Friday, August 29, 2008

Ireland's National Library silent on Mormon file 'fiddling' claims

Excerpts from : "Ireland's National Library silent on Mormon file 'fiddling' claims"

The director of Ireland's National Library has refused to comment on reports that the Mormons are using its records to re-baptise dead Catholics in their faith.

This relates to Mormons -- or members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints -- trawling through parish records and using the names to posthumously baptise dead Catholics in the Mormon faith as part of a so-called "proxy baptism service".

A spokesperson for the Mormons told the Irish Catholic: "Posthumous baptisms by proxy have been common practice for the Mormons for more than a century allowing the dead to be baptised into the faith so they may be united in the after life", and she added that all available records are used to carry out this practice.

But Mr O hAonghusa, though refusing to be drawn into the controversy, has said that most Irish dioceses now allow unrestricted public access to their records, which have been handed over to the National Library.

The growing concern in the Irish Church has emerged just months after the Vatican warned bishops' conferences around the world about Mormons accessing diocesan and parish registers, according to the Irish Catholic.

A source told the newspaper there is now a fear among senior Irish churchmen that making the records freely available will "encourage Mormons to baptise dead Irish Catholics en masse".

Archbishop Clifford told the Irish Catholic: "In due course, a full statement on the matter will be made."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Students of the Ancient Near East Symposium: Temples and Ritual in Antiquity

The Students of the Ancient Near East Symposium: Temples and Ritual in Antiquity

Friday, November 7, 2008
Wilkinson Student Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

More info here

Papers presented include:
  • Ancient Israel Early Christianity Egypt
  • The Maccabean Martyrs as a Temple Sacrifice
  • The Mysteries in Pauline Christianity
  • The Dedication of War Booty to the Temple in Egyptian Literature
  • The Role of Scent in the Rituals of Ancient Israel
  • Christian Asceticism: The Body as a Temple: Biblical Origins
  • The Microcosmic Egyptian Temple
  • Two High Priesthoods? Evidence for Changes in the Priesthood from First to Second Temple
  • The Chrism in Early Christianity
  • An Odor of Sanctity: The Iconography, Magic, and Liturgy of Egyptian Incense
  • The Paradise Garden and Messianic Age Imagery in the 5th to 7th Century Church Floor Mosaics of Jordan
  • Rituals of the Egyptian Temple: An Orientation
  • An Expanded View of the Israelite Scapegoat
  • The Deification of Romulus
  • Philistine Ritual Artifacts
  • Josephus and the Temple
  • The Treatment of Temples in Plato's Republic and Laws
  • The Cultural Context of Nephite Apostasy
  • Covenants and Simile Curses
  • Emperor as God: Roman Imperial Cult Worship & Implications for Early Christians
  • Ancient Southeast Asian Temples
  • Kingship Initiation Motifs in Ancient Israel
  • The Eleusinian Mysteries: Greatest Conquest of Demetrios Poliorketes
  • The Samaritan Temple and Priesthood

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

LDS Film Festival, call for Entries

The Call for Entries 2009 is now online. We invite and encourage all local and LDS filmmakers to participate in the 8th LDS Film Festival 2009 and submit their work to the festival. The success of the LDS Film Festival is a direct result of the quality and diversity of the work submitted.

Highlights are again the Short Film Competition, Feature Film Exhibition, 24-Hour Filmmaking Marathon, Special Screenings, and the 7-Page Script Competition. With an attendance of over 6500, the last LDS Film Festival was a tremendous success and offered huge exposure to filmmakers and screenwriters.


For deadlines and entry guidelines go to:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

hyper sexual female relatives may cause homosexuality in men

Excerpts from a NewScientist article: Bisexuality passed on by 'hyper-heterosexuals' by Tamsin Osborne

Bisexual men might have their "hyper-heterosexual" female relatives to thank for their orientation.

Previous work has suggested that genes influencing sexual orientation in men also make women more likely to reproduce. Andrea Camperio Ciani and colleagues at the University of Padua, Italy, showed that the female relatives of homosexual men tend to have more children, suggesting that genes on the X chromosome are responsible. Now the team have shown that the same is true for bisexuality.

"It helps to answer a perplexing question - how can there be 'gay genes' given that gay sex doesn't lead to procreation?" says Dean Hamer of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the work. "The answer is remarkably simple: the same gene that causes men to like men also causes women to like men, and as a result to have more children."

Sexual attraction

The researchers asked 239 men to fill out questionnaires about their families and their past sexual experiences. On the basis of their answers, the men were classified as heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. The results showed that the maternal aunts, grandmothers and mothers of both bisexual men and homosexuals had more children than those of heterosexual men.

Camperio Ciani emphasises that, rather than being a "gay gene", this unidentified genetic factor is likely to promote sexual attraction to men in both men and women. This would influence a woman's attitude rather than actually increasing her fertility, making her likely to have more children.

Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist and writer based in West Hollywood, California, describes this as a sort of "hyper-heterosexuality" and explains how it would help to ensure that homosexual behaviour was passed on through the generations. "The positive effect of an X-linked gene on female fecundity tends to outweigh the negative effect of the gene on male fecundity."

According to Camperio Ciani and colleagues, the same genetic factor appearing to be present in both bisexual and homosexual men provides further support for the idea that sexuality is determined by a complex mix of genes and experience.

"We understand that the genetic component has to interact with something to produce different phenotypes," says Camperio Ciani.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

1 million signs

More coordination efforts by the church in California on Proposition 8; apparently they plan to put up 1 million signs on the morning of Sept 22.;sid=2008/8/20/73628/2646

July 28, 2008

Dear Presidents:

Yesterday a wonderful meeting was held with the eight Area Directors in Northern California. These are amazingly powerful people. The Area folks represent the grassroots effort for the passage of the Proposition and their responsibility overlays each Coordinating Council. This was a great and powerful meeting. I assure you that the LDS folks who work closely with or who are on the Board directly of the coalition are very impressive and politically experienced folks. It was great to see.

I have a few answers to frequent questions that are being asked and I feel that if I were you, I'd wanna know. Hope that this helps:

Organization, it' s a little confusing!? Answer: The Brethren have felt that the best way to organize and pass the Proposition is to have an Ecclesiastical arm and a Grassroots arm to organization. Elder Dalton, Area Seventy and Chair of California for every thing, reports to the Brethren. I assist him. We work with coordinating councils, all 17 in California and then Stake Presidents and Bishops, rank and file. The second leg to organization is grassroots. This is done so as to engage as many like minded folks who are not LDS, but whom will help. The senior folks who run the grassroots are LDS at the coalition and are headed by Gary Greener and Gary Lawrence. These folks are assisted in Nor Cal by Boyd Smith, and in turn by Area, then Regional Directors. The regional directors overlay Stakes. Below are Zip Code Supervisors by wards.

What is the role of grassroots? Answer: The grassroots folks in each Stake, Regional Directors will train zip code supervisors. Their goal, is to find the voters who will vote yes. It is not to persuade others ... but to find those who will vote yes. The ZCS will seek, with the RD help, to encourage as many as the ward members and like minded people as possible, to accept eight different responsibilities, all from walking a precinct to determine folks opinions (not to sell), to calling, to placing signage, to a myriad of essential tasks that Area Directors will oversee. Please know Presidents, that the RDs/ZCS's will be contacting many many people to accept responsibilities. We hope that you are fine with this happening without the Stake President or Bishop approving each assignment! We assume that you are ok with that!!

Will like minded people from other congregations really join with us? Answer: There was a conference call last week with 1200 pastors in California with James Dobson as the featured speaker. This Thursday, there is another conference call with 2000 California clergy. It appears that the effort on the part of like minded people is huge compared to eight years ago. The Area Directors and Regional Directors will be aware of contacting the congregations for a joint effort.  Walking the precincts in particular is where we all may have an opportunity to grab a good friend of another religion and walk with them. If LDS people want to participate in that conference and know of the site of broadcast, they are welcome to go.

What is the timeline from here for the next few weeks.? Answer:

1.  Congregations of LDS all having been taught the doctrine in July so that they may see the importance of fundraising and grassroots participation. Some Stakes have called all Stake Council and wives as well as several folks who may be able to contribute not on the Council. The Stake President, in that Cottage Meeting, has asked for their support. A great part of a fund raising effort, accomplished in one night.

2.  August 1st:  All Regional Directors have been called and contacted by Area Directors for training.

3.  August 3rd:  Training of Regional Directors commences by the Area Directors

4.  August 1st-10th:  Zip Code Supervisors are in place and are to be trained by Regional Directors..

5.  August 16th:  The First of three Saturday precinct walks are to be held under the direction of the Regional Directors.

6.  August 23rd:  The Second of the Saturday precinct walks are to be held.

7.  Sept. 22nd:  One million signs will be put up in yards around the state at 7:00am.

Other timeline events will be planned and executed and you will be updated.

That's enough. if I caused more questions than answered, please hit me back.

Thanks for all that you and have on your plate. The Lord will make up whatever we all feel we are lacking.

Brother [Bob] Packer

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rajah Manchou of Vorito

On September 1st, 1845, James Strang, self proclaimed successor to Joseph Smith, dictated this revelation:

The Angel of the Lord came unto me, James, on the first day of September, in the year eighteen hundred and forty-five, and the light shined about him above the brightness of the sun, and he showed unto me the plates of the sealed record, and he gave into my hands the Urim and Thummim. And out of the light came the voice of the Lord saying . . . Go to the place which the Angel of the presence shall show thee, and there shalt thou dig for the record of my people in whose possession thou dwellest. Take with thee faithful witnesses . . . And while I was yet in the Spirit, the Angel of the Lord took me away to the hill in the east of Walworth, against White River in Voree, and there he showed unto me the record buried under an oak tree as large as the body of a large man; it was enclosed in an earthen casement, and buried in the ground as deep as to a man's waist; and I beheld it as a man can see a light stone in clear water, for I saw it by Urim and Thummim; and I returned the Urim and Thummim to the Angel of the Lord, and he departed out of sight.

Several of Strang's followers retrieved the plates & they were translated by Strang.  The translation produced the words of Rajah Manchou of Vorito:

My people are no more. The mighty are fallen, and the young slain in battle. Their bones bleached on the plain by the noonday shadow. The houses are leveled to the dust, and in the moat are the walls. They shall be inhabited.

I have in the burial served them, and their bones in the Death-shade, towards the sun's rising, are covered. They sleep with the mighty dead, and they rest with their fathers. They have fallen in transgression and are not, but the elect and faithful there shall dwell.

The word hath revealed it. God hath sworn to give an inheritance to his people where transgressors perished. The word of God came to me while I mourned in the Death-shade, saying, I will avenge me on the destroyer. He shall be driven out. Other strangers shall inhabit thy land. I an ensign there will set up. The escaped of my people there shall dwell when the flock disown the Shepherd and build not on the Rock.

The forerunner men shall kill, but a mighty prophet there shall dwell. I will be his strength, and he shall bring forth thy record. Record my words, and bury it in the Hill of Promise.The forerunner men shall kill, but a mighty prophet there shall dwell. I will be his strength, and he shall bring forth thy record. Record my words, and bury it in the Hill of Promise.

John Hamer has spent some time analyzing the transcribed characters and has found what appears to be an internally consistent alphabet.  For an fascinating analysis of the characters, see his article here.

Massacre at Mountain Meadows: A Scholarly Discussion

Massacre at Mountain Meadows: A Scholarly Discussion

September 5, 2008, 7pm
Main Auditorium
Salt Lake City Public Library
(200 East/400 South)

Free and Open to the Public

Join three of the Nation's Leading Scholars for a thought provoking discussion of the highly-anticipated book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Dr. John Mack Faragher
Arthur Unobskey Professor of American History
Yale University

Dr. Philip Barlow
Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture
Utah State University

Dr. Donald Fixico
Distinguished Foundation Professor of History
Arizona State University

These distinguished panelists will offer both insights and questions that will place the Massacre within a deeper context of violence, imperialism, and religiosity in the U.S. West. Richard Turley, co-author of Massacre at Mountain Meadows will respond to the panel's critique and the audience will then be invited to join the conversation.

Presented by:
  • The University of Utah's American West Center
  • The Charles Redd Center for Western History at BYU
  • The Mormon History Association
  • The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah
  • The Tanner Center for Non-Violent Human Rights at The University of Utah
  • The Salt Lake City Public Library

Ensign Survey

The Ensign Magazine is sponsoring a survey, looking for suggested improvements.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CIA agents in Mormon disguise are probable to work in Russia

Moscow, August 21, Interfax - President of the Russian Association of Centers for Religious and Sectarian Studies Professor Alexander Dvorkin is concerned with Mormon activities in the Russian Federation.

"We have been informed that American Mormon missionaries were detained on the territory of secret military facilities more than once. They are accused of having CIA connections, and it is reasonable," he is quoted as saying by the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Thursday.
Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bushman's Introduction to the "Joseph Smith & His Critics" seminar

has painstakingly transcribed Richard Bushman's introductory remarks and posted them here.  I believe Bushman has correctly and sympathetically described the common phenomena of disillusionment experienced by many Mormons when learning about aspects of church history and other issues on the internet.  Bushman begins:

Increasingly teachers and church leaders at all levels are approached by Latter-day Saints who have lost confidence in Joseph Smith and the basic miraculous events of church history. They doubt the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, many of Joseph's revelations, and much besides. They fall into doubt after going on the Internet and finding shocking information about Joseph Smith based on documents and facts they had never heard before. A surprising number had not known about Joseph Smith's plural wives. They are set back by differences in the various accounts of the First Vision. They find that Egyptologists do not translate the Abraham manuscripts the way Joseph Smith did, making it appear that the Book of Abraham was a fabrication. When they come across this information in a critical book or read it on one of the innumerable critical Internet sites, they feel as if they had been introduced to a Joseph Smith and a Church history they had never known before. They undergo an experience like viewing the famous picture of a beautiful woman who in a blink of an eye turns into an old hag. Everything changes. What are they to believe?

From there he describes the process of disillusionment, the unhelpful reaction by instructors, leaders & members, the isolation felt by individuals, and the several states they may end up in.  He then quotes one person's recommendation to address the problem.

"It is necessary that the church not only shows more support and openness to these 'apostates' but also teaches and advises all members, bishops, stake presidents etc., who usually don't know how to deal with such a situation in terms of organizational and ecclesiastical questions and – out of insecurity – fail to treat the critical member with the necessary love and respect that even a normal stranger would receive."

Bushman then outlines the purpose and processes of the six week seminar and their approach to addressing this problem.  You can read the entire article here.

Polygamy may be a key to a long life

Excerpts from a article by Ewen Callaway:  Polygamy is the key to a long life

Want to live a little longer? Get a second wife. New research suggests that men from polygamous cultures outlive those from monogamous ones.

After accounting for socioeconomic differences, men aged over 60 from 140 countries that practice polygamy to varying degrees lived on average 12% longer than men from 49 mostly monogamous nations, says Virpi Lummaa, an ecologist at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Rather than a call to polygamy, the research might solve a long-standing puzzle in human biology: Why do men live so long?

This question only makes sense after asking the same for women, who - unlike nearly all other animals - live long past the menopause.

One answer seems to be a phenomenon called the grandmother effect. For every 10 years a woman survives past the menopause, she gains two additional grandchildren, Lummaa says. It seems that doting on and spoiling grandchildren aids their survival, as well as furthering some of their grandmother's genes.

Men, by contrast, can reproduce well into their 60s and even 70s and 80s, and most researchers assumed this explained their longevity. But Lummaa and colleague Andy Russell wondered whether other factors explained the long lifespan of men, such as a grandfather effect.

But ultimately remarried men "don't end up with any more grandchildren," Lummaa says. "If anything the presence of a grandfather was associated with decreased survival of grandchildren."

Perhaps, Lummaa adds, the children of the first mother lose out on food and resources that go to the second mother's kids. "It's kind of the Cinderella effect."

Even fathers with only one wife provided no benefit to their grandchildren, a finding supported by previous research.

Biological selection

With the grandfather effect ruled out, Lummaa and Russell next wondered whether the constraints of human physiology explain male longevity. In the same way that men have nipples that evolved for women to nourish their young, male longevity might be a consequence of biological selection for long-lived women.

To answer this question, the researchers compared the lifespan of men from polygamous countries with those from monogamous nations.

If female survival is the main explanation for male longevity, then monogamous and polygamous men would live for about the same length of time. Instead, it seems that fathering more kids with more wives leads to increased male longevity. Men, then, live long because they're fertile well into their grey years.

The explanation could be both social and genetic. Men who continue fathering kids into their 60s and 70s could take better care for their bodies because they have mouths to feed. But evolutionary forces acting over thousands of years could also select for longer-lived men in polygamous cultures.

"It's a valid hypothesis and good prediction," says Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who attended the talk. But the care and attention of several wives who depend on the social status of their ageing husband could explain everything. "It doesn't surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies, where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them."

Read the entire article here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunstone / Fair reports

Curious about what happened at the Sunstone or FAIR conferences this year?  Emily Jensen at the Deseret News posted this summery of Blogs covering/discussing the conferences.  See here for the full article

One of the awesome things about the Bloggernacle is their coverage of Mormon conferences. In this case, you can read outlines, thoughtful-related posts and more about both the FAIR and Sunstone conferences, held this past weekend.

"2008 FAIR Conference Notes"
-- Check out the embedded links to a great summary of each of the presentations.

"FAIR Conference Live Blog August 7"
and "FAIR Conference Live Blog August 8" -- An awesome job of live blogging by Bryce. Check it out!

A Sunstone Open Thread
that talks about both the Sunstone and FAIR conferences. So scroll through the comments!

"Types of Spirituality -- Sunstone Workshop"
provides a fascinating rundown of how people approach spirituality differently.

" 'Mothers Who Know' Still Spurring Debate"
shows that this issue is still a hot topic for some.

Taking a spin on the Sunstone discussion of "Mormon Motherhood," this post, "Mormon Fatherhood: Choice or Destiny?" takes a fascinating look at a man's role as father and husband.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Church Document: The Divine Institution of Marriage

'Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, "The Divine Institution of Marriage," and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.'

Read the document here.

Carol Lynn Pearson: We can change history for gay LDS

We can change history for gay LDS - Carol Lynn Pearson

Reading the various reviews of the new LDS Church-authorized book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, prompts me to stand as witness for another tragic killing of a group of people in our community for which - when we have the benefit of history - we will be deeply ashamed.

We can change history for gay LDS

Carol Lynn Pearson
Salt Lake Tribune

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reading the various reviews of the new LDS Church-authorized book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, prompts me to stand as witness for another tragic killing of a group of people in our community for which - when we have the benefit of history - we will be deeply ashamed.
  The insidious thing about this killing is that we manage - though it would break our hearts to know it - to get the unfortunate ones to pick up the gun and kill themselves. I speak of the suicides of our LDS gay brothers (occasionally sisters) in a number that far exceeds the 120 members of the Fancher party.
  Each victim at Mountain Meadows had walking beside him a man poised to raise his gun and shoot. History will show that the gay men of whom I speak had walking beside them a dark shadow impersonating God, a shadow that gave them misinformation about who they were, misinformation that most of us now acknowledge was both dead wrong and deadly: "Homosexuality is often caused by masturbation . . . may lead to bestiality . . . caused by selfishness . . . electric shock will set you right . . . a good woman . . . reparative therapy . . . fasting and prayer . . . you would be better off at the bottom of the Great Salt Lake with a millstone around your neck . . ."
  Our current discussion of this issue reflects better science and a more generous spirit, but too many deaths continue. Gay youth attempt suicide three times more often than their straight peers. According to an article in the Deseret Morning News of April 23, 2006, Utah leads the nation in suicides of men age 15-24.
  I recently received an e-mail (quoted with permission) from a woman in Utah who said, "I'm in agony over the suicide death two months ago of my youngest son, Marshall, age 25, a gay student who was a senior in chemical engineering at the U. of U. He knew all about spreading love but didn't feel enough in return to keep him going. On my refrigerator I have a package of flower seeds marked, in his writing, '5/1.' That was the day he was going to plant them. He didn't make it that long, so I'll plant them for him - next spring."
  The stories keep coming: A woman in my ward just told me of two gay nephews who both took their lives; a woman in the airport recently told me of three LDS gay boys who killed themselves in her neighborhood in Bountiful.
  The dozens of stories I personally know are the tip of the awful iceberg. I think of Stuart Matis, an LDS celibate gay man who shot himself on the steps of the stake center in Los Altos, Calif., as a direct result of the intense religious rhetoric around a "protection of marriage" initiative similar to the one proposed in California today.
  One of the historians of Mountain Meadows, Ron Walker, says that he's "come to see the massacre as a cautionary tale in making judgments about those who are different" and that the story "is a case study in how not to apply religion and how one should apply true religion in one's own life."
  I believe, with these historians, that we LDS people are hungry for the truth and that we want to apply true religion in our lives. I believe with Anne Frank that people are really good at heart and I know that there is no better heart than the Mormon heart, leader and member alike.
  I believe that if the rider had reached Salt Lake in time, Brigham Young would have done what he could to avert the massacre in southern Utah. Many messengers today, of which I am one, have ridden in with reports and pleas for help regarding the ongoing self-slaughter of so many of our best and beautiful young men.
  For many it is too late. For others - if you and I care enough - we can change history.
  * CAROL LYNN PEARSON is a native Utahn who lives and writes in California. She is the author of the stage play, "Facing East," the story of an LDS couple dealing with the suicide of their gay son. Her most recent book is "No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"Joseph Smith and His Critics" seminar

I attended part of an interesting conference last week at BYU call "Joseph Smith and His Critics."  Dr. Richard Bushman started the day with a well written description of a problem affecting many in the church. 

A phenomena exists where church members begin exploring the Internet to learn more about the church.  They come across a vast amount of information portraying Joseph Smith and other aspects of the church in a light that seems at odds with their church experience.  As they explore further they find the information seems credible and come to the realization that the Joseph Smith they learned about in Sunday School seems starkly different that the Joseph Smith portrayed by the historical information they have encountered.

They feel disillusioned and deceived.  A mistrust of the church replaces their original faith.  When they bring this up with family members, church leaders or friends; instead of receiving empathy and understanding, they are typically told to pray, have faith and to stop reading "anti-Mormon" material.  They feel even more alienated, feeling they have no one to talk to, or understand them in the church, and end up going inactive, leaving the church, or possibly working this new found knowledge into a world view that allows them to remain in the church, albeit with an uncomfortable but compatible religious-view.

This conference was part of a summer seminar to explore this problem and to provide resources from the church regarding some of the issues that cause so much trouble to many members of the church.   

Papers presented at the conference (apparently gleaned from a list of troubling topics provide by a woman from Germany):

  • Introduction:   Richard Bushman
  • Robert Lund:  "Criticisms of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company"
  • Stephen Harper: "The Book of Mormon Witnesses Saw the Plates with Spiritual Eyes"
  • John Beck: "Freemasonry and the Mormon Temple"
  • Brian Hauglid: "The Kinderhook Plates"
  • J. Spencer Fluhman:  "'A Subject That Can Bear Investigation': Anguish, Faith, and Nauvoo Plural Marriage"
  • Stephen Fleming: "Have Miracles Ceased?  Joseph Smith and the Power of God"
  • Kerry Muhlestein: "Treasure and the Supernatural: Joseph Smith's Search for the Divine."
  • Robert J. Woodford: "Joseph Smith's Revelations: Reception, Recording and Publication"
Other papers prepared but not presented include topics on:
  • The Book of Abraham
  • Emanual Swedenborg 
  • D&C 76 
  • Joseph Smith's Reputation.
I must admit it was strange to hear CES and church curriculum writers present papers describing events that have been labeled anti-Mormon.  It didn't seem that the papers presented any new information or interpretation already published.  There seemed to be an avoidance by some to acknowledge those who wrote foundational articles and books -- perhaps because these individuals or publishing institutions are considered problematic.  If so, I'm not sure this us-verses-them mentality is helpful, IMO. But, of course, I could be mistaken as I only caught a few papers.

Previously the church enjoyed an environment where difficult historical information was hard to come by.  It was easy to keep  information under wraps and simply dismiss such information as the work of enemies using unethical means to promote their agenda.  However uncontrolled independent academic venues sprang up around the time professionally trained Leonard Arrington became the Church Historian.  Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, BYU Studies, Sunstone, The Mormon History Association, The John Whitmer Historical Association and others provided publishing opportunities for those involved in an intensive quest to better understand church history.  The Internet later made access to such information easily available, and today, Pandora's Box is open.  As Jeffery Nielson wryly encapsulated the issue, "
a person can find out more real history of the LDS Church in 30 minutes online than the same person would in a lifetime of studying approved church materials."

Now it seems  the church is attempting to address the problem.  Subtle changes have occurred over the past 5 or so years that were previously absent.  For example:
  • The promotion by Deseret Book of Bushman's controversial biograph of Joseph Smith. 
  • Some materials on the church's website being corrected to be more historically accurate. 
  • A new updated & active newsroom at
  • Church spokesman participation in Newsweek's sponsored discussions on religion
  • Less excommunications of historians and dissidents
  • The church getting it's website near the top of many Mormon google searches.
  • The new Joseph Smith manual containing interesting material that goes beyond simplistic, repetitive platitudes. 
  • The church cooperating with the making of the PBS documentary "The Mormons"
  • Articles in the Ensign and/or Church News covering controversial topics in a straight-forward manner
  • Church funded books dealing with controversial topics [Mark Hoffman, Mountain Meadows] (although not published through Deseret Book).
  • And more ...
Another milestone is this conference.  It seems the goals of the seminar is to disseminate honest, complete, yet faithful accounts of controversial topics to seminary teachers, institute teachers & others, enabling them to better "pastor" those troubled by controversies.  Some of these papers may be published in the BYU Religious Center publication "The Religious Educator."

How long will it take such information to trickle down to those who need it?  Could this plan backfire by providing another avenue for troubling information?  What can be done for those who have already become disillusioned?  Could the church partner with institutions also interested in a full accurate history that they have previously distanced themselves from?  Will this information ever be taught as part of the standard curriculum in order to "inoculate" members of the church from troubling information?

BYU most religious

The Princeton Review has published Best 368 Colleges: 2009 Edition,  which contain rankings for colleges with the most religious and least religious students, based solely on 120,000 student responses from 368 colleges and universities. 

Most religious students:

1.Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) -- Mormon
2.University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) -- Catholic
3.Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) -- Evangelical
4.Grove City College (Grove City, Pennsylvania) -- Evangelical
5.Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, Michigan) -- non denominational

Least religious students:

1.Lewis and Clark College (Portland, Oregon)
2.Eugene Lang College: The New School for Liberal Arts ( New York)
3.Reed College (Portland, Oregon)
4.Bennington College (Bennington, Vermont)
5.Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Free Sunstone

The Sunstone Symposium opens it's first lecture free of charge to the public, which appears to be a very interesting lecture on the spirituality of the rising generation. It is this Wednesday evening, Aug 6th at 8:00 PM at the Salt Lake downtown Sheraton.

Also, students can now attend the symposium free of charge with a student-ID card.  Check out this year's program (Thursday - Saturday).

Wednesday's Lecture:

Speaker WADE CLARK ROOF is J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society, and the director of the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a consultant on religion and society issues for PBS, NBC, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and writes a column at BELIEFNET.COM.

Dr. Roof received his B.A. in English (magna cum laude) from Wofford College, followed by an M.Div. from Yale University, and then an M.A. and Ph.D., both in sociology, from the University of North Carolina. In addition to his teaching duties at UCSB, he is the principal investigator for a Ford Foundation funded project on religious pluralism in southern California and recently completed an academic director stint for a U.S.  Department of State project, "Religion in the United States: Pluralism and Public Presence."

Among the sixteen books he's written, edited, co-authored or co-edited, two are particularly relevant for this year's Smith-Pettit lecture topic on generational spirituality: Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion (Princeton University Press, 1999) and Bridging Divided Worlds: Generational Cultures in Congregations

He is married to Terry Roof, a writer, educator, grief counselor, and advocate in the California juvenile court system.


We all belong to a generation, whether conscious of it or not. Generations are age-based cohorts who share somewhat similar life experiences: They have grown up influenced by common national and international events; their outlook and values were shaped in their formative years by the social environments of which they were and still are a part. Religiously, there is an important impact, and often subtle. Broad social and cultural changes, especially in the role of the media and shifts in work and family patterns, all bear upon how we see ourselves and our understandings of faith, spirituality, God, and social issues important to us. In this presentation, we shall look at four generations—World War II Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials —and profile their differing religious and spiritual views, the challenges each has or has had in making sense of their lives, and their lived expressions of faith. As we shall see, the fundamental question "Who Am I?" turns out to be far more complex that we might have first imagined.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Mountain Meadows Revisited

RadioWest on KUER 90.1
Monday, August 4, 2008
Mountain Meadows Revisited

Since the 1857 slaughter of more than 120 men, women and children at Mountain
Meadows, Utah, questions about why a group of Mormons settlers killed an
unarmed emigrant party and how much influence Brigham Young had in the attack
have swirled around the incident. On Monday, Doug talks with historians Richard
Turley, Glen Leonard and Ronald Walker about their new research and their
conclusions presented in their forthcoming book "Massacre at Mountain Meadows."


Join us for RadioWest weekdays at 11 a.m. Mountain on KUER 90.1 and on XM
Public Radio Channel 133. You can also catch a rebroadcast of the program at 7
p.m. on KUER. Links to books and other resources related to this topic are
available on-line at <> This program will also be available
on-line for 3 months following its broadcast.

Please note: Program descriptions do not necessarily reflect a complete or
final list of program guests. Due to the nature of live programs, topics are
subject to change without notice.

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"Massacre at Mountain Meadows" released

The long anticipated book on "Massacre at Mountain Meadows," by official church historians Ronald Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard has been released. 

Book signings and discussion will be hosted at the following locations (as listed by the Salt Lake Tribune):
  • Friday, Aug. 8, 7 p.m. Ken Sanders Bookstore Authors will sign copies and discuss the book 268 S. 200 East Salt Lake City
  • Aug. 9, 4:45 to 6:15 p.m. Sunstone Symposium Book review and discussion featuring Walker, Leonard and others Sheraton City Centre 150 W. 5th South Salt Lake City
  • Aug. 12, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Book signing and discussion Benchmark Books 3269 S. Main St., Suite 250 Salt Lake City
  • Sept. 5, 7 p.m. Salt Lake City Main Library Panel discussion sponsored by the American West Center at the U. of U. and others 210 E. 400 South Salt Lake City.