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Monday, October 20, 2014

LDS Public Affairs Unaware Of Any Proposed Changes To Temple Marriage Policy

A spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Public Affairs office has downplayed reports that the Church is contemplating a change to its current temple marriage policy. The change would only be effective in the United States, Canada, and South Africa. In a statement published by the Provo Daily Herald, spokesman Dale Jones submitted the following:

"Church leaders are well aware of the issues surrounding marriage and continue to examine them carefully, but we are unaware of any meetings where changes to temple marriage policies have been discussed".

This statement was prompted by a post on the This Week In Mormons website, in which Geoff Openshaw claims that temple workers, specifically in Bountiful and Rexburg, have been informed of a pending change at temple training meetings, and that there will be a public announcement in December with implementation beginning in January 2015:

However, it appears that this past weekend, in temple training meetings, workers were informed that a change is, indeed, on the way, and in the United States, prospective spouses will need to be married civilly (at a courthouse or wherever) before heading to the temple for their sealing, requiring them to present their marriage certificate (not just a provisional, to-be-signed license) at the temple office.

This change would put an end to the sometimes-awkward spectacle of non-member and less-active guests at temple wedding ceremonies having to sit downstairs while the ceremony takes place in the upper room. It would allow for friends and family unable to enter the temple to have full involvement in a wedding of their loved ones. A "ring ceremony" is a poor substitute for the real deal.

Note that the LDS spokesman merely said he wasn't aware of any impending changes; he didn't issue a flat denial. This indicates a strong possibility that at least some of the General Authorities find the present dichotomy awkward. This shows that the Brethren are indeed in touch with the membership, even if they react with glacial speed at times. It could also be in response to the current kerfluffle in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where the city government is threatening to sanction a minister under local nondiscrimination laws with a 180-day jail term and $1,000 per day fine for refusing to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. In that case, Donald Knapp and his wife, Evelyn, both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel who also run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, have responded by filing a federal lawsuit and a motion for temporarily restraining Coeur d'Alene city officials from forcing them to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. However, Coeur d'Alene city officials maintain that the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel does not qualify for a religious exemption because the Hitching Post is a for-profit company registered with the Idaho Secretary of State's office as a business, a limited liability company. So maybe the LDS Church might want to position itself to get out of the civil marriage business altogether if push comes to shove.

But for the time being, ministers who don't charge for weddings shouldn't have any problem. However, the day could come when that might change. After all, the LDS Church was threatened with disincorporation in the 19th century by the Federal government for its practice of plural marriage. If churches and ministers can be persecuted once, they can be persecuted again.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

LDS Movie "Meet The Mormons" Ranks Number 10 On First Day Of Release; Documentary Or Infomercial?

The heavily-promoted "Meet the Mormons", a new documentary-style movie from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ranked No. 10 in box office sales nationwide in its first day of release on Friday October 10th, 2014. According to the Deseret News, the movie was the number one film in over 100 locations, with sold-out showings reported in Salt Lake City, New York City, Detroit, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and other cities. LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Saturday this was the first time the church has managed a theatrical release of this kind, and church leaders are pleased with the response to the movie. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland discussed the movie in a video released in advance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_5z1K2Ryx0



The movie, which portrays the personal stories of six diverse Mormons and their families, opened in 317 theaters across the country on Friday. And they are not familiar celebrities like Mitt Romney and Donnie Osmond; instead. the list includes Jermaine Sullivan, a Black bishop in Atlanta; Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach at the Naval Academy; Carolina Muñoz Marin, a Costa Rican kickboxer; Bishnu Adhikari, an engineer who organizes humanitarian projects in the Himalayas; Dawn Armstrong, a missionary mother in Utah who struggled as a homeless single parent; and Gail Halvorsen, the legendary "candy bomber" during the Berlin airlift the followed World War II. All net proceeds from the movie are being given to the American Red Cross.

Senior LDS leaders pushed the membership hard to get the word out in advance, and there are some reports that some stakes tasked their wards to send up to 15 members to attend showings of the movie in their area. But senior LDS leaders practiced what they preached; exercising leadership from the front, Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by other prominent Mormons, attended a special advance screening of the documentary presented at the Jordan Commons Theatre in Sandy, Utah on Tuesday October 7th. Elder Holland characterized it as a wonderful, sweet, extended personal testimony, about faith, goodness, change, and the future. He added that it’s everything the gospel stands for. Elder Bednar was nearly as effulgent, saying that it’s not about the church as an institution, but about the people and how the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms their lives. He considers it quite remarkable.

Some LDS members expressed some misgivings about the possibility that substance may have taken a back seat to style, even though the primary target audience is Gentiles (non-Mormons). Some pertinent comments (after the jump):

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cardston Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Proposal To Lift The Alcohol Ban In Their Community By A Three-To-One Margin

It is estimated that around 80 percent of the 3,500 or so residents of Cardston, Alberta, Canada are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So it comes as no surprise that on October 6th, 2014, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to lift the alcohol ban in their community. The strength of the No vote was greater than I expected -- 1,089 against and only 347 for it, despite the fact that Mayor Maggie Kronen, who's LDS, supported the proposal. Direct consumption of alcohol is proscribed by the LDS Word of Wisdom.

If this and another related measure had both passed, it would have lifted the ban on the sale of alcohol at restaurants with a meal, at the golf course, or the recreation facility; it would not have legitimized liquor stores. But even if passed, the ban would not have immediately been lifted; it would simply have given the local government permission to ask the Province of Alberta to amend Cardston's liquor laws. Proponents, led by Cardston Citizens for Positive Progress, claimed lifting the ban would be good for business and give visitors more options for buying alcohol, while opponents, spearheaded by the Cardston Values Alliance, feared lifting the ban would weaken the traditional values which have made Cardston attractive to families. A blog entitled Cardston Plebiscite portrayed the controversy as one group of faithful Mormons contending against another group of faithful Mormons.

A second related proposal was also rejected. In response to the question "If the province would amend legislation to allow limited access in our area, are you in favour of restaurants and/or recreational facilities within the Town of Cardston selling alcohol?", 956 voted No and only 456 voted Yes.

A third proposal for Sunday sports was also rejected, possibly because it was perceived to breach the commandment to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. In response to the question "Are you in favour of allowing sporting events to book Town operated fields and facilities on Sundays?", 960 voted No and only 481 voted Yes.

LDS Church Headquarters took no public stand on these issues. Visit the Cardston municipal website for the remaining plebiscite results.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Afternoon General Session Of The 184th Semiannual LDS General Conference: General Authorities Do Not "Live In A Bubble"

The Sunday Afternoon General session of the 184th Semiannual LDS General Conference featured two more talks delivered in a language other than English; Elder Carlos Godoy spoke in Portuguese, and Elder Hugo Martinez spoke in Spanish. In addition, the LDS Church reached deeper down into its bench and sent two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy up to the lectern to give talks. This opportunity is normally reserved for members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who are unofficially considered to be apprentice apostles. Speakers focused on decision-making, family history, temple work, and the teaching value of opposition in the world. Elder M. Russell Ballard assured the audience that the general Authorities don't "live in a bubble".

Sources of Information:

-- Official LDS Conference Archive Page: Video and audio to be available in 24 hours; written transcripts by mid-week.

-- LDS General Conference YouTube Page: Videos to be posted within 24 hours; these have less buffering than the Church's version.

-- KSL Channel 5 General Conference Page.

-- Deseret News Conference Page.

-- Deseret News Photo Gallery.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- General Women's Meeting, September 27, 2014
-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Morning General Session

Summaries of talks based upon the Deseret News reports and Twitter feeds provided below; click speaker's name to go directly to the Deseret News report.

-- Elder M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve: Also defended the spiritual integrity of the Brethren, saying “Keep the eyes of the mission on the leaders of the Church. We will not and cannot lead you astray.” Elder Ballard also reassured the audience that the Brethren, because of their varied experiences, are not out of touch with the membership. And he also gave props to stake and ward leaders, saying that local Church leaders, like seasoned river guides, have also been tutored by life’s experiences. Elder Ballard also reminded the audience that the Brethren merely point the way to a greater power, saying that in searching the scriptures and the words of apostles and prophets, we should focus on studying, living, and loving the doctrine of Christ. Elder Ballard also seemed to caution us against considering questions as dissension, noting that Joseph Smith himself had questions that began the Restoration. But ultimately, the important questions focus on what matters most -- Heavenly Father’s plan and the Savior’s Atonement.

-- Elder Richard G. Scott, Quorum of the Twelve: Spoke out on the need for opposition and how we can learn from it. Opposition creates contrast and a standard of comparison. Since Adam and Eve had all their needs provided in the Garden of Eden, they did not know hardship. Since they did not experience hard times, they could not know happy times. Only through the transgression of the Fall could they experience opposition and develop a standard of comparison. The Fall makes possible happiness and sadness in our lives; we are able to understand peace because we feel turmoil. Our purpose in coming here is to be tested, tried and stretched. Elder Scott also identified four tools that out Heavenly Father has given us to draw us closer to Christ and exercise faith in the Atonement: prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and temple activity. This is the first reference to weekly family home evening I've heard in any recent conference, and Elder Ballard wants us to take it seriously and not just go through the motions.

-- Elder Carlos A. Godoy, First Quorum of the Seventy: This is the third talk delivered in a language other than English, as Elder Godoy, who was born in Brazil, spoke in his native Portuguese. Elder Godoy spoke about decision-making. Sometimes a minor change in the direction of our lives now can have a major impact down the road. To make wise decisions, we need to consider our options with the end in mind, be prepared for the challenges that will come, and be willing to step out of our comfort zones since the best decision won't always be the easiest choice. We also need to share this vision with those whom we love. Elder Godoy reminded us that we are not here in this life merely to waste our time, grow old, and die; God wants us to grow and achieve our potential.

-- Elder Allen F. Packer, First Quorum of the Seventy: Yes, he is the eldest son of President Boyd K. Packer. A good old-fashioned classical pitch for the Celestial Kingdom. Elder Packer plainly stated that qualifying for exaltation becomes a quest of a lifetime; he views qualifying for exaltation as like preparing to enter another country. But we must first obtain our own spiritual passport. Part of that passport is family history and temple work, as the names we find and take to the temple will end up in the Book of Life in the next world. If we love people, we should want to make family history and temple work a part of our personal worship, but Elder Packer believes not enough members of the Church are regularly involved in finding and doing temple ordinances for their families. Elder Packer noted that our response to this emphasis will increase our individual and family joy and happiness.

-- Elder Hugo E. Martinez, Second Quorum of the Seventy: It is unusual for a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy to address a General Conference, but Elder Martinez is the first General Authority from the Caribbean Basin and he is delivering his address in Spanish. Elder Martinez spoke about the worth of souls, explaining that every soul is of great worth to God, for we are His children and we have the potential to become as He is. But one must serve in some capacity in order to reach that potential. Being a good example of a disciple of Jesus Christ is our best letter of introduction to those with whom we can share His gospel. Elder Martinez testified that the Father and the Son know us individually, and will provide us what we need to reach our divine potential. Furthermore, as we become instruments in Their hands, we will be able to help those they show us by revelation. The Good Shepherd will gather His sheep; they will recognize His voice and follow Him.

-- Elder Larry S. Kacher, Second Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Kacher also talked about decision-making, saying that the decisions we make in this life greatly affect the course of our eternal life. Elder Kacher learned very clearly the principle that there is opposition in all things and the importance of acting for himself. He also noted that by asking sincere questions and seeking divine answers. we learn line upon line, precept upon precept, but his response to doubters and skeptics who make a career out of asking questions is that the real question is not, "Is there room for honest, sincere inquiry?" but rather, "Where do I turn for truth when questions do arise?"

-- Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve: Elder Bednar spoke about missionary work and reaffirmed that the LDS Church will ALWAYS be a missionary church. But Elder Bednar reiterated that when we invite people to attend church with us or to learn with the full-time missionaries, we are not trying to sell you a product. We simply invite people to bring all that one already knows is true, good, and praiseworthy -- and test our message to see if we can add any additional good. Our desire to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with people is simply a reflection of how important these truths are to us, and LDS members are hardly unique in sharing things that are most meaningful to us or have helped us.

-- President Thomas S. Monson: Closed the Conference with a much briefer message than normal, charging us to reach out in helpfulness, not only to our fellow members but also to those not of our faith, to remember the elderly and those who are homebound so that they will know that they are loved and valued, to be people of honesty and integrity, trying to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, and to be faithful followers of Christ, examples of righteousness, thus becoming lights to the world.

From the Bloggernacle:

-- Millennial Star.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: The number of talks focusing on following the Brethren was noted. Elder Ballard and Elder Packer took a bit of criticism on this blog for not being sufficiently inclusive. But as one commenter put it, do we want to be inclusive of piranhas?

-- By Common Consent: There is some disagreement over whether or not the GAs "live in a bubble". It was pointed out that those who live in a bubble are frequently unconscious of it. However, people whose sum total international experience consists of getting drunk over spring break in Tijuana might well accuse a missionary finishing an international mission of living in a bubble simply because he never got drunk.

-- Times & Seasons.

First Presidency And Quorum Of The Twelve Reaffirmed As Prophets At Sunday Morning General Session Of The 184th Semiannual LDS General Conference

The Sunday Morning General Session of the 184th Semiannual General Conference was characterized by a vigorous defense of the integrity of the LDS Church's leadership structure. Speaker after speaker testified of the prophetic callings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. It was as if they decided in advance to launch a counteroffensive against doubters and skeptics who've received disproportionate and undeserved publicity -- without mentioning them by name, of course. Long overdue! Also another good talk about the significance of the Sacrament.

Sources of Information:

-- Official LDS Conference Archive Page: Video and audio to be available in 24 hours; written transcripts by mid-week.

-- LDS General Conference YouTube Page: Videos to be posted within 24 hours; these have less buffering than the Church's version.

-- KSL Channel 5 General Conference Page.

-- Deseret News Conference Page.

-- Deseret News Photo Gallery.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- General Women's Meeting, September 27, 2014
-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

Summaries of talks based upon the Deseret News reports and Twitter feeds provided below; click speaker's name to go directly to the Deseret News report.

-- President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor, First Presidency: Spoke about the value of revelation. For maximum value, revelation needs to go beyond just one flash of light and comfort and become recurring. Revelation does not come easily or simply for the asking. President Eyring also took issue with the growing number of dissidents and their acolytes, without mentioning their names, who question whether or not the Church leadership has gone "astray". He cautioned people not to take lightly the feeling of love we get for a prophet of God, and reminded us that the enemy of our souls will try to lead us to take offense and to doubt the prophet’s calling from God. The love we feel for the Brethren is far more than trite "hero worship"; it is the love the Lord has for whomever is His spokesman.

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: An outstanding talk on what it means to sustain the Brethren. We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation, AND we honor each man who has succeeded him. But while we do not vote on Church leaders at any level, we are given the opportunity to sustain them. Elder Nelson defined sustaining as an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us. In fact, we sustain 15 men as prophets of God; all 15 hold all the priesthood keys that have ever been conferred upon man in this dispensation. On the Quorum of the Twelve, the apostle with the longest seniority presides, which provides continuity and seasoned maturity. If the President of the Church becomes incapacitated, his two counselors immediately form a quorum. The built-in redundancy and backup minimizes the chance that one man can ever lead the Church astray.

-- Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency: Also put out a pitch for the Church leadership, testifying that President Monson reveals the word of the Lord to guide and direct our entire Church. To be in harmony with heaven’s divine purposes, we sustain the prophet and choose to live according to his words. The Lord’s house is a house of order, and we need never be deceived about where to look for answers to our questions. As we give heed to prophetic counsel, we witness that we have the faith to submit to the will, the wisdom, and the timing of the Lord.

-- Elder Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve: Bore his testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the Gospel. When we build our house upon the Savior, the rains may descend, the floods may come, the winds may blow, but we will not fall. Elder Hales related how he obtained a testimony, saying "My own testimony grew as I learned about Heavenly Father and the Savior from the teaching and testimony of my parents, teachers, the scriptures which I read diligently and especially the Holy Ghost. As I exercised faith and obeyed the commandments, the Holy Ghost testified that what I was learning was true. This is how I came to know for myself." And he began to understand the nature of the Godhead -- God and Christ are literally a Father and a Son, separate, distinct, individual beings who are wholly unified in Their purpose

-- Elder James J. Hamula, First Quorum of the Seventy: Followed up effectively on Sister Esplin's talk about the Sacrament during the Saturday Morning Session by adding some inspiration of his own. Elder Hamula described the ordinance of the sacrament as one of the most holy and sacred ordinances in the Church, and called upon people to make it even more holy and sacred. With bread and water, we are reminded of Christ's redemption of us from death and sin. By the shedding of His innocent blood, Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of justice for every sin and transgression. In partaking of the Sacrament, we are making solemn commitments to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and in His redemption of us from death and sin. In the final analysis, the sacrament helps us faithfully endure to the end and receive the fullness of the Father in the same way Jesus did, grace for grace.

-- President Thomas S. Monson: President Monson put forth a reminder about the purpose of mortal life. We chose to come to a mortal earth to obtain a body of flesh and bones and gain experience, and to see if we would keep the commandments. God gave us agency so we can choose for ourselves and learn to differentiate between the bitter and the sweet. We learn from the hard taskmaster of experience, and our decisions determine our destiny. The path to success is to walk the same path as Jesus Christ; how He walked is far more important than where He walked. As we examine the path Jesus walked, we will see that it took Him through many of the same challenges we ourselves face in life. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples.

From the Bloggernacle:

-- Millennial Star: Useful summaries of each talk.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Mixed reviews; some complaining that Elder Nelson wasn't sufficiently "gender-inclusive" in his rhetoric.

-- By Common Consent: A rather interesting comment; one person asked if if General Conference hasn’t lost some of its power because of the ease for watching. Interesting premise; I believe voting has lost some of its power in the greater society because it is too easy to vote. Sometimes people take it for granted when it is not sufficiently challenging. One BCC commenter speculates the outburst of speaker support for President Monson is to address the persistent health rumors rather than to rebut apostates.