Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mormon "zeal of the convert" runs counter to other religions

Excerpts of The "Zeal of the Convert": Is It the Real Deal?" Pew Forum on religion and public life

A common perception about individuals who switch religions is that they are very fervent about their new faith. A new analysis by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life provides quantitative support for this piece of conventional wisdom often referred to as the "zeal of the convert." The analysis finds that people who have switched faiths (or joined a faith after being raised unaffiliated with a religion) are indeed slightly more religious than those who have remained in their childhood faith, as measured by the importance of religion in their lives, frequency with which they attend religious services and other measures of religious commitment. However, the analysis also finds that the differences in religious commitment between converts and nonconverts are generally very small and are more apparent among some religious groups than others.

One of the most striking findings of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Forum in 2007, was the large number of people who have left their childhood faith. According to the survey, roughly half of all Americans say they have left the faith in which they were raised to adopt another faith or no faith at all, or if they were not raised in a religion, they have since joined one.

The new analysis finds that, overall, people who have switched religions consistently exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than those who still belong to their childhood faith, but the differences are relatively modest. For example, among people currently affiliated with a religion:

  • Slightly more than two-thirds of converts (69%) say religion is very important to them, compared with 62% of nonconverts.
  • Half of converts (51%) attend worship services at least once a week, compared with 44% of nonconverts.
  • More than eight-in-ten converts (82%) believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 77% of nonconverts.
  • Seven-in-ten converts (70%) pray every day, compared with 62% of nonconverts.
  • About three-in-ten converts (29%) say they share their views on God with others at least once a week, compared with two-in-ten nonconverts (20%).
  • And slightly more than one-quarter of converts (27%) say theirs is the one true faith, compared with 22% of nonconverts.

The analysis reveals only one striking exception to this pattern: Lifelong Mormons are significantly more religious than converts to the faith on two measures. Nonconverts are, for instance, more likely to attend church regularly and to believe that theirs is the one true faith than are converts to the Mormon faith. Outside of Mormonism, however, the analysis finds no instances where lifelong members of a particular faith exhibit significantly higher levels of religious commitment than converts on any of the six measures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spong: A Manifesto! "The Time Has Come"

John Shelby Spong  is the retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark.  He is a theologian, Biblical scholar and author.

October 15, 2009

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.
– John Shelby Spong

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Claremont School of Religion on ITunes U

CGU now live on iTunesU. University-wide research, news, and major events available in podcast form

Claremont Graduate University announced that it is now active and live on iTunes University. We are part of a group of 175 colleges and universities vetted by Apple, Inc., to be included in this site.

Advancement Vice-President Gregory Pierre Cox underscored the value to CGU as a result of the persistence and efforts of University Communications. "CGU's presence on iTunes University expands our connection to hundreds of millions of iTunes users," said Cox. "It will help us promote the work of our faculty, the quality of their research and publishing, showcase our students, and reaffirm the importance of CGU to society."

This additional communications platform adds another level to the university's leading-edge communications plans featuring our YouTube channel, website, Twitter, and Facebook platforms. University Communications will be working with each of the schools to build their presences as we move forward to share our vision with friends, alumni and alumnae, donors and prospective donors, and the general public.

CGU's iTunesU center is located at the following link:

Review: "The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations" part 2/2 by Jeffrey Needle

Comments by Jeffrey Needle (see part 1 of 2 here)

As you can see, Joe Geisner's comments easily stand on their own; he certainly needs no help from me, or anyone, in expressing his views about this massive volume. Rather than write a separate review, Joe has kindly allowed me to piggyback my few thoughts on to his review, to offer a non-member's perspective. I trust I don't repeat too much of what Joe has to say in his very fine and very complete review.

Since hearing about the content of this volume at a talk given by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, the current Church Historian, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. It sounded a bit like just the thing for Mormonphiles like myself, who have an enormous interest in all things LDS but who have no emotional attachment to the claims of the religion. And as Joe points out in his review, leaders have been reluctant over the years to admit that substantive, important changes were made to the revelations. This volume could signal a new era in Mormon history-telling, surely good news!

I've pondered the reluctance of Church authorities to lay out the historical record cleanly and completely. It's almost as if some of the leaders have feared that Mormonism is, in effect, a house of cards that might collapse at any moment if it is discovered that there have been changes, alterations in the revelations. But is Mormonism so frail, so unsteady on its feet, that a whiff of the truth might make it all come down?

As Richard Bushman said some time ago, "We've grown up. We can now discuss our past openly and honestly." Elder Jensen adds, "We have nothing to hide." Bravo! And with this volume, we can see a glimpse of the richness, and variety, of the revelatory experience in early Mormonism. More importantly, we can now understand revelation as a progressive and flexible phenomenon, rather than a producer of static communication from God to man.

Of course, some realities emerge whenever discussing religious institutions and their telling of their own story. Sociology 101 teaches us that the primary purpose of every institution is self-preservation, that organizations will not do anything that will threaten the stability and existence of that organization. And in Mormonism, the vast number of new members, those who must receive the milk first and then the meat, necessitates a careful telling of history, what Mormonism titles "faith-promoting."

But, in time, the milk no longer suffices; it's time for the meat. And finding meat on the Mormon menu has been pretty tough. The Bible itself tells us: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18) Does this apply to prophetic experience as well? Of course it does! Why then do we shy away from the more difficult issues, such as changes to the revelations, when such changes can be understood as the result of that light shining brighter and brighter?

It is to be expected that, as time passes and as that light continues to shine, changes to the early revelations are to be expected. Some may balk: why not just create new revelations? Why alter what previous prophets have written?

The citation from Proverbs, I believe, contains the answer to this question. Not only does the doctrine of continuing revelation *allow* such updating, but it virtually *requires* it. While ultimate truth may be static and unchanging (although some would dispute this), the reality is that our perception of that truth, and our expression of our understanding of that truth, confront us from day to day.

Prophets are fallible; they are, after all, people, just like you and me. With a certain amount of boldness and, perhaps, some private doubts, these inspired men and women have penned their thoughts for all to read. At times they've had to go back and amend their writings. As their own vision of Truth became more focused, it is only natural to expect that they would go back and re-interpret their own views to conform to more recent revelation.

I can recall coming across a volume from Bookcraft early on in my explorations of Mormonism. It discussed Joseph's First Vision. To my surprise, it related several versions of that experience. The version canonized in the Pearl of Great Price is not the earliest, but rather the version, it seems, that is most faith-promoting. I wondered at the time how Mormons could accept the canonized version so readily. Today I understand the rationale and, surprisingly, have little trouble with it.

Was the Church ready for this book on the First Vision back when it was published? I recall it was published in 1980. Disturbingly, since then, the Church has shown little willingness to turn the historical pages and find the exquisite truth that lay behind the faith-promoting teachings. Joe mentions a few of the General Authorities who have tried to perpetuate a stereotype that simply falls to the side when considered closely and with complete honesty. I'm confident they're aware of what has actually taken place throughout their history. I'm also confident that their mission has not been to lay out the whole story before the world, but rather to present a confidence-building account that would feed the flock and encourage faithfulness.

Maybe this is why I treasure this newest volume so much. Yes, it weighs about 100 pounds (slight exaggeration?). And no, it isn't as compelling as a Dan Brown novel, nor as titillating as the latest Danielle Steel romance. But after Brown and Steel recede into our collective memory, this volume will stand tall as one of the most important and relevant releases from the Church's press.

Make no mistake: at nearly a hundred bucks, this is a big investment. But it's worth grabbing this volume now and spending some quality time re-discovering the roots of your faith. If Karl Barth was correct, that Scripture was, in effect, a "divine-human encounter" that morphs into a personal contact point for each of us individually, this book can come alive as evidence that early LDS revelation was, and still is, this same kind of encounter.

Each reader meets God in the Scriptures in a different way. Early LDS leaders likewise experienced God in their own deeply personal way. And as their minds scanned the theological horizon, and came to understand Joseph's revelations in new and exciting ways, they journeyed through those revelations and clarified so many points, filled so many holes.

What a treasure this book is! My excitement about owning this book is eclipsed only by my anticipation of what's coming next. Have we turned a corner in the telling of Mormon history? I hope so. I hope that Mormonism can now emerge from behind the sacred doors of the President's vault and present itself in all its glory and wonder.

Review: "The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations" part 1/2 - by Joe Geisner


Title: The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations,
Manuscript Revelation Books , Facsimile Edition
Editors: Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, Steven C. Harper
Publisher: Church Historian's Press and Deseret Book
Genre: Non-fiction
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: 726
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN10: 1570088500
ISBN13: 978-1570088506
Price: $99.95

Reviewed by Joe Geisner, with additional comments by Jeffrey Needle
(see part 2/2)

The latest volume from the Joseph Smith Papers project, "Revelations
and Translations," has created quite a buzz in the Mormon historical
community. Numerous articles in the Church News, Deseret News, Mormon
Times, Salt Lake Tribune and The Ensign have covered the publication
of the volume. The next issue of BYU Studies will publish the papers
presented at the Mormon History Association conference this last May
about this volume. Many blogs have posted interviews with editors or
presented reviews of the volume. The reason for all the excitement is
manifold. The book is a beautiful example of printing. It provides
Mormons with some of the earliest records of the church, and the
contents of pages 8-405 are being made available for the first time
with this publication.
This volume consists of two revelation books recorded by scribes
employed by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The manuscript books cover the
years 1828 to 1834, which is a large percentage of Smith's

This new volume may be the crown jewel of the thirty plus projected
volumes. In this volume of "Revelations and Translations" the reader
will find the raw manuscripts of one hundred and nine items in
Revelation Book 1 and fifty three items in Revelation Book 2. The
volume has two parts: the Book of Commandments and Revelations is
designated Revelation Book 1, and the Kirtland Revelations Book is
designated Revelation Book 2. The volume has a series introduction, a
volume introduction and each Revelation Book has an introduction. Each
page of the two revelation books is reproduced in a color photograph
on glossy paper. The facing page has a printed line-for-line, matching
typescript. Changes found in the manuscript are color coded to the
name of the person making the changes for easy identification.

The importance of these manuscript books can be illustrated with a
letter written by Joseph Smith and the revelations themselves. On July
31, 1832 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to W. W. Phelps warning and
instructing Phelps: "I will exhort you to be careful not to alter the
sense of any of them for he that adds or diminishes to the
prop[h]ecies must come under the condemnation writen therein." The
manuscripts themselves declare these are the words of Jesus Christ and
they are not to be tampered with: "Behold, and lo, these are the words
of Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Amen" (D&C 81:7), "listen to
the words of Jesus Christ, your Lord and your Redeemer" (D&C 15:1) and
"These sayings are true and faithful: wherefore transgress them not,
neither take therefrom" (D&C 68:34). The preface to the Book of
Commandments, itself a revelation, on page 223 in Revelation book 1,
declares the published volume of these manuscripts is the Lord's and
his servants' authority and those "who go forth bearing these tidings
unto the Inhabitants of the Earth to them is power given to seal both
on Earth & in Heaven." This new volume contains these sacred writings.

Exploring the manuscripts makes us feel like we have become an ancient
manuscript hunter or leaped into a Dan Brown novel. The volume
provides us with all kinds of avenues to take; research, critical text
evaluation, theological development, historical context and
understanding the revelatory process.

Some revelations are recorded in both Revelation Book 1 and Revelation
Book 2 like sections 76 and 78. This allows us to compare changes and
theological developments. Section 78 is found in manuscript in both
revelation books, and can also be found in manuscript in the Newel K.
Whitney collection. This last manuscript could be the earliest
manuscript of the three. Quite a number of changes occurred in section
78 when it was published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. The text
about "Michael your prince" and "Adam ondi-Ahman" were additions to
the revelation after these manuscripts were made. Section 76 is one of
the most popular theological teachings for Mormons and is commonly
called "The Vision." Though neither manuscript is the original
recording of the vision, they allow us to get as close to the original
as is possible. There is debate as to which of these two manuscripts
is the earliest.

With the publication of this volume we have the earliest wording for
the "Testimony of Witnesses" for the revelations of Joseph Smith, much
like the testimonies for the Book of Mormon. The testimony is found on
page 215 and titled "73 Revelation," with the editors suggesting it
was given about November 1, 1831. The testimony is signed by thirteen
priesthood holders, most signing after November 1831. John Whitmer
copied five additional names on to the testimony manuscript. It is
interesting to note that none of the eleven witnesses of the Book of
Mormon sign this testimony document. Some of the witnesses —Joseph
Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, Martin Harris, Hiram Page and Samuel Smith —
were not in attendance for the meetings in November 1831 when this
revelation was recorded. Other Book of Mormon witnesses — Peter
Whitmer Jr, Christian Whitmer, David Whitmer, John Whitmer and Oliver
Cowdery — were in attendance for these November meetings, but did not
sign the testimony. Why these Book of Mormon witness names are
missing from this testimony is an area that needs further study. The
1835 Doctrine and Covenants page 255 also contains this revelation but
it is called "the written Testimony of the Twelve" for the Doctrine
and Covenants. The revelation can also be found in Dean Jessee's "The
Papers of Joseph Smith," volume 1, page 367-368. This manuscript
version has some ten words missing from the manuscript found in
Revelation Book 1. Having this testimony manuscript available allows
us to see its original intent and how it was later used by Smith and
the church.

The volume gives us an appreciation for the accuracy of Ezra Booth's
letters that Ira Eddy published in the Ohio Star. Booth wrote these
letters from September 12, 1831 to December 6, 1831. Booth gives a
brief history and some details about the early church not usually
found in other works. In one of Booth's letters he writes, "I have in
my possession the '27th commandment to Emma my daughter in Zion;'" and
in Revelation Book 1 page 38-39 John Whitmer has written "27th
Commandment A Revelation to Emma." People had always wondered what
Booth meant by "27th commandment" and now we know the reason he used
this phrase. Another more substantial comparison can be found with
Doctrine and Covenants section 28. This section is Book of
Commandments Ch. 30 and in Revelation Book 1 page 51-53. If you
compare this document with the Book of Commandments and the "Ezra
Booth letter," Ohio Star December 8, 1831, you discover some very
important differences. The manuscript in Revelation Book 1 provides us
with the source for these changes found in the Book of Commandments.
Sidney Rigdon is the person who went through the manuscript and made
changes for its publication in the Book of Commandments. One of the
important changes Rigdon makes is identifying the place for the city
of Zion. The original revelation has "among the Lamanites"; the Rigdon
change found in the Book of Commandments has it "on the borders by the
Lamanites." Booth's letter has the original wording found in the
manuscript. This does not mean Booth copied the revelation from
Revelation Book 1. Revelation Book 1 has an error John Whitmer made in
copying the revelation; Booth's copy found in his letter does not
contain this error.

I think it is important to put this new volume in perspective. One of
the manuscript books, Revelation Book 1, has been housed in the First
Presidency vault or collection since Joseph Fielding Smith became
church president in 1970. According to the introduction, Smith may
have known about the manuscript book as early as 1907. Church
authorities like B.H. Roberts who worked in the historian's office and
wrote extensively on church history had no knowledge of this
manuscript book. From the beginning of the twentieth century to about
2005 the importance of this manuscript book and the information
contained therein have been unknown to the church leadership, its
historians and scholars studying the texts of Joseph Smith's

For years historians have believed a manuscript collection or
manuscript book existed for the publishing of the Book of
Commandments. This collection was believed to have been written and
organized in November 1831 at Hiram Ohio. When Revelation Book 1 was
first announced last year, many people came to the conclusion this
must be the manuscript collection for the Book of Commandments.
Internal evidence in the manuscript book itself shows it was used for
the publication of the Book of Commandments. The editors of this
volume have concluded the book was not intended as the manuscript book
for the Book of Commandments publication. Revelation Book 1 was
actually created and maintained as part of John Whitmer's church
calling. John Whitmer was called to be Church Historian on March 8,
1831. In response to his calling, Whitmer began copying Smith
revelations into the manuscript book. When Whitmer and Cowdery were
called at the conference of November 1831 to publish Smith's
revelations, it was decided to use the manuscript book Whitmer had
created for his calling as church historian. This is an example of how
the publication of this important volume is providing new historical
evidence that completely changes the way we thought events occurred.

In the last few years we have seen an avalanche of primary source
books published. This volume fits quite well with books like; "Early
Patriarchal Blessings," "Personal Writings of Joseph Smith," "Wilford
Woodruff's Journals," "Far West Record," "Kirtland Council Minute
Book," "The Nauvoo Endowment Companies," and "Words of Joseph Smith."
All of the forgoing publications provide us with the various types of
documents that help us understand our rich history. This new volume
will help us understand those first critical years of the church's
infancy. This book provides documents for a period where the
historical record is quite limited. Many questions will be answered
and many questions will be raised because of this volume.

Church leaders have discussed and written about changes in Mormon
scripture. This volume brings to light many changes in Joseph Smith's
revelations. Only forty five years ago, President Hugh B. Brown as a
member of the First Presidency wrote, "None of the early revelations
of the Church have been revised, and the Doctrine and Covenants stands
as printed…" (Hugh B. Brown letter 5-13-66, copy in my possession)
During this same period Wilford Wood's "Joseph Smith Begins His Work"
was pulled from Deseret Book Stores and individuals were told the
books were out of print, when in fact they were still in print and
available to book stores. In addition, people who inquired after the
books were told that "the Scriptures in their present format are
identical in content." (Wilford Wood letter 3-22-67, Marie Openshaw
letters 10-3-67 & 1-24-73, copies in my possession) The Wood books
reproduced the first edition of the Book of Mormon, the 1833 Book of
Commandments, and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Elder Boyd K.
Packer said in the April 1974 conference, "Now, I add with emphasis
that such changes [in the books of revelation] have been basically
minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation, clarification.
Nothing fundamental has been altered. Why are they not spoken of over
the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so insignificant and
unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about. After all,
they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books are true."

Similar ideas about Smith's first revelation, The Book of Mormon, can
also be found. In the Oct 1961 conference President Joseph Fielding
Smith said, "It is true that when the Book of Mormon was printed the
printer was a man who was unfriendly. The publication of the book was
done under adverse circumstances, and there were a few errors, mostly
typographical — conditions that arise in most any book that is being
published — but there was not one thing in the Book of Mormon or in
the second edition or any other edition since that in any way
contradicts the first edition, and such changes as were made, were
made by the Prophet Joseph Smith because under those adverse
conditions the Book of Mormon was published. But there was no change
of doctrine." Recently Royal Skousen has written, "The original [Book
of Mormon] manuscript supports the hypothesis that the text was given
to Joseph Smith word for word" and "Joseph Smith's editing for the
second and third editions (1837 and 1840) represents human editing,
not a revealed revision of the text.".

Other writers have felt differently about changes made to scripture.
Joseph Anderson, secretary to the First Presidency, wrote in the 1970s
attesting to the accuracy of Wood's books. Anderson, in discussing
changes made in the Book of Mormon, writes: "Smith made many
corrections in the 1837 and the 1840 editions of the Book of Mormon."
Anderson then goes on to discuss the changes in the Doctrine and
Covenants, where he writes: "Smith, being the one who received these
revelations and had them recorded, likewise would have a right to add
or to subtract from, or change, the revelations and did so in some
cases." (Joseph Anderson letter 4-29-74, copy in my possession)
Currently, the FAIR wiki site has the following: "Joseph didn't claim
to be hearing a voice, and he didn't claim to be quoting God or
'taking dictation.' Rather, impressions would come to him, which he
would put into words. Joseph clearly did not consider them' direct
quotations' from God, since he was quite happy to revise them, edit
them later, etc."

How one handles the above comments in light of the redactions, changes
in words and phrases, and theological changes will be an individual
endeavor. This new volume will allow each person access to these
revelations and see for themselves the changes that have been made. By
seeing these pages of scripture in their early form the reader can
have an informed understanding of this revelatory process. I highly
recommend this book, it is essential for everyone's library. This
volume makes clear that the manuscript revelations are gifts from God,
this printed volume is a gift from the church, and the editing and
photographs are gifts from the editors and those working on the papers

(see part 2 of 2 for Jeffrey Needle's comments)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunstone Fundraiser: Oct 25th

Please consider making a big difference for Sunstone by donating $25 online to the Sunstone Cause on October 25 after 1:00 p.m. MST at

The Case Foundation Daily Giving Challenge awards $1000 to the nonprofit organization that receives the greatest number of unique donations on a single day (not the most money raised). With your help, we estimate that if 300 of Sunstone's subscribers make an online donation that afternoon, we will have a very good chance of winning $1000.

Your donation will also make us eligible to compete for additional cash prizes of up to $50,000 for our ability to "build collective action" and rally people to our Sunstone cause using social media tools through November 6.

If you send an email now to, we will send you an automatic donation reminder on 25 October after 1 p.m. MST

Thank you for considering supporting the Sunstone Cause on Oct 25!

Movie - "8: The Mormon Proposition"

Trailer: 8: The Mormon Proposition

Movie web site,

IMDB synopsis of the film:
As California's anti-gay marriage proposition 8 languished in the polls, Mormon Prophet Thomas S. Monson issued a call from Salt Lake City to millions of Mormons all over the world. His was an order to action containing the secret code language of the highly secret Mormon temple ceremony. The action alert commanded Mormons in and out of California to do all things necessary to insure the passage of California's Proposition 8. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Mormons all over the United States funneled thirty million Mormon dollars in to California coffers to purchase the passage of California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.

Before the Mormons and their participation in the passage of Proposition 8, evangelicals were flopping in the fight. After Mormons got involved, the fight flourished.

During the fight, the Mormon Church media-engine, including mega-million dollar public relations and political consulting firm support, barraged Californians with a suffocating number of misleading television and radio ads and door-to-door campaigns manned by the Mormon NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE.

When Prop. 8 passed in California by a slim margin, Mormons were quick to take credit for the success. But when backlash from LGBT citizens targeted Mormon temples throughout the United States, the Mormon Church was the first to complain that they were the ones being persecuted.

In the wake of it all, documentary producer Reed Cowan was collecting secret recordings, secret documents and never before seen footage exposing Mormon efforts to quash ANY rights for LGBT citizens anywhere in the world. 'As a former Mormon missionary, I am appalled in knowing that a church which itself worships the practice of alternative marriage (polygamy), would become so vehemently involved in the marriage debate,' says Director Reed Cowan.

8: The Mormon Proposition follows the story of many LGBT citizens seeking marriage equality. One of the couples Cowan follows is Tyler Barrick and Spencer Jones. Barrick is the direct descendant of Mormon founder and Prophet, Joseph Smith's right hand man Fredrick G. Williams.

The Barrick-Jones family history tells tales of Mormon ancestors chased from state to state because of their own practice of alternative marriage (polygamy). Now, decades later, the Barrick-Jones family is experiencing cultural and governmental discrimination of the same kind that haunted their ancestors. Only now, they're at war with their own religion of Mormonism and the people their religion seduced in to voting against their union.

'When 8 passed, I called my mother crying--why did the Mormons do this to us? Why would our own people do this to us? They have turned their backs on us, ' says Barrick-Jones.

8: The Mormon Proposition exposes decade's-long campaigns against LGBT rights, not only working behind the scenes to unseat political leaders who advocate for marriage equality, but also abuse against their own people through electric shock therapy and frontal lobotomies for BYU men arrested by Mormon security police. For the first time in history, the film goes on record about alleged prurient meetings between Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball with a secret group of gay BYU students who called themselves 'Spencer's boys.' The film chronicles the hundreds of gay-Mormon suicides, including the story of Mormon Stuart Matis, who shot himself on the steps of a California Mormon Church during another of the church's work against marriage equality during the days of California's Knight Initiative.

Long before its official completion, 8: The Mormon Proposition has already received considerable international press coverage. During the filming of 8, Reed Cowan interviewed Mormon Bishop and Senator D. Chris Buttars, who compared gay people to radical Muslims and said 'gays represent the greatest threat to America going down today.'

Buttars characterization of gays engaged in so-called pig sex, brought on an HRC action alert, a scolding from GLAAD, and the eventual ouster of Utah Senator Buttars from his position as chair of Utah's Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the days during the media backlash following Buttars interview with Cowan for 8, major media outlets and programs like FORBES, WASHINGTON POST and THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW picked up on the story with considerable coverage that resulted in thirty thousand e mails to the Utah Senate President and the crashing of the Utah Senate computer server for three days.

8: The Mormon Proposition also reveals the truth about Utah's gay homeless youth and the fact that the lions-share of hundreds of homeless teens on the streets in Utah, are LGBT youth who have been kicked out after coming out to their families.

Finally, in the telling of the Mormon Church's risk of losing their tax-free status, 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION is a call to action not only to LGBT citizens, but all citizens everywhere to not only stand up for human rights, but also to pay attention to where the money and the information is coming from whenever a ballot measure picks up uncommon speed, money and heat.

In the words of Reed Cowan, '8: The Mormon Proposition puts on record one of the greatest election shams in the history of the United States. If the Mormon church gets a pass on this one, we're in grave danger as a society of letting other groups purchase votes and we're putting power behind their so-called 'secret combinations' to do it again. This can never happen again. Never.'

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Revelation Changes: D&C 39 (5 Jan 1831 / BoC 41 / D&C 39)

Revelation to Baptist Minister James Covill by Joseph Smith
Manuscript Revelations Book, p. 89

New light has been shed on an 1831 revelation received by Joseph Smith.

James Covill "had been a Baptist minister for about forty years" and had decided to join the Mormon church when the revelation (D&C 39) was received for him.

Click here to read changes between A Book of Commandments & Revelations , The Book of Commandments the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants (1835 D&C) and the Modern edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C).

Continue reading ...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mormon Studies Conference: Outmigration and the Mormon Quest for Education

Tenth Annual Mormon Studies Conference

Outmigration and the Mormon Quest for Education
November 5th - 6th, Library Lecture Hall, Utah Valley University

In 2009, the PEW Forum's "Portrait of Mormons in the U.S." determined
that Mormons are "significantly more likely than the population
overall" to seek a college education. In the twentieth century, a
significant force in Mormon outmigration from Utah was the quest for
opportunities in higher education. This two-day conference will
reflect on the experience of these migrants as they sought to develop
themselves and advance the cause of Mormonism through their studies at
prestigious colleges and universities. A variety of outmigrants, their
biographers, and Mormon studies scholars will join together to discuss
this phenomenon and its connection to broader questions in the Mormon
quest for education.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, November 5
UVU Library Lecture Hall

Opening Remarks
Brian D. Birch
Director, Religious Studies Program, UVU

8:30 - 9:45 a.m.

"The Significance of the Outmigration for Interpreting
Modern Mormon History"

G. Wesley Johnson
Co-director of the Outmigration Project

"'The Unsung Role of Women in the Outmigration"

Marian A. Johnson
Co-director of the Outmigration Project

10:00 - 11:15 a.m.
Keynote Address

"From West to East and Back and Back"

Grethe Ballif Peterson
former Director, Tanner Lectures on Human Values

Chase Nebeker Peterson
President Emeritus, University of Utah

11:30 - 12:45 p.m.
Panel Discussion

"From Utah to Cornell: One Family's Adventure"
Ned C. Hill
National Advisory Council Professor of
Finance, Brigham Young University

Claralyn Hill
attorney and founding President of the
Women Lawyers of Utah County

"The Legacy of Reet Smoot: Mormons at George Washington University"
James Holtkamp
Law Firm of Holland & Hart\

1:00 - 2:15 p.m.

"'Zion is Fled' : Reflections on the Mormon Diaspora of the
Mid-Twentieth Century."
Armand L. Mauss
Visiting Scholar, School of Religion
Claremont Graduate University

2:30 - 3:45 p.m.

"J. Reuben Clark: Utah's Diplomatic Outmigrant"
D. Michael Quinn
Independent Historian

"Harvey Fletcher: An Early Outmigrant From Utah"
Robert C. Fletcher
Retired Executive Director, Bell Laboratories

Thursday Evening Session

Brigham Young University
Library Auditorium

8:00 p.m.

"My Belief in a Living God Perfectly Accords
With My Reverence for Science:
Mormon Outmigration and the Academy"

Brian Cannon
Director, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
Brigham Young University

"The Outmigration History Leadership Project: The Legacy for BYU"
Donation for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections

John Miurphy, Curator

Friday, November 6
UVU Library Lecture Hall

9:00 - 9:50 a.m.

"The Perpetual Education Fund:
Building Zion Away from the Center"

John K. Carmack
Managing Director of the Perpetual Education Fund
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

10:00 - 10:50 a.m.
Keynote Address

"A Profile of the Latter-day Saints
Educated Elite"

Jan Shipps
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and History
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

11:00 - 11:50 a.m.

"Creative Problem Solving in Challenging Situations"

Mark W. Cannon
Former Administrative Assistant/Counsel to Chief Justice Warren Burger

12:00 - 12:50 p.m.

Brownbag Panel Discussion
Secular Knowledge and Religious Faith
(presenters TBA)

1:00 - 1:50 p.m.
"In the Footsteps of Clark Kerr: On Becoming a University President"

David P. Gardner
President Emeritus, University of California

2:00 - 2:50 p.m.

"Hugh Nibley and the 'Inmigraton' of Mormon Education"
Boyd J. Petersen
Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies, UVU

Outmigration and the Mormon Quest for Education


BRIAN CANNON is associate professor of history and director of the
Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University.
He is author of Remaking the Agrarian Dream: New Deal Rural
Resettlement in the Mountain West.

MARK CANNON received a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from
Harvard University and served in all three branches of the United
States government before his retirement. He was the first occupant of
the new statutory position of Administrative Assistant/Counsel to the
Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger. He also served as
Director of the Institute of Public Administration in New York City.

JOHN CARMACK is an emeritus general authority for the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints with service in the First Quorum of the
Seventy. He currently serves as the Church's managing director of the
Perpetual Education Fund and is the author of A Bright Ray of Hope:
The Perpetual Education

ROBERT C. FLETCHER is the retired executive director of Bell
Laboratories and is Vice-President for Research at Ceramics Process
Systems. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in 1949 and is the oldest surviving son of
Harvey Fletcher.

DAVID GARDNER is president emeritus of the University of California,
where he served as the fifteenth president of the ten-campus system
from 1983 to 1992. He also served as president of the University of
Utah from 1973 to 1983 and is currently professor of educational
leadership at the University of Utah.

CLARALYN HILL currently practices law in the areas of estate planning,
adoptions, guardianship and probate. She has an MS Degree in
counseling psychology, a law degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law
School at Brigham Young University, and is a trained mediator. She has
served in numerous organizations including the Women Lawyers of Utah
County, the Provo School Foundation Board, and the Utah Valley Estate
Planning Council.

NED HILL is currently the National Advisory Council Professor of
Finance at BYU. Prior to this, he served as dean of BYU's Marriott
School of Management from 1998-2008. He received his undergraduate
degree in Chemistry from the University of Utah where he was a
research assistant to Dr. Henry Eyring. He taught at Cornell
University and Indiana University before joining BYU as the Joel C.
Peterson Professor of Business Administration in 1987.

JAMES HOLTKAMP is the Manager of the Global Climate Change Practice
Group at the Law Firm of Holland & Hart. Before entering private
practice, he served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Select Committee
on Presidential Campaign Activities ("Watergate Committee"). He is a
graduate of Brigham Young University and received his law degree from
the George Washington University where he was Articles Editor of the
George Washington University Law Review.

G. WESLEY JOHNSON is co-director of the Outmigration Project and
emeritus professor of business history at Brigham Young University. He
is a co-founder of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and served as
director of BYU's Center for Family and Community History.

MARIAN A. JOHNSON is co-director of the Outmigration Project and has
served as the associate director of the Women's Research Institute at
Brigham Young University and director of the Oral History Program at
the University of California, Santa Barbara. Utilizing her expertise
as an art historian, she is currently preparing an exhibit for the
Smithsonian Institution.

ARMAND MAUSS resides in Irvine, California and is a visiting scholar
in Mormon studies in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate
University. Prior to his retirement and relocation to California, he
was a professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State

BOYD J. PETERSON is the program coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah
Valley University and author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life. He is
the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and a board member
for Mormon Scholars in the Humanities.

CHASE NEBEKER PETERSON is president emeritus of the University of
Utah, serving in this position from 1983 to 1991. Prior to his tenure
at the University of Utah, he was vice-president for alumni affairs
and development at Harvard University. He currently serves as
co-director of the Family Medicine Clerkship at the University of

GRETHE BALLIF PETERSON was raised in Provo, Utah and received her BA
from Brigham Young University and graduated from the Management
Training Program at Radcliffe College. She also studied at Southern
Connecticut State College, Harvard University and the University of
Utah. She has served as chair of the Utah Endowment for the Humanities
and on the Board of Trustees of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee.

D. MICHAEL QUINN is an independent historian living in Southern
California and author of several books including Early Mormonism and
the Magic World View and Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. After
publishing Elder Stateman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark, he became
postdoctoral associate in Yale University's Department of History.

JAN SHIPPS is professor emeritus of religious studies and history at
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and currently
holds an Andrew W. Mellon Emeritus Fellowship for research on the
transformation of Mormonism since World War II.

For more information, contact Brian Birch at or
Boyd Petersen at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Revelation Changes: D&C 7 (April 1829-C / BoC 6 / D&C 7)

With the new Manuscript Revelation Books of the Revelations and Translations series from the Joseph Smith Papers project, a previously unavailable book has been published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Book of Commandments & Revelations (referred to as "Revelation Book 1" by the editors) contains earlier versions of revelations than published in the Book of Commandments or the Doctrine and Covenants.

Below are changes of interest between RB1 (Revelations Book 1), BoC (The Book of Commandments) & the D&C (Doctrine & Covenants). Click on the "D&C" link below to see the current version of the revelation. Note that a date is used to refer to the revelation in RB1.

Bold is added, underline has been removed.

RB1: April 1829-C

A Revelation to Joseph & Oliver concerning John the Beloved Deciple who leaned on his Saveiours breast given in Harmony Susquehannah County Pennsylvania

BoC 6

A Revelation given to Joseph and Oliver, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.

6:1 And the Lord said unto me, John my beloved, what desirest thou? and I said Lord, give unto me power that I may bring souls unto thee.--And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this, thou shalt tarry till I come in my glory: 6:2 And for this cause, the Lord said unto Peter:--If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? for he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me: but thou desiredst that thou might speedily come unto me in my kingdom: I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has undertaken a greater work. D&C 7:1-7
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829, when they inquired through the Urim and Thummim as to whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried in the flesh or had died. The revelation is a translated version of the record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself. HC 1:35-36 7:1 And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.7:2 And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee. 7:3 And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people. 7:4 And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.7:5 I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.7:6 Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth. 7:7 And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.

Note: Compare John 21:20-25

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.


This is an interesting case in that this is a translation of a buried parchment where the text changes over time.

Now Dallin H. Oaks faces his own backlash over Prop 8 reaction comments

Excerpts of LDS apostle under fire for civil-rights analogy by Rosemary Winters and Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks on Tuesday likened the post-Proposition 8 backlash against Mormons to the persecution blacks endured during the civil-rights struggle.

"Were four little Mormon girls blown up in the church at Sunday school? Were there burning crosses planted on local bishops' lawns? Were people lynched and their genitals stuffed in their mouths?" asked University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. "By comparing these two things, it diminishes the real violence that African-Americans experienced in the '60s, when they were struggling for equal rights. There is no equivalence between the two."

Oaks, in a strongly worded defense of the church's efforts opposing same-sex

"In their effect," Oaks said, "they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation."

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch, said there is "no comparison."

"I don't see where the LDS Church has been denied any of their rights," she said. "What the gay and lesbian communities are fighting for, that is a civil-rights issue."

In an interview posted on the LDS Church's Web site after the speech, Oaks called his analogy a "good one," but acknowledged that intimidation of Mormons in the wake of Prop 8 has not been "as serious as what happened in the South."

Peter Danzig, a former Mormon and a spokesman for Foundation for Reconciliation, which aims to foster understanding between Latter-day Saints and the gay community, said he agrees on the importance of religious freedom. But he found it "astonishing" that Oaks failed to mention faiths that "honor" gay marriage. He also disagreed with Oaks' characterization of gay-rights advocates as largely atheists.

"Many activists are deeply religious people," he said.

Douglas Laycock, a religious-liberty expert at the University of Michigan Law School, said he is not aware of all the Prop 8 fallout.

"I know there were some bad incidents of people being threatened," Laycock said. "To the extent that that kind of thing went on, it shouldn't have. It does intimidate the exercise of free-speech rights."

America's free-speech clause "is pretty robust, but we have had censorship of free speech on same-sex issues in public schools and in colleges and universities," said Laycock, editor of the 2008 volume, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts .

U.S. courts have not yet treated as unconstitutional sermons calling homosexual sex a sin, he said. "But Canada and Sweden have, so it's not unimaginable."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Unsafe abortions kill 70000 a year, harm millions

Unsafe abortions kill 70000 a year, harm millions
Reuters, October 13, 2009

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Increased use of contraceptives has pushed global abortion rates down, but unsafe abortions kill 70,000 women each year and seriously harm or maim millions more, a global report said on Tuesday.

Despite easier access to abortion with restrictions being relaxed in many countries, the number of abortions fell from an estimated 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003, the report by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute said.

But the study found a stubbornly high number -- almost 20 million -- of unsafe abortions, mostly in poorer countries and often carried out by the women themselves using inappropriate drugs or herbal potions, or by untrained traditional healers


Art: Mormon America

Excerpts of "Mormon America"  by Mollie at


Painting by Jon McNaughton

Jesus holding the Constitution... For reference, from the official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints news web site:

At the October 1987 general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson … spoke "about our divine Constitution, which the Lord said 'belongs to all mankind' (D&C 98:5) 'and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.' (D&C 101:77.) "The Constitution of the United States has served as a model for many nations and is the oldest constitution in use today.

"'I established the Constitution of this land,' said the Lord, 'by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.'

In the lower left portion of the painting...  "College Student":

He is holding some books under his arm. This book on the top is I believe the most important book written of why America is so great and how it has influenced the world. It's called "The Five Thousand Year Leap" by Cleon Skousen. It explains that if it had not been for the founding fathers and how they set up our Constitution we could not have created the environment to allow for the great advances of the modern world. We literally went from hoes and shovels to placing a man on the moon and we took a five thousand year leap in human development. Truly these men were inspired!

It's not just that we get the "inspired" language again but also the Cleon Skousen reference. Skousen was, among other things (including a stint as an FBI employee and the police chief of Salt Lake City), a Brigham Young University professor. He was also an adviser to Ezra Taft Benson.

Here's how the Telegraph (U.K.) wrote about the painting:

Liberal America skewered in painting that stresses Christian roots of US consitution
One Nation Under God, a painting by a Christian artist that depicts Jesus Christ holding the United States constitution while an evolutionary academic, Hollywood actor and "liberal news reporter" huddle at his feet, is generating mirth and praise online.

McNaughton's ...has done paintings of various Latter-day Saint temples. There's also this opinion piece on a local Idaho news site:

I work for an artist who's taking some heat at the moment. Jon McNaughton (LDS), is an artist best known for his landscapes, and as of late his religious paintings of the savior. You may have seen his work within the LDS Ensign magazine or other western art publications.

Patriarch of the Church: Establishment of the office

Joseph Smith Sr. (George E. Anderson Collection, BYU)
Thirty years ago in Mormon church history .... the office of Presiding Patriarch of the LDS church was effectively ended when the Presiding Patriarch of the church was granted emeritus status.  This is the first of three articles reviewing the history of this office.

On Dec. 18th, 1833, Joseph Smith Jr., "first elder and first patriarch of the Church" gave patriarchal blessings to family members and Oliver Cowdery.  He set apart his father Joseph Smith Senior as a "Patriarch, and President of the high Priesthood."  During this meeting, Joseph Smith reported a vision of Adam giving patriarchal blessings to his descendants (often referred to as the Patriarchs of the the Old Testament).  The vision indicated Adam's descendants were also High Priests who gathered together in Missouri near the Garden of Eden three days before Adam's death.

Continue reading here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

[mormon-chronicles] Oaks compares LDS to plight of Southern blacks


Excerpts of LDS leader: religious freedom at risk KSL

The anti-Mormon backlash after California voters overturned gay marriage last fall is similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement, a high-ranking leader in the LDS Church says in a speech to be delivered Tuesday.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks refers to gay marriage as an "alleged civil right" in remarks prepared for delivery at Brigham Young University-Idaho, a speech officials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describe as a significant commentary on current threats to religious freedom.

In an advance copy provided to The Associated Press, Oaks suggests that atheists and others are seeking to intimidate people of faith and silence their voices in the public square.

"The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing," says Elder Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a church governing body. "The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom."

Elder Oaks' address comes as gay-rights activists mount a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that overturned gay marriage in California. His comments about civil rights are likely to anger gay rights activists who consider the struggle to enact same-sex marriage laws as a major civil rights cause.

In an interview Monday before the speech, Elder Oaks said he did not consider it provocative to compare the treatment of LDS Church members in the election's aftermath to that of blacks in the civil rights era, and said he stands by the analogy.

"It may be offensive to some -- maybe because it hadn't occurred to them that they were putting themselves in the same category as people we deplore from that bygone era," he said.

Some of the most pointed comments in Elder Oaks' Tuesday address focus on Proposition 8. Elder Oaks said the free exercise of religion is threatened by those who believe it conflicts with "the newly alleged 'civil right' of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage."

"Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights," Elder Oaks said. "The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage ..."

Elder Oaks said that while "aggressive intimidation" connected to Proposition 8 was primarily directed at religious people and symbols, "it was not anti-religious as such." He called the incidents "expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest."

"As such, these incidents of 'violence and intimidation' are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic," he said. "In their effect they are like well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation."

The LDS Church has faced criticism for its past stances on race; it wasn't until 1978 that the Church lifted a prohibition that denied full church membership to blacks of African descent.

Elder Oaks' address also rejects any religious test for public office. He said that if "a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation ..."

In the interview Monday, Elder Oaks said he was referring in part to the 2008 presidential bid of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose LDS faith troubled some evangelicals.

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Mormon Senate Majority leader criticizes Church's support of Prop 8

Reid rips LDS Church's Prop. 8 support
Majority leader calls it a waste of church resources and good will.

By Matt Canham
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:10/12/2009 10:51:47 PM MDT

Washington » In a meeting with gay-rights activists last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized the LDS Church for backing a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in California, saying the leaders of his faith should have stayed out of the contentious political fight.

Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, is the highest ranking elected official who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He previously has not commented on the flood of Mormon money and volunteers who helped propel Proposition 8 to victory in November.

But three organizers of the past weekend's National Equality March said Reid brought up the topic during a conversation in his office.

"He said that he thought it was a waste of church resources and good will," said Derek Washington, a Nevadan who worked as the outreach director for the march. "He said he didn't think it was appropriate."

Reid spokesman Jon Summers would not discuss the private meeting, but he didn't deny the conversation took place.

"While Senator Reid agrees with his church that marriage is between a man and a woman," Summers said, "he also believes that the resources that went into the Proposition 8 effort could have been put to better use."

LDS Church officials declined to comment Monday. But Frank Schubert, campaign manager for the pro-Prop 8 movement, said: "All churches have not only the opportunity to speak out on important public issues, but really a moral obligation to do so."

The Mormon Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, repeatedly has fought attempts to legalize same-sex marriages. California's Prop 8 was no different. Church leaders announced their support in a letter that was read during Sunday services in meetinghouses throughout the Golden State. LDS officials called for financial donations and volunteers. Members of the church did not disappoint.

More than 1,000 Utahns contributed either individually or through a business to the Prop 8 fight, giving $3.8 million. More than 70 percent of that cash went to groups backing the gay-marriage ban. Utah ranked second only to California in the amount given to the ballot battle.

The LDS Church kicked in nearly $190,000 in in-kind contributions to, the leading pro-Prop. 8 group. In the end, Prop 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote.

Marchers in Sunday's equality rally, which drew tens of thousands to the U.S. Capitol, repeatedly referenced the Prop 8 defeat in signs, statements and even face paint. But when organizers sat down with Reid, it wasn't a topic they intended to raise. They wanted to thank him for supporting the march and push him on their desire for federal action giving gay Americans the ability to get married, serve openly in the military and fight workplace discrimination.

Reid signed a letter supporting the march and encouraged a sustained lobbying campaign.

In the meeting, those present touched on issues most important to them. Dan Choi, a veteran of the Iraq War, who was booted from the military under the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, thanked Reid for lobbying President Barack Obama on his behalf. Robin McGehee, of California, talked about her own family. Then, McGehee said, Reid brought up his LDS faith and discussed a recent meeting with Mormons in which he criticized the Prop 8 efforts.

"He personally said they needed to be focused on other things," she said, "and he felt it was harmful for the church to focus on such a divisive issue."

Monday, October 12, 2009

[mormon-chronicles] The Mormon Women’s Forum: Counterpoint Conference


Counterpoint Conference
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Olpin Student Union, Panorama Room East
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Theme— Women in Dialogue about Faith
Sponsored by the Mormon Women's Forum

Join us in promoting and enjoying open, honest discussion among people with diverse opinions and experiences, while also cherishing our commonalities.

9:00-10:00 a.m.– "FAITH IN DIALOGUE"
Welcome to the Conference and Introduction to the Theme:
Janice Allred, president of the Mormon Women's Forum

Lavina Fielding Anderson, editor and writer
Sidni Jones, public school educator
Serena LeFevre, student, University of Utah
Vickie Stewart Eastman, freelance executive recruiter

12:00-2:00 p.m.– Lunch and Keynote Speaker: LISA BUTTERWORTH, co-founder of the Internet Blog, Feminist Mormon Housewives, Recipient of the Mormon Women's Forum 2009 Eve Award

Susan Morgan, free-lance writer and stay-at-home mom
Ellen Decoo, student, Brigham Young University
Gloria Gardner Murdock, educator and writer

Jana Bouck Remy, blogger on &
Melanie Franti, blogger on
Jessica Steed, blogger on

Margaret Toscano, professor, U of U; Mormon feminist
Jacqueline Osherow, professor, U of U, and poet extraordinaire

More details available here.

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