Monday, December 17, 2012

A Very Merry Mormon Video Christmas

Here is a celebration of Christmas with LDS Videos. Enjoy!
An Angel Foretells Christ's Birth to Mary

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Importance of Historicity for Book of Mormon Theology

There has been lots of kerfuffle about if apologetic work is damaging or necessary. My own response is its not dangerous, but it can be spiritually irrelevant or stagnant. At the same time there is a time and a place for defending the faith or some teachings. For each person who might have been turned off by the work, there are an equal number inspired by apologetic arguments and grow more faithful. It isn't a clear cut binary situation no matter how strong the disagreement for one side or the other. There can be a multitude of Mormon Study approaches to history, doctrine, and the like with various audiences reading. One apologetic is critical to fight for and that is defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

The importance of the historicity of the Book of Mormon was recognized at the beginning of its production. Even before it was sold to the general public, a mocking thief published what was purported to be part of its pages. It read like what was expected from a farm boy with little education, complete with typical Indian representations that last even today. When the book came out, the complexity and seriousness of it forced a stronger attack. Joseph Smith could no more be the author, but a far more educated individual had to have been responsible. When this didn't seem to cut it (although such arguments still exist) then it was the product of Joseph Smith's environment he got from every and any corner his curiosity could find. This remains the dominant criticism of the book as historical with DNA the supposed nail in the coffin. This ignores that the book is as spiritually and literarily forceful today and reads far more like modern(ist) literature than the romanticism of its publishing era. The authors are self aware, holy scripture is considered amendable and reductionist, editorial comment often contains meta-narrative, and the writing process itself is explored. The depth is absolutely astounding.

Over at Times and Seasons, Steve Smith asks the question, "So why must a scholar of Mormon Studies feel compelled to take a stance with regard to many issues such as Book of Mormon historicity?" He likens it to "bracketing" the Garden of Eden, The Flood, and so forth. This brazen question is astonishing for anyone who is familiar with the Book of Mormon's own text and arguments. Joseph Smith called it, "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." He spent a lifetime reiterating and gathering evidence for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon, and not just its teachings. His short commentary on a book about Central American ruins is the most famous example. There was only one other subject that Joseph Smith declared a foundation for Mormonism, and that the Divinity of Jesus Christ. He stated, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." There was no equivocation of the reality of Jesus as Savior and there shouldn't be for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon if you take Joseph Smith seriously.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Mormons and the Paranormal

Some Mormon Ghost Tales

 When leaves start turning bright colors of amber and orange and occasionally the first snow falls, its that time of year again. At the end of October ghosts, ghouls, strange beings, and killers walk the streets. Kids laugh and candy is handed out as if grown on trees. You guessed it; Halloween has arrived.

I have to admit that Thanksgiving is a good day of rest and food while Christmas is exciting and special. Halloween on the other hand has its own pleasures. For once those who are imaginative and don't see the world the same way as others can let loose. Dressing up and acting like a fool or other is just plain fun. With these thoughts having been expressed, I will be writing about a few themes for this time of scares and spooks.

 Mormonism is full of stories about angels leaving messages and spirits roaming the world. Despite or even because of that there aren't too many ghost stories passed along in its history. Part of this could be the specific teachings related to the afterlife and those who hang around. There are only two reasons theologically recognized why a visitor from the other side of the veil of life is seen; to leave a message from the Lord or daemons tormenting mortals. There are plenty of stories about both. One of the first Mormon stories in history is of an evil possession during the First Vision and an excorcism years later. Not many probably put the former in the catagory of ghost story, but it can fit into the genre. These are great starts for the subject of Mormon spooky tales.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pranks on BYU Campus

For your amusement, here are some pranks done on the BYU campus. Not sure who these people are or why they chose the university. They have done other pranks outside of Utah and at other schools. I think one video (not below) has the main prankster stating he is from Bountiful. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Behavior of Mormon Politicians

Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader is at it again. This isn't the first time there has been Mormon against Mormon political infighting, but it shouldn't be that way; especially not personal. Nevada saw its share of the same questionable tactics. Proper behavior for those of the same religion dictates a completely different approach. It may be an impossible ideal, but it should be a strived for ideal.

Senator Reid and Governor Romney are not friends. That much is clear. What is more disconcerting is less what they have said to each other, but they should know better. It seems the allure of partisan politics is slowly destroying them.

Release the taxes, Reid demands in his position as the leader of the Democrats. According to him, some unnamed sources say that Romney hasn't paid any taxes in ten years. Worse yet, he proclaims, "your father would be ashamed," becoming judge of both Romney and his father. In reply, Romney challenges, "put up or shut up," with evidence of who makes those claims. The political has become personal.

What has come of this? Non-Mormons are now making religious judgements of Romney that he is possibly a bad Mormon hiding a lack of paying his tithing. Reid is seen by others as starting a "Mormon-on-Mormon war" based on innuendo and flimsy evidence. The justification for all of this is seeking and defending mortal power. Latter-day Saints running for office against each other, or at all, should be much more circumspect and careful.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Must Read: The Bible plus

There is a great article at The Christian Century titled The Bible Plus by historian Kathleen Flake, associate professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School and author of The Politics of Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. A note of clarification, she is a Latter-day Saint and that makes this inclusion in the magazine that much more interesting. Here are some highlights:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What Mormons Want

For about a decade Mormons have been in the public spotlight while mostly ignored far longer. Not since the early 20th Century has scrutiny reached such high levels. Reporters and commentators are trying to understand the faith and culture of Mormons, with limited success. An article writer boldy claims members want to be considered just another Christian denomination. He also insists Mormons wanting to be included in the mainstream means giving up peculiarities to the faith. Still another claim is that Mormons really want to take over the government in the guise of a politician because of a dismissed and religiously inconsequential prophecy. None of this is remotely true. Each individual Mormon has their own wants and requests as all people do, but there is a desire to go mainstream. Most reasons for this aren't surprising and can be rather pedestrian.

To start with, it must be asked what does "mainstream" mean in today's culture? Several historically marginalized groups have broken out into the normative culture at large. Few today worry about the Irish, blacks won major civil rights, Jews are celebrities, and women respected for more than home life. The Catholic and Protestant wars are virtually gone from open view. For every "victory" one identity group has, another is standing in line. Mormons are no exception. History has proven, for those paying attention, that they have already become part of the large tapestry of the U.S. and other nations. They are at least as integrated as Jews have become.

This cultural blending leads to the first Mormon want; the abolition of ignorance and simple stereotypes. Classifying Mormons as a cult, racist, anti-women, and other name calling is pure politics. The past history and current views are far more nuanced than sound bites. The same questions that are asked to a Mormon Republican, as a self styled comedian pointed out while taking his own swipe, must be asked in fairness to a Mormon Democrat such as Sen. Reid. It is a conservative leaning religion with little doubt. That doesn't make it much different than many religious institutions. Even the more esoteric doctrines and teachings if understood without sensationalism is unique, but not radical. Agree or disagree, but first understand Mormons on their own terms.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Mormon Temple Tour Posts

Welcome to the Virtual Tour of a Mormon Temple.

Open houses and dedications of temples for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been in the news lately. The most reported about was the one in Kansas City, but others are planned for the public to visit. This includes Manaus Brazil, Brigham City Utah, and a rededication in Atlanta Georgia. Once a short period of time has passed, only members in good standing with a recommend from a Mormon leader are allowed inside. It is a rare opportunity that relatively few people can attend.

Started in the early temple building days of the church, public tours have become traditional for any finished building project. Mass media has made it possible for even more people to experience a temple tour. It may not be the same, but pictures and text can be combined for those who can't physically enter one to get an idea of what a temple is like.  Some are surprised there isn't a large cathedral like space, but smaller rooms. Each has a specific purpose to help the members learn by the Holy Spirit and draw closer to the Lord. This virtual tour is to increase understanding and opportunity for those who would like to know more about an LDS Temple.

Entering the House of the Lord

A Covenant People

The Sacred Space

Family is Eternal

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mormon Temple Tour: Family is Eternal

Having finished the washing, anointing, and given the endowment there remains one important ceremony to be done in this life. Men and women must be sealed together as husband and wife, forming a family unit that will last the eternities. In a revelation to Joseph Smith it was revealed, echoing 1 Tim 4:3, "And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made." (Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17). Marriage was at first considered a temporal condition blessed by God to continue human life. Later, the importance of the bond between husband and wife was revealed to be far more important than a single lifetime.

Recorded in Doc. and Cov. 131:1-4 is a teaching of Joseph Smith about the eternal nature of marriage. It is a necessary part of what is known as "Exaltation" in the Mormon doctrine of Salvation. He stated, "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase." Soon after this teaching, Joseph Smith pondered how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon were allowed to have so many wives and concubines. In the controversial revelation of Doc. and Cov. 132,  he was answered that they were under contract obligation to marry them; with any additional marriage past the first not approved or commanded by God to be considered adultery. As for at least the first marriage it reads, "Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory."

Vancouver British Columbia Temple - Sealing Room
As with all holy and eternal ceremonies, marriages or more properly "sealing" are done inside temples. There are rooms set apart for men and women to be made husband and wife, binding them together as a family unit. Not only that, but children both natural and adopted can be sealed to parents. It is a fundamental belief that we are all spiritual (in the sense of relatedness and not necessarily moral equivalence) Sons and Daughters of Heavenly Parents. The temple sealing is the reestablishment of that relationship while it also creates new and more glorious promises.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mormon Temple Tour: The Sacred Space

The temple is symbolic; and though symbols represent something, they are not the thing. All activity in its walls are in preparation for spiritual rejuvenation and the final judgement. For instance, when saluting a flag the person doesn't show importance to that flag, but the values of the represented nation. Its a gesture that in and of itself is worthless. If someone is memorizing the symbols, but not internalizing the message, then it won’t help in the end. The covenants made and the living of them in faith by enduring to the end of mortality is what matters.

At the time Jesus Christ hung on the cross, it is reported that the temple veil in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. The three reports have some differences in the account, but each ties the death of Jesus in with the event. Mark places the event (Mark 15:38) between Jesus dying and a centurion noticing his passing with astonishment. Luke thinks of it (Luke 23:45) as part of a bad omen for the living right before Jesus gives up his life. Matthew shares with both of them (Matthew 27:51), but adds his own importance to the torn curtain. He describes how bodies of the Saints came out of graves and showed themselves to others still alive. The message seemed to be in all these accounts that the line between this world and the next would no longer be restricted to a priestly few. The Atonement of Jesus Christ had opened contact for both men and woman to the Holy. It is this passage from the mortal to the immortal and blessed state of rest that the final room represents in the endowment. It is a place where the Holy Spirit can be felt the strongest.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mormon Temple Tour: A Covenant People

Upon almost all temples, save a few, stands the statue of a wingless angel blowing a trumpet. Some have mistook it to be the Angel Gabriel who had visited Daniel to interpret dreams and later to others announcing the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ as a heavenly messenger. Functioning in similar capacity, the figure is of the Angel Moroni. Mormons believe he gave directions where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's founding prophet Joseph Smith could recover golden plates to translate by the power of God. From this translation came The Book of Mormon scripture where Mormons get their nickname.

He also represents the restoration of the Gospel in these the latter days. In him is often interpreted the angel in Revelations 14:1-6 who was seen to, "fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."

The angel is calling out all of the House of Israel and an ensign to the nations to come together.  Temples are gathering place where the work of the Lord  can bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. Those who enter are stepping inside holy ground where covenants are made and endowments bestowed between mortals and God. President Thomas S. Monson said, "temples are more than stone and mortar. They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service."  Those who enter must do so with reverence for the holy and sacred.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mormon Temple Tour: Entering the House of the Lord

From early in the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples have been built for special services. The first one was in Kirtland, Ohio where heavenly messengers delivered the keys of Eternity. The second one was Nauvoo, Illinois, finished after the death of the first Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. It burned to the ground soon after the Mormons were chased out of the United States (rebuilt in 2002). The famous quote of Brigham Young once he reached Utah, "This is the place," designated where now stands the Salt Lake Temple. Slowly at first, but with increased frequency, Mormon Temples have been constructed wherever the population and needs require these holy houses of worship.


Salt Lake City

Mount Timpanogos

What is an LDS Temple? Unlike the churches where Mormons gather each Sunday for worship, "The temple is the house of the Lord. The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant…is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house." (Elder Russell M. Nelson of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve). It is a place where families of the Earth are united for all of eternity in righteousness, "Temple. One other word is equal in importance to a Latter-day Saint. Home. Put the words holy temple and home together, and you have described the house of the Lord!" (Elder Boyd K. Packer).

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Elder Jeffery R. Holland at Harvard Law School

A small classroom at Harvard Law School is the setting of a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It would be possible to talk about his quarks of speech, unpolished citations,  and a few times where his Q and A answers could have been better explained. That would be, of course, straining at gnats when the whole is a worthy gem.  Even the LDS Newsroom article on the presentation doesn't represent the raw message he delivered. Not that soundbites ever can.

After watching the video, open up the Q and A at the above link to the LDS report on his remarks. The questions are very hard to hear, but not difficult to understand if there was only the answers. To be honest, this part is mostly interesting in the context of a non-Mormon audience. For instance, his response about the afterlife touches on what has been in the news with only minor hints at the start to the complicated subject. What is clear, but hardly surprising, is that he knows the Scriptures and uses them as illustration for better explanations.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Praise for LDS Church Resources

Since the beginning of Mormonism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never shunned modern technology. Its foundational text was printed by press. During the trek West an Apostle developed a way to record mileage. Once in the West its leadership rejoiced in the building of the first intercontinental railroad. Soon to follow was telegraph wires reaching out to communicate around the nation. During the age of the radio, then President Grant utilized it to make addresses and let the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing to whoever wanted to listen.

Visual mediums were no less serviced for the good of the Gospel. Early films by the LDS Church might be lost from history, but there is no denying ambitious undertakings. Probably the greatest coup in the golden era was influencing a Hollywood film about Brigham Young that remains classic even with shortcomings. A Mormon is credited with inventing the television used in almost every American or European household. He warned of its perverted use and cursed that it wasn't used for more educational purposes. Regardless of the predominant negative effects, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir plays on national television as the longest running program. Satellites send out General Conference messages all around the world.

Handcarts to airplanes and beyond sets up the modern era of mass communications and computers. It makes taking the Word to the world that much easier. How blessed to live during a time when resources can be found at the click of a button. Bad or horrible has come with the good, but turning into farming Amish will not extinguish the existence of the harmful. Better to engage in the hopes of a small improvement than languish in inadequacies. For the faithful there is so much more than ever imagined.