Monday, December 23, 2013

Gay marriage in Utah may be national tipping point

Excerpts of Utah's battle over gay marriage is a sign of a larger shift by Niraj Chokshi and Carol Morello, Washington Post
A fresh battle over same-sex marriage in conservative Utah, the heart of Mormon country, has offered gay-rights advocates hope that their effort has reached a national tipping point.

The judge who struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban refused to stay his own ruling Monday, beating back the third challenge in two days to his Friday ruling declaring the state's ban unconstitutional. Utah is expected to take its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, but in the meantime hundreds of same-sex couples continued to get married at Salt Lake City's county courthouse.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Official explanation of Race and the Priesthood

Included in the post are:
  • Excerpts of Race and the Priesthood, from the Gospel Topics section of, the 3rd in a  series of explanatory articles by the church addressing difficult issues in Mormon History
  • A few brief observations about the article
  • Two speeches by Brigham Young referenced in the article. Because they are not readily available on the Internet in their entirety, they are included here.
    • Brigham Young Address, January 23, 1852
    • Brigham Young Address, February (January?) 5, 1852

Monday, November 25, 2013

Joseph Smith Sr. & Hyrum Smith Patriarchal Blessings

After a brief time occupying the office, Joseph Smith ordained his father Joseph Smith Sr. as the church patriarch. Upon Joseph Smith Sr.'s death, his son Hyrum Smith became the church patriarch.

Historian Michael Marquardt has made the blessings of these two patriarchs available online for the first time. They provide a unique view of early Mormon thought and possibility.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Similarities found between the Late War (1816) and the Book of Mormon (1830)

Several studies by Chris and Duane Johnson compared the texts of 135,270 books published between 1500 and 1830 to the Book of Mormon. The authors believe their studies indicate the Book of Mormon is dependent on the book "The late war, between the United States and Great Britain, from June 1812, to February 1815 : written in the ancient historical style" (1816) by Gilbert J. Hunt.

Their study (which excluded the Bible) found Late War to have a highest number of four word phrases in common with the Book of Mormon. The Johnsons used multiple algorithms to confirm their results and have requested peer review of their research.

The wide availability of old texts at various universities, and have allowed "Big Data" studies to proceed. Details of their study are available here, with further explanation here. (Update: here is a new, detailed page).

The text of Late War can be viewed here and an ASCII text version here
An earlier comparison of Late War and the Book of Mormon was done by Rick Grunder, and can be read here. Grunder looks at similarities between the two texts including war between the wicked and righteous, maintaining the standard of liberty with righteousness, reports of battle causalities, righteous Indians vs savage Indians, false Indian prophets, the conversion of Indians, brass plates, the worthiness of Christopher Columbus, ships crossing the ocean, elephants/ mammoths in America, literary hebraisms, use of "it came to pass," "curious workmanship," "chief captains," and others.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

LGBT suicide & homelessness in Utah

Excerpts of From the Editor's Desk, Danny Crivello, American Fork / Herald Extra
[[Note: Apparently the article was removed from /]]

At the American Fork cemetery is buried a 21-year-old who took his life because he couldn't handle being gay, according to the note he left. Bryan was a graduate of American Fork High School. He had served an LDS mission and was planning on attending Joseph Patrick Academy of Hair.

Every day two teens are treated for attempted suicide, according to the latest data from the Utah Department of Health. Students who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are eight times more likely to die by suicide, twice more likely to be physically assaulted by their peers, five times more likely to be bullied.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Apostles reemphasize anti-gay Marriage position

Excerpts of Elder Russell M. Nelson: 'Decisions for eternity', and Elder Dallin H. Oaks: 'No other gods' Deseret News
Elder Nelson. "We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes and how we honored God's pattern for marriage and family."

Apostle Christofferson's sharp words about feminists changed

Excerpts of Small and Simple Things by Libby at
If you thought you heard the words "Some feminist thinkers view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women, and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation," during general conference, be reassured: you aren't losing your mind. You did hear them. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said them in the Saturday afternoon session. But when you go to read the talk in the Ensign, the words "feminist thinkers" won't be there.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Elders Uchtdorf and Holland on doubt and mental illness

Excerpts of Uchtdorf urges questioning Mormons to return by Peggy Fletcher Stake, Salt Lake Tribune
It is wrong to assume that Mormons who leave the faith "have been offended or lazy or sinful," a top leader told members Saturday during the LDS Church's 183rd Semiannual General Conference.

"It is not that simple," said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church's governing First Presidency.

Some struggle with "unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past," Uchtdorf explained. "We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question."

"To be perfectly frank," Uchtdorf said, "there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Historian Michael Quinn: 20 years after excommunication

Excerpts of Noted historian still believes in Mormonism, but now as an outsider by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune
D. Michael Quinn  is the kind of researcher whose obsessive interest in the Mormon past compelled him to read every church authority's journal, to scour the country's libraries and private collections for LDS documents and to analyze every anti-Mormon pamphlet he could find, hunting for ways to justify contradictions between simplified official accounts and messy human history.

The accomplished scholar and lifelong believer naively assumed that these two halves of his personality were complementary, that he would use them to build up the faith he loved.

In reality, Quinn's twin passions were on an inexorable collision course from his teen years in the 1960s until September 1993, when the Yale-trained historian was drummed out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for apostasy.

That same month, four other writers and feminists were excommunicated and one was disfellowshipped. Together, they became known as the "September Six."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mormons join Hawaii’s gay-marriage fight

Excerpts of Mormons join Hawaii's gay-marriage fight, but with a new approach by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune
After keeping quiet while Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and others approved gay marriage, the LDS Church is once again speaking up — but with a new, post-Prop 8 tone and emphasis.

In a letter dated Sept. 15 and read to congregations, LDS leaders across the state urged Mormons to "study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation."

The letter did not tell members which side of the issue to take, only to study the church's "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," a document that endorses one man/one woman as the ideal for marriage.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hiring practices for women change at College of Religious Education at BYU

Excerpts of A Revolutionary Hire at BYU's College of Religious Education, SquareTwo, Vol. 6 No. 2 (Summer 2013)
In the Summer 2011 issue of SquareTwo, we reported on the first-ever appointment of a female department chair in the College of Religious Education at Brigham Young University.  We were all pretty excited about that precedent-setting and paradigm-shattering event.  Well now something new has happened at the College that makes that appointment seem humdrum—and just two years later!  Indeed, we think you should be sitting down for this . . .

The Department of Ancient Scripture in the College of Religious Education at Brigham Young University has hired . . . drum roll . . . a married women with children ages 2 years old and 6 months old who plans to have additional children!  Yes, it's true!  Her name is Amy Easton-Flake, and she holds a Ph.D. in American Literature and Women's Studies from Brandeis University.  And her husband is moving to Provo, too, putting her career first and sharing child care responsibilities with her.          

LDS authors back gay writer

Excerpts of Mormon authors back gay writer in squabble with Cedar Fort, By Matthew Piper, Salt Lake Tribune
A dispute between a Utah publisher and a gay author who made a nod to his boyfriend in his biography has gained the attention of Mormons in the publishing community.
As of Saturday morning, 41 Mormon authors had signed a letter asking publishers to base decisions on "content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor." Meanwhile, an Arizona-based LDS author said Cedar Fort just last week published a book of his that contains a significant gay subplot.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Young Women Survey

Excerpts of LDS Young Women Survey
LDS Young Women Survey Results (1300 responses)

These are the results so far of a totally anonymous survey about women's experience in the LDS YW program.  The aim of this survey is to assist leaders in understanding the experience of women in the LDS YW program.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quorum of 70 member loss of belief

Excerpts of Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times (front page), July 20, 2013.
Hans Mattsson ... became an "area authority" overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church's history and teachings, he dismissed it as "anti-Mormon propaganda," the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members' doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Provo and Cedar City Utah 2nd in nation for guns at airports

Roswell, NM had the highest rate of attempts of taking guns through airport security checkpoints (8.5 per 100,000 passengers).  Provo and Cedar City are tied for second place, at 6.5 per 100,000 passengers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Church Statement on DOMA and Prop 8 rulings questions judicial & democratic processes of the U.S.

After fighting against same-sex marriage for over 20 years, the LDS church released a statement about the Supreme Court's rulings on Prop 8 and DOMA, saying they raised "troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial systems operates" suggesting many will wonder if "there is something fundamentally wrong" when a popular vote is found unconstitutional.

DOMA, Prop8 struck down by supreme court

Excerpts of Joy, jeers as Supreme Court gives gay marriage a boostby Tomas Burr, Matt Canham and Isobel Markham, Salt lake Tribune
Washington • Married gay couples can file taxes together and share health benefits, while, in the nation's most populous state, same-sex partners will once again be legally able to say "I do."
In a pair of landmark 5-4 rulings Wednesday, the Supreme Court handed gay-rights supporters major victories and also signaled that it could, in the immediate future, take up the question of whether state bans — like Utah's — on same-sex unions violate the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mormon History Association Best Book & Article Awards

Excerpts from 2013 MHA Award Winners, Christopher @ Juvenile Instructor
Best Book Award
• Brandon Plewe, S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson, eds., Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-Day Saint History. Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2012.
Best Biography Award
• John G. Turner, Brigham Young, Pioneer Prophet. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.
Best Documentary History /Bibliography Award
• Joseph Smith Jr., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories Vol. 1, 1832-1844, eds. Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen. The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1. Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012.
• Joseph Smith Jr., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories Vol. 2, Assigned Histories, 1831-1847, edited by Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jenson, and David J. Whittaker. Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012.
Best International Book Award
• Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958 (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).
Best First Book Award
• J. Spencer Fluhman, A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
Best Article Award
• Christopher C. Jones, “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace, James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39-40,” BYU Studies Quarterly 51:1 (2012), 67-98.
Best Article on Mormon Women’s History
• Lisa Olsen Tait, “The Young Woman’s Journal: Gender and Generations in a Mormon Women’s Magazine,” American Periodicals 22.1 (2012): 51-71.
Best International Article Award
• Ronald E. Bartholomew, “The Role of Local Missionaries in Nineteenth-Century England,” in Reid L. Nielson and Fred E. Woods, eds. Go Ye Into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2012).
Article Awards of Excellence (2)
• Adam Jortner, “Solomon Spaulding’s Indians, or, What the ‘Manuscript Found’ Really Tells Us,” Journal of Mormon History 38:4 (Fall 2012): 226-247.
• Benjamin E. Park, “(Re)Interpreting Early Mormon Thought: Synthesizing Joseph Smith’s Theology and the Process of Religion Formation,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 45:2 (Summer 2012): 59-88.
Best Family and Community History Award
• Stephen G. Schwendiman, The Mendon Saints: Their Lives and Legacy, Vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2012).

Missionary efforts shift towards Internet

Excerpts of Mormon missions: Door-to-door approach is out; Internet is in by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune


In what was billed as a "historic" meeting Sunday, Mormon apostle L. Tom Perry announced that the Utah-based faith's largest missionary force ever — more than 70,000 strong — will tap online tools to help them connect with and teach their "investigators."

Elizabeth Smart calls for change in LDS teachings about sexuality

Excerpts of Mormon Feminism: Elizabeth Smart calls for change, by Holly Welker, City Weekly

At a human-trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins University in May, Elizabeth Smart said she didn't try to escape after being kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home, both because she feared reprisals from her captors and felt worthless after being raped, thanks in part to abstinence-focused "object lessons" about premarital sex. Whether she realized it or not, Smart is part of a growing movement of LDS female activists, members anxious for cultural and practical changes within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in areas ranging from how girls learn about modesty and sex to ordaining women to the priesthood.

Church supports BSA proposed acceptance of gay scouts & denial of gay scout leaders

Mormon Church to accept gay Boy Scouts, by Mark Trumbull,  Christian Science Monitor
In a major step regarding openness in the Boy Scouts of America, Mormon Church officials have approved the scout organization's acceptance of gay scouts. Still, the new ruling remains controversial because it bans gay scout leaders.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Danger of Homosexuality, 20 years later

packerTwenty years ago this week, Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk to the All-Church Coordinating Counsel opening with some advice he received about which direction church administrators should face.
 "Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face." Then he added, "some of your predecessors faced the wrong way."

Elder Packer said this advice was difficult to follow at first, but "in time, I did understand, and my resolve to face the right way became irreversible."
He gave several anecdotes about blessings of unquestioning obedience to file leaders saying he knew "how easy it is to get turned around."  He warned of three dangers influencing church members to "face the wrong way" which "have made major invasion[s]" into the church because of "social and political unrest." Members of the church were succumbing to these "temptations" because they seem "so reasonable and right."
"The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals."
To illustrate his points, Elder Packer quoted from three letters, each representing one of the three dangers and provided specific responses to each. 

By the time Elder Packer gave this talk in 1993 church leaders had firmly established a stance regarding homosexuality – that it was an unnatural condition one was not born with, a "disease" possibly brought on by parental failure, masturbation or satanic influences. 
Continue reading "Elder Packer and the Danger of Homosexuality, 20 Years Later" »

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Feminist activism results in women praying in conference

Sister Jean A. Stevens became the first woman to pray during a General Conference during the Saturday Morning Session of the 183rd General Conference.Excerpts of Historic prayers in General Conference by Kurt Hanson, Daily Universe
Sister Jean A. Stevens and Sister Carol M. Stephens made history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by offering prayers during the 183rd Annual General Conference.
When Sister Stevens gave the benediction on Saturday morning it was the first time a woman has prayed during a session of General Conference. 

Holland says openly doubting is OK, but lean toward faith

Excerpts of "Lord I Believe" by Jeffery R. Holland, April General Conference
Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"The Paradoxes of Religious Peace and Conflict" -Margaret Toscano

2013 Eugene England Memorial Lecture 

"The Paradoxes of Religious Peace and Conflict"  

Margaret Toscano 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference: "The Mystical"

Inline image 12013 MSH Conference, "The Mystical."

We now invite you to register for our 2013 conference, which will be held March 15 and 16, 2013, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. This year's meeting focuses on mysticism, with presentations by two notable guest speakers, David Loy and Elliot Wolfson, as well as papers on this and other topics.

Joseph Smith Papers volume editor needed

Historian/Documentary Editor, Joseph Smith Papers

Job Description

Conference: The Expanded Canon, Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts

Annual Mormon Studies Conference 

UVU's Religious Studies Program has been sponsoring its annual Mormon Studies conference since March, 2001. These conferences bring together scholars, practitioners, and other presenters to explore a variety of topics and themes in Mormon culture, theology, history, literature, etc. Our program also offers a variety of other lectures, symposia, and conferences that can be seen here.

Thirteenth Annual Mormon Studies Conference  
The Expanded Canon
Perspectives on Mormonism and Sacred Texts

 April 4-5, 2013

Saturday, March 02, 2013

New edition of LDS Scriptures; race, polygamy, historical accuracy

Excerpts of New Mormon scriptures tweak race, polygamy references, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune. See here for a detailed list of changes.
Scholars laud changes, say they bring a more accurate, fuller view of faith's history.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Egyptian Alphabet documents posted

The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of the following new content and features to its website,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mormon presidential candidate endorses gay marriage

Excerpts of Huntsman endorses gay marriage, urges GOP to do same, by Thomas Burr, Salt Lake Tribune
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is endorsing gay marriage and urging fellow Republicans to embrace the cause of equality as a basic conservative principle.

Huntsman, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination, backed civil unions as Utah's chief executive but said in an opinion piece that was "four years ago" and he's evolved.

"I've been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life," Huntsman said in a piece published in The American Conservative magazine. "There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Monday, February 04, 2013

LDS Church files brief supporting Prop 8 and DOMA

LDS Church files SCOTUS brief supporting Prop 8, DOMA, Fox13 News, Ben Winslow
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed a pair of briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to uphold California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Friday, February 01, 2013

"Revelations in Context" at

Inline image 1Those with an interest in church history have had to deal with incomplete, uncontextualized and often inaccurate historical information published in church curricula.  Now, a major step has occurred to correct this situation.

Excerpts of Revelations in Context: The Unveiling by Ardis Parshall,
... [without good contextual background to the revelations, understanding can be difficult] ... What are you supposed to do as a Gospel Doctrine teacher? No wonder we pick out verses here and there and do proof-texting! How else can we teach from this scripture? What a muddle! ...

A new resource for understanding the Doctrine and Covenants is going online. "Revelations in Context," a series of articles addressing the background of each section of the Doctrine and Covenants, is being published by the Church

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A case for Cowdery’s Rod as the “gift” of D&C 6

Within a few weeks of meeting Joseph Smith,
&C 6 & 8 were received for Oliver Cowdery
This week's Gospel Doctrine lesson (#5, "This Is the Spirit of Revelation") covers D&C 6,8 and 9 which discuss Oliver Cowdery and revelation.
Both sections 6 and 8 each discuss two gifts regarding Oliver Cowdery. Those who have compared D&C 8 with the earlier versions of that revelation (such as in the Book of Commandments) are aware that one of the gifts  is a revelatory rod owned by Oliver Cowdery. In this post, I'll provide textual evidence that the first gift mentioned in D&C 6, is the same as the gift of the rod described in earlier versions of D&C 8.*

Monday, January 28, 2013

Marriott, Boy Scouts and gay rights

Excerpts of Mormon-founded Marriott joins push against anti-gay marriage law, L.A. Times

... One of the nation's leading gay-rights advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, has formed a coalition of major companies calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  

One of the first companies to join the effort was Marriott International Inc., which was founded by a devout Mormon, John Willard Marriott...  

"We are proud of our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equal treatment of all our employees within our benefits programs. ... Joining the business coalition for DOMA repeal affirms that commitment." ...
Excerpts of Boy Scouts may mirror Mormon policy and let in gaysSalt Lake Tribune

The Boy Scouts of America soon may allow openly gay members and leaders in its ranks, a move that could have a dramatic impact on the group's century-old relationship with its top sponsor: the Utah-based LDS Church.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

General Young Women's leader: "No need to lobby for [women's] rights"

Excerpts of Remark stirs controversy on LDS women's rights and roles, Kim Johnson,
During the January 15th Devotional Address, Elaine Dalton said, "you will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sweet potato genome suggests pre-columbian Polynesian invovement

Clues to Prehistoric Human Exploration Found in Sweet Potato Genome, by Lizzie Wade, Science Mag
Europeans raced across oceans and continents during the Age of Exploration in search of territory and riches. But when they reached the South Pacific, they found they had been beaten there by a more humble traveler: the sweet potato. Now, a new study suggests that the plant's genetics may be the key to unraveling another great age of exploration, one that predated European expansion by several hundred years and remains an anthropological enigma.

Ensign magazine discusses changes to revelations

Excerpts of "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Gerrit Dirkmaat, Ensign Magazine
--The ongoing Joseph Smith Papers Project at the Church History Library has highlighted the essential role that Joseph Smith's revelations played in building the faith of early members of the Church. They understood that the process of revelation was not static and that the Lord sometimes commanded Joseph to revise, update, or correct the written revelations.

Study: Utah ranks last in women attending college

Excerpts of Utah's higher-education gender gap grows, by Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune
UVU study • Percentage of women attending postsecondary institutions trails nation.

Utah women marry younger, have children sooner and have more of them than their peers in all other states. This demographic quirk is often cited as the reason women don't attend college at the same rate as men, a growing cause of concern among higher-education leaders.

Friday, January 04, 2013

A Selected Chronology of Lorenzo Snow

The Priesthood / Relief Society manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow will be studied by Latter-day Saint men and women in 2013. In conjunction, LDS-Church-History will present a in-depth chronology of the life of Lorenzo Snow.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2013 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association

... The Mormon Transhumanist Association, ... will be held on 5 April 2013 from 9am to 5pm in Salt Lake City, Utah. Speakers will address the themes of Mormonism, Transhumanism and Transfigurism, with particular attention to topics at the intersection of technology, spirituality, science and religion. ...