters are satisfactory in tone and mood, but the prose is uninspired, unlike the first chapter of Will Bagleys "Blood of the Prophets" unveiling powerfully the magnificence of the Meadows oasis before the California road drops down to the desert.  The literary style improves and grows more intense as it tries to untangle and understand the motivations and confusions of the Southern Utah leadership as time contracted for coming to a decision whether to attack and kill the emigrants or to let them go.  The story well conveys, after the massacre, the fearful uncertainty of immigrants and Mor-
mons alike during the next few days of Indian intentions along the wagon roads back trail to Beaver.  The final chapter of the book unfortunately returns to the pedestrian prose of the books initial chapters.

Some researchers and historians may criticize the writers understatement of polygamy as an important cause for conflict between church and state in 1857 and the resulting tragedy at Mountain Meadows.  Although unique marriage Mormon practices did concern many in Washington, D.C., the authors are correct in asserting that an anxious administration was far more troubled that Brigham Youngs leadership over, and control of, the Mormons in the West seemed to be busily creating an independent theocracy at the Crossroads of the Mountains.  Another concern for some may be that the writers undervalued the role of Blood Atonement in the killings.  While the murder of Apostle Parley Pratt in Arkansas that spring generated anger, I think the authors do well here to discount it as a major motive for the massacre.  Mormons seemed more concerned with blood atoning defectors than mean gentiles.

Another area of particular interest includes those issues involving the roles and causes for Indian action against the emigrants.  The authors present a good case for the real likelihood of infectious anthrax as the cause for poisoned animals and Indian deaths.  This is far more likely than the Mormon rumor that the some of the emigrants poisoned cattle from which they suspected Indians would eat.  One of the appendices at the end of the book reveals that the Indians were present in greater numbers at Mountain Meadows than has been recently suggested in some works, but still in numbers far fewer as Mormon apologists earlier suggested.

The authors rightly and righteously excuse the victims of any responsibility for the tragedy, and place it squarely on the Mormons in Southern Utah.  The book uses an explanatory model of three linked causes to explain why generally good people commit horrific crimes.  First, church and militia leaders in Parowan and Cedar City permitted the actions and sermons of the senior leadership in Salt Lake City to mitigate their own moral responsibility.  Second would be the individual killers desire to conform with and be accepted by his associates and colleagues in murder group, as particularly demonstrated in the case of John D.  Lee, both as actor and acted upon.  Finally, the killers were able to categorize the victims as them, a breed distinct from us, a group to which the remedy of violence becomes not only acceptable but preferable.

Although the writers believe that President Young and others unwittingly crafted through militant sermons and directions to not trade with the emigrants an environment for potential violence against outsiders, Walker and his co-writers argue that Young did not directly or indirectly order the killings.  They generally ignore Bagleys assertion in "Blood of the Prophets" that the Huntington diary indicts Young for unleashing the Indians in the Territory on the emigrants.  They do strongly attack John D.  Lees confessions (later edited and expanded by his attorney as "Mormonism Unveiled"), which documents Apostle George A.  Smiths trip to Southern Utah to set the stage as he purportedly orders the local leaders to destroy the Fancher wagon train.  The LDS scholars argue on Youngs behalf that Lees attorney had a financial stake in the book doing well and that Lee refused consistently to blame Young right up to and including the day of his execution.

Seven years have passed to get the work to this stage, and it still is incomplete.  Almost sixty years ago, Juanita Brooks, in "The Mountain Meadows Massacre," set the standard for modern scholarship and investigation of the Massacre.  Despite all the writing since then, only Bagley qualitatively furthered it in "Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows." The reader will do well to remember that Brooks and Bagley carried the great labor of their books almost entirely by themselves, while the authors of "Massacre At Mountain Meadows" have received assistance from many hundreds of individuals, as well as that of more than two hundred professional libraries and other collections.  Despite all the help, these authors decided the best way to present our information was by narrating it, largely foregoing topical or critical analysis (xii).  Great history writing involves interpretation of the narrative, but Walker, Turley, and Leonard have kept their promise and,
I believe, missed the mark.

For instance, Juanita Brooks wrote to Roger B.  Mathison, the Gifts & Exchange Librarian at University of Utah in later November, 1968 (Brooks to Mathison, 21 November 1968, Juanita Brooks Papers, MS 486, Folder 14, Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2).  She told Mathison that she changed her mind about Youngs responsibility for the massacre.  She had underplayed, she admitted, the role of the Indians in her book, and now believed "that" Young "was directly responsible" for the massacre because he stirred up the Indians.  She mentions the meeting with the Indians to which Huntington referred, and believes that Haslams letter from Young to the Southern leadership is further evidence of Youngs guilt.  The Fancher wagon train was away to the south of Utah, and its Indian threat, Young admitted to the Iron County leaders, "might have been more real than I had previously supposed." The missive instructs that the leaders "should .  .  .  preserve good
feelings with them [the Indians]", written at a time when a battle (or massacre) supposedly might occur, actually was occurring, or had occurred.  The letters tone clearly reveals that the emigrants’ welfare to Young, at the very least, was on the low scale when compared to that of the southern Indians or Mormons.  A minimal interpretation of Brooks understanding of Youngs counsel is that if the Mormons had to choose a side, it should be Indians over emigrants, and that is the tale that "Massacre At Mountain Meadows" tells.

The authors are still not done with this book.  I have been privately advised that they have revised the work twice since the Advanced Reading Copy was released, an event of which they were apparently not advised.  Some readers still will question the books objectiveness and thoroughness.  Other readers may have a real problem with what they perceive as the authors bias on behalf of the LDS church.  I believe they must grip Brooks later opinion of Youngs culpability, and amend their casualness toward Bagleys evidence that the Boss was responsible for the crime.

Massacre At Mountain Meadows could be a seminal history of the early American West.  Its advance copy is not.

Mormon Senator Apologizes For Comparing Gay Marriage To Polygamous Ancestors

Smith apologizes for comment linking polygamy, gay marriage

by Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

Sen. Gordon Smith issued a strong apology today for remarks he made last week that some interpreted as a defense of polygamy and others took as equating polygamy with same-sex marriage.

At a gay rights panel discussion last week, Smith said his Mormon ancestors "were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter for following their religious beliefs." The comments came in response to a question about Smith's support for a federal amendment to prohibit gay marriage.

In an interview with The Oregonian today, Smith said he remains staunch in his belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But he said he regrets bringing up his Mormon past.

"My remarks referenced a point in time when a few of my ancestors were persecuted for not adhering to that belief," Smith said. "It was an unfortunate reference, and I apologize for making it."

Smith, a Republican who is running for re-election, has worked hard to maintain good relations with the gay and lesbian community, including sponsoring a hate-crimes bill that covers attacks against homosexuals. He also supports Oregon's civil union law, and he favors broader rights for domestic partners.

But his earlier comments, which came during a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress, caused a ruckus among gays and lesbians.

"Talking about polygamy and same-sex unions in the same breath -- on the face it's offensive," said Frank Dixon, a Democratic Party and gay rights activist. "Maybe he can explain his way out of it."

Smith sought to do just that. Asked why he brought up his religious past, he offered this explanation:

"If you'd grown up a Mormon, and spent your life trying to get out from the shadow of that legacy -- it's an emotional scar that you carry. I meant no offense by sharing that part of my history."

He said he never meant to relate polygamy -- practiced by early Mormons but now rejected by the church -- to same-sex marriage.

"The fact of the matter is, I've been a leader in the Senate in the fight for equality for gays and lesbians," Smith said.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nauvoo on flood watch

Volunteers are filling sandbags in and around Nauvoo, Ill., to protect historic church landmarks in the event of flooding on the Mississippi River.

Details here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Revelation desired around word of wisdom

I heard that the brethren are reconsidering their interpretation of the word of wisdom… anyone heard of this?


I think it would definitely help to keep the high council awake as well as temple goers…. And then Mormons wouldn’t have to load up on all that sugary caffeinated soda pops… which definitely are more harmful… and diet isn’t any better considering the research on aspartame.


Cheers, Derek

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunstone: New Editor & New Director of Symposia

The Board of Directors of the Sunstone Education Foundation announces the hiring of Stephen R. Carter as its new Director of Publications and Editor, and Mary Ellen Robertson as its new Director of Outreach and Symposia.

The new directors are part of an ongoing strategic shift to adapt the 34-year-old institution to the changing landscape of Mormon studies, building upon the foundation's rich tradition and focusing efforts on expanding the Sunstone reach through both traditional and non-traditional content delivery mechanisms.

Carter will assume the responsibilities of editor on 11 August 2008, following the 2008 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium. He has degrees in English and philosophy from Utah Valley State College, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, and a Ph.D. in narrative studies, also from the University of Alaska–Fairbanks.

Carter has experience as a full-time reporter for a daily newspaper, is the co-author of a book of satire, and has published numerous times in Sunstone, Dialogue, Irreantum, and several other magazines and journals.

Robertson will begin her role as Director of Outreach and Symposia on June 16. Robertson will be responsible for the annual Salt Lake Symposium and several smaller regional symposia each year. She will also be responsible for cultivating and growing the Sunstone community through campus outreach, Sunstone newsletters, online content through and, and building relationships with the growing number of institutions sponsoring Mormon studies in academic and independent forums.

Robertson holds degrees in English and journalism from Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts in women's studies in religion from Claremont Graduate University.

The entire announcement can be read here

Trends for women at BYU

While BYU has more women than men entering school at BYU, there are 20% more men who graduate.

Enrollment by gender:
                              Male%    Female% 
Freshmen        46.7%   53.3%
Sophomore       47.8%   52.2%
Junior          50.4%   49.6%
Senior          57.5%   42.5%
Graduates       60.9%   39.1%
Total Students  52.5%   47.5%

Top majors for women at BYU by number enrolled in 2007:

665 - English
552 - Psychology 
392 - Home and Family Living
361 - Marriage, Family and Human Development
264 - Exercise Science

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

British Columbia Attorney General orders prosecutor for Canadian Mormon Polygamist group

The Canadian Press reports:
Public concerns about older men marrying young girls and men with multiple wives at the B.C. polygamous community of Bountiful played a strong part in the decision to review whether charges of sexual abuse and polygamy are warranted against members of the religious group, says B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal.

Oppal said Monday that despite two earlier legal opinions weighing in against criminal charges, he directed the criminal justice branch to appoint a special prosecutor to look into allegations of misconduct in Bountiful, located near Creston in southeastern B.C.

"I want to do what's the right thing," said Oppal, a former judge. "I really want to do the right thing."

He said he constantly receives messages from British Columbians who want the government to take action at Bountiful.

"I take the public's view into consideration," said Oppal.

About 800 people live in Bountiful, where members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints live a polygamist lifestyle in a secluded agricultural community minutes away from the logging and ranching community of Creston and the U.S. border at Idaho.
Winston Blackmore, one of the religious leaders in Bountiful, did not respond to a request for an interview Monday.

In past interviews with The Canadian Press, he's said what happened in Texas was wrong and he hoped it wouldn't happen in Canada.

"I imagine that in Creston there's different cases of abuse, but I don't think they'd go arrest everyone in Creston," he said, referring to the nearest B.C. community to Bountiful.

Another member of the sect said abuse should be dealt with - on an individual basis.

Read the entire article here

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Documentary on the Joseph Smith Papers online

The KJZZ weekly show on the Joseph Smith Papers project has been archived on their website for viewing.  Each of the weekly episodes focuses on the documents that are central to The Joseph Smith Papers Project (The Papers).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

How Our Brains are Wired for Belief

How Our Brains are Wired for Belief

Monday, May 5, 2008
Key West, Florida

Brain scans
Brain scans show subtle differences between the human
brain at rest (top row) and during prayer or meditation
(bottom row).

Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in May 2008 for the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life.

Recent advances in neuroscience and brain-imaging technology have offered researchers a look into the physiology of religious experiences. In observing Buddhist monks as they meditate, Franciscan nuns as they pray and Pentecostals as they speak in tongues, Dr. Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that measurable brain activity matches up with the religious experiences described by worshippers. The social, political and religious implications of these and other findings are just beginning to permeate the broader culture, according to New York Times columnist David Brooks, who has been tracking new developments in the field.

What does brain science add to age-old debates about the existence of God and the value of religion? Can political parties and religious groups use scientific insights to influence the beliefs of others? Are scientists as a group becoming more open to ideas of religion and spirituality? The Pew Forum invited Dr. Newberg and Mr. Brooks to raise these questions and share their insights with the journalists gathered in Key West.

Audio Listen to the audio transcript
Note: Apple's Quicktime player is required to play the audio file. If you do not have the Quicktime player, you can download it here.

David Brooks, Columnist, The New York Times
Andrew Newberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania

Michael Cromartie, Vice President, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Senior Advisor, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Navigate this transcript:

Andrew Newberg speaks on:
Liberal and conservative brains
The physiology of beliefs
Brains in meditation, prayer and worship
Why belief in God persists

David Brooks speaks on:
The revolution in brain research
Why science is now more open to religion
Neuroscience points toward "soft-core Buddhism"

Q&A discussion topics:
Brain responses to "flip-flopping"
Does science reject the soul?
Is religious Darwinism valid?
Does neuroscience confirm religious belief?
What causes religious or political transformations?
Brain physiology in party politics
Is scientific materialism really in decline?
Should society prevent the spread of harmful beliefs?
Do unconscious drives negate free will?

FLDS buys Colorado property

Members of a polygamous sect have been quietly buying up property in Colorado's Custer and Fremont counties and settling in, according to the Custer County sheriff.

"We have reason to believe that they are the same organization that was in Texas that has been in the news," said Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe.


The FLDS already has a presence in Colorado. In 2005, sect members purchased land outside Mancos, west of Durango, to build a retreat for Jeffs.

In the past two years, a senior aide to Jeffs has purchased three properties in Custer County, near the town of Westcliffe. Jobe said that one property is northeast of Westcliffe, where there is a good-size community of FLDS members. A house on a piece of property to the west of the town is also being remodeled.

"They seem to be always adding on, building, doing something around the places," said Jobe. "That seems to be an ongoing thing."

So far, the members of the FLDS sect have kept to themselves, though Jobe and some of his deputies have talked to some of the men. "We hardly ever see them in town," said Jobe. "They own their own place. The men do some shopping around town, but it's very rare to see the women and children in town."

So far, there have been no complaints about the FLDS members in Custer County.

"At this point, since they're not breaking any laws, we're just keeping track of what they're doing," said Jobe.

Full Article Here