Saturday, September 27, 2014

Summaries Of September 2014 LDS General Women's Meeting; Temples And Covenants Get Top Billing

The semi-annual LDS General Conference season kicked off with the General Women's Meeting on September 27th, 2014. This is a fair statement, since President Dieter F. Uchtdorf actually stated tonight that he considered this meeting the opening session of Conference. This is the second consecutive General Conference at which all the sisters eight years of age and older meet together instead of separating into Young Women and Relief Society meetings as in the past. The sisters were addressed by a member of each of the women's presidencies, along with a member of the First Presidency. In keeping with the LDS Church's increased commitment to multilingualism, a group of Primary children in Seoul, Republic of Korea singing "I Love To See The Temple" in Korean was featured.

Audio and video archives will be available on the October 2014 General Conference Archive Page, to be followed by written transcripts around mid-week. The entire meeting is also available on YouTube:

Media stories now published by KSL Channel 5 and the Salt Lake Tribune; summaries based upon Deseret News stories are provided below. Click the speaker's name to go to the specific Deseret News story.

-- Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President. "Prepare For The Temple". Put forth a pitch for more vigorous and sustained temple activity, promising that LDS women who prepare themselves to worthily enter the temple and remain faithful to temple covenants will receive a multiplicity of blessings from the Lord. Sister Burton added that personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple, and because Latter-day Saints come to the temple to receive eternal blessings, it should be surprising that a higher standard is required to qualify for those blessings. Those who wish to qualify for exaltation in the celestial kingdom are expected to live a higher standard of obedience that comes by practicing the virtue of obedience day by day and drop by drop.

-- Sister Jean A. Stevens, First Counselor, Primary Presidency. "Covenant Daughters of God". The takeaway was when daughters of God focus on the temple and on their sacred covenants, God is able to send blessings in personal and powerful ways. Sister Stevens noted that beginning with baptism and continuing on the path to temple covenants and priesthood ordinances, individuals are promised the blessing of eternal life if they are prepared and keep the covenants they make throughout their lives. Temples are an expression of God's love.

-- Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor, Young Women General Presidency. "Sharing Your Light". The primary takeaway here is that as faithful women proclaim truth and share their light, they are able to push back the darkness of the world. Sister Marriott said that each woman carries two important responsibilities; to add gospel light and truth to their own life, and to share that light and truth with others. She added that we must go to the source of light -- to our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the scriptures, and added that the temple is yet another way to get closer to the light. To counter accusations that the Church is biased in favor of married homemakers, Sister Marriott added that each woman has her own role to play on the earth -- whether it is daughter, mother, leader, teacher, sister, wage earner, wife and others -- and each role is influential and has moral power. This should reassure LDS women that ALL women are welcome within the Church -- married or single, homemaker or wage-earner.

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor, First Presidency. "Live The Gospel Joyful". Perhaps the real takeaway here is that we should project the appearance that living the Gospel is joyful. If we act like it's a chore or a drudge, people won't be as attracted to it. President Uchtdorf expressed the hope that LDS members will experience a renewed and an expanded measure of the love of God in their lives, to find the faith, determination, and commitment to learn God’s commandments, treasure them in our hearts, and live the gospel joyful.

President Uchtdorf also put forth a very important reminder, saying that while it is good to be a child of God, divine parentage alone does NOT guarantee a divine inheritance. Our Father in Heaven is an eternal being whose experience, wisdom, and intelligence are infinitely greater than ours, and He not only knows what is best for us, but wants us to voluntarily choose what is best for us. The commandments of God are more than a bunch of feelgood memes; they are divine counsel, based on eternal truths. Finally, President Uchtdorf took a friendly shot at "checklist Mormonism" by saying when Church members treat God’s commandments and their part in building His kingdom like something to check off on a to-do list, they miss the heart of discipleship.

Reaction from the Bloggernacle:

-- Millennial Star: Temples and covenants appeared to be the overarching theme of the meeting. Characterized the talks as excellent, giving great examples of covenants and the spiritual and revelatory power of the temple.

-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Good summaries of the talks, and it appeared these hard-bitten feminists were for the most part impressed.

-- Exponent: Appeared particularly impressed with Sister Stevens' talk, noting that she used regular Church members and especially women as examples, repeatedly emphasizing that we all have different paths. This is important to Exponent since they find there are comparatively few quotes from women in the Scriptures and often go through whole Sunday School or Relief Society lessons without any quotes from women.

-- Times & Seasons: Julie Smith was particularly impressed with Sister Marriott's talk, not only praising her inclusive attitude towards a wider variety of Mormon women, but also by her ability to talk to the younger set without tslking down to them.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Partaking Of The Sacrament Does Renew LDS Baptismal Covenants

The troubles caused by anti-Mormons are well-known. But confusion is also sown by those who are members of the LDS Church. A prime example of the latter is confusion over whether or not partaking of the sacramental emblems each Sunday renews the covenants one makes when baptized. While I was always taught that this is the case, someone on the LDS Freedom Forum begs to differ. Note this exchange:

iWriteStuff Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:47 pm:
One Lord, one faith, one baptism?

Does the LDS church authorize second/third/fourth baptisms? I hadn't heard of this before. From whence cometh this doctrine?

Christ himself was baptized only once. Outside of Alma, who submerged himself upon baptizing another as a show of humility, I can't think of any other figure in the scriptures who felt it necessary to go down into the water more than once.

Just feel like renewing your covenants? Then why not give a shot at the sacrament and making it more meaningful this week. That's how Christ intended it to be, and thus He instituted it.

Jeremy Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:54 pm:
...The sacrament is not a renewal of baptismal covenants.

Fortunately, members of the Quorum of the Twelve have addressed this issue in the recent past:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained that in renewing our baptismal covenants by partaking of the emblems of the sacrament, “we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. [Rather], we witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the [ultimate and] most important sense” (“Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1985, 81). The baptismal covenant clearly contemplates a future event or events and looks forward to the temple.
-- Elder David A. Bednar, April 2009 General Conference, "Honorably Hold a Name and Standing".

Elder Delbert L. Stapley instructed us in this when he said about covenants:

“The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a covenant between God and his people. ... When baptized by an authorized servant of God, we covenant to do God’s will and to obey his commandments. ... By partaking of the Sacrament we renew all covenants entered into with the Lord and pledge ourselves to take upon us the name of his Son, to always remember him and keep his commandments” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 14).
-- Elder L. Tom Perry, April 2006 General Conference, "As Now We Take the Sacrament".

In his writings on the doctrines of salvation, President Joseph Fielding Smith teaches that we partake of the sacrament as our part of commemorating the Savior’s death and sufferings for the redemption of the world. This ordinance was introduced so that we can renew our covenants to serve Him, to obey Him, and to always remember Him. President Smith adds: “We cannot retain the Spirit of the Lord if we do not consistently comply with this commandment” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:341).
-- Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2008 General Conference, "Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament".

I remember when I was “[baptized] by immersion for the remission of sins.” That was appealing. I assumed that all my past mistakes were now washed away, and if I never made any more mistakes in my life, I would be clean. This I resolved to do. Somehow it did not turn out that way. I found that I made mistakes, not intentionally, but I made them. I once foolishly thought maybe I was baptized too soon. I did not understand that the ordinance of the sacrament, administered by you of the Aaronic Priesthood, is in fact a renewing of the covenant of baptism and the reinstating of the blessings connected with it. I did not see, as the revelations tell us, that I could “retain a remission of [my] sins.”
-- President Boyd K. Packer, April 2009 General Conference, "Counsel to Young Men".

So let's see, now. We have four apostles who state that partaking of the Sacrament renews baptismal covenants vs. one person posting the opposite on a discussion forum. Who am I going to believe? Why, the Apostles, of course -- not because they're inerrant or infallible, but because they just might know a bit more about the subject than ordinary members.

Of course, it is possible to get a bit carried away. 3 Nephi 18:28-29 proclaims that we should not partake of the Sacrament unworthily because we risk eating and drinking damnation to our souls. A former missionary relates this account of a missionary branch president who got a bit overzealous about enforcing it. It's a funny story, but it has an unfortunate ending. From Mormon Matters in April 2008:

There was a big disagreement about this on my mission. An investigator who had been given a chapel card showed up for church just as the sacrament service was beginning. When the bread tray came to him, he was unsure what to do, so he took a piece of the bread. Just then, an older missionary who was serving in a branch leadership role jumped up from his seat on the stand and commanded the man (in Spanish) to “Drop it!” which he did. Needless to say, the investigator never returned.

I can just see that missionary leaping out of his seat like a ballistic missile, full of fire for the Lord. DROP IT! DROP THE CHALUPA! Unfortunately, he might have chased a prospective branch president away from the Church.

The BYU Harold B. Lee Library website provides a detailed essay on how the custom of the Sacrament evolved.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Will The LDS Majority Affect The Upcoming Plebiscite On Cardston's Ban On Sale Of Alcohol?

The city of Cardston in the extreme southern part of the Canadian province of Alberta was founded by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1887 after traveling the Macleod-Benton Trail to Alberta in one of the 19th century's last wagon migrations. The Cardston Temple, dedicated in 1923, is the sixth oldest operating LDS temple. And Mormons continue to predominate in the community; as of 2012, an estimated 80 percent of the city's 3,500 residents are LDS members. As expected, some of the local laws reflect Mormon cultural preferences as well as the LDS Word of Wisdom favoring abstinence, including a longtime ban on the sale of alcohol within the city limits.

However, a growing number of community members believe that legalizing the sale of alcohol will bring in more revenue; Darren Atwood, the founder of Cardston Citizens for Positive Progress, says he thinks it’s time people had some options for buying alcohol in the town. So on October 6th, 2014, Cardston residents will vote on a plebiscite to determine if the ban on alcohol sales will be overturned, although Mayor Maggie Kronen says the results will not be binding upon the city council since it's up to the province to amend Cardston's liquor laws. A CJOC audio interview indicates that Mayor Kronen not only is LDS (she refers to "our" faith), but that she is personally open to changing the law for the sake of non-Mormons. The ban would only be lifted on the sale of alcohol at restaurants with a meal, at the golf course, or the recreation facility; it would not legitimize liquor stores. Despite the community's LDS majority, the LDS Church has not officially weighed in on the debate.

A second related question on the ballot is whether sports tournaments should be allowed on Sundays. The current ban on Sunday sports also reflects the city's Mormon heritage, since Latter-day Saints take honoring the Sabbath more seriously than many other Christians.

The debate over alcohol has been simmering on the Cardston Values Alliance website for nearly a year. Both sides weighed in. First, the following quote attributed to Grant Hunter:

“We moved our family to Cardston because of the strong family values that we felt this community represented. This community is not 100% LDS but there are a majority of LDS members present in the community. This was a huge drawing point to us as we felt our values would be front and centre, and not be slammed on every front. Unfortunately, there seems to be pressure to change those points that make Cardston wonderful, (ie, no Sunday sports, alcohol free town). I will support any organization that promotes maintaining these wonderful aspects of Cardston. I have heard both sides of the argument, how serving alcohol in Cardston would help restaurants make it here, or how it would make the golf course profitable. I don’t want to see these core aspects of our community changed. I have seen how detrimental these aspects are to other communities that I have lived in. Keeping things as safe and LDS friendly in this community are a high priority for me and one that I am willing to fight for. I support with all my heart the Cardston Family Values organization. I am so happy that they desire to bring to light and stop issues that will destroy the high standards Cardston presently espouses.”

This attracted a counter-response by Tonnia, which I broke into paragraphs to improve readability:

"I think what this group fails to see is that you want to make your religious views the law which is wrong. Natives have enough problems with the 'Mormons' here even though not everyone is. And do you know why? One reason is they feel 'Mormons' are acting superior to them by implementing their religion as law onto them. How can we expect to bridge the gap? Would you like living somewhere where another religion’s beliefs controlled the laws? I agree this is a great place to live, but in order for our children and our citizens to feel they have choices, we have to allow choices. Taking our choices away create more rebellion. Believe it or not, Cardston is not immune to drugs, sex and alcohol.

I solemnly believe if Sunday sports and alcohol were not banned, NO ONE would choose to use either anyways! No liqour business will see a profit, any restaraunt serving would get boycotted, and no one wants to play organized sports on Sunday anyways! Do you see what I mean? But it’s the principle that’s important! We need to show that we are accepting of others beliefs, religion, values, etc.

Being a true LDS member you will understand that we have certain unalienable rights and free agency! It is up to the individual and families, parents, etc to teach their children right from wrong and let them choose! it is not governments’ responsibility to create “values”. It is their responsibility to protect our rights to live and worship how we wish without infringing upon other people’s rights!"

Tonnia's remarks about "Mormons acting superior" have also been echoed at times in another Mormon-dominated area; namely, Utah, and it serves as a reminder that we must better strive for the middle ground between faith and fellowship. Defend our faith without sacrificing fellowship with non-Mormons. But Tonnia also needs to understand that religion impacts culture; a Mormon-dominated area will invariable have the type of laws reflecting LDS values to some degree. Residents of Cardston would do well to avoid appeals to anti-LDS demagoguery when going to the polls on October 6th.

It's one thing to permit alcohol to be sold with meals at restaurants and country clubs. But Cardston needs to avoid the plague of liquor stores vexing so many other communities. Liquor stores, by their very existence, attract too many unsavory elements. This should not be allowed to become a Trojan Horse for the ultimate establishment of liquor stores.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Revisiting LDS President George Albert Smith's 1946 Prophecy; Why It Is Unlikely To Be Fulfilled In Its Specified Format

The deteriorating international situation, with the wars, rumours of wars, pestilence, and drought have triggered a renewed interest in prophecy among some within the Mormon community. Among the prophecies discussed is one reportedly given in 1946 by Church President George Albert Smith while visiting with a family in Utah. The person recording the prophecy was a neighbor of President Smith.

Here is the most important excerpt:

Pres. Smith said, "I have had a troublesome vision of another great and terrible war that made the war just ended look like a training exercise World War II and people died like flies. It began at a time when the Soviet Union's military might dwarfed that of the United States, and we [that is, the United States] would have missiles in Europe that carried an atomic bomb. I saw the United States withdraw its missiles to appease the Soviet Union, and then the war began." He also said that we would have big missiles in deep holes he described like grain silos which the Soviets would try to destroy with their own missiles. They would hit military installations and some cities also. He said that the president at that time would be of Greek extraction.

Until then all the presidents would be of British or northern European ancestry. He continued that the U.S. would be bound by numerous entangling alliances and would take away weapons owned by the people. He talked some about the initial attack and the ground warfare, but I can't remember enough to document all their tactics and in which countries various things occurred. One tactic, especially in Europe, was to transport tanks in thousands of big trucks like semi-trailers on the super highways to have them located where they wanted them when the war was to begin. During that explanation I asked, "What about the Atomic Cannon?" to which he answered, "I didn't see anything like that." Then he said, "The aftermath was dreadful. Think of the worst, most difficult times of the Depression." He turned to us children and said, "You won't remember the Depression," which was true. I didn't know there was a depression as I was growing up - the sun came up every morning, flowers bloomed, we went to school, and there was church every Sunday. But he repeated to our parents, "Think of the worst condition of the Depression. Can you think of something?" Our father answered, "Oh yes!" Then Pres. Smith continued, "You know how Sunday school picnics are complete with salad, chicken, root beer, and dessert, and everyone has a wonderful time. The worst time of the Depression will seem like a Sunday school picnic when compared with conditions that will exist after that great war." When he finished speaking he turned around and went to the front door.

Post-analysis reveals the most likely time of fulfillment of this prophecy would have been 1988-1989. The U.S. had just reached agreement with the Soviet Union on intermediate range nuclear forces in 1987. The key to preventing fulfillment may have been President Ronald Reagan's courageous refusal to accept Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's proposal to ban all ballistic missiles at the Reykjavík Summit in 1986. The subsequent American Strategic Defense Initiative convinced Gorbachev that the Soviets couldn't hope to outspend the U.S., leading to the transformation of glasnost and perestroika from a ruse designed to hoodwink the West into a serious initiative that led to the so-called "Evil Empire" voluntarily disbanding in 1992.

Nevertheless, the threat of this prophecy's fulfillment in this form didn't completely recede until after the 1988 Presidential elections. The Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, was of Greek origin, and in July 1988, right after the Democratic national convention, a Gallup poll showed Dukakis leading by 17 points. But this proved merely to be a post-convention bump as George H.W. Bush clawed his way back to a six-point victory in November after successfully portraying Dukakis as soft on crime.

Some people wonder if George Albert Smith used the term "Greek" as a substitute for "non-White", and claim Barack Obama is the President under which the attack will happen. However, Obama is mixed-race, and on his maternal side, his mother, Stanley Ann Durham. is of English origin. So Barack Obama at least partways continues the tradition of American Presidents holding either British or other Northern European ancestry. By the way, a short list of 2016 Presidential hopefuls reveals no one of Greek ancestry, although Bobby Jindal is of Asian Indian origin and has no European ancestry.

In addition, Russia's current military might, while improving, does NOT dwarf American military might, even though Russian bombers and submarines are behaving provocatively worldwide and Russia is bullying its immediate neighbors (Georgia and Ukraine). While the U.S. is still hogtied by entangling alliances and there are increasing infringements upon the right to bear arms, the U.S. government has not, in the general sense, taken away all weapons owned by the people yet. Consequently, I don't believe George Albert Smith's prophecy will be fulfilled in its specified format, although some of the individual events could still take place. Too many people have had visions of a physical invasion of the United States by international forces led by the Russians and Chinese for us to dismiss this possibility. Another LDS blogger echoes the possibility of at least a partial fulfillment.

Anklebiters and naysayers will complain about George Albert Smith giving this prophecy to one individual family rather than announcing it at General Conference. But there are two good reasons why President Smith did not announce this churchwide. First, it could have precipitated some panic. And secondly, most people might have scoffed at him. After all, Noah warned the people of the antediluvian world for 100 years that the earth was about to be baptized by full immersion in water, backing this up by building an ark, but in the end, only eight people survived the Flood. Noah and his immediate family. The rest of the world laughed at Noah.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Two More Missionaries Give Their Lives In Service To The Lord: Elders Connor Benjamin Thredgold And Yu Peng Xiong

Just one day after Sister Nancy Vea passed away, two more LDS missionaries made the ultimate sacrifice. Elders Connor Benjamin Thredgold and Yu Peng Xiong were found dead in the apartment they shared in Taiwan after police conducted a welfare check when other missionaries reported them missing. Authorities have not yet determined the official cause of their deaths, but LDS Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody said no foul play is suspected at this point. According to a comment posted on KSL Channel 5 by Brent B., a gas leak resulting in carbon monoxide in the apartment is unofficially suspected. Both missionaries were assigned to the Taiwan Taipei Mission. They are, respectively, the sixth and seventh missionaries to give their lives in service to the Lord in 2014.

Elder Connor Benjamin Thredgold, 19, hails from Springville, UT. He began his mission in March 2014 and had been specifically deployed to Taiwan since June. Elder Thredgold was critically acclaimed by his mission president for being particularly hardworking; he reportedly worked tirelessly to earn money for his mission, working 24-hour shifts at times for a disaster cleanup company and repairing computers and remote control cars to resell. Blake Rapier, who was Thredgold's stake president in Springville, also paid tribute to Elder Thredgold. A missionary is formally set apart for a mission by the hometown stake president prior to deployment.

Elder Yu Peng Xiong, 24, hails from the Kaohsiung Taiwan West Stake. He began his mission in March 2013.

An updated story from Focus Taiwan now states that police found a faulty indoor gas water heater, which they determined as the cause of the carbon monoxide leakage. There were no suspicious circumstances and the case has been closed.