Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Leading out-of-state contributions for and against California's Proposition 8

Supporters of the effort to continue same-sex marriage: $2.3 million
  • Word Perfect co-founder, return missionary, BYU alumni and gay rights advocate Bruce Bastian of Utah: $1 million
  • The Human Rights Campaign: $570,000
  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: $200,000
  • David Maltz, (a Cleveland businessman): $500,000
Supporters of the effort to ban same-sex marriage: $1.2 million
  • Focus on theFamily headed by James Dobson: $400,000
  • The American Family Association: $500,000
  • The Knights of Columbus (a national Catholic men's organization): $250,000

Numbers from an article by John Wildermuth

Mass. House votes to let out-of-state gays marry

The Massachusetts House voted Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law that had been used to block gay marriages involving out-of-state couples, all but assuring that the state will allow same-sex couples to wed regardless of where they live.

The 119-36 vote came after the state Senate approved the repeal earlier this month, and Gov. Deval Patrick has said he will sign the bill. The measure requires one more procedural vote in each chamber before it is to the governor.

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Church delays meeting with Affirmation

Excerpts from a Salt Lake Tribune article by Jennifer Dobner:
Mormon agency delays meeting with Affirmation

An August meeting between a gay Mormon support group and a church-run social service agency has been indefinitely delayed pending the appointment of a new director for LDS Family Services.  

In a letter sent Wednesday, outgoing director Fred C. Riley said the matter would best be handled by his successor, who hasn't been selected. LDS Family Services is an arm of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

Riley was to hold the meeting at the request of church president Thomas S. Monson. It was seen by leaders of Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons, as a sign that church leaders recognized a need to better support gay Mormons and their families. Affirmation has no direct affiliation with the church.  

''We've now written to President Monson and asked if another general authority can be designated to meet with us on the eleventh,'' Melson told The Associated Press.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Texas grand jury indicts polygamist sect members

Excerpt from an article by Michelle Roberts at the Associated Press:

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, already convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice and awaiting trial in Arizona on other charges related to underage marriages, is now accused of assaulting a girl in Texas in January 2005.

A grand jury in this tiny western Texas ranching community indicted Jeffs and four of his followers Tuesday on charges of felony sexual assault of a child. Another was indicted for failing to report child abuse.

The charges came nearly two months after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that child welfare officials overstepped when they took all the children from the polygamist sect's ranch in a separate child custody case. The state had accused the sect of forcing underage girls into marriage and motherhood.

While authorities sorted out the custody dispute in civil court, law enforcement continued a criminal investigation by sifting through hundreds of boxes of documents, photos and family Bibles seized from the Yearning For Zion Ranch during an April raid.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott said five members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are charged with one count of sexually assaulting girls under age 17, a felony. One of them, not the 52-year-old Jeffs, faces an additional charge of bigamy.

Abbott said a sixth member of the FLDS is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.

"Our investigation in this matter is not concluded," said the attorney general, whose office is acting as the special prosecutor in the case.

Read the rest of the article here.

Two New Mormon-Friendly colleges planned

The Deseret News reports --

Two separate groups of educational entrepreneurs are planning to open private colleges in the next few years aimed at Latter-day Saint students who are not admitted to Brigham Young University or its campuses in Idaho and Hawaii.

Nauvoo, Ill., and Moapa Valley, Nev., are the sites of the proposed schools, to be known respectively as Nauvoo University and Desert Valley Academy. Both of the planned schools have already established Web sites — nauvoouniversity.com and desertvalleyacademy.org — as well as school administrations, boards of directors and plans for housing and instructing students in a "Mormon-friendly" environment secular universities can't match, say those who are spearheading the efforts.

Spokesmen for both groups have talked with top leaders of the LDS Church about supporting their endeavors but were told the church is not currently interested in expanding into higher education beyond its existing campuses.

Both groups say they are basing their business plans on the success of Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Va., which was formed by a private group of Latter-day Saint businessmen and educators based on the values and standards at BYU. It opened its doors in 1996 with 76 students and has since grown to attract several hundred per year.

Read the rest of the article here.

New Hugh Nibley Book

Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple
by Hugh Nibley
ISBN: 1606410032
Hardcover: 544 pages

One of the stunning aspects of Dr. Hugh Nibley's genius was his
persistent sense of wonder. That trait induced him to range widely
through very disparate subjects of study- all covered in volume 17 of
The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple.
In this compilation of materials, most of which have been published
previously outside the Collected Works volumes, Nibley explores the
ancient Egyptians, the temple, the life sciences, world literature,
ancient Judaism, and Joseph Smith and the Restoration. The contents of
this volume illustrate the breadth of his interest through
autobiographical sketches, interviews, book reviews, forewords to
books, letters, memorial tributes, Sunday School lessons, and various
writings about the temple.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Joseph Smith and His Critics

"The 2008 Joseph Smith summer Symposium on 'Joseph Smith and His Critics"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 8-11 am and 1-4pm. 382 JSB

"The symposium will feature papers from a six-week workshop or Religious Education and Church Education System faculty on how to respond to current criticisms of Joseph Smith and the early Church.  The ten papers are designed to meet the needs of Latter-day Saints who have encountered criticism of the Prophet.  The papers seek to show respect for the critics while showing that their evidence does not compel a negative evaluation of Joseph Smith."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blacks and the Priesthood discussed in "CNN Presents: Black in America"

Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN
launches a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black
in America. These documentaries, "The Black Woman and Family" and "The
Black Man," focus on fresh analysis from new voices about the real
lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that
frequently frame the national Dialog about Black America.

Included is the story of Marvin Perkins, a black Mormon who talks
about his membership in the church and the ban against black men
having the priesthood.

Here is a preview of his interview.


The program airs Wednesday, July 23, 9 p.m. ET

A story of Noah's Flood

Steven L. Peck has written a clever and thought provoking short story about Noah and the Flood.  It will make you smile, and think.

"Take the Worldwide Flood Literally . . . A short short story"

(Note: All place names have been translated from Adamic to Modern 21st Century English).

Noah stared at Japheth in horror. His voice shook a little, "What do you mean an Opossum escaped at our last stop?" Noah was angry. "YOU KNOW ALL THE MARSUPIALS ARE SUPPOSE TO GET DROPPED IN AUSTRAILIA!." It was another blunder in a long series of blunders. Sailing around the earth dropping off the animals in their appropriate habitat had been hard, and he only dimly understood why it had to be done, but a marsupial in North America was going to get him in trouble.

Read the Rest of the  Story Here

Friday, July 18, 2008

Poll: California voters oppose gay marriage ban

A majority of California voters oppose a November ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, according to a survey released Friday.

The Field Poll found that 51 percent of likely voters say they would vote against Proposition 8, while 42 percent say they would vote for it.

The poll shows a turnaround from 2000, when 61 percent of voters cast ballots in favor Proposition 22, which strengthened the state's 1978 one-man, one-woman marriage law with the words "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Read the rest of the associated press article by Amanda Fehd here.

No more LDS missionaries Russia-bound


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no longer sending North American missionaries to Russia due to new visa laws, but are trying to find a work-around.

Missionaries who were being prepared at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, for service in Russia have been reassigned.

North American missionaries already in Russia will remain to complete their service, which runs two years for men and 18 months for women.

Last year, Russia began to require foreigners on humanitarian visas, which includes missionaries, to leave the country every three months to renew their visas.

"The church is working to find an alternative solution to the 90-day renewal requirement," church spokesman Rob Howell told the Deseret News on Monday. "Until an appropriate alternative is identified, new missionary assignments to Russia will be limited to those nationalities not needing visas.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Church History Library

A New Library for LDS History

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is building a freestanding Church History Library on the corner of North Temple and Main Street in Salt Lake City.

Scheduled to open in summer 2009, the library will offer:

  • 260,000 books, pamphlets, magazines, manuals, etc.
  • 500,000 historic photographs, posters, maps, etc.
  • 40,000 audio and video recordings
  • 120,000 local histories for LDS Church units
  • 150,000 journals, diaries, papers, and manuscripts
  • 20,000 rolls of microfilm
  • 3.6 million patriarchal blessings for LDS Church members

Some of these items will be available in an open stacks reading room, while others will be located in archival storage rooms and delivered to patrons for use in a secure reading room.

The current location of these materials, in the east wing of the LDS Church Office Building, is inadequate in terms of records storage, space, and patron convenience, a church official says.

The church will move its records to the new space in spring 2009. During the move, the library facilities will be closed for about eight weeks.

Sunstone Symposium

Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium
Wednesday, Aug 6th - Saturday, Aug 9th

Sunstone is pleased to release the preliminary program for the 2008 Salt Lake Symposium.
Download the PDF version here .

This year's event features five pre-symposium workshops to be held on Wednesday, 6 August.
There is one full-day workshop (9am to 5:30pm, with lunch break):
W1. Evolutionary Mormonism, with Teresa Whiting
The morning workshop session (9am - 12:30pm) has two offerings:
W2-Writing the Personal Essay, with Phyllis Barber
W3-Wakening into the Spirit: The Art and Practice of Meditation, with Philip G. McLemore
The afternoon session (2pm - 5:30pm) also has two offerings:
W4-Four Types of Spirituality, with Susan Skoor
W5-Breathe Life into Your Life Story: Write a Story People Will Want to Read, with Dawn and Morris
This year's evening plenary sessions are:
  • Wednesday, 6 August—The 2008 Smith-Pettit Lecture will be given by Professor Wade Clark Roof on the spirituality of the rising generation and inter-generational dynamics within churches.
  • Thursday, 7 August—Reflecting on the thirtieth anniversary of the revelation giving blacks the priesthood. Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray will speak and show clips from the new documentary film, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons
  • Friday, 8 August—"Pillars of My Faith." This year's speakers will be outgoing SUNSTONE editor Dan Wotherspoon and Community of Christ apostle Susan Skoor
  • Saturday, 9 August—Banquet. Following a delicious meal, we will be delighted to hear from Levi S. Peterson, author of several classic Mormon novels and biographies, and outgoing editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. The banquet requires separate registration.
This year's theme is "The Spirituality of the Rising Generation," and the symposium will feature about a dozen sessions relating to the fit between today's Mormonism and the life-worlds of today's young adults (late tens through early thirties).
Other topics that will receive special attention during the symposium include: 
  • The legacy of President Gordon B. Hinckley
  • The LDS fallout from Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency
  • LDS responses to the war in Iraq and other world events
  • The FLDS situation in Texas
  • Responses to Sister Julie K. Beck's October 2007 General Conference talk, "Women Who Know"
  • Managing faith and questions within the church
  • Mormonism and race
  • Sunstone's new "Mapping Mormon Issues" initiative (presentations on three of the topics: Book of Mormon historicity, Book of Mormon Translation processes, and Mormon teachings about humans becoming gods)
We've received wonderful proposals on many other topics as well. This year's symposium will be fantastic!
See you there!

FAIR Conference

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) is pleased to announce the Tenth Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference
August 7–8, 2008
South Towne Exposition Center
Sandy, Utah

This year marks a full decade of FAIR Conferences. During that time FAIR has grown and the work that needs to be done has continued to grow, as well. Reaction to "Mormonism" in the light of the recent presidential bid of Mitt Romney has surprised some people, but apologists know that anti-Mormon sentiment is alive and well.

The FAIR Conference is a great way to get informed. This year's conference is geared toward providing the information and answers you need to deal with the new topics that are being discussed. Don't miss this conference!

This year's speakers will address wide-ranging topics sure to please every interest. We invite you to join us for a frank, thought-provoking, faith-building, and enjoyable experience. Come see what the excitement is all about!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Church Growth

Here are some sobering numbers regarding conversion rates and convert retention from a sacrament meeting talk delivered by Doug Cahoon.  Most of his information was taken from David G. Stewart's "Law of the Harvest" (see http://www.cumorah.com/lawoftheharvest.html).
Annual Church growth has progressively declined from over 5 percent in the late 1980s to less than 3 percent from the years 2000 to 2005. Since 1990, LDS missionaries have been challenged to double the number of baptisms, but instead the number of baptisms per missionary has halved.  

 However, during this same period, other international missionary- oriented faiths have reported accelerating growth, including the Seventh-Day Adventists, Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, and Evangelical all with about 5.6 percent annual growth - where as the Pentecostal churches had 7.3 percent. For the year 2004, 241,000 LDS convert baptisms were reported, the lowest number of converts since 1987. Even more cause for concern is the fact that little of the growth that occurs is real: while nearly 80 percent of LDS convert baptisms occur outside of the United States, barely one in four, or 25% of international converts becomes an active or participating member of the Church. While membership has continued to increase, the rate of growth has slowed considerably.  

 The Church is growing faster than many large Christian faiths in the United States. The 1990-2000 Glenmary study reported that the LDS Church ranks twenty-third among the 149 participating denominations in overall U.S. growth rate, but first among denominations reporting over one million members. This study was widely misreported in both the popular press and the LDS media as finding that the LDS church was the "fastest growing church in the United States." Over the entire decade of 1990-2000, the study reported 19 percent growth in LDS membership or 1.76 percent per year, compounded - a solid figure for what has become an increasingly secular Western nation. The 2007 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reported further deceleration of LDS growth to 1.63% in 2005.  

 The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world's population, but nearly 50 percent of all LDS members live in the US..  While the Church is still one of the faster growing churches in the United States, unique contributors to North American LDS growth include family sizes slightly above the national average and the fact that nearly one-third of all LDS missions are in the United States.  

 Our Church has fared comparatively less well outside of the United States.. LDS sociologist Armand Mauss ... stated, "We like to think we are a worldwide church, but we're not. We are a hemisphere church ....  Eighty-five percent of the LDS Church's membership lives in the western hemisphere. Only 5 percent of all LDS members live in the contiguous continental landmass of Europe, Asia, and Africa that is home to 80 percent of the world's population.  

 Pentecostal Christianity, which originated in Kansas in 1901, now claims approximately 450 million members worldwide. Latter-day Saints claim over 180 thousand members in Africa, while Pentecostal groups claim over 150 million.  

 The Assemblies of God Church, started with a revival movement in 1914, reports over 35 million members worldwide, adding over 3.6 million new members per year. Lawrence Young noted: "The Mormon church, which was established nearly eighty-five years before the Assemblies of God, has only one-fifth as large of a presence in Latin America.'" 

 The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was organized 19 years after our Church and recently overtook us with over 13 million members, of whom most are active. In 2004, the LDS Church added an average of 931 converts and children of record each day. Seventh-Day Adventists were adding an average of 3,200 new members each day in 2000 and have experienced continued high growth since that time. The Assemblies of God are growing at approximately 10 percent per year, or over three times the growth rate of our Church, while the Seventh-- Day Adventists report growth two to three times LDS rates. There are over 570,000 active Seventh-Day Adventists in Kenya alone. This is more than the official number of Latter-day Saints in all of continental Europe, Asia, and Africa combined.  

 After more than fifteen years of proselyting in Russia with the largest full-time missionary force of any denomination, LDS Church membership has risen to only 17,000, and only a minority of those members participates. The same period has seen the number of active Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia rise to over 140,000, with some 300,000 individuals attending conferences. There are more active Jehovah's Witnesses in the countries of Georgia or Armenia than active Latter- day Saints in all of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia together.  

 While our Church growth rates have declined, other faiths that have more successfully involved members in missionary work have experienced spectacular growth. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church baptizes between 900,000 and 1.2 million new converts each year, due largely to high member-missionary participation. The Jehovah's Witness faith, established only in 1890, now has far more active and participating members than the LDS Church worldwide because of the direct involvement of the average members in proselyting for sixteen hours each month.  

 I specifically mention the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists because they do required active participation by their members  much like our Church does.  

 While still growing faster than stagnant mainline churches, our Church is one of the slowest growing outreach-oriented Christian faiths in most of Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and India and has one of the lowest rates of membership in Africa. I should point out that while we are not competing with other denominations, these figures can provide a glimpse of the possibilities and a context in which to evaluate our own growth.  

 The average missionary in 1989 brought 8 people into the church.  From 2000 to 2004, the average missionary experienced 4.5 convert baptisms. When one accounts for actual activity and retention rates, approximately 1.2 of the 4.5 converts baptized annually by the typical missionary will remain active.  

 The number of Latter-day Saints who attend church is a more meaningful indicator of church growth and strength than total membership figures. While any member who attends church at least once in a quarter is officially considered "active," no official reports of Church activity rates are published. The 1992 Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes: "Attendance at sacrament meeting varies substantially. Canada, the South Pacific, and the United States average between 40 percent and 50 percent. Europe and Africa average about 35 percent. Asia and Latin America have weekly attendance rates of about 25 percent.'" This means we have a worldwide activity rate of 35 percent, or approximately 4.6 million individuals.  

 I had to chuckle when I recently saw a tee-shirt with the saying, 8 million inactive Mormons can't be wrong.  

 Again, Sociologist Armand Mauss stated that "75 percent of foreign [LDS] converts are not attending church within a year of conversion.  In the United States, 50 percent of the converts fail to attend after a year." Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted that "among those converts who fall away, attrition is sharpest in the two months after baptism." In some parts of Latin America, 30 to 40 percent of new converts do not even return to church after baptism to be confirmed. In contrast, The Adventist News Network reported in 2001 that worldwide Seventh-day Adventist member retention rates had fallen from 81 percent in previous years to a still very impressive 78 percent at present.  

 Mexico, Brazil, and Chile, the countries with the second, third, and fourth largest LDS populations, all demonstrate trends of low member activity and poor convert retention.  

 European LDS activity rates appear to have fallen well below the 35 percent figure cited earlier in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  

 In 1992 figures in Japan, after forty-five years of post-war missionary effort, show only 20,000 members could be counted as active out of a total membership of more than 87,000, or about 23 percent.  

 In 2003, there were over 13,000 LDS members in Thailand, of whom approximately 2,100 or 16 percent were active according to estimates from returned missionaries.  

 Studies show that only 3-5% of active Latter-day Saints are regularly involved in missionary work, and that only 26% of members have initiated a single gospel conversation with a non-member over the past year. These studies demonstrate the gap between our actual performance and the divine mandate of "every member a missionary." As you can see, all is not well in Zion when it comes to missionary work. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

CA Initiative: "Message from President Monson"


Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008
From: [redacted]

President Monson has asked that we, as members of the church in California, do all we can to support the California Protection of Marriage initiative on the November ballot. He has asked our Stake President to recruit one couple from each ward to assist in this endeavor. [redacted] and [redacted] were recruited from the [redacted] Ward and their first assignment is to raise money.

It is critical that we raise as much money as possible in the month of July. We have been given permission to use the Ward list and to spread literature at church, but we cannot collect money on church property. However, we have been told that we can collect money at a church function that is not at the building.

Therefore, we will be collecting funds tonight at the [Enrichment night activity at another location] and are hoping for your support. Since [redacted] [cannot attend], [redacted] has volunteered to accept donations on their behalf. Any amount is appreciated and all donations will be kept confidential. We can accept checks or credit cards only – no cash contributions. Checks should be made payable to "ProtectMarriage.com" and more information can be obtained at the www.protectmarriage.com website.

We know that times are difficult financially right now, but may we suggest one way of finding extra money might be to give up fast food or dining out for a month and to donate the savings.

Thank you, in advance, for your support of this very important issue.

More instructions to protect marriage in California

It was reported that in at last one ward this Sunday (July 13th) the high councilman emphasized the importance of following the church's directive against gay marriage, particularly "donating of your means and your time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman."  Further instructions were at the chapel door entrance which included a copy of the directive read two weeks ago plus a donation form to protectmarriage.com with spaces for names, address, etc, and check boxes ranging from $5,000 to $50.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

DNA & the Book of Mormon: Multiple Approaches

Signature Book's take on the diversity of apologetic approaches to the DNA & Lehite identification problem
Fair-weather Friends at FARMS and FAIR
: The Gloves Come Off

Traditionally, LDS faithful have assumed that all or most Native Americans are descendants of Lehi and Mulek. In recent years, DNA studies have shown this to be untrue. Now apologetic groups are taking sides. To keep score, keep in mind that on one side of the debate are BYU's Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and its off-campus affiliate, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). These groups have the backing of the LDS public relations department.

On the other side of the ring are Rod Meldrum and his traveling show called DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography, along with its associated website and DVD. Meldrum has the backing of so-called diffusionists such as Wayne May, publisher of the magazine, Ancient American: Archaeology of the Americas before Columbus. He also has the support of at least one emeritus General Authority, Hartman Rector Jr., who accompanies Meldrum around the country to stage symposia on the topic, as well as of Mormon bishops who send mass e-mails to their congregations trumpeting Meldrum's claims. It's the biggest thing since My Turn on Earth.

This week, Allen Wyatt from FAIR ridiculed Meldrum in a formal statement. Among other things, Wyatt said:

It would appear that Mr. Meldrum has, in approximately three years of research, uncovered the "verification" (read that as "proof") that has somehow escaped prophets, leaders, scholars, and students for most of the past two centuries. And he is on a mission to bring that knowledge to the world, starting with the Church.

Wyatt continued with these objections, given as bullet points:

  • Mr. Meldrum has attempted to assert revelation for those outside of his stewardship, and has used that revelation as a substitute for solid scholarship.

  • The DVD contains much material that is misrepresented because the author is unfamiliar with the large body of work that addresses the very topics he seeks to address.

  • The DVD plants erroneous concepts and expectations in the minds of viewers, making them easier targets for hostile critics when these errors are inevitably trumpeted by enemies of the Church.

Meldrum responded by accusing FAIR of dealing in "lies, conjecture and innuendo" and that Lou Midgley, associate editor of the FARMS Review, made harassing phone calls. Meldrum says he has written a sixteen page response to FAIR to be available at some future date. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Orson Scott Card has joined the fray with his own screed to end all screeds on the topic, writing in the Deseret News that the idea that most Native Americans are descended from Lehi is an idea cooked up by anti-Mormons and that DNA evidence is irrelevant: "Why would any educated person expect that these methods would reveal even a hint of a group of only a few dozen culturally elite people who arrived in America 2,600 years ago and probably almost immediately intermarried with the local population?" He says that "scientists and students of science will hardly be taken in by such a claim. But many naive people who lack the knowledge or experience to recognize a pseudo-science scam when they see one may well face a completely needless crisis of faith. "Card is most worried about "young Mormons who are … most susceptible to such fakery, not because they 'lack faith,' but because they are hungry for truth, and are likely to take 'facts' over testimonies. So," he continues, "let me explain why perfectly good and useful science—which the tracing of DNA in large populations certainly is—turns into junk science when those who are commited to unbelief find a spin that serves their purpose." And that, brothers and sisters, would be the last word on the topic, at least in the mind of the science fiction writer Scott Card.

Joseph Smith Papers

Description: The Joseph Smith Papers will be a comprehensive edition of extant Joseph Smith documents featuring complete and accurate transcriptions with both textual and contextual annotation.  The work will be published in approximately 30 volumes comprised of six series: Journals, Documents, Revelations and Translations, Histories, Legal and Business Records, and Administrative Records.  Once published, the Papers will be an essential resource for scholars and serious students of the life and work of Joseph Smith, as well as of early Mormonism and nineteenth-century religion in general.

Legitimacy: Scholarly legitimacy is given first priority in the creation of this comprehensive edition of Joseph Smith's extant documents.  Significant resources have been dedicated to assure the project's scope includes all available documents, with each text presented in its entirety with no editorial omissions.  Extensive care is also taken in the editing to present verbatim transcripts.  These are the raw materials from which histories can be written -- the original documents from which other authors may draw their own conclusions.  For example, the Journals series presents an unaltered and unabridged transcript of each of smith's known journals--a more accurate transcription than has ever been published before.  In addition to the text undergoing three stages of verification, each volume is reviewed by scholars who specialize in religion and documentary editing.

Editorial Method: A description of the project's editorial procedures and sample transcriptions were sent to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for assessment.  After extensive peer review by independent scholars, the commission granted its endorsement.  This endorsement affirms The Joseph Smith Papers meet professional documentary editing standards for transcription and historical scholarship.

Publication Schedule: The first volume, to be published this fall [no indication of what year], will be the first of the Journals series and will contain Joseph Smith's journal entries for the years 1832-1839.  The second and third volumes will be published by spring 2009 [sic]: one from the Revelations and Translations series, the other from the Histories series.  Thereafter, two or three volumes will be published each year until the project's completion.

Publisher: The Joseph Smith Papers will be the first work to be produced by The Church Historian's Press, a new publishing imprint created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically for the production of scholarly and document-based works created under the direction of the Church historian and recorder [sic].  Elder Marlin K.  Jensen, who serves as Church historian and recorder [sic], has said the inauguration of The Church Historian's Press, together with The Joseph Smith Papers project, "underscores the great value the Church has always placed on its history.  This is an invitation for anyone interested in the history of the Church to read the foundational documents related to its beginning and development."

For more information, please visit JosephSmithPapers.org

X'ed for Missionary Calendar?


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A Las Vegas man who devised a calendar that features shirtless Mormon missionaries is facing a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication because of the project.

The "Men on a Mission" calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

The "Men on a Mission" calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

A lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chad Hardy was summoned by letter to a Sunday meeting with a council of elders to discuss his "conduct unbecoming a member of the church."


A takeoff on calendars of firefighters and returned U.S. servicemen, Hardy's project debuted with a 2008 calendar featuring 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges. It has sold nearly 10,000 copies.

"You see more in a JCPenney catalog," said Hardy, 31, who once worked for Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and now has his own entertainment company. ..

The calendar was designed to shake up Mormon stereotypes, Hardy said. The pages include photos of the men dressed in standard missionary garb. In biographical sketches each missionary talks about his beliefs.

Davie on Friday confirmed sending the letter and the plans for the meeting. He said the calendar was the primary concern.

A returned missionary himself, Hardy acknowledged he has not been an active member of the church since 2002. He said he's never been contacted by anyone from the church encouraging his return to the fold and he suspects the current inquiry was driven by the church's Salt Lake City headquarters.

"I'm still a good Mormon boy in many ways," said Hardy, who says he bears no animosity toward Latter-day Saints, but never felt he fit in. "I still want to hold onto my heritage."

Some of the missionaries in the calendar, many of whom were recruited by Hardy's friends at church events, have been asked by their church leaders about the project, but none has faced disciplinary action, Hardy said.

"The biggest concern was, whether this was an attack on the church, and when they determined it wasn't, it was no big deal," said model Jonathan Martin, a 25-year-old Utah Valley University student who was contacted by a church elder in May.

Martin said he was told the inquiry was being made after a letter was sent to his church leader by higher-ups in Salt Lake City.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment on Hardy's specific situation, but said that "any church discipline is the result of actions not beliefs."

"Because the fundamental purpose of church discipline has always been to help members, rather than simply punish, disciplinary councils are considered a necessary step in repentance on the way back to full harmony and fellowship in the church," she said.

Members have been excommunicated for reasons including criminal activity and scholarly works of history or theology that contradicted church claims.

The 2009 calendar -- which drew 100 inquiries from interested missionaries -- will be released in September.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Protest on Day of Confirmation

I've never heard a story like this before.

This young woman who has been remarkable drawn to Joseph Smith and the church, yet comes from a very different cultural background, feels strongly that homosexuals deserve the same rights as others.  She was baptized on Saturday and due to unfortunate coincidence was scheduled to be confirmed a member of the church immediately after the letter from the 1st Presidency encouraging members to support a state amendment against gay marriage was read.

Seated in the front of the chapel, she marched out in protest while the letter was read, only to have her name called from the pulpit to come up to be confirmed a member of the church.

Read here to find out what happened.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Schism looms as Church of England approves women bishops


July 8, 2008
As Schism Lurks, the Church of England Endorses Women as Bishops

LONDON — The governing body of the Anglican Church in Britain voted on Monday to approve the appointment of women as bishops, a step that appeared to risk a schism in the church in its historic homeland as the Anglican church worldwide faces one of the most serious threats to its unity in its history, over the ordination of gay clergy members.

After a debate late into the night in the city of York, the General Synod of the Church of England, an assembly that holds ultimate authority on church doctrine in Britain, voted by comfortable margins within each of the synod's three houses — bishops, clergy and laity — to approve the consecration of women as bishops in the face of bitter opposition from traditionalists.

The vote came 16 years after the synod voted, after similarly fractious debate, to approve the ordination of women as ministers within the British church. But traditionalists unreconciled to the end of the male monopoly within the clergy revived the battle over the issue of approving women as bishops, warning that it could lead to a breakup of the church in Britain.

The move to approve women as bishops in Britain followed the lead taken by Anglican churches elsewhere; in the United States, Australia and Canada, women have been appointed as bishops for some years. Opponents of female bishops argue that Jesus, in choosing men for his 12 disciples, intended that men alone should have the responsibility of ministering to his followers.

Continue the article here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

More Instructions: To: All OC Public Affairs Personnel

To:       All OC Public Affairs Personnel
Cc:       Other Interested Persons

By now many of you serving in Public Affairs may have been invited by your Stake
Presidency to join other stake priesthood and auxiliary leaders in attending a special
meeting.  That was to discuss points that originated last Sunday, June 29, with a
historic live interactive telecast emanating from SLC among Elders Ballard, Cook, Wickman
and Clayton with CA Stake Presidents.

We have been asked to study out the above issue – starting with the First Presidency
letter that was read in Church last Sunday and the Proclamation on the Family.  You
should all have copies of these items.  As the year goes on, Public Affairs is apt to get
ever more involved, under proper Priesthood direction.  This will be especially true
after Labor Day, when getting out the vote will be crucial.  Meanwhile we are asked to
use "our best efforts" and to do "all we can" to support this initiative with
both our "means and time."

To help you get prepared, here are some pertinent materials I have gathered on this
issue, for your summer reading.

1.       In Re Marriage Cases.   See attached PDF summary of these consolidated cases, as
issued by the Cal Sup. Ct. on 5-15-08.  The majority decision is 121 pages long plus
concurring and dissenting opinions.  Essentially, the court has determined that any
classification based on sexual orientation is a "suspect classification" that
requires "strict scrutiny" under the "equal protection" clause of the CA
Constitution.  It also found that the CA Constitution has granted a "fundamental right
to marry." In 1948, that enabled the court invalidate statutory restrictions on
interracial marriage.  On these grounds, the court then proceeded to invalidate the
existing statutory restrictions on same-gender marriages that were passed as Proposition
22 in 2000.

The Protectmarriage.com website.   This is the key website of the central coalition of
churches and other organizations that have been promoting what is now Prop. 8 for over a
year.  You will first see a list of member organizations and sponsoring individuals
belonging to this coalition.  Also see links on the left-hand side for "FAQS" and
some good talking points under "Why it is needed."

3.       LDS.org Website.   See this long but exceptionally important and well
articulated 2007 interview by Public Affairs with Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B.
Wickman on "Same-Gender Attraction."  It is at:  http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/e

4.       Meridian Magazine.  "What difference will same-gender marriage make to you?"
 See this link:  http://www.ldsmag.com/familyleadernetwork/080627marriage.html    Also
see http://www.ldsmag.com/familyleadernetwork/080619ignore.html   These articles explore
some of the possibly unintended consequences of this recent Cal. Supreme Court decision.

5.       NB Stake Talking Points.  See attached PDF with some key talking points created
by my own Newport Beach Stake President Weatherford Clayton.  More official talking
points will are being prepared and will be provided through proper channels by LDS Church
HQ in Salt Lake City.

6.       Church News Article.  From 2004 issue on the benefits of families raised within
male-female marriages

HISPANICS AGAINST PROP 8.  See first email attached above.
HISPANICS WHO SUPPORT IT.  See email #3 attached above.

As the June 20th First Presidency letter said, more information will be made available to
you from time to time through local priesthood channels.

You may also be aware that the new Managing Director of LDS Public Affairs in SLC will be
Michael Otterson.  He has been serving as assistant to Bruce Olsen and is originally from
Australia.  Brother Olsen will be the new San Diego Temple President.

Most sincerely,
Joseph I. Bentley, Director
Orange County Public Affairs
61 Montecito Drive
Corona del Mar, CA 92625-1018
(H) 949/720-9777, (C) 949/500-9959

Robert Rees: Church should let people 'govern themselves'


Church should let people 'govern themselves'

Robert Rees

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of the separation of church and state; the non-interference of church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. If at any time there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well-settled principles and policy of the Church."
  - LDS Church First Presidency, 1907
    Ecclesiastical leaders of the Mormon church in California were instructed to read from the pulpit on Sunday, June 29, a letter from the First Presidency on the subject "preserving traditional marriage and strengthening families."
  The letter is written in support of an amendment to the California Constitution that defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. This initiative, supported by a number of churches and other groups, is a response to the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court, which found that a previous initiative, passed in 2002, violated the state's constitution.
  The letter, which asks members to "do all [they] can to support the proposed amendment by donating [their] means and time," presents a dilemma for many California Latter-day Saints who are committed to the church but who are not in agreement with the amendment.
  While some members see the letter as a test of their willingness to "follow the brethren," others feel that it is their civic and moral duty to vote against an amendment which they see as violating the central democratic principles of non-discrimination and equal civil rights.
  Some see a conflict between the recent statement and previous statements from the First Presidency: "We call upon all men, everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children" (1963), and "Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights" (1969).
  For many California Mormons this is "déjÀ vu all over again." The previous ballot attempt to define marriage, Proposition 22, which was vigorously supported by church funds and by individual contributions, was divisive for many congregations, especially in instances in which some members felt coerced by leaders and other members to support an initiative they found morally objectionable.
  What seemed most objectionable to some members in 2002, and what some find so in the recent letter, is not the encouragement to be politically engaged in important issues, but rather the suggestion that they should vote in a particular way. It has been a principle for more than a century that "The Church does not engage in politics; its members belong to the political parties of their own pleasure. . . . They are not asked, much less required, to vote this way or that" (President Joseph F. Smith, 1903).
  While the First Presidency may intend its letter to adhere to the spirit of this statement, there is little doubt that many, perhaps the majority, of members will interpret it as a mandate.
  The dilemma for members who have allegiances as both church members and citizens is that when there is a conflict between the two, they cannot satisfy both. In such instances they must feel free to make moral choices based on their best judgment without fear of censure, reprisal or retribution.
  In such matters, some feel the church should follow the dictum of its founding prophet, Joseph Smith, who, when asked how he governed the Latter-day Saints, replied, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." This seems like sound advice for both churches and states.
  * ROBERT REES lives and works in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He writes frequently on subjects relating to Mormon culture and religion. His most recent publication is The Reader's Book of Mormon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Talking Points" distributed in California

It has been reported that last Sunday California Stake Presidents were instructed by video conferencing by Elders Ballard, Cook, Wickman and Clayton regarding the anti-gay marriage initiative in California.

 - Church members are to emphasize the doctrine of the "eternal nature of families" using the Proclamation on the Family and the scriptures.

 - Members are to be asked to contribute their "means, time and talents."  Leaders are not to ask for donations at church, nor use church meetings or buildings -- but must do these activities outside of church buildings and meeting times.

 -  Ward and stake directories may be used

The following document is apparently being distributed to some stakes.


12.  Talking Points

Talking points are always in evolution- some to consider:

A. Elder Clayton and other brethren
  i. Society has already provided civil unions which allow basically all the benefits of marriage- however they cannot be allowed to define marriage for the majority.
  ii.  California didn't ask for same sex marriage (court made the change.)
  iii.  There should be no change in the definition of marriage without a vote of the people.
  iv.  Think of the children- training same sex activity as the equivalent of heterosexual activity will begin in elementary school because it is the law of the land (see Massachusetts.)
  v. Same sex marriage goes too far. CA law provides same sex partners with all the same protections as traditional marriage partners.
  vi.  This might affect our first amendment rights including the free exercise of religion- potentially the right to worship as we believe. Note: the Catholics had to close their adoption agencies in Massachusetts because they legally couldn't adopt babies to only heterosexual couples.

B. Protectmarriage.com

  i. Children need the love of both a father and a mother. The body of research-proof is overwhelming and consistent.
  ii.  Traditional marriage deserves protection because of its contributions to societal well-being- it is about children and society, not the relationship of two adults.
  iii.  Expanding the definition of marriage by including homosexual relationships adds to the continued disregard for marriage's ultimate purpose. Where it has been legalized, same-sex marriage decreases the total number of marriages while increasing illegitimacy. Nine European nations have had same-sex marriage since the early 90s-and just 2 percent of same-sex couples in these countries ever marry, while there has been a 46 percent increase in out-of-wedlock births.
  iv.  Expanding the definition of marriage begs the question: What legal basis would remain to limit the number of partners in marriage? 
  v. Legalizing same-sex marriage necessarily mandates changes to all California public-school curriculum. Children will be subjected to a mandatory acceptance of homosexuality and all of its practices. Public school curriculum will actively discriminate against the values of the majority of its community'S families.
  vi.  Religious freedom has been the cornerstone of success for the United States of America.  It is na'ive to believe that when acceptance of same-sex marriage is legislatively or judicially forced upon citizens via employment law, education, or other government mandates, rights of religious liberty won't decrease.


  a. Study The Family: A Proclamation, the June 20th First Presidency letter, and the scriptures to better understand the doctrines and principles of marriage and family.
  b. Prepare to teach these doctrines to your people- to build a fire in their hearts about marriage and family.
  c. Get to know the website: protectmarriage.com.
  d. Prepare to begin the fundraising effort right away.
  e. Be ready to "get out the vote."
  f. Study the talking points.
  g. The Lord will bless you as you go forth in His service in protecting marriage and family