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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Among Six Religious Leaders Who Met With Barack Obama To Discuss "Commonsense Immigration Reform" (Amnesty)

President Barack Obama is desperate to get Americans to sign on to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and on April 15th, 2014, decided to deliver his pitch for so-called "commonsense immigration reform" to six of America's religious leaders. The LDS community was represented; here is the list of participants:

-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT
-- Dr. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, IL
-- Luis Cortes, President, Esperanza, Philadelphia, PA
-- JoAnne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church, Indianapolis, IN
-- Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, TN
-- Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, GA

The KSL website also lists Rev Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, OH, as being present, but his name is not on the White House press release. Also present to "hold Obama's hand", so to speak, were a couple of his official minders; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and Melissa Rogers, Executive Director, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

According to the official White House press release, the religious leaders shared with President Obama stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. President Uchtdorf went a bit further, calling for more action to secure religious freedom and liberties around the globe. In response, Obama expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system, and said that only Congress can produce a lasting solution. All participants expressed their longstanding commitment to immigration reform as a moral imperative and pledged to continue to urge Congress to act on reform as soon as possible.

Later on, during an interview outside the West Wing, President Uchtdorf offered additional insight:

"There are many programs and actions that the president or the administration is standing for, for which we have opposing views. ...In regard to this with immigration, we certainly hope that a values-based, balanced approach to this reform is coming about and not being delayed by small things, which can be resolved by common consent and common sense. And we hope that this time around the communities and the nation pull together and find a solution to this problem, which could be resolved in a Christian ... way."

The LDS Church also published official reaction through the Mormon Newsroom website. The Church reiterated its support for the three principles of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to dealing with the complex issue of immigration reform. The foundational principles on which the Church’s position is based are:

-- We follow Jesus Christ by loving our neighbors. The meaning of ‘neighbor’ includes all of God’s children, in all places, at all times.
-- We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.
-- We acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders. All persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.

Some additional reaction from a couple of the participants was documented by the Daily Caller. In regards to impact of additional immigrants on actual Americans, JoAnne Lyon said the subject did not come up, and she sidestepped the issue by saying that additional employment will generate more taxes for government. Dr. Noel Castellanos took the same tack, noting that many store-owners in Chicago are undocumented. He claimed that bringing all those people out of the shadows and into the general economy would create a greater economic resource. However, skeptics say the Senate’s June 2013 immigration bill, which is being used as the defining standard, would sharply increase the inflow of immigrants and low-wage guest workers -- up to 40 million -- over the following decade. Americans interested in holding members of Congress accountable on immigration can find Congressional scorecards at Numbers USA.

What it would do for the estimated twenty million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed remains to be seen. It is suspicious that it is primarily progressives and business leaders are pushing this so-called "commonsense immigration reform". Nevertheless, it's always a plus when the senior leadership of the LDS Church is invited to participate in discussions with high-level political leaders on important issues of the day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Australian Mormon Youth Anticipate Elder William R. Walker's Conference Talk On Mormon History, Stage Handcart Trek Reenactment Near Melbourne

During the Sunday Afternoon General Session of the just-concluded 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder William R. Walker delivered a pitch for Mormon history. Elder Walker, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy who is also the Executive Director of the church's Temple Department, wants us to become and remain aware of the sacrifices made by early Mormons which laid the foundations for the 15-million member international church we have today. If you missed his talk, the video is embedded below in playlist format, so you can toggle the small arrows on the bottom line to access other Conference talks if desired:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_xnwsw7OPI&list=PLClOO0BdaFaNWGTdSq0_EgcD8yrwsutTO&feature=share&index=57



A complete written transcript will be available HERE by the end of this week; until then, read this Deseret News story.

But it looks like a group of Mormon youth in Melbourne, Australia must have anticipated Elder Walker's talk. The Age reports that on Tuesday April 8th, a group of LDS teens ranging in age from 14-18 formed up at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to head for a state forest near Meredith in order to re-enact the handcart trek which was part of the Mormon migration across the Great Plains from 1856-1860.

Of course, it will merely be a taste of the privations endured by those pioneers. They will cover only 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) instead of 2000 (1242 miles), and their trip involves sleeping out for only two nights instead of four months. The youth will be organized into "families", each one headed by a responsible adult couple. They will sleep under a tarp strung between trees, and entertainment in downtime will consist of pioneer games like "stick pull" (which is basically a two-man seated tug of war). They will sleep rough, eat rough and hike rough, meaning period meals cooked in cast-iron pots, and provisions as basic as hessian sacks filled with turnips, potatoes, carrots and a bit of flour. They will enjoy a few modern conveniences such as sleeping bags, a modern first-aid kit, and a port-a-potty. The Mormon Handcart Trek Reservations website and the LDS website provide helpful information for others wanting to organize similar treks.

But still, it will be a tough trek dragging wooden carts filled with supplies, weighing around 250 kilograms (550 lbs). While eight of the original 10 handcart companies accomplished their journeys will minimal problems, the Willie and Martin Companies were disastrous primarily because of a late start, which resulted in them being caught in early winter storms while still in Wyoming, and by using green wood for many of their carts.

Of course, staging handcart treks is only one way to honor the pioneers who helped lay the foundations for our modern Church. Many of them sealed their testimonies with their blood and their lives. But as Elder Walker pointed out on Sunday afternoon, our own faith can be fortified by learning of the remarkable dedication of our spiritual forebears who accepted the gospel and lived true to the faith. The more connected we feel to our righteous forefathers, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices. There is a difference between jumping into a climate-controlled SUV and driving 10 minutes to a temple vs. dragging a handcart across 1242 miles of sometimes-unforgiving territory with no motorways or rest stops.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Summary Of 184th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Afternoon General Session: Elder William Walker Pays Tribute To Mormon Pioneers

The closing session of the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints featured a ringing testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and a tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith on the anniversary of the LDS Church's founding. Joseph Smith was cited as a powerful example of how truth is always accompanied by opposition, and the stronger the truth, the greater the opposition. But one of the talks I found most inspirational was delivered by Elder William R. Walker, who sought to renew understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices of Mormon pioneers who trekked across the Great Plains and carved out Zion in the Intermountain West and make them more relevant to a modern globe-girdling church; as a matter of fact, Elder Walker hit the biggest home run of the Conference with his talk, as far as I'm concerned.

Video, audio, and written archives are now available HERE. Mormon Newsroom provides photo galleries of speakers and surroundings.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Morning General Session

Summaries of the talks are available through the Deseret News Conference Page, although some of the information is also gleaned from LDSConf Twitter. Clicking on the speaker's name will take you directly to the Deseret News story about the speech (after the jump):

Summary Of 184th Annual LDS General Conference, Sunday Morning General Session: The Meaning Of Gratitude, Adversity, And Love

The Sunday Morning General Session of the 184th Annual LDS General Conference created no headlines, but instead resulted in some good old-fashioned honest counsel. On the menu was a call for more gratitude particularly during times of trouble, following up on good intentions, and a lesson on how Jesus Christ's two great commanders, Love the Lord and love your neighbor, are interactive and inseparable. One of the sisters issued a call for us to resist becoming merely a "checklist church".

Video, audio, and written archives are now available HERE. Mormon Newsroom provides photo galleries of speakers and surroundings. Good secular-oriented coverage and a photo gallery provided by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

Summaries of the talks are available through the Deseret News Conference Page. Clicking on the speaker's name will take you directly to the Deseret News story about the speech (after the jump):

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Summary Of 184th Annual LDS General Conference, Saturday Evening Priesthood Session: Becoming Better "Priesthood Men"

Despite the Ordain Women sideshow, the Saturday Evening Priesthood Session of the 184th Annual LDS General Conference proceeded smoothly. From the counsel given to become better Priesthood men, and the repeated caution for us to show courage and stand for what is right at the risk of social unpopularity, it appears the brethren are trying to firm us up to become a "peculiar people" once again, as the "era of good feeling" towards us begins to wind down. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave an outstanding talk on the issue of women and the Priesthood, reminding us that although women don't have Priesthood offices, they are not without Priesthood power.

Ordain Women Sideshow: As promised, the Ordain Women activists showed up to attempt to get tickets to enter the all-male Priesthood Session. Although as many as 500 were expected, in the end only 200+ were in evidence according to the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL Channel 5. KSTU Channel 13 claims 300 showed up. They were turned away, and it appears this will be the last time Ordain Women uses this tactic for the foreseeable future. For their part, Ordain Women claims 510 people showed up to support their effort.

Video and audio archives are now available HERE; written transcripts will follow by mid-week. Mormon Newsroom provides photo galleries of speakers and surroundings.

Summaries of Other Conference Sessions:

-- Saturday Morning General Session
-- Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Sunday Morning General Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

Summaries of the talks are available through the Deseret News Conference Page. Clicking on the speaker's name will take you directly to the Deseret News story about the speech (after the jump):