Monday, August 31, 2009

Religious Studies and Mormon Studies in a Liberal Arts curriculum

The faculty members of the new University of Utah new interdisciplinary program in religious studies are pleased to announce an informal conversation on Religious Studies and Mormon Studies in a Liberal Arts curriculum.

When: Tuesday September 8, 2009 (LNCO 2110 at 3:30pm).  

The discussion will feature:
  • Phillip Barlow, the Utah State Leonard Arrington professor of Mormon history and culture
  • Brian Birch, Director of the religious studies program at Utah Valley University.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

National Organization for Marriage actively fighting gay marriage in Iowa

Excerpts of Gay marriage opponents now targeting Iowa  by Michael J. Crumb, Associated Press Writer
The National Organization for Marriage has launched the Reclaim Iowa Project, targeting legislative races in the state in an effort to elect candidates who support putting the issue of gay marriage before voters.

"Iowa is important because the Supreme Court decision was so against the will of the people of Iowa and the Legislature and Gov. (Chet) Culver showed absolutely no backbone in giving the people the right to have their voices heard," said Brian Brown, the organization's executive director.

The group's effort is beginning with a Sept. 1 special election in southeastern Iowa's House District 90, where Republican Stephen Burgmeier is running against Democrat Curt Hanson for the seat vacated when Democratic Rep. John Whitaker resigned to take a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The organization has endorsed Burgmeier and spent $90,000 on television and radio ads supporting him, Brown said. The ads began airing Monday.

Burgmeier said he has never talked to anyone from the National Organization for Marriage.

"They may have heard about me and what I stand for and they've taken advantage of that to get their message out," he said. "They seem to have the same core value I have ... but I had no knowledge of them being interested in this race."

Brown's group was the main supporter of California's Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage. The organization also has been active with similar campaigns in Maine, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Brad Clark, campaign director for One Iowa, a local affiliate of Lambda Legal, said his group launched an online petition Wednesday asking the National Organization for Marriage to release a list of its contributors. NOM and other groups that sponsored Proposition 8 had sought to block their campaign finance records from public view, saying previous reports led to the harassment of donors.

Clark singled out the Mormon church, which has been criticized by gay rights activists for urging its members to donate to California's "Yes on 8" campaign, a move that pulled in tens of millions of dollars.

"They (NOM) and the Mormon church (have) invested millions of dollars and now they have their sights set on Iowa," he said. "They have been funneling money from the Mormon church into these activities and we're encouraging our friends and supporters to call on NOM to release a list of those donors."

Brown said his group would not disclose its list of donors, citing its status as a nonprofit organization.

He rejected the idea that the anti-gay marriage campaign was directly tied to the Mormon church.

Rebels fire at Nigerian temple

ABA, Nigeria, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A Mormon temple in Nigeria has been
temporarily closed following a violent attack by armed men, church
officials say.

KSL News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day
Saints, said workers at the temple in Aba have been moved to other
places in Nigeria, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

"The safety of our temple visitors and workers is always our first
concern," Scott Trotter, a spokesman, said. "Incidents of violence in
recent months in the area where the temple is situated are not
necessarily related to the temple but could put Church members at

An e-mail from a church worker in Aba, dated June 26, described four
men armed with AK-47s firing into the closed front door of the temple,
leaving eight bullet holes behind.

The temple, which was dedicated in August 2005, was the first built by
the Mormons in Nigeria and the third in Africa. The Mormons claim
68,000 members in the country.

Aba, in southern Nigeria near the coast, is a city of nearly 900,000.
The city is about 20 miles from Port Harcourt, the major port in the
Niger Delta where rebel groups have been fighting for years for a
greater share of oil profits to go to the local people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Bob Bennett: "Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon"

From Deseret Book's description of Senator Bob Bennett's new book:
If the claims of Latter- day Saints about the origin of the Book of Mormon are true, then the book is genuine scripture. But if it's an invention of human origin— in short, a forgery— the Church's claim to be the only true church must be called into question. Surprisingly, very few writers, inside the Church or outside, have made a thorough examination of claims that the book is a forgery. In a book of interest to those of other faiths as well as to Latter- day Saints, Senator Bob Bennett reviews such claims. While he admits to writing as a believer, he identifies four objective tests that can be applied to help anyone determine if the book is what it claims to be: internal consistency, external evidence, questions of motive, and relevance. This compellingly written work offers a unique perspective about a book beloved by tens of millions. It is made even more interesting by the author's experiences working for the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, the victim of more than one attempted forgery.

How Can the LDS Church Maintain Its Core Values and Help Those Struggling with Same Gender Attraction

Excerpts of  Guest Post: How Can the LDS Church Maintain Its Core Values and Help Those Struggling with Same Gender Attraction by D. Michael Quinn at


And so what can an institution like the LDS Church do to aid those who are struggling with same-gender attractions, while the Church still maintains its core values?

First, acknowledge officially that this struggle is not a choice. It arises spontaneously in a small minority of humans from a combination of genes, hormones, and environmental influences that are fixed before the age of eight–when each homosexually oriented child is "innocent" by LDS revelation.

Second, LDS leaders should frequently urge those with this struggle to choose life on earth, not suicide.

Third, frequently urge parents not to reject or kick-out-of-the-house their children who are struggling with same-gender attractions.

Fourth, frequently urge parents not to reject their children who have decided to act upon those attractions. While maintaining a not-in-our-house rule, few parents of heterosexually active teenagers kick them out.

Fifth, LDS leaders should frequently encourage all parents to be long-suffering, emotionally available, verbally kind, and non-violent with their sexually active teenagers, so as not to force these vulnerable kids onto the streets as abandoned children or run-a-ways.

Are these things too much to ask of the compassionate men who are prophets, seers, and revelators of the LDS Church? I hope not, because none of the above recommendations violate any commandment or revelation of God.

Do LDS Policies Need to be Altered?

Next is the more difficult question of altering LDS policies–whether traditional or recent, formal or informal. At the most fundamental level, I recommend changes which are absolutely consistent with all the commandments and revelations of God.

First, change the General Handbook of Instructions to specify that there should be no punishments nor sanctions of any kind against Latter-day Saints who are struggling with same-gender attractions, without having engaged in sex acts. There should be no restrictions on Church service–including full-time missions–for simply being seriously tempted.

Second, the General Handbook should specify that the consequences of same-sex intimacy should be no more severe or long-lasting than the consequences for opposite-sex intimacy.

Third, the General Handbook should specify that, just as there are no penalties for male-female kissing by the unmarried, there should be no penalties for same-gender kissing in public or private.

Fourth, the General Handbook should specify that physically attacking persons suspected of being bisexual, homosexual, lesbian, or transgender is as serious a transgression as physically attacking anyone else, including battered spouses and abused children.

Fifth, at least once during each general conference, a speaker should restate the above changes during the first ten years after they are added to the General Handbook. Every one of them is completely consistent with the Gospel, and I hope I am mistaken in thinking they have not been added to General Handbook during the years since I last read it.

What about marriage?

Now, as to marriage. First, despite President Hinckley's emphatic statement in 1987 and despite the dangers of unhappy spouses and of children living with divorce, most LDS leaders and members believe that it would violate God's will if they do not encourage every homosexually inclined person to enter heterosexual marriage. Rather than a change in Church policy, I ask all Mormons two questions: "Would you advise your daughter or granddaughter to marry a homosexually oriented man? Would you advise your son or grandson to marry a homosexually oriented woman?" If you cannot answer "Yes" to both questions, then you should not counsel Mormons in general to do so. Make this your personal decision, and leave the rest to God and His revelations to each individual struggling with same-gender attractions.

Second is the question of civil unions or legal marriage for persons of the same gender or same sex. I ask all LDS leaders and members with pioneer Utah ancestry to remember that the plural marriages of their Mormon ancestors had no detrimental effects on "the institution of marriage" or "traditional marriage" in Boston or anywhere else during the nineteenth century. The same is equally true for the legalized same-sex marriages now being performed and lived in New England, in Iowa, in Canada, and in much of Northern Europe. Historically, and to the present, the unusual marriages of a very small minority have not damaged the traditional marriages of the vast majority.

Let civil proceedings occur in "the land of the free" without interference by religious groups. After the legalization of same-sex marriage, religious officials can still decline to perform those marriages, just as Southern Baptist ministers were not required to perform interracial marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia. Ministers have the privilege to perform civil marriage, not the obligation to do so–even after being licensed with that authority. A licensed minister can decline to perform any marriage. ...


Monday, August 24, 2009

New Journal: Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review

Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review

Editor: James R. Lewis, ISSN: 1946-0538

Only three decades ago, one could count the number of new religious movements (NRM) specialists on one's fingers, and read everything that had been published in the field in about one month. Since that time the field has expanded radically, even giving birth to a number of sub-specialities (e.g., Pagan studies and new age studies). The explosive growth of NRM studies has been matched by an explosive growth in the number of new publications. Major academic presses, from Brill to Oxford University Press, publish an increasing number of NRM titles.

The Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review (ASRR) has been created with the ambitious goal of providing NRM scholars with a vehicle for staying up-to-date with new publications in this expanding body of literature. Modeling itself on successful review journals such as Reviews in Religion and Theology, ASRR will be an online journal that will publish book reviews, review essays, and literature surveys in the NRM field.

For the purpose of reviewing books in ASRR, new religions is defined broadly to include the diverse subfields that have developed out of NRM studies, including - but not restricted to - Pagan Studies, Studies of Western Esotericism, New Age Studies, Masonic Studies, and Studies of New Thought. ASRR also reviews studies of new movements within traditional religions, such as the Charismatic movement in Christianity and Guru movements in Hinduism, and new religious movements in indigenous societies. Additionally, depending on the author's approach and specific focus, ASRR reviews certain quasi-religious phenomena, such as implicit religion and the holistic health movement.

---  Content of 1st Issue ---

Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review
Volume 1, Issue 1, 2009
Table of Contents

Review Essays


About ASRR | Subscribe | Guidelines | Issue 1 Contents

Sunday, August 23, 2009

LDS Newsroom blog

Excerpts of "Welcome to the Newsroom Blog" by Lyman Kirkland

The Public Affairs Department is pleased to announce the launch of the Newsroom Blog. The purpose of this blog is to supplement the Newsroom Web site with additional stories from the Church that may not lend themselves to a news release, and to provide additional context and background on stories that appear in the news media.

You may notice a different, more conversational tone on this blog than you would see in official news releases on the Newsroom Web site. The information here will be reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church. The purpose of this blog is to provide journalists, bloggers and the public with additional context and information regarding public issues and news stories involving the Church.

The article goes on to note that questions and comments to posts will generally not be posted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium 2009

News articles covering the 2009 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium:

Sunstone: Mormon scripture presents an intelligent Eve 

Dr. Peterson presented his research on the fourth day of the annual Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium on Saturday, entitled "Adam & Eve in America: Gnostic ...

Sunstone: Empowering stay-at-home mothers

Mormon Times - Emily Jensen
Five women shared a Sunstone stage Saturday morning promoting themselves as "Stay-at-home moms on the record. ...

Sunstone: Hidden Mormonism in Orson Scott Card's fiction

Mormon Times - Michael De Groote - ‎Aug 14, 2009‎
"A mischievous thesis, I know," he said at the Sunstone Symposium on Fri. Aug. 14. Smith, who said he isn't a member of the LDS Church, wasn't looking at ...

Sunstone panel sees gaps in help for LDS disabled

Deseret News - Lynn Arave - ‎Aug 14, 2009‎
That was the consensus at a panel discussion on the subject Friday during the 30th annual Sunstone Symposium at the Sheraton Hotel. ...

Disabled children need spiritual nurturing, LDS moms say

Salt Lake Tribune - Peggy Fletcher - ‎Aug 14, 2009‎
Fellow Mormons routinely look away from the disabled, especially those with autism, the moms said during a Sunstone Symposium session in Salt Lake City. ...

Sunstone: Alexander Hale Smith shares LDS, RLDS history

Mormon Times - Emily W. Jensen - ‎Aug 14, 2009‎
Born in Far West, Mo., he is the son of Joseph and Emma Smith, historians at the Sunstone Symposium shared Friday, Aug. 14. Rene Romig stood in for her ...

The 'travails and triumphs' of Mormon mommies blogging

Mormon Times - Emily W. Jensen - ‎Aug 13, 2009‎
... helps process the travails and triumphs of motherhood,' sounds like a therapy session," joked one Sunstone panelist, "and in a way (blogging) is. ...

Sunstone Symposium: Why Emma stayed in Nauvoo

Mormon Times - Michael De Groote - ‎Aug 13, 2009‎
And when people say she was wrong for remaining in Nauvoo, they are implying they know what she should have done," Richard Delewski said at the Sunstone ...

Sunstone panel critiques book on Mormon polygamy - ‎Aug 13, 2009‎
So declared Newell Bringhurst, former president of the Mormon History Association Thursday at the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium. Bringhurst was one of three ...

Writer blasts beloved LDS film 'Lingo'

Salt Lake Tribune - Peggy Fletcher - ‎Aug 13, 2009‎
Feminist writer Holly Welker posed these and other questions about the film and its hidden messages Thursday at the annual Sunstone Symposium, ...

Sunstone speaker says church can learn from Toyota

Deseret News - Lynn Arave - ‎Aug 13, 2009‎
Apparently a lot, according to a speaker at the annual Sunstone Symposium on Thursday. "If Toyota ran the Church: What a car company can teach organized ...

Sunstone Symposium: Speaker discusses women's religious feats

Mormon Times - Lynn Arave - ‎Aug 12, 2009‎
That's what Mary Farrell Bednarowski said Wednesday night in the Smith-Pettit Lecture during the 30th annual Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium at the Sheraton ...

Sunstone: Anti-debt diva

Deseret News - Michael De Groote - ‎Aug 12, 2009‎
Carson presented her ideas at the 2009 Sunstone Symposium on Wed., Aug. 12 in Salt Lake City. She was energetic, upbeat and even broke into song at one ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Anti-Prop8 group to launch repeal effort in 2012

Excerpts of Key gay rights group backs 2012 repeal of Prop. 8  by Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer

A San Francisco gay rights group that led unsuccessful efforts last year to defeat the ban on same-sex marriage in California said today it will wait until 2012 to ask voters to repeal Proposition 8 to give supporters of such unions enough time to gather the money, volunteers and support needed to overturn the ban.

"It takes time, commitment and lots and lots of volunteers to undo the untruths that our opponents have been telling," Mark Solomon of Equality California, which bills itself as the state's largest gay rights group, said in a conference call this morning. "If we do the work at the level we need, we can have the support we need by 2012."

Equality California has raised $390,000, knocked on 500,000 doors in California, opened nine new field offices statewide and contacted political consultants and major anti-Prop. 8 donors around the state before it reached its decision to wait until the 2012 ballot to bring the matter before voters again, Kors said.

But the organization's decision appears to collide with other progressive groups fighting for marriage equality. The 700,000-member Courage Campaign said Tuesday it is "pushing ahead to file a ballot measure" in 2010, when state voters will decide their next governor, and its officials said today they have raised $135,998 to invest in research, polling and focus groups in an effort toward repealing the ban next year.

Chaz Lowe, the founder of Yes! On Equality - which says it was the first LGBT organization to file plans to go back to the ballot in 2010 after passage of Prop. 8 - said this week that his group is also prepared and ready for the new fight.

But Lowe added that there seems to be enough passion and momentum now for an effort to repeal Prop. 8, and in the gay community, he said, "it's not a matter of if, but a matter of when."

Yes! on Equality has filed ballot language with the Attorney General's office on the matter, and formed a ballot language task force.

But he cautioned that in the fight for same-sex marriage, "we think we have one shot" at what will be a considerable political challenge. Same-sex marriage supporters need to "make the most strategic decision we will all take time. ''

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Book of Mormon Lands Conference

The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum is sponsoring
The Book of Mormon Lands Conference

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

  • Dr. John L. Lund
  • Elder Ted E. Brewerton  General Authority Emeritus and author 
  • Daniel C. Peterson, Ph.D (Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon)
  • F. Richard Hauck, Ph.D (Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon)
  • Joseph L. Allen, Ph.D (Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon)
  • David G. Calderwood, M.A. (Voices From the Dust) 
  • Jerry L. Ainsworth, Ed.D, MPH  (The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni)
Notification by
More information about the conference can be found here

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Salt Lake History Examiner

I've recently become the "Salt Lake History Examiner" for, an internet news organization.  I'm just getting my feet wet and learning the ropes.  Over the past week I've published my first three articles and hope to put out a few more.  I seem to be getting a fair number of hits on my articles, so I'm optimistic.

You can check them out here.

If you feel like supporting me, feel free to *subscribe* via email, add me as a *favorite* examiner, or comment on any of my articles -- all of which will help me establish myself.

And, if you become aware of possible stories relating to Utah or Mormon history, or if you would like to be interviewed for your opinion on future stories, drop me a note (clairvb at G mail dot com).


Sunstone Symposium

Over 100 scholars and Mormon studies enthusiasts are putting final touches on their presentations for the annual Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium.  This years theme is "Celebrating Mormon Women's Contributions to Church and Culture."

One of the panels looks at two historians who wrote about  Emma Smth  25 years ago.  Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery wrote a frank biography of the founding prophet's wife.   "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith" was highly acclaimed with multiple awards, but there were repercussions for the authors.  The panel will explore impact of their biography.

According to Mary Ellen Robertson, Sunstone Director of Outreach and Symposia, "Both the symposia and Sunstone Magazine have been front runners in the field of Mormon Studies well before Mormonism became a popular area of academic study ...  We've provided a venue for academics, lay historians, and Mormon history buffs to present their research."

A sampling of other topics at this year's symposium include:

  • The 1953 and 2008 raids on FLDS communities
  • Mormon Family Adventures in Africa, 1929-2009
  • The Utah County's Dream Mine
  • Pioneer women
  • Church historical sites and the construction of testimony
  • The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Community of Christ's revelation on women and the priesthood
  • The Book of Mormon witnesses
  • A look back at Mormon feminist Sonia Johnson
  • Discussion of the book "Nauvoo Polygamy ... but we called it celestial marriage"

Sunstone is celebrating it's 30th year of operation.  Robertson says during that time it has become a vast archive of research "documenting issues in Mormon history as well as keeping a finger on the pulse of contemporary issues and interests in the LDS community."  Thousands of articles and mp3 audio presentations are available at the sunstone website.

The symposium runs from August 12th-15th and is open to the public. 

Thursday, August 06, 2009

American Psychological Association repudiates gay-to-straight therapy

Excerpts of  Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy By David Crary  (AP)
NEW YORK — The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

In a resolution adopted by the APA's governing council, and in an accompanying report, the association issued its most comprehensive repudiation of "reparative therapy" — a concept espoused by a small but persistent group of therapists, often allied with religious conservatives, who maintain gays can change.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the resolution, adopted by a 125-4 vote. The APA said some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

Instead of seeking such change, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto.

The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.

Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.

"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

She suggested that devout clients could focus on overarching aspects of religion such as hope and forgiveness to transcend negative beliefs about homosexuality, and either remain part of their original faith within its limits — for example, by embracing celibacy — or find a faith that welcomes gays.

"There's no evidence to say that change therapies work, but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them, and when they don't work, they feel doubly terrified," Glassgold said. "You should be honest with people and say, 'This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'"

Yarhouse and a colleague, Professor Stanton Jones of Wheaton College, will be releasing findings at the APA meeting Friday from their six-year study of people who went through Exodus programs. More than half of 61 subjects either converted to heterosexuality or "disidentified" with homosexuality while embracing chastity, their study said.

Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist who has sought to discredit the so-called "ex-gay" movement, welcomed the APA findings.

"Ex-gay therapy is a profound travesty that has led to pointless tragedies, and we are pleased that the APA has addressed this psychological scourge," Besen said.

On the Net:

Read the entire article here

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Apologetics Conference Set

Excerpts of Conference to address Mormon history controversies,
A conference for Latter-day Saints apologists is set to convene later this week to discuss controversial aspects of Mormon history.  Presenters at the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) conference "come with a desire to help defend the gospel and share evidences of its truth" by addressing some of the more problematic issues of LDS church history.

Brant Gardner will discuss Joseph Smith's use of  seer stones to search for buried treasure in the early 1820s, and to translate the Book of Mormon.

McKay White will address issues surrounding the "Kirkland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company" set up by Joseph Smith and other early church leaders that ultimately failed due to the national financial crisis of 1837.

Joseph Smith's introduction and practice of plural marriage has been controversial since it's inception, and while no longer practiced by the mainstream church, it remains an uncomfortable topic for it's members.  Yet  Greg Smith's presentation "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage,  But Were Afraid To Ask" will provide a forum for those who want to learn more.

Brigham Young's Adam God Theory will be addressed by Matthew Brown, and Ron Barney will address criticisms regarding "the reliability of Mormon History Produced by the LDS Church."

According to Scott Gordon, President of FAIR "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."

The conference will be this Thursday and Friday (Aug 6-7)  at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah.

Read the entire article here.