Thursday, October 23, 2014

LDS Church Issues Revised Video On Sacred Temple Clothing

While it is well-known that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an unprecedented video showing the unique clothing worn in the temples, that video has now been rendered private. A revised video has been issued by the LDS Church:

After the initial video was released, the Church learned that one short clip used in the original video came from stock footage filmed several years ago, and that the Church member shown in the clip was the subject of criminal charges. Only those who maintain optimal standards of personal behavior may "star" in an official LDS video. So the Church replaced that eight-second clip with new footage, but the script, imagery and all other aspects of the video remain unchanged.

While the original video was well-received both inside and outside the LDS community, some devout Mormons were a bit discomfited by the casual public display of temple garments. Many older Mormons were originally briefed upon receiving their endowments that the ceremonies and clothing were secret, and promised dire symbolic penalties if they ever publicly revealed the information. So the Church's outburst of transparency surprised them, and they wish they had been warned in advance. Nevertheless, they also accept the change.

LDS temple garments serve as a personal reminder of covenants made with God to lead good, honorable, Christlike lives. The wearing of temple garments is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior. People of other religions also wear special garments to symbolize their own covenants, including Jews with their yarmulkes and sheitels, and Muslims with their hijabs, burkas and chadors. Accessibility to temple garments is considered so important that the LDS Church authorizes the use of Desert Sand garments for those who require camouflage clothing on the job; the Church provides special garment guidelines for military, police, and firefighters who require camouflage. While temple garments have actually evolved over the years to maintain a proper balance between functionality and spirituality, the area of the body covered is basically unchanged.

Read the LDS Church's topical guide on temples for an overview of ceremonies conducted therein.

LDS-Affiliated AgReserves Australia Puts 47,000 Hectares Of Farmland On The Market

AgReserves Australia, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has put four different Riverina properties worth $100 million on the market in Australia, and there are at least four prospective buyers nosing about as of this post. The 47,000 hectare aggregation includes Kooba Station at Darlington Point, Bringagee and Benerembah stations at Carrathool and Booberoi near Euabalong. All are located in the Australian state of New South Wales. It is understood the portfolio includes river water entitlements and bore water extraction rights; sheep and Wagyu cattle are also part of the package.

US-based Westchester Group (owned by American financial services giant TIAA-CREF), Auscott (owned by J. G. Boswell Co of California), the Harvard Endowment Fund, and Bengerang, the newly renamed PrimeAg, believed to have teamed up with Walnuts Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Webster, are all said to be interested in the four farms. Bids were due several weeks ago and price expectations are in the range of $100 million to $120 million. Thus a profit of as much as $50 million could be realized as a result of the sale.

The four properties, where wheat, corn, beans, rice, stonefruit, olives, and other crops are grown, were bought by AgReserves in 1997 for about $70 million from the renowned South Australian family business G. H. Michell & Sons, an institution in the wool industry. At the time of the purchase, then-President Gordon B. Hinckley explained, "We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the savings of the church may be preserved and enhanced. At the same time, they are available as an agricultural resource to feed and support people should there come a time of need." In addition, pioneer treks were operated out of the Benerembah Station for interested parties; there was a $15 charge assessed per person for handcart and site maintenance. Along with some facilities, handcarts with boxes containing equipment, portable water cart and portable toilets were available. It is unknown if the new owners will continue the pioneer treks.

AgReserves Inc. is a for-profit company, owned by the LDS Church, which together with other Church-run agricultural affiliates, owns about 1 million acres in the continental United States on which the Church has farms, orchards, ranches, and hunting preserves. AgReserves also operates in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. Some of the Church-owned land is leased to farmers. The Church does NOT use tithing funds to purchase commercial properties. The Bare Record Of Truth blog provides a partial list of properties owned by the LDS Church as of March 2014.

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:

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.