Thursday, September 30, 2010

Elder Oaks on judicial vs legislative / federal vs states lawmaking regarding same-sex marriage

Excerpted from Mormon Leader: 'I'm Sorry' For Hurtful Legacy of Prop. 8 by Joanna Brooks, Religious Dispatches


... Elder Dallin Oaks, a former University of Chicago law professor and Warren Court clerk and jurist who often covers legal issues in his public addresses. On September 17, Oaks spoke in honor of Constitution Day at the historic Mormon Tabernacle, arguing that a ruling on same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court would constitute "a significant constitutional reallocation of lawmaking power from the lawmaking branch to the judicial branch and from the states to the federal government."

(Legal scholars responded to Oaks's comments by pointing out the precedent of the Supreme Court's 1967 Loving v. Virginia overturning state bans on interracial marriage.) Still, Oaks's effective "states' rights" approach to same-sex marriage seems to signal a subtle shift from his earlier public arguments framing anti-same-sex-marriage activism as a total defense of religious freedom comparable to Civil Rights-era activism.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fwd: LDS History -- Tithing

Beginning in October, **LDS Church History** will begin a topical approach to Mormon history.

The first topic will be *Tithing* -- and a time-line of events related to tithing will be gradually posted over the next few months.

Entries are automatically selected from a database of church history, searching for entries with the words 'tithing' or 'tithe' and posted each morning.

Suggestions for future topics are welcome.

Tune in --  Invite your friends --  Learn about the interesting history of tithing.

To learn more about **LDS Church History** visit

---- sneak preview ----

-- Jan 20, 1849
[Utah Currency] On 20 January 1849 a total of $3,329 bills in 50 cents, $1.00, $2.00, and $3.00 denominations were issued; these carried a face value of $5,529.50, and were modeled after the handwritten bills issued on 2 January. Feramorz Y. Fox, who studied the records of these issues, which are in the LDS Church Archives in Salt Lake City, found that these issues of currency were secured by an 80 percent reserve of gold. Most of the gold, in California-minted coins or dust, was paid in to the church as tithing. These gold-backed church treasury notes, or perhaps more accurately, warehouse receipts for gold dust, appear to have been a generally acceptable means of exchange in the Salt Lake Valley. (1)

-- Jul 14, 1849
Following the discovery of gold in California, Latter-day Saints at the site send gold dust to Salt Lake City as tithing. (2)

-- 1856
During this year the practice of paying tithing was generally introduced among the Saints in Europe. During the winter and spring there was a great scarcity of food in Utah , and many domestic animals perished. (3)

-- During 1860s
[Perpetual Emigration] For six years in the 1860s the pioneer system of labor tithing was tapped by each spring sending ox teams, wagons, and teamsters from Utah to a frontier outfitting point to haul immigrants back. Immigrants who benefited from this assistance by the "Church trains" signed promissory notes to the PEF. Theoretically, the PEF was to repay the church; but in practice this became a church investment that would yield other than monetary returns. Nearly two-thirds of all beneficiaries of the PEF were passengers of the "Church trains." (4)

1 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Utah Currency
2 - The Woodland Institute 'On This Day Historical Database,'
3 - Richards, Franklin Dewey and Little, James A., Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, Church Chronology, Ch.66, p.306
4 - Utah History Encyclopedia: Perpetual Emigration

Mormons rank 3rd in religious knowledge, behind Atheists/Agnostics and Jews

Excerpts of Poll finds unbelievers know the most about belief by  ADELLE M. BANKS,  Associated Press

WASHINGTON (RNS) Who can best answer questions about religion in America?

Based on a new survey released Tuesday (Sept. 28) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, it's your atheist or agnostic neighbor, followed by the Jew or Mormon down the street.Overall, agnostics and atheists, Jews and Mormons scored the best on a quiz of 32 questions â€" from citing the first book of the Bible (Genesis) to naming a preacher from the First Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards).

David Silverman, president of the group American Atheists, said he wasn't surprised that atheists answered more questions correctly than others, and hopes the findings will help people realize that atheists understand the religious beliefs that they reject.

"It certainly underscores the fact that atheists are not atheists due to ignorance," he said.

In fact, Smith said, eight in 10 of the atheists and agnostics polled in the survey were raised in a faith, including three-quarters who were reared as Christians.

Mormons' high levels of religious knowledge can be credited to four years of early-morning classes in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Mormon church history during high school, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Firestorm over reporting Elder Jensen apology

In a previous post, I excerpted a report of a special meeting in Oakland CA for those having difficulties with the church's involvement with Prop8.  Two years after the church mobilized members to contribute money and efforts towards Prop8, wounds continue to exist among those who remain conflicted over church loyalty and equality for gays.

The meeting was apparently very touching and those in attendance were moved by the outreach from a general authority, particularly his apology.  Similar feelings were felt by many as news of this spread over the Internet.

When John Dehlin at Mormon Matters posted the report, a heated debate erupted over the intent of the post.  In uncharacteristic fashion for a moderate-to-liberal blog, the post along with the associated comments were removed ( but most are cached here ).  In place of the post is message:

This post has been removed, along w/ all comments.  It was found to be totally objectionable by virtually everyone: believers and unbelievers alike….including most of the perma-bloggers on this blog.

What a disaster. The Management

Rory Swensen at Times and Seasons (also involved in the debate at Mormon Matters, contesting some of Dehlin's points) reported that "a debate erupted over whether the headline and the conclusions were warranted, or whether it was being spun into something that could be used by advocates for change" by commandeering "the use of inflated rhetoric to leverage Elder Jensen's words to effect change." 

Furthermore, he noted some discussion has "been replaced with fresh status updates, free of the inconvenient 'alternate voices' and "a number of comments on the thread at Mormon Matters, particularly those revealing intent and those pointing out problematic and inflated rhetoric, were deleted or moderated."

-- Apparently, strong feelings were brought to the surface.--

The discussion probably could have been handled in a more appropriate way.  But the fact that it unfolded the way it did seems to underscores the continuing difficulty in the church resulting from Prop 8. 

The idea of a general authority apologizing for the hurt felt by so many apparently resonated very deeply for some, and reminds me of the potency of some faith promoting rumors.  Irregardless of the factual basis for such rumors, they never-the-less speak to ones hopes and sense of what ought to be, and take on a life of their own.

The ensuing debate of the possible guilt of church leaders, the defense of the church's integrity, and the subsequent removal of this uncomfortable discussion  underscore the depth of feeling on this topic.

To me, this discussion is an indication that the rift resulting from prop 8 remains deep.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A meeting and apology by Elder Jensen regarding Prop 8 harm

Excerpts of Elder Marlin Jensen Personally Apologizes for Proposition 8, published by John Dehlin at Mormon Matters, a report of a special conference & stake conference by Linda Schweidel

Oakland Stake, September 19.

... there was a “by invitation only” meeting with the visiting seventy, Marlin Jensen, about reactions to Prop. 8.... at which non‑gay Mormons, gay Mormons, gay former Mormons, and non‑Mormon gays can all get together and try to understand one another.

... the GA who’s coming to speak has the opportunity to find out if there are any issue of “particular interest” ... who were affected/disaffected by Prop 8.  ...  and then every other person who got up was eloquent, articulate, and right on point. ... Marlin Jensen sat there and listened.  He’d that he appreciated the opportunity [to] come listen and promised to take what he learned “back to the Brethren.”  ...  after everybody got up, and told of the suffering that Prop 8 had caused – the division, heartache, anger, frustration and pain – and when the last guy who spoke told him that the Mormon church owed the gay community an apology, he stood and said, “To the [extent that] it’s within my power to apologize, I want to tell you that I am sorry.  I am very sorry.”  People were audibly weeping.  ... It was very, very powerful.  It felt very healing.

Stake conference was good too.  [Stake President Criddle] talked about “extending the tent” and including everyone ...  He asked should we go to dinner with couples of the same gender, and love them and accept them?  “OF COURSE WE SHOULD!”  ...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Religious influence on social opinion

Excerpts of Pew study: Religion plays key role in deciphering public opinion, Scott Taylor, Deseret News

While a number of Americans cite religion as the most important influence on shaping their opinion on key social issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and the death penalty, religious attitudes play a substantially lesser role when it comes to opinions on poverty, immigration and the environment.

So shows a recent nationwide poll — the 2010 annual religion and public life survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.


The complete questionnaire and survey results can be found online, at

Read the entire Deseret News article here.

Mormon Feminism Today: KUER's RadioWest, 9/23/10

RadioWest on KUER 90.1
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Mormon Feminism Today

The scholar Joanna Brooks says there have always been Mormon feminists. Emma
Smith, wife of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, challenged the practice of polygamy. Women in Utah won the right to vote in 1870 and Brigham Young himself
encouraged women to study law or medicine. So why is it that "Mormon feminist"
strikes many as an oxymoron?

Thursday, Doug is joined by Joanna Brooks and historian Claudia Bushman for a look at today's brand of feminism and what it means for Mormon women.

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mormon homeschooling to go world wide

Excerpts of Utah County school with Mormon values aims to go worldwide online, Deseret News


AMERICAN FORK — An American Fork private school designed around the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans Thursday to launch a distance education program that would make its curriculum available to students worldwide.

In the course of one literature lecture, Gentile skips from Shakespeare to the Bible to The Book of Mormon. Above the whiteboard at the front of the room, he's put together an illustrated of history that begins with "The Creation" and ends with "The Second Coming." On his bookcase, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen share shelf space with "The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson" and archives of The Ensign, a monthly magazine published by LDS Church.

Required reading ranges from primary source documents like Rousseau's 1762 "The Social Contract" to the Doctrine & Covenants, a book of revelations received by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

Read the entire article here

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leonard Arrington diary opened after ten years

Excerpts of Diary of famed Mormon historian reveals more of the man, Salt Lake Tribune
The newly opened diary of Leonard J. Arrington, Mormonism's most influential historian of the late 20th century, reveals a life imbued with the sense that he was chosen by heaven to help the LDS Church and its people truthfully tell the Mormon story. The diary — or, more precisely, the scrapbook — fills 50 boxes ...

Arrington had what he called a "holy, never-to-be-forgotten encounter" that confirmed his belief that God wanted him to "carry out a research program of his peoples' history," 

...Both [he and his wife] were thrilled when Arrington, in 1972, was named the church's first professional historian in the newly organized Church History Division. ...

Grace Arrington suffered, the siblings say, as she watched some in church leadership undermine the historical endeavor and her husband. He was replaced unceremoniously as church historian in 1980, but still managed the history division.

"My mom absorbed a huge amount of pain from all that," Carl Arrington says. Depressed and suffering from heart disease, she died three weeks before the history division finished moving to BYU in 1982.

"He [Arrington] maintained a cheerful countenance ... even as the ship was sinking," Carl Arrington says. ...

"Our great experiment in church-sponsored history has proven to be, if not a failure, at least not an unqualified success," Arrington wrote in his diary. " ... One aspect that will be personally galling to me will be the gibes of my non-Mormon and anti-Mormon friends: 'I told you so!' "

...Jan Shipps, an eminent non-Mormon scholar, sees his fingerprints on the LDS Church's increasing openness to scholarship in the past decade.

She cites the enormous resources the church put into the five-story Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City and the publishing of The Joseph Smith Papers. The church's cooperation with Walker and his two co-authors on the 2008 history Massacre at Mountain Meadows, is another example.

"Now, people at all kinds of institutions are studying Mormonism and it really is a change," Shipps says. "I don't think it would have happened if you didn't have that period when Leonard said history has to be told how history should be told."

Walker agrees. "It's a product of a generation of church leadership that understood that honest inquiry is not incompatible with faith."

Arrington's children say their father would be happy with recent developments.

"He won a few battles. He lost many more. But, finally, he's won the war," Carl Arrington says. "If he is looking down, and I'm sure he is, he's smiling from ear to ear."

Read the entire article here

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Universe pulls letter to the editor regarding Prop 8

Excerpts of Interview with BYU student Cary Crall, September 9, 2010 — Cynthia L.,

On Tuesday, BYU's student newspaper, the Daily Universe, published a letter to the editor from pre-med student Cary Crall about Prop. 8 and the ensuing Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial. Crall noted that many of the arguments that were used during the campaign were never even presented at trial, and those that were presented did not stand up to Judge Walker's scrutiny. Crall's letter concludes that, "The real reason [for supporting Prop. 8] is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment." His letter has since been removed from the Daily Universe website (the above link is to google cache), with this explanation:

The Daily Universe made an independent decision to remove the student viewpoint titled "Defending Proposition 8" after being alerted by various readers that the content of the editorial was offensive. The publication of this viewpoint was not intended to offend, but after further review we recognized that it contained offensive content.

This is consistent with policy that The Daily Universe has, on rare occasions, exercised in the past.


I'm pleased that Cary Crall has agreed to talk with me about his experiences as a young person living in California and at BYU during Prop. 8, as well as the latest on the situation with his letter. Our interview is below.

CYNTHIA: Welcome.

CARY: Thanks for the interview. I hope it gets my letter greater readership.

CYNTHIA: What has the reaction been to your letter? Has anything surprised you?

[ Read the Interview Here ] ...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Skousen, "The Cleansing of America" (reviewed by Kris Wray)


Title: The Cleansing of America
Author: W. Cleon Skousen
Publisher: Valor Publishing Group
Genre: Mormonism; Last Days Prophecies; Zion
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 175
Binding: Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-935546-21-4
Price: $19.95

In about 1998 I was able to sit down and chat with Dr.  W.  Cleon Skousen while he was visiting Cedar City, Utah.  At one point he mentioned a book he had written concerning the judgments of God on America according to prophecy, and the subsequent establishment of the long‐awaited Zion.  I asked him if I could have a copy, but was denied.  Cleon explained he had given the book to a few of âthe brethrenâ in the LDS Church, and they had told him it was not the right time to publish such a book.  Loyal to his Church leaders, and agreeing with their suggestion, Cleon decided to hold on to the manuscript for the time being.  When asked by his family when the right time would be, their ninety‐year‐old Patriarch explained:

âIt will be a dark time when the Constitution is being abandoned, when economic turmoil boils on every level of society and government.  It will be a time when people give up hope.  The nation will be in the grip of a dark collapse.  The people will begin to panic and wonder and start making foolish mistakes.  They will abandon correct principles for patchwork solutions that only make things worse.â [Preface]

Cleon passed away on January 9, 2006.  So in 2010, when the Skousen sons and their families decided it was time to release âThe Cleansing of America,â I was curious to find out what Cleon had been so excited about, and what âthe brethrenâ, whomever they were, had read which they thought the public wasnât ready for.

The sequel to one of Cleonâs earlier books, âThe Majesty of Godâs Law,â âThe Cleansing of Americaâ reviews âthe events and stages the Lord has predicted through His servants â the winding‐up scenes of this world.â Anyone who has read any of Cleonâs forty plus works knows that he could probably be considered a literalist when it comes to interpreting scripture, and an ardent defender of the U.S.  Constitution.  This book is no different.  It is intended to assist the reader in understanding âthe nature of prophecy, the known chronology of prophetic events, and the importance of staying close to the Lord and His prophets during the difficult and challenging years prior to the Second Coming.â

In his Introduction, Cleon states that the central theme of this book is âthe preparation of this land [America] for six major purposesâ:

1.  The restoration of the Constitution

2.  The adoption of Godâs law

3.  The introduction of a Zion society under the law of consecration with individual stewardships

4.  The great last gathering of Israel

5.  The coming of the ten tribes

6.  The building of the New Jerusalem

Essentially, âThe Cleansing of Americaâ is a mini‐manual written for the purpose of preparing America for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth from the perspective of a Mormon faithful to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints, based in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is divided into seven sections which deal with the future of America; Americaâs manifest destiny; scriptural prophecies concerning last day events; setting up Godâs law; economic systems under Godâs law; the law of consecration; and qualities of a Zion society.

Dr.  Skousen believed that America is in danger of losing its virtue, and therefore will face judgments from God, and all this according to prophecy.  A desolating scourge will cleanse the country of wicked Gentiles, and also apostate or backsliding Christians and Mormons as well.  This is all in preparation for a global gathering of righteous people to America, including members of the LDS Church, and anyone else who does not want to lose their freedoms to the coming âmilitary world dictatorship.â[2] Once the gathering to the American Zion has occurred, its borders will be sealed off with the help of divine intervention, and the New Jerusalem society will grow strong.  While wars and contention rage on among the wicked, peace and order will be found flourishing in Zion.  The inhabitants of the earth will be warned to repent by signs, natural disasters, disease, and missionaries, until Jesus Christ finally returns and ushers in the paradisaical glory known as the Millennium.  Cleon saw events happening during
his lifetime which led him to feel we were fast approaching the last days preceding the Second Coming of Christ.  Almost half of âThe Cleansing of Americaâ is dedicated to the above descriptions.

The second half of the book lays out the means by which America can achieve its six major purposes.  Utilizing mostly scriptures, with a dash of Cleonâs U.S.  Constitution philosophy and historical precedent centered on the founding Fathers, it suggests ways in which a Zion society could be set up under Godâs laws.  Subjects such as government, economics, education, stewardship, and the attitude of the participants are touched upon.

âThe Cleansing of Americaâ is easy to understand and read.  It is written in a simple style that just about anyone can follow.  I couldnât find anything that was shockingly new, controversial, or would explain why it was withheld from the public until 2010, other than the possibility that a number of LDS Church members are ignorant of some of the doctrines and history highlighted in earlier times by believers, and may have been considered mentally or spiritually unprepared for it.  Those people who have enjoyed Dr.  Skousenâs previous books and tapes will no doubt find value in this volume.  It is the culmination of at least fifty years of his thoughts.  Those who find his prior work unappealing will probably feel the same about this book, due to the similarities in perspective and arguments.

I personally think that correctly understanding prophecy has been, and can be, a complicated, and oft times nearly impossible task.  As Paul admitted, âwe see through a dark glassâ and âknow in partâ (1 Cor.  13:12), so I tend to juggle various schools of thought on the topics, trying to avoid committing too strongly to interpretations with too many details.  Nonetheless, Iâve slid âThe Cleansing of Americaâ into my âLDS books on Last Daysâ section of my bookshelves, considering it an interesting and informative work, particularly the way it is presented in a chronological framework.  But by no means is it exhaustive or the final word in the debate.


/key words: Glenn Beck, Restoring Honor/

Friday, September 03, 2010

Agreement between Mormons and Jews over unwanted baptisms for the dead

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a group of Jewish leaders have had come to an agreement on the Mormon practice of posthumous proxy baptisms.

The practice has been a source of contention between the Mormon church and Jewish groups, most notably The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, which complained that the names of Holocaust victims have repeatedly shown up in church databases despite repeated requests for the names to be removed.

A joint statement issued by the groups on Wednesday said that, "Over the years, survivors of the Holocaust have pointed out to the Church that its practice of posthumous proxy baptism has unintentionally caused pain due to the inclusion of names of those who perished in the Holocaust."

"As a result of dialogue and extraordinary efforts of the Church, computer systems and policy initiatives have been put in place that resolve this issue," the statement continued, "which is greatly appreciated by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, the result of which will be felt throughout the world."

"Holocaust victims perished only because of the crime of being Jewish," said Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. "If you then convert them posthumously you'll even take away why they died."

Now, improved computer software will make it less likely for any Holocaust victims' names to be submitted again in the future.