Tuesday, July 28, 2009

John Whitmer Historical Association Conference: Race, Gender, Ethnicity and the Restoration

Race, Gender, Ethnicity and the Restoration

Attend JWHA

Plan to attend the annual conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA), this September 24-27, 2009, in Independence, Missouri. Our program will explore the important, controversial, and too often ignored themes of ethnicity, race, and gender (including sexual orientation) in Mormonism. (I say "ignored," not because these themes are ignored on the bloggernacle, but rather because scholarship, especially history, too often focuses on the elite narrative of church headquarters, which is almost exclusively white and male.)

Our program is now online and I think you will agree that this year's presenters were inspired to tackle our theme in a number of new and interesting ways. Presentations will look at race and gender in the early church and today, Mormonism and Native American and Latino identities, the questions of homosexuality and the Restoration, the idea of being Mormon as an ethnicity, and much more.

We also will have a comparative look across the Restoration to see how these topics are treated by Cutlerites, Hedrickites, Strangites, and the Community of Christ. The conference marks the 25th anniversary of the revelation that extended priesthood ordination to women in the Community of Christ. A panel including President Becky Savage (of the First Presidency), Apostle Stassi Cramm (of the Council of Twelve), and President Gwen Hawks-Blue (of the Standing High Council), along with three pioneering leaders, will offer their reflections on women in the priesthood in the Community of Christ, twenty-five years on.

If you haven't been to Independence (or even if you have, but haven't seen every site), we're offering four tour options: (1) Divergent Restoration Churches Tour: we'll see the churches the dozens of different Mormon denominations headquartered in Independence. (2) Early Jackson County / Steamboat Arabia Tour: We'll visit the sites of the first Mormon colonies in the original Mormon Zion prior to their forced expulsion; then we'll see one of the most impressive collections of early-Mormon-era goods, unearthed from the buried wreckage of pre-Civil War steamboat. (3) Liberty Jail / Zion's Camp / Witnesses Tour: Clay and Ray Counties are home to many important events, from the trials and incarcerations of Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders, to the last resting places of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and many of the other Book of Mormon witnesses. (4) Far West and Haun's Mill: The temple site and 1838 headquarters of the church and the site of the infamous massacre.

This will be the final conference that my partner, Mike Karpowicz, and I will host as JWHA's executive directors. (Our successors in those roles will be announced shortly.) If you haven't been to a JWHA conference, I think this will be a great occasion to see what the buzz has been about.

The complete program is available HERE.

To register, download the PDF form, and mail it to JWHA.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Revised Gospel Principles manual to be used for Relief Society/Priesthood manual in 2010/2011

Excerpts of the sections "Inside Matter" and "Content" of the article  Review: Gospel Principles (revised) Chapters 1 – 10 By: Matt W


For those unaware, The Juvenile Instructor broke the news this morning that the church will be taking a break from "Teaching of the Presidents of the Church" for at least 2010-2011 to return to basics with the publication of a new edition of the Gospel Principles manual. Finding this out, I acquired a copy, and perused the first 10 chapters. Here are my impressions.


Inside Matter:

Omitted from this edition is the Glossary, the selection of Hymns and copy of the Articles of Faith found in previous editions. This is perhaps due to the fact that the hymns selections were rarely used, the Glossary has been replaced by the more extensive "True to the Faith" manual, and the Articles of Faith are available in the scriptures.



I think people are going to be disappointed at how little is different in terms of content. I quickly annotated the differences in the first ten chapters, and there are very few changes. These changes can be broken down into 5 types.

1. Re-organized sentences without a change to meaning. Examples:

  • Was "…we could choose…" now is "…we could exercise our agency to choose…"
  • Was "accept or reject the calling." Now is "accept or reject the opportunity to serve"

2. Scripture additions- These come in two types

  • Added supporting scriptures which were not in the previous edition, like adding Moses 2:26 as a reference to our being made in God's image.
  • Dropping a statement and replacing it with a quote to get the same meaning, like dropping "[The Holy Ghost] is a spirit that has the form and likeness of man." And adding "He is a 'personage of spirit' (D&C 130:22)"

3. Bibliographic changes

  • Any references to quotes that are available in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals now reference those manuals.
  • Some statements previously had references on them which no longer appear, notable references to "Discourses of Brigham Young", and "Mormon Doctrine" are now missing. (In fact, for those interested, the book no longer has any citations to Mormon Doctrine at all)

4. Changes by addition- There are very few of these. The three majors examples from the first ten chapters are

  • A reference to gender being a pre-mortal characteristic as an example of not being alike in Heaven
  • A brief paragraph in the chapter on scriptures describing the Joseph Smith Translation.
  • Where the text originally discussed Adam and Eve's marriage in terms of "Eve was Given to Adam because…" it now uses a more neutral "God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage because…"

5. Changes by omission-These are more numerous, the most notable being:

  • the exorcism of the term "Heavenly Parents" from the text, replaced by the term "Heavenly Father". The term was only used in Chapters 2-5 and Chapter 32 of the book, so while this change sounds large, it really only changed 5-10 references.
  • When discussing prophetic authority, the book no longer references the story of Lorenzo Snow calling the St. George area to repentance for not paying tithing.
  • Where it used to say "nothing will help us draw closer to God than prayer" in now says "prayer will help us draw closer to God."

Even with the above changes I've mentioned, it appears that 90% of the book is unchanged. If you already have a copy of this manual, you probably won't need a new one.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pew Research: A Portrait of U.S. Mormons - Social and Political Views

(subject corrected)
Excerpts of A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S. by Allison Pond, Research Associate, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Social and Political Views

Mormons stand out from the general population and other major religious traditions for their conservatism on both cultural and political issues. Strong majorities of Mormons say there are absolute standards of right and wrong and that they feel their values are often threatened by Hollywood. They also are considerably more Republican than any other major religious tradition, including members of evangelical Protestant churches, and tend to take conservative positions on whether abortion should be legal or illegal, whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society and views of the size and role of government. On issues of foreign affairs, Mormons stand out for their view that the U.S. should be active in world affairs and for being slightly more likely than others to favor military strength over diplomacy.

The summer 2007 Landscape Survey finds that an even larger share of Mormons identify as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party than identify as conservative. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Mormons say they identify with or lean toward the Republican party, 15 percentage points higher than among members of evangelical churches (50%) and 30 points higher than among the general population (35%). Just one-fifth of Mormons (22%) say they are Democrats and the remainder say they do not favor either party. Members of historically black churches are the only religious group in which there is more consensus in partisanship than Mormons, with 77% identifying as Democrats.

This places Mormons to the right of all other major religious traditions on a continuum of ideology and partisanship; in fact, they are somewhat more conservative and Republican than members of evangelical Protestant churches. By contrast, smaller, non-Christian religious traditions, such as Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, cluster around the liberal, Democratic end of the spectrum. Members of historically black Protestant churches are the farthest along the Democratic spectrum but are more conservative than members of other faiths that lean Democratic.

Most Mormons take an anti-abortion or "pro-life" position on the issue of abortion. Fully 70% say abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances, compared with 42% among the general population. Two-thirds of Mormons (68%) say homosexuality should be discouraged rather than accepted by society. When asked about the theory of evolution, only 22% of Mormons say it is the best explanation for human life, with three-in-four (75%) disagreeing.

Read the full report on the social and political views of Mormons at pewforum.org.

For more information see the new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life resource page on Mormonism.

Pew Research: A Portrait of U.S. Mormons - Religious Beliefs and Practices

Excerpts of A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S. by Allison Pond, Research Associate, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life


Religious Beliefs and Practices

On a host of religious measures, Mormons stand out for having exceptionally high levels of religious commitment. Mormons are a believing people, with more than nine-in-ten professing  the Bible as the word of God, belief in life after death and miracles. Fully 100% say they believe in God or a supreme being, which is higher than among any other religious group. Mormons also are remarkably observant in their religious practices, with three-quarters attending church and reading Scripture outside of services at least once a week and more than eight-in-ten praying daily. Similarly, Mormons strongly support a strict interpretation of their faith and the preservation of traditional beliefs and practices. Mormons also register strong opposition to the idea that religion causes problems in society.

More than eight-in-ten (83%) Mormons say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% of the general population. On this measure, Mormons are similar to members of evangelical (79%) and historically black (85%) Protestant churches and Jehovah's Witnesses (86%).

Mormons are among the most active of the major religious traditions in terms of attendance at religious services. Fully three-quarters (76%) say they attend church at least once a week, compared with 39% among the general population. Only among Jehovah's Witnesses do as many say they attend services at least weekly (82%). By comparison, the figure among members of evangelical and black Protestant churches is about six-in-ten, while less than half of adherents to other major religious traditions in the U.S. attend services on a weekly basis.

Read the full report on the the religious beliefs and practices of Mormons at pewforum.org.

Pew Research: A Portrait of U.S. Mormons - Demography

Excerpts of A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S. by Allison Pond, Research Associate, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life



Mormons make up 1.7% of the American adult population, a proportion that is comparable in size to the U.S. Jewish population. By contrast, members of evangelical Protestant churches and Catholics each make up roughly a quarter of the adult population (26.3% and 23.9%, respectively), and 16.1% of Americans say they are unaffiliated with any particular religion. Mormons are more numerous, however, than members of other small religious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), Muslims (0.6%) and Hindus (0.4%).

Nearly nine-in-ten Mormons in the U.S. (86%) are white, compared with 71% of the general population. Just 3% of Mormons are African-American and 7% are Latino.

The 26% of Mormons who are converts to the faith differ markedly from lifelong Mormons in several ways. First, converts tend to be older than lifelong Mormons. Nearly half of converts (48%) are over age 50, compared with about three-in-ten lifelong members (29%). Converts also tend to be less educated than nonconverts (16% did not graduate from high school, compared with just 6% of lifelong members) and they earn decidedly lower incomes (40% make less than $30,000 a year, compared with 21% among non-converts).

Read the full report on the demographic characteristics of Mormons at pewforum.org.

Fwd: EMSA - Its Roots, Growth and Beyond

The European Mormon Studies Association (EMSA) (http://
http://www.euromormonstudies.com) was founded in the Autumn of 2006 by
three doctoral students, Ronan James Head, David M. Morris and Kim B.
Östman whose common goal it was to raise the interest and profile of
European Mormon studies and the scholars who undertake such work. We
of course have not done this alone, but have been supported by a
growing number of scholars from throughout the world both Mormon and
non-Mormon, from varying discplines across the academic forum. Each of
which have assisted either by attendance, presenting papers,
financially, or email support. The range of topics themselves are as
diverse as those
who attend, whilst remaining engaging and academic.

Although we have grown considerably, we remain an independent
scholarly organisation who sponsors an annual conference, the first,
was in Worcester, England, (2007), last year was Turku, Finland (2008)
and this year of course is Turin, Italy. (We are in the process of
planning next years conference, but more will announced later through
this and other medium.) Also from  this has also risen the
International Journal of Mormon Studies, a scholarly journal that is
European based and acts in the capacity of publishing the proceedings
of many of the papers presented, with its open access site (http://
http://www.ijmsonline.org) allows many more people to follow the work
of EMSA and each indivdual scholar.

By visiting either of the sites listed above, visitors can see the
respected attendees to the current and past conferences and their
work, and maybe gain an appreication of the collaborative effort.

If you wish to know more please feel free to contact us, our details
are on the EMSA website. Please feel free to suggest ideas for themes
for conferences, venues, or kindly sponsor us in more direct ways, we
appreciate the feedback. Finally, I am sure we would like to thank
Ronan James Head for coordinating this year's conference, and look
forward to seeing as many of you as possible next Thursday in Turin,

David M. Morris,

Co-Founders: Ronan James Head, David M. Morris & Kim B. Östman
European Mormon Studies Association. (EMSA)

David M. Morris.
Editor, International Journal of Mormon Studies
International Journal of Mormon Studies (Print) ISSN 1757-5532
International Journal of Mormon Studies (Online) ISSN 1757-5540

89 Victoria Park Road, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, ST6 6DX, United

+44 (0)7903 374685

"Great minds go to the library. Average minds go the movies. Small
minds go to the bar. But the smallest minds talk about their great
ideas while smoking pot." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, July 24, 2009

[mormon-chronicles] More of Obama's Ancestory baptized for the dead


From Mormons May Have Baptized More Obama Relatives, CBS News

Earlier this week, in conjunction with President Obama's meeting with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leader Thomas Monson, Hotsheet noted a potentially awkward topic of conversation in the Oval Office: The unauthorized posthumous baptism into the Mormon faith of Mr. Obama's mother.

Now comes a report that Stanley Ann Dunham may not have been the only relative of the president to have been baptized into the church after death. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Mr. Obama's father, grandfather and great-grandfather may also have had a baptism ritual performed for them as well.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stay LDS offers resources for struggling Mormons

StayLDS.com Aims to Be a Resource for Struggling Mormons


A new website aims to help members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are struggling with their faith, with the goal of getting them to stay involved with the church. StayLDS.com, which is not affiliated with the church itself, features essays, podcasts and a forum, with the goal of providing an open environment where no topic is off limits. Brian Johnston is one of the site's administrators. KCPW's Jeff Robinson asked him why he got involved with StayLDS.com.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'Kiss-in' protest at San Diego Mormon temple planned

San Diego group plans 'kiss-in' at Mormon temple by Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press

A gay rights group plans to stage a mass kissing demonstration outside the San Diego Mormon temple as a show of support for a gay couple cited for trespassing in Utah after sharing a kiss on church property.

The Empowering Spirits Foundation says the "kiss-in" is intended as a peaceful rally to encourage dialogue between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the gay community.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the temple near La Jolla, Calif.

It would be the third kissing demonstration held since Matt Aune and Derek Jones were cited for trespassing on the church-owned Main Street Plaza on July 9 in Salt Lake City.

The couple refused to leave the plaza when security guards who saw the kiss said the behavior was inappropriate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Deseret Alphabet

Have you ever wondered why "enough" isn't spelled with an "f" or why "knew" needs a "k"? Brigham Young imagined an easier way of writing English. He charged a committee with creating a new, simpler method, and in 1854, the Deseret Alphabet was born. A primer was written, a gold coin was minted - and today, one of the rare Books of Mormon printed in the alphabet goes for thousands. Wednesday, we're talking about the Deseret Alphabet - the reasons it  was created and why it didn't last.

RadioWest on KUER 90.1
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Deseret Alphabet

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 <http://kuer.org> This program will also be available
on-line for 3 months following its broadcast.

President Monson and Elder Oaks pay courtsey call to President Obama

WASHINGTON | 20 Jul 2009 | President Barack Obama was presented with
five large leather-bound volumes today by The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints that detail his family history going back
multiple generations covering hundreds of years. The presentation was
made by Church President Thomas S. Monson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of
the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
See original

"Great minds go to the library. Average minds go the movies. Small
minds go to the bar. But the smallest minds talk about their great
ideas while smoking pot." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium

2009 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium

12-15 August 2009

Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel, 150 West 500 South

Pre-Registration is Now Open

Full Download of the Sunstone 2009 Preliminary Program* (PDF)

This year's event features five pre-symposium WORKSHOPS on Wednesday, 12 August.

There is one full-day workshop (9am to 5:30pm, with lunch break):
W1. Under the Influence: Getting What You Want Without Exercising Unrighteous Dominion, with Michael J. Stevens and Richard Delewski
The morning workshop session (9am - 12:30pm) has two offerings:
W2.  Enough Is Enough! Making the Decision to Live Debt-Free, with Cheryl Carson
W3.  Spiritual Transformation: Principles and Processes, with N. Lee Smith, MD
The afternoon session (2pm - 5:30pm) also has two offerings:
W4.  The Feminine Healer, with Ana Lisa Hale
W5.  Family Life and Gay Youth: The Impact of Acceptance and Rejection on their Health  & Well-Being, with Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW
This year's Plenary sessions:
Wednesday, 12 August—The 2009 Smith-Pettit Lecture will be given by Professor Mary Farrell Bednarowski on "The Achievements and Ironies of Women's Religious Creativity."

Thursday, 13 August—Panelists from various vantage points explore the interplay of power and authority in the LDS Church and the impact on individuals and the larger organization. Panelists include Jana Riess, Darius Gray, Dale Luffman, and Michael J. Stevens.
Friday, 14 August—"Pillars of My Faith." This year's speakers will be long-time Sunstone supporters, William S. Bradshaw and Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen.

Saturday, 16 August—Banquet. Following a delicious meal, we will enjoy a panel discussion about MORMON ENIGMA: EMMA HALE SMITH—ASSESSING THE IMPACT 25 YEARS LATER, featuring co-author Linda King Newell, with comments from William Russell and Lorie Winder.
Session topics this year include:
  • Young scholars in Mormon Studies
  • Sunstone's upcoming "Mapping Mormon Issues" article about the Book of Mormon Witnesses
  • Blogging about motherhood
  • The 25th anniversary of the Community of Christ's revelation on priesthood
  • Exploring LDS author Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series
  • The transformation of Mormon publishing
  • The Gay Mormon Literature Project
  • Why We Stay and This I Believe sessions

 Register Today


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mormon Utah Rep submits anti-gay marriage bill for D.C.

Amendments submitted Monday to the House Rules Committee for the
fiscal year 2010 D.C. appropriations bill would interfere with D.C.'s
recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and overturn the
district's domestic partnership law.

Rep. Jason Chaffertz (R-Utah) submitted Amendment No. 16, which would
invalidate D.C.'s marriage law unless D.C. voters approve it in the
next general election.

"Notwithstanding any provision of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, any law enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia that
recognizes any definition of marriage other than a union between one
man and one woman shall be invalid unless approved by the electors of
the District of Columbia in the first general election that follows
the enactment of that law," says the proposed amendment.


The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new
landscapes but in having new eyes. -Marcel Proust, novelist

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Kiss In" held near temple square

Excerpts of Protesters gather to smooch near LDS Temple,
Salt Lake Tribune
More than 100 people gathered Sunday morning near the LDS Church's Main Street Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City to rally support for two gay men who were detained by church security guards after kissing on the plaza.

Billed as a "kiss-in" the protest was organized to coax a meeting between LDS Church leaders and activists concerned about the incident. Former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed helped organize the kiss-in.

Heterosexual and gay couples exchanged meager kisses and pecks at the Sunday kiss-in, at the plaza's south entrance, at Main and South Temple streets. Church security guards kept a vigilant eye nearby on the plaza. Public displays of affection are prohibited on the privately owned plaza, church officials say. Many participants took photo snapshots of kissing protestors.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Does 'Mormonism' Attack Christianity?"

Mormon Miscellaneous

Date: Sunday, 11 July 2009

Subject: Does "Mormonism" Attack Christianity?

Van Hale continues to recover from surgery. Don Ormsby will be the guest host.  Not being as studied and astute as Van, please call in and help him out!!! 

Michael Ash will be the guest this week as we discuss the non-LDS Christian notion that 'Mormonism' attacks the very nature and being of Christianity.  Mike is on the management team for the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), an international, volunteer, non-profit organization that produces material defending the LDS faith and answers queries from members (and investigators) who have challenging questions about Mormonism. Ash has written dozens of articles for FAIR as well as his own apologetic website, MormonFortress.com.  Mike has also written articles for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and Sunstone Magazine.

In June 2008, FAIR published Ash's LDS apologetic book entitled, Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony in Face of Criticism and Doubt. In December 2008, Cedar Fort published Ash's book, Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith.





Time: 5:00 - 7:00 pm MST

Host: Don Ormsby

Radio Station: KTKK 630 AM, Salt Lake City

Live Internet Streaming Audio can be accessed at.   mms://stream.netro.ca/ktkk  (cut and paste this address to your web browser)

or go to www.k-talk.com   and choose the  "Listen Now" button

Gay couple detained by LDS security guards

Excerpts of Gay couple detained on Main St Plaza by LDS security guards, Salt Lake Tribune
A gay couple says they were detained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints security guards after one man kissed another on the cheek Thursday on Main Street Plaza.  In a written statement, church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied the two were singled out for being gay. "Two individuals came on church property and were politely asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior -- just as any other couple would have been," she said. She declined to comment on what is considered inappropriate behavior, and on the rules governing the plaza.

Though Salt Lake City sold the property to the church in the late 1990s, it remains a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, and a site where couples often pose affectionately for photos. The Salt Lake Police Department refused to name the reason security guards gave for alerting police, saying it is "irrelevant." "If a person is asked to leave private property for whatever reason and refuses to do so, that is technically trespassing," she said. The pair crossed the plaza holding hands, Aune said. About 20 feet from the edge of the plaza, Aune said he stopped, put his arm on Jones' back and kissed him on the cheek. Several security guards then arrived and asked the pair to leave, saying that public displays of affection are not allowed on the church property, Aune and Jones said. They protested, saying they often see other couples holding hands and kissing there, said Jones. "We were kind of standing up for ourselves," Jones said. "It was obviously because we were gay."

The guards put Jones on the ground and handcuffed him, he said. Aune said he was also cuffed roughly, and suffered bruises and a swollen wrist. The injuries did not require medical treatment, Snyder said. The pair was banned from LDS Church Headquarters' campus for six months, Farah confirmed.
Read the entire article here

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mormon Apologetics Conference

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR)
Eleventh Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference
August 6–7, 2009
South Towne Exposition Center
Sandy, Utah

Conference Speakers
  • Ron Barney: Good History, Bad History, and Mormon History: Why It is Important to Not Take Everything On the Internet at Face Value.
  • Matthew Brown: Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam
  • Brant Gardner: Joseph the Seer, or Why Joseph Translated with a Rock in His Hat.
  • John Gee: The Book of Abraham: The Larger Issue.
  • Scott Gordon,: The Place for Apologetics.
  • John Lynch: "Uh oh!" to "Ah ha!" in Apologetics—20/20 Foresight for a Faithful Future in Defending the Church.
  • Wade Miller: Science and the Book of Mormon
  • Ugo Perego: Haplogroup X in Light of Recent Book of Mormon Claims.
  • Daniel C. Peterson: Title to Be Announced
  • Richard Sherlock: Title to Be Announced
  • Greg Smith: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage,  But Were Afraid To Ask
  • Vickey Taylor: The Sariah Dilemma: Finding Increased Faith When Our Children Misplace Their Own
  • McKay White: The Kirtland Safety Society: The Myths, the Facts, and the Prophet's Good Name
  • Robert White: On Being An Apologist: Imperatives, Predicaments, Perils, and Blessings

Conference details can be found here

Edward Leo Lyman: Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate: A Study in Dedication


Benchmark Book announcement:

It is our pleasure to announce the publication of AMASA MASON LYMAN, MORMON APOSTLE AND APOSTATE, A STUDY IN DEDICATION by Edward Leo Lyman, published by the University of Utah Press. The author will be here on Wednesday, July 22, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to talk about and sign his book. He will speak at 6:00 p.m. and answer questions from the audience, signing books before and after that time.

Mormon history is made up of many fascinating characters, and few more so than Amasa Lyman, who joined the Mormons early on and rose through the ranks of church leadership, replacing Orson Pratt in the Quorum of the Twelve after Pratt's excommunication. He was a member of Zion's Camp, the Council of Fifty, and Brigham Young's pioneer company in 1847. He helped found San Bernardino (California) and Fillmore, Utah. After the Mountain Meadows Massacre, he tried to bring some of the main planners and participants to justice. Later Lyman became disillusioned with Brigham Young, was accused of teaching false doctrine, played a dominant role in the "New Movement" (Godbeites), and was ultimately excommunicated.

Though Amasa Lyman has been largely forgotten, this new biography provides a unique and revealing account of the early days of Mormonism and Lyman's role in creating that history. This substantial (nearly 700 pages) volume features the meticulous research and penetrating, candid narrative we have come to expect from Leo Lyman, who is the award-winning author of Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood, The Overland Journey from Utah to California: Wagon Travel from the City of Saints to the City of Angels, and many other books and articles on Mormon, Utah, and western history.

Thomas Alexander calls the book "a stellar biography of one of the most significant figures of nineteenth century Mormon and Utah history . . . fascinating and enlightening." Douglas Alder says it a "powerful biography."

We hope you will be able to attend this event which is sure to be fascinating and informative, but, if you can't and would like to have books signed or personalized, we will be happy to take prepaid orders and either hold or ship them to you. Books are hardback unless otherwise noted.

Amasa Mason Lyman $39.95
Overland Journey from Utah to California $39.95
Overland Journey . . . $24.95 (paper)
San Bernardino $24.95
Political Deliverance (out-of-print) $25.00

Benchmark Books
3269 So. Main Street, Suite 250
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
801-486-3452 (fax)
800-486-3112 (orders only)
Hours: Mon. - Fri., 10-6; Sat., 10-5
Email: benchmarkbooks@integra.net

Mexican Senate holds moment of silence for fundamentalist Mormon activist

Mexico reacted to the slaying of an anti-crime activist with outrage Wednesday: Congress called for a minute of silence, television commentators demanded justice and activists pledged to step up their fight against crime despite persistent threats.

Public-safety groups say Benjamin LeBaron was the first anti-crime activist in Mexico to have been murdered in retaliation for his work.

LeBaron helped lead the town's approximately 2,000 inhabitants in protests against the May 2 kidnapping of LeBaron's brother Eric LeBaron, 19. The residents refused to pay the $1 million ransom kidnappers requested and demonstrated in the Chihuahua state Even after Eric was released unharmed a week later, the LeBaron people — most of whom are dual U.S. citizens and many of whom still practice a breakaway version of the Mormon faith — continued to lead marches demanding more law enforcement in the rural, isolated corner of Chihuahua state.

Colonia LeBaron was founded in the late 1940s by polygamist Mormons from the United States after the U.S. church disavowed the practice. Few of the families in the hamlet still practice polygamy, and many are no longer practicing Mormons.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Summer Seminars explore Mormon thought and history

Mormon Times
Wednesday, Jul. 08, 2009
In 1997 Richard L. Bushman organized a small group of advanced undergraduate and graduate students to look at "Joseph Smith and His Times." This first "Summer Seminar" helped Bushman, the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies from Claremont Graduate University (California), as he wrote "Rough Stone Rolling," his biography of Joseph Smith. Similar seminars continued through the years.

"When we began this whole operation it was simply to accumulate information to help first with my book and then to just contribute to Mormon history generally," Bushman said. "But as time went on we began to realize that we were creating a core of very powerful, competent young ... scholars who will be the ones to write the books about Mormon history and culture from here on out. We were putting them into a network where they could be confident that there were other young scholars like themselves."

One early project the seminar completed was an "Archive of Restoration Culture" that collected doctrinally relevant snippets of culture from Joseph Smith's time. (The archive is available online at byustudies.byu.edu.)

Historian Claudia Bushman ran the seminar in 2003, looking at "Mormon Women in the Twentieth Century." Three years later, Terryl Givens, a University of Richmond (Virginia) professor of literature and religion, joined Richard Bushman to co-direct the seminar. "We moved from Joseph Smith to the broader questions of early Mormon theology and its development generally," Givens said.

They looked at "Mormon Thought" from 1845 to 1890 and in 2007 they looked at 1890 to 1930.They expanded the scope of their projects to start a series of "Faith and Knowledge" conferences at Yale Divinity in February 2007. They also reached out to Mormon scholars in other countries.

When Bushman began the seminar, private donors provided the funding. Now as it began to expand, they needed a more stable source of financial support. Two people who had helped arrange funding, David Davidson and Duane Zobrist, came up with the idea for a foundation to oversee the summer seminar, related projects and funding. The result was the organization on July 24, 2007, of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.

"We needed a little more money -- not a lot, we run on a shoestring, but we needed a little more money," Bushman said.

In 2008, the Summer Seminar added a different twist to its agenda. Instead of seeking undergraduate and graduate students, Bushman recruited a group of LDS Religious Education and Church Educational System faculty to discuss "Joseph Smith and His Critics." They sought ways of addressing concerns about LDS Church history in ways that built trust. "It was more of a training seminar for teachers than it was an investigative seminar for students," Givens said.
This year Givens and Matthew Grow, assistant professor of history at University of Southern Indiana, took over the agenda to have students look at "Parley and Orson Pratt and the Formation of Mormon Thought." Like the early seminars by Bushman that helped with his writing of "Rough Stone Rolling," this seminar paralleled Givens and Grow's collaboration on a new biography of Parley P. Pratt.

"We haven't enlisted (the students) as research assistants; they choose their own topics and do their own papers," Givens said. "It's not a research seminar for us ... it just worked nicely together."

"We are moving beyond the straight historical -- 'How did the past become the present?' -- to exploring themes that have cultural significance," Bushman said.

Givens is impressed with the Summer Seminars. "There is no question that this is the most intellectually stimulating experience that I have in the teaching world ... it combines the best resources of both the spiritual and the intellectual realm. "

Bushman concurs and likes how the seminars prepare the students.

"We need, scattered through the church, competent people who have dealt with (challenging intellectual issues), who are not afraid of them and can answer with honest fact-base answers," Bushman said. "There aren't answers to everything, but you don't have to give answers to everything. What you have to be willing to show is that you are willing to entertain any question and pursue an answer whether you get one or not. That's the greatest reassurance to those that are in trouble is that there are people who have faith who are still looking squarely at all the problems."

The seminars usually have 10 to 12 participants; this year the seminar only had funds for eight students. The students attend two hours a day, four days a week for six weeks with a presentation of a paper at a public symposium at the end. Several of the papers from this year's seminar were featured in articles on MormonTimes.com. Givens said the papers are collected every few years for publication.

The topic for next year's Summer Seminar isn't decided. "It's always contingent on funding ... if we could find some generous donors to give us more stability we'd plan longer in advance," Givens said. "At present there are no plans for next year."

Nevertheless, Bushman hopes for, perhaps, a seminar on Mormon readings of contemporary philosophy or maybe an examination of the history and tradition of the Gold Plates. "I'm starting a book on Joseph Smith's Gold Plates," Bushman said. "We could use the seminar to explore the many many dimensions of the Gold Plates."

Whether the summer seminar explores either topic next year, however, depends on the donors.

E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

Monday, July 06, 2009

World's oldest Christian Bible digitized

Excerpts of World's oldest Christian Bible digitized by Nardine Saad

LONDON (AP) — The surviving pages of the world's oldest Christian Bible have been reunited — digitally. The early work known as the Codex Sinaiticus has been housed in four separate locations across the world for more than 150 years. But starting Monday, it became available for perusal on the Web at http://www.codexsinaiticus.org so scholars and other readers can get a closer look at what the British Library calls a "unique treasure."

"(The book) offers a window into the development of early Christianity and firsthand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation,"

As it survives today, Codex Sinaiticus comprises just over 400 large leaves of prepared animal skin. It is the oldest book that contains a complete New Testament and is only missing parts of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.

The 4th-century book, written in Greek, has been digitally reunited in a project involving groups from Britain, Germany, Russia and Egypt, which each possessed parts of the 1,600-year-old manuscript.

They worked together to publish new research into the history of the Codex and transcribed 650,000 words over a four-year period.

The Codex was both a key Christian text and "a landmark in the history of the book, as it is arguably the oldest large-bound book to have survived," McKendrick said.

Garces said the only other Bible that rivals Codex Sinaiticus in age is the Codex Vaticanus, which was written around the same time but lacks parts of the New Testament.

Garces said Codex Sinaiticus was handwritten by four scribes. Experts had previously believed there were only three, but researchers at the British Library looked at the script with high quality digital imaging that revealed the hand of a fourth penman.

The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Book provides insight into the process of revelation

Excerpts of the July 2009 Ensign article The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Book by Elder Marlin K. Jensen regarding the dynamic process of revelation.
The volumes in the series titled "Revelations and Translations" will reproduce the earliest manuscripts of Joseph Smith's written revelations and translations, together with the official editions of these documents as they were published during his lifetime.

Revelation Book 2 had not been readily accessible until the Church published images of the original manuscripts. Also, only in recent years have scholars begun to assess the value of Revelation Book 1, which had been in the possession of the First Presidency.

One of Joseph Smith's tasks in reviewing the manuscripts prior to their publication was to "correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit." Occasionally, later revelations would supersede or update previously received revelations, necessitating the editing of documents to alter previous versions.

In some instances, when a new revelation changed or updated what had previously been received, the Prophet edited the earlier written revelation to reflect the new understanding. Thus, as his doctrinal knowledge clarified and expanded, so did the recorded revelations. They were characterized by the changing nature of his understanding of the sacred subject matter. The Prophet did not believe that revelations, once recorded, could not be changed by further revelation.

Read the entire article here.

Differentiating the church's identity between mainstream Christianity and new religious movements

Excerpts of Confronting early Mormonism's critics by Michael De Groote, Mormon Times -- illustrating the formation of the church's identity

"Mormonism was a religion that professed to be constantly engaged with the supernatural world," said Christopher James Blythe, a graduate student in the history department at Utah State University [who]  spoke on Thursday, July 2, at Brigham Young University during the Mormon Scholars Foundation Summer Seminar, "Parley and Orson Pratt and the Formation of Mormon Thought."

Pratt confronted a two-front war against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: On the one side was mainstream Christianity that all but denied any spiritual manifestations; on the other side were other new religions claiming their own spiritual gifts.

"In the case of Mormonism, apologists . . . differentiate themselves from a Christendom perceived as bereft of spiritual gifts and at the same time they felt compelled to differentiate themselves at the other end of the spectrum from those whose immersion in spiritual gifts tended towards extremism and fanaticism" -- Irvingites, Shakers, Swedenborgians and Spiritualism -- new expressions of religion that claimed spiritual manifestations.

Members were aware of the claimed similarities -- and focused on distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate expressions of spirituality. Pratt's tactic was to engage these groups on their doctrine rather than their claims of spiritual experiences. "The question was how to determine a real or correct revelation from a false one."

In response to the spiritual claims of other groups  "The saints began to see themselves as the only body operating in the spiritual world, knowing what they were doing and able to discern the nature of the pervasive manifestations."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wisconsin first state with same-sex marriage ban to offer domestic partnerships

Excerpts of Wisconsin is first state with same-sex marriage ban to offer domestic partnerships by Stacy Forster of the Journal Sentinel
With the budget signed Monday by Gov. Jim Doyle, Wisconsin has become the first state with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to put in place domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

Wisconsin is also the first Midwestern state to legislatively put in place legal protections for same-sex couples.

But supporters of the ban still contend it violates the constitutional amendment on marriage because it creates a legal status that approximates marriage and could file a legal challenge soon.

Starting Aug. 1, couples will be able to apply for a declaration of domestic partnership with their county of residence and would pay a vital records fee for processing the paperwork. Partnerships will be dissolved through a termination process at the county clerk's office.

Couples would be offered 43 of the more than 200 rights and benefits extended to married couples, such as allowing domestic partners to take family and medical leave to care for a seriously ill partner, make end-of-life decisions and add health care coverage.

Continue reading the article here

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Review: The Evolution of God

Excerpts of  Belief Without Borders by Gregg Easterbrook, Wall Street Journal
The Evolution of God
By Robert Wright
(Little, Brown, 567 pages)

On any list of nonfiction authors that many people may not know but should, Robert Wright would rank high. Among his books are "The Moral Animal" (1994), which argues that natural selection rewards principled behavior and is gradually improving human ethics; and "Nonzero" (2000), which argues that history is moving in a positive direction: Social, political and economic forces, the book said, can operate in a "nonzero" rather than a "zero sum" way. In short, it is not necessary for A to gain at the expense of B; rather, both can gain.

Now Mr. Wright completes the circle by finding roughly the same promising trend in higher affairs. "The Evolution of God" -- really about religion rather than the divine -- supposes that, for all their faults, the monotheistic faiths have prospered because they encourage people to get along.

Mr. Wright begins "The Evolution of God" by wondering not whether faiths are true but why they proliferated in early society. His conclusion is that the initial impulse of faith was the self-interest of its administrative class. "Whenever people sense the presence of a puzzling and momentous force," he writes, "they want to believe there is a way to comprehend it. If you can convince them you're the key to comprehension, you can reach great stature." Shamans pretended to understand nature, the leading mystery of ancient days. But the claim was just a way for them to earn a living, Mr. Wright asserts; surely few shamans actually believed that they knew why storms came or disease struck.

What is the contemporary equivalent to the tribal shaman? Stockbrokers. Like shamans, stockbrokers claim the ability to augur hidden forces -- and, like shamans, Mr. Wright says, their advice is almost always worthless. In general, customers (ancient farmers needing rain, modern investors) want to believe that someone has secret, mystic knowledge of a powerful unknown (the natural world, Wall Street). Like investment advisers today, mediums of the far past claimed mystic knowledge and charged for it.

The closer Mr. Wright's analysis draws to the Common Era, the more forceful it becomes. The most striking contention in "The Evolution of God" concerns St. Paul, Christianity's first administrative leader. Ancient religions died off, Mr. Wright claims, because they were designed for specific ethnic groups and possessed no appeal outside them. Judaism spoke to those born into the faith, limiting its potential scope. Paul wanted Christianity to become a global faith, appealing to anyone from any land or ethnic group. So he offered something no faith had offered to that point -- universal brotherhood.

"The Evolution of God" goes on to analyze the spread of Christianity -- and, later, Islam -- in language that at times strains to sound of the moment: Had Pauline thinking failed, Mr. Wright observes, "another version of Christianity probably would have prevailed, a version featuring the doctrine of interethnic amity, the doctrine that realized the network externalities offered by the open platform of the Roman Empire."

Centuries later, Islam would emphasize some of the same qualities as early Christianity, especially the embrace of anyone from any nation. Broadly, Mr. Wright argues that religions act fierce or nationalistic when adherents feel threatened. But "when a religious group senses an auspicious non-zero-sum relationship with another group, it is more likely to create tolerant scriptures or find tolerance in existing scriptures." As the world grows ever more interdependent, this sentiment is an especially propitious one.

Taken together, "The Moral Animal," "Nonzero" and "The Evolution of God" represent a powerful addition to modern thought. If biology, culture and faith all seek a better world, maybe there is hope.