Monday, December 27, 2010

A List of 50 Faithful Mormon Blogs

When a Latter-day Saint who has a testimony goes on the Internet it is hard to navigate the good, the not as good, the bad, and the plain evil. There is also the issue of size with more than an abundance of choices for reading. Agrigators, that gather a collection of blogs, are helpful. Yet, they too can be overcrowded at times for those just starting out on the Internet journey.

The list below is a type of primer of discovery for believing Mormons who don't want or have the time to swim in the garbage, but want to find some options. Each blog picked contains content suitable for faithful Mormons who seek the Spirit along with engaging the mind. It is far from exhaustive, but contains those that seem strong in testimony and currently consistent in posting. The blog world is constantly changing and some could fall out of use, but those that had a post in December and seemed to post at least once a month were chosen over others.

Happy New Year:

A Soft Answer
Amateur Mormon Historian
Millennial Star
Small and Simple
LDS Media Talk
Things of My Soul
No Death Before the Fall
What Do Mormons Believe?
Rachel's Latter-day Saints Blog
LDS Alive in Christ
Becoming LDS
Enduring to the End
More Good Foundation
The Backyard Professor
Sixteen Small Stones
Warfare and the Book of Mormon
LDS Philosopher
Mormon Insights
Put on the Armor of Light
Seth Adam Smith's Blog
Fred's Spiritual Corner
Little LDS Ideas
LDS Women of God
By Study and Faith (A House of Prayer)
LDS Church Growth
Dreaming of Jerusalem
A Study of the Book of Mormon
Lehi's Library
Eternal Musings
Scriptorium Blogorium
Questions About Mormonism
LDS Doctrine
The Truth is Restored
That Good Part
Grace for Grace
The Iron Rod
Know Your Religion
A Motley Vision
The Journal of a Black Mormon Girl
Simply Mormon
This Week at Church
Becoming LDS
Helaman's Army
Anderson Family Scripture Study
Mormon Scholars Testify

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas Story (Part 1-3 links)

Here is a wish that everyone have a Merry Christmas. This written gift is a presentation in Scripture and Sacred Music of the purpose we gather family together to open presents, eat food, and enjoy company. Read the story and listen to the music on your own or with others. Enjoy!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

I would like to thank Emily W. Jensen for "Christmas spirit throughout the Bloggernacle" shout out in her Mormon Times daily article.

The Story of Christmas Pt. 3

1 Nephi 11:1-33.

1For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.

2And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?

3And I said: I desire to behold the things which my father saw.

4And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

5And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.

6And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.

7And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.

8And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

9And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

10And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

11And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

12And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

13And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

14And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

16And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

18And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! UAdd a Note

20And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

21And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

22And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

23And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.

24And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.

25And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.

26And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!

27And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

28And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.

29And I also beheld twelve others following him. And it came to pass that they were carried away in the Spirit from before my face, and I saw them not.

30And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men; and they did minister unto them.

31And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.

32And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

33And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.

He Sent His Son - Children's Songbook #34

Matthew 28:1-8.

1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Mark 16:9-20.

9¶Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12¶After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14¶Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19¶So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

He Is Risen! - Hymns #199

Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24.

22And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

23For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

24That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

Joy to the World - Hymns #201

The Story of Christmas Pt. 2

3 Nephi 1:1-23

1Now it came to pass that the ninety and first year had passed away and it was six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; and it was in the year that Lachoneus was the chief judge and the governor over the land.

2And Nephi, the son of Helaman, had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records which had been kept, and all those things which had been kept sacred from the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem.

3Then he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth; and his son Nephi did keep the records in his stead, yea, the record of this people.

4And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.

5But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.

6And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.

7And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.

8But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.

9Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

10Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.

11And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.

12And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:

13Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

14Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

15And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.

16And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand.

17And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.

18For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief.

19And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.

20And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.

21And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.

22And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord.

23And it came to pass that Nephi went forth among the people, and also many others, baptizing unto repentance, in the which there was a great remission of sins. And thus the people began again to have peace in the land.

Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus - Children's Songbook #36

St. Luke 2:1-38.

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The Nativity Song - Children's Songbook #52

21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Hymns #209

St. Matthew 2:1-23.

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11¶And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16¶Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19¶But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.

21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judæa in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

With Wondering Awe - Hymns #210

St. Luke 2:39-52

39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

42And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

43And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

44But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

45And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

46And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

47And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

48And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Main Page

The Story of Christmas Pt. 1

St. John 1:1-14.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2The same was in the beginning with God.

3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

6¶There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty - Hymns #72

St. Luke 1:5-80.

5¶There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,

9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

57Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.

58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.

60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.

61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa.

66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;

72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;

73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,

75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;

77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,

78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,

79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains - Hymns #212

St. Matthew 1:18-25.

18¶Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Silent Night - Hymns #204

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

BYU is Winning . . . Psych

Football season has improved for Brigham Young University the last few weeks as they have won games by large margins. What is less known is BYU has been winning a competition that has national implications, sort of. Like the last few football games, the point spread is large. Unlike the last few football games, the competition isn't over with a declared winner. It extends until the middle of December.

The "Campus Wars," as it is called by USA Network, is a chance for colleges to compete to have a "shout out" on the popular show Psych. For those who don't know, Psych is about a guy who starts his own psychic detective company. He also does work for the Santa Barbara, CA police department on retainer. The catch is that he isn't really (if you believe there ever are) a real psychic, but has a very good eye for detail. He uses this to both fool the cops and clients while solving crime cases. It is similar to the other popular show "Monk" that was on the same network, but with different sensibilities. The two leads are much younger and there are more pop culture jokes, particularly about the 80s during the time the characters were kids.

As can be seen by the current leader board, BYU has a good point advantage:

1 Brigham Young University (UT)

2 California State University-Long Beach (CA)

3 University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)

4 University of South Carolina (SC)

5 North Carolina State University (NC)

The reason BYU students and alumni like the show shouldn't be too hard to figure out, although there hasn't been any polling. It is mostly a relatively "clean" comedy. At times takes a swipe at mainstream culture both current and from past decades. Use of language is almost completely mild. For a "clean" culture like BYU that has more of a sense of humor than might be known by others, it seems a perfect match.

What is planned for the "shout out" is not known. It might be a mere mention of the college or an extended joke. Whatever happens, There is still some time left before the competition ends. Trends look in favor of BYU, but who knows. No matter the outcome, fans will keep watching.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Religiously Smart Atheists, Jews, and Mormons. Not!

I know it has been a while since I have posted, but it has been summer vacation and took a writing break. Not sure how often this blog will be updated with my thoughts and ideas. A subject came up that I wanted to comment about.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life had a survey where Atheists, Jews, and Mormons scored higher than other groups. The conclusion has been that Atheists are smarter than all the groups because they answered more questions than the others. At least that is how blogs and mainstream news has reported the issue. Even some Mormons have congratulated themselves for knowing so much compared to those nasty Evangelical Christians.

However, when you really get down to the numbers all of this turns out to be much ado about very little. First, the survey only had 32 multiple choice questions. Pop quizzes usually have more than that in any given college classroom. Lets actually look at the results.

Average number of questions answered correctly out of 32:

Atheist/agnostic: 20.9
Jewish: 20.5
Mormon: 20.3
White Evangelical Protestant: 17.6
White Catholic: 16.0
White mainline Protestant: 15.8
No particular belief: 15.2
Black Protestant: 13.4
Hispanic Catholic: 11.6

Basically, there is not much of a difference between them overall. That means 20.9 out of 32 (65%) and 11.6 out of 32 (36%) was the spread. Talk about trumpeting smarts when colleges (at least before the era of grade inflation) would have flunked every one of them. I’ll admit a D can be passing and an F is flunking no matter how you look at it. None of them are near an A for bragging rights. It is true that reports do mention the poor performance by all, but then go right ahead and treat the top scores as unexpected brilliance. They are mostly shocked by the top standing of Atheists who are only ahead of Jews by .4 percent. Mormons are ahead of the 4th highest group by a mere 3.3 percent when the spread starts to become relatively significant. The sample size, unless you are enamored by statistical numbers, isn't very great. It consisted of 3,412 respondents. With the number of people in the United States, I would think that at least 10,000 respondents would be needed for trustworthy analysis rather than a quick water cooler discussion.

What accounts for the low scores? My own experience is the secularization of culture and purging religious discourse in the public square (not just politics) except between contending extremist ideology. Positive interfaith dialogue tends to be universal brotherhood with no serious discussion of theological or historical differences. Then again, I don't think the scores would be much higher during any part of American history except for questions about individual's own religious community.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Passover Mormon Style

When I was at BYU it seemed that Passover during the Easter season was a huge deal among a small group of students and teachers. At the time I thought it was a cool idea. Mormons believe themselves under Covenant to the Lord in the same way as Israel in ancient days. It would seem only natural that Mormons would pick something from Jewish tradition to share.

This year the Jewish news has taken notice of the practice among Mormons:

On Monday evening, Jews around the world began the holiday with a Seder, the traditional meal during which the biblical story of the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt is retold. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be holding one of their own this week.

Avraham Gileadi, a Mormon who is also a Hebrew scholar, will direct "A Passover for Joseph and Judah" at Provo's Scenic View Academy on Friday.

Gileadi, 69, is affiliated with the Seder's sponsor, The Hebraeus Foundation, an organization promoting biblical scholarship. He said that Mormons and Jews share similar attributes and that while Passover isn't an LDS tradition, it could be.

"A lot of LDS people are also part of that heritage," Gileadi said. "It's as much about us as it is about Jews."

Why are some Mormons embracing this religious meal? Is Gileadi correct that it could become a Mormon tradition? Should it be?

I really don't have a strong opinion about this, but am interested in its increased prominence. At the moment the tradition is done among a very small group and usually in Provo or BYU. There doesn't seem to be a movement among grass-root Mormons to incorporate it as part of a yearly worship service. Even while writing this there was a talk in General Conference that mentions the Passover, but connects it to Communion/Sacrament taking. That might be why it has never been more than a curiosity. It is tied to a Christian holy rite done year around.

Probably the reason the Passover continues to come up in Mormon circles every now and then is the lack of Mormon religious celebrations. Christmas can be filled with personal and community activities both secular and religious similar to the mainstream, but Easter is a blank slate. Candy and Egg hunts are done by families, but there is nothing beyond General Conference of LDS leaders and that might take place during another week. It also isn't specific to the season. Passover for some Mormons could be a way to commemorate the Easter Holiday with religious meaning. I know some that go to or watch on television Catholic Mass during the holiday. Must Mormons reach beyond their own religion to worship at this blessed time or is there something within that might be used to create a unique tradition? Whatever the answer, I believe there are those who are searching for a greater than Easter Bunny to celebrate the Risen Lord.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mormons and Extraterrestrials

It has been reported that Mormons may be the strongest religious believers in Extraterrestrials[pdf] according to a recent survey. Of course, this doesn't include New Wave or UFO religions that have Aliens as a core doctrine. Scientology cannot exist without the idea of alien life at least having existed at one time. However, Mormonism focuses on the more traditional (although with unorthodox views) of G-d, Satan, Jesus, and Angels. The existence of Aliens doesn't form any central teachings or rituals; but it is strongly present.

There were 39 Mormons, 1 by paper and the rest by e-mail, out of 1325 people who responded. It asked various questions about belief in life on other worlds, but mostly if discovery of such life would be damaging to faith. As reported in a New Scientist article, few believe E.T. would damage their own faith, but a larger percent believe that wouldn't be the case for others.

To be fair, there wasn't that much difference between the respondents as to their personal position on discovery of aliens and crisis of faith. All of them had strong numbers in the belief they would not have a major crisis. Mainline Protestants were virtually tied with Mormons, although using the mainline label poses difficulties in interpretation. Even the lowest number among the faithful was above 80 percent in the belief discovery of alien life wouldn't be harmful. Buddhists were the highest in those who didn't believe the discovery of E.T.s would undercut what they believe.

It is when asked about the official doctrines that the numbers become less even. Although still above half for all faiths, only Buddhist respondents had higher numbers than Mormons when asked if the faith tradition itself would be challenged. The survey singled out Mormons in particular as a religion that could survive discovery of alien life on other planets. It reported:

Note how high Mormons score. Many Mormon respondents added comments to the effect that belief in ETI is already a part of Mormon doctrine. "My religion (LDS, Mormon) already believes in extra-terrestrials."

A greater disparity exists between Mormons and other religions when asked if Extraterrestrials would have sharp conflict of beliefs and practices compared to humans on Earth. Almost 30 percent more Mormons than other respondents disagreed that there would be significant differences. It didn't go without notice by those who gave the survey who wondered if incorporation of ETI in doctrine contributed to the responses.

Where does this positive acceptance of life on other world's come from? It is a combination of new revelations and doctrinal speculation. Mormonism can be seen as more than a religion based on a single planet called Earth. It extends The Gospel to both the Cosmic and the Eternal of existence. Critics might see this as "science fiction" rather than religion, but that is no worse than the "fantasy" of pure paranormal or metaphysical belief systems. Mormonism can often be science friendly and rather modern in theory.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stay Away From Lawyers

A quote from my last blog entry continued to linger in my mind. I did a little more research on other scriptures related to 1 Corinthians 6, where the Saints are admonished not to go to secular law one with another. The conclusion seems to be that lawyers are unrighteous and judges at best a necessary evil. Ideally the Saints should be taking care of legal matters within the faith.

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, the Saints are told they will "judge the World" and "judge angels," and therefore should be able to handle the smallest legal details. Instead of taking on this responsibility, "brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." Such reliance on judgment outside the faith is seen as both shameful and spiritually problematic.

It might seem silly and rather insular to keep from going to court to wrong grievances, but I believe it is the key to understanding how to love our enemies. One of the hardest admonitions of Christ is that we should love our enemies and not go after them. Part of this is not understanding exactly what he meant. Of course we shouldn't fight, seek revenge, or otherwise hate those who do us wrong. However, I think a closer reading of his examples in the sermon, along with other scriptures, leads to an even more radical interpretation. In Luke 6: 27-31 he states:

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise

Considering other scripture's bleak look at lawyers and the legal system, it might be not taking our enemies to court is part of showing love. If we do seek justice then we might find something less satisfying to the conclusion. As verse 39 says, "Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?" The search for justice ends up as retribution. The outcome is no better than an eye for an eye that makes both participants blind.

More than one story in the Book of Mormon demonstrates the destructive nature of lawyers and judges. They hold the power over the people and too often decide the fates of others. During the mission of Alma, he ran into the lawyer class as he tried to teach them the gospel. They found him in contempt of both the law and their profession. In some ways rightly so, as he said, "And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges." (Alma 10:27). What he mostly condemned was the unethical practice of "ambulance chasing" as it would be called today, and more. Alma 11: 20 says:

Now, it was for the sole purpose to get again, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.

This system of paying lawyers was set up by the righteous King Mosiah, but they were seeking profit unchecked. In the end the goal was to find a way to get Alma and Amulek to shut up, put in jail, or worse. This would not be the first time the lives of prophets had been endangered by lawyers. When Jesus finished up reproaching scribes and Pharisees for their legalities, a lawyer recognized his profession was also questioned. After all, they were the ones that often interpreted and made judgments according the laws. Jesus reply in Luke 11 was, "Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them." They are the ones that built up the cases making it possible to sentence prophets to death. More than that, "for ye [lawyers] lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." They don't do any of the hard work, but simply place the work on other shoulders. Worse, they make it difficult for the judged to get from under the law. I don't believe Jesus was talking about those found guilty of serious crimes; although that can always be a possibility. At any rate, lawyers lived an easy life while making it hard for others to do the same.

What kind of law and judgment does Christ want from his Saints? It isn't based on adversarial opposition. One side should not be going against another to prove some kind of case. That creates contention that has been announced as of the devil. In Doctrine and Covenants 58: 19-23, it reads:

19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.
23 Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth. Behold, here is wisdom.

In the book of Exodus 18:20-22, the Lord explains:

20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

Today's litigious culture is spiritually toxic. Going to court for every little grievance has produced too many laws and unscrupulous lawyers ready to stoke hatred and animosity. This isn't to say that we should allow laws to be broken, but the Saints should be slow to seek justice. Too many times the reasoning ends up retribution rather than set things right. The purpose for law in mortality, as the Lord has revealed, is not to prosecute and defend. It is for finding truth and helping those in the wrong to repent. How can modern Saints under the hand of secular government achieve those goals? It is not an easy question to answer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Will Not, I'm Mormon

Reading the many blog posts I do during the week, I came across answers to some strange questions. Often it seems that those who don't know Mormons, and some who do, have this idea that the faith has too many rules and regulations. Most importantly is that somehow the religion is different from all the others in the approach to ethics and commandments. Some have said there are over 100 commandments that Mormons must follow. There is some truth to these opinions because the Western World has changed over the years. What is expected of people today is far less than what was taught before the social revolutions back a generation. Yet, understanding the required behaviors for a believing Mormon isn't that hard.

The first recognition is that Mormons are not Eastern Quakers or Catholic Nuns and Monks. It is taught that a person should live in the world, but not of the world. That means participating in life; going to work, getting married, going to school, raising children, etc. Life is not about a cloistered existence. That leaves a lot of room for what a Mormon can do in this world. As one blog said about living the standards, "There may be lots of rules and guidelines but these aren't rocket science. Its simple things like get enough sleep, wear appropriate clothing. If you ask me.... Being Mormon is easy. The world is hard!"

What are the Mormon standards they are asked to live with as a believer? It starts with a basic list that can be found in the Bible of all places. In the book of Exodus Chapter 20 the list includes:

1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

At the very least this list is the most basic of guidelines to be followed. In case any of the above was missed in the first reading, these 10 Commandments are also in the Book of Mormon where it is asked why those who teach it don't follow them.

There are another set of ethical standards that are said to be harder to follow, but no less familiar to those who know the Bible. Its called the sermon on the mount or the sermon on the plain,
depending on what version is used. It is standards of behavior outlined by the mortal Jesus to a gathered multitude.

Over the years there have been some guidance given the leadership of the Church to its members. Some of this can best be explored in For the Strength of Youth pamphlets. A few unusual suggestions might be "Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable." Still other unusual suggestions could include, "When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you," and "Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings." It must be emphasized that the above doesn't automatically assume a sin has been committed (pornography might be the exception), much as trying to avoid them.

Biblical Prophets and Apostles have been just as concerned with strict avoidance of sin. Paul's letters are filled with advice, suggestions, and commandments that sound like a laundry list of do and don't. From 1 Corinthians is the admonition:

7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus does break down the commandments into two basic components Of "love the Lord thy God," and "love thy neighbour as thyself." Those who are fulfilling the spirit of the Commandments or Law must have these as the basis for behavior. Following the Lord is built on Faith and Repentance.

Probably what singles out Mormons more than anything, besides dressing standards sometimes, is the health standards known as Word of Wisdom. At the minimum we are commanded not to drink alcohol and coffee, smoke, or do drugs. Technically, none of these are considered sins although they will keep a person out of sacred Mormon Temples. That is not a light restriction to be sure and can stop spiritual growth. However, a person who does these things won't be considered worthy of damnation just for doing them. It is a lot more complicated than an if/then eternal perspective. Too many times Mormons forget this fact and make improper judgments. Even so, our bodies are to be treated as temples of God.

Ultimately it isn't about "I can't, I'm Mormon", but following the 10 Commandments, Jesus' Sermons, and avoiding the sins as described in Scriptures. It is about not following after every trend of the world. It is about making a choice based on faith. Those who think Mormonism is strict must honestly come to the conclusion that what is taught in the Bible is no longer respected. There really is nothing new, only the old spelled out in new ways. Mormons are different only in so far as the social moral compass has been forgotten or regressed.