Sunday, November 03, 2013

Church History in the 1970s Ensign Magazine

Although known as mostly a spiritual devotional magazine for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members, the Ensign has published important and interesting history articles. Some years contain a handful of material while others are full of them. It seems to depend on what scriptures are studied during a cycle. The collection here is not comprehensive, with many regional and biographic retrospectives left out. These articles cover the years 1971 to 1979. In the months ahead the other decades will be represented.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mormon Rock Music Festival

The number of Mormons in the rock music industry has grown over the years, with some of the best music coming from bands that have them as leads. I started to daydream of getting my favorites together for a music festival. Of course, I don't have any money or connections to make such a thing happen. The next best thing is to gather live performances from the Internet and collect them under one virtual place. Here they are together:

Mormon Rock Music Festival

Lindsey Stirling
Neon Trees

Enter and listen (warning, video intensive):

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Marriage and Children, a Commandment of God

The topic continues to come up what is the roles of men and women in the Church. It is a subject that many feel passionately about one way or another. Since the family is the basic unit then discussion should start there. Generally both genders are commanded to get married and have children as shared responsibilities. It is the first role of any Church member to form and participate in a family structure.

Some years ago President Monson talked about the rights and responsibilities of the Priesthood. He listed concerns he had that men were not living up to the full stewardship of their callings. Among the problems he saw was a reluctance to do the most important duty of our mortality; to get married. He acknowledged marriage wasn't always an easy choice, but they still needed to seek a companion:

"Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage . . .

Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies.

Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness."

The institution of marriage is more than finding a friend or gratifying physical desires that are natural to life. It is a commandment of God. Salvation to the highest degree of Glory depends on two committed people coming together and forming a bond. This is not just any bond, but a relationship between a man and a woman greater than mere acquaintance. It is of eternal significance and therefore must be carefully sought and cultivated.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Shroud of Turin: Easter Relic

Shroud_positive_negative_compare Spring slowly arriving brings Easter, a remembrance of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was slain for the sins of the world and came back to life so that all could be saved. Christians everywhere this time of year commemorate the occasion when sin and death were conquered by the love of God who watched His only Son suffer and die so that all may live. The witness of the Bible and other Scripture places these events not in some distant cosmic background, but Jerusalem in the 1st Century among a small group of Jews. Ever since that time people of faith have been searching for clues that once and for all establish the truth of the "good news" or Gospel. Some claim to have found proof.

The most famous and researched is the mysterious Shroud of Turin. It is a long cloth that seems to show the back and front of a faint figure with visible signs of pain and suffering. Hands are crossed at pelvic region to give the impression he was laid down in death. Stains that resemble blood can be found on his back, head, hands, feet, and side. Whatever the truth, it represents the body of a tortured and crucified man.

For centuries the Catholic Church has held it as an icon of faith, despite no official position as to its authenticity. Every so often it is put on display with millions flocking to see it for themselves. Other Christians have been equally drawn to its hideous charms. If real, the Shroud of Turn represents a moment in time with eternal consequences. As a fake, the method and meticulous construction still remain one of the greatest artistic achievements in history. Artifact or clever piece of art remains an open and fascinating debate.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jackson County Missouri and the Garden of Eden

Do you believe that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County Missouri?

No I don't. Although there have been eyewitness reports and some statements by Church Presidents, most of what they say is unsubstantiated.  The men were honest enough in explaining that Joseph Smith talked about stones as alters Adam made after expulsion from the Garden.  Still, the only official and doctrinal explanations designate Adam-ondi-Ahman like Doctrine Covenants 116 as taken from Joseph Smith's journal, "the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet."

What about Doctrine Covenants 107:53-56 where Adam blesses his posterity?

It doesn't say where Adam-ondi-Ahman is located. There really isn't much of a direct line between this and Jackson County Missouri, especially in the words of Joseph Smith except second hand. When he did talk about it, the subject was almost always like History of the Church, 3:34-35 and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.157  with the future blessing of the Children of God as part of the last days. The geography of Adam blessing his posterity is vague in other instances.

Joseph Smith did talk about Jackson County and the Garden of Eden if you believe the reports of others as honest. Why disregard them?

I don't think the reports of what he said are wrong, but I don't know that Joseph Smith understood the revelations completely. He probably got the revelation about Adam and looked around to associate the area with the Garden. Unusual stone formations solidified his beliefs and personal speculation. It was easy enough to mistakenly match up the revelation with the place as the 1994 Ensign answer to a question on the location does. Nowhere in the Doctrine and Covenants is Jackson County Missouri described as or near the Garden of Eden except if the reader is using outside sources.

Where do you think the Garden was?

The simple answer is the pre-mortal world or in other words Heaven. Considering that all the creation narratives of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham agree with each other, I would say Adam was born or placed in Africa or the Middle East after the Fall.  The rivers like Euphrates are described as located in Havilah, Ethiopia, and Assyria. Finds that contribute to Evolutionary theory agree with this set of locations (especially Ethiopia) as well. Having the Garden or Adam in America seems not very likely. 

Is there any reason to continue thinking of Jackson County Missouri as or near the Garden?

Maybe to continue the spiritual tradition as a reminder of the promises God has made to the whole world. There is no reason we can't think of the Old and the New worlds as related, just like the Bible and Book of Mormon complement each other. Those who visit Jackson County can think of the Garden, Fall, and Atonement in ponderous reflection. After all, the Garden and Adam are both no longer on this Earth any more than the City of Enoch when we talk of Zion.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Suggestions for Giving a Good Sacrament Talk

Having finished partaking of bread and water in memory of the Savior's atoning sacrifice, a young man walks up to the podium. He pulls out notes copied by printer from information found on the LDS Church website. Nervously he clears his throat and prepares to face a group of people familiar to him, but often no more than acquaintances. He puts on a smile to cover true feelings of discomfort.

"Hello." he starts. "The Bishop wants me to talk about happiness. I first learned of the assignment Saturday morning soon after getting out of bed. The phone rang and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and started dressing when my mom called out that I had a call. 'who is it?' I begged. It seemed too early for it to be my girlfriend who was probably just getting up. 'You'll find out. Just pick up the phone.' I wish I hadn't," the young man says, turning to the far older man sitting between two other men. "You caught me at the only time to reach me." He turns back to the audience, "The minute I said hello and the Bishop said hello back, I knew what this meant. I'll get back at the Bishop," he chuckles in good nature. No one takes him seriously. That is part of the problem.

He clears his throat to start the rest of the talk. For a moment he looks out among the bored adults, screaming babies, inattentive busy children, and self-absorbed teenagers. It seems the only ones paying attention are his parents; siblings not caring. "I am going to base my talk on Elder _________ of the Seventy who gave this excellent talk about what Christ did for us." The young man proceeds to read paragraph after paragraph, interjecting a few short comments of his own. By the time he ends most in the meeting are taking a cat nap or reading the latest Church magazine or scriptures on mobile devices. He sits down and the next speaker gets up to more or less repeat the process.

It doesn't have to be this way. Although the example was from a young man, adults often follow this same pattern. Part of it is a general nervous reaction to getting up in front of a group to communicate. The American culture is extremely individualistic with only the most extroverted getting noticed. Exhibitionism is the norm for public presentations and lectures set aside for teachers. No matter. There are some suggestions anyone can follow to give a better Sacrament meeting talk that is engaging and less uncomfortable. Most who read this probably already know these tips, but hopefully it can be shared. Do in our own talks what 1 Timothy 4: 12 says, "but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mormonism: Scrutinized, but Not Understood

After Romney lost the Presidency I thought most major reporting on Mormonism would be gone. For the most part it is, but there were a few last shots left. One came from NPR called Mormonism: A Scrutinized, Yet Evolving Faiththat seemed to continue the misunderstandings and mistakes. Most of it is arguable at best.

Despite going to the trouble of quoting three Mormons who should know better, there isn't much truth to the story. Each example of what the article is trying to demonstrate is far more complicated than the quick explanations. It is best to number the problems for easier reference.