Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr Representing America and The Church

Newsweek International has a excellent article about John Hunstman Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to China, that is worth reading. The former Republican Governor of Utah has had a long experience of building good will between China and America but also in building a relationship between China and the LDS Church.

Here's an interesting paragraph from the Newsweek article:
He publicly declared Mandarin Chinese a "strategic" language, vital to America's future, and Utah became the first state to pass legislation to include it in public-school curricula. Surprisingly many Chinese officials return from visits to America saying their fondest memories are of Utah. Sharing meals with Mormon families and being serenaded by American schoolchildren in Chinese seems to make a big impression on travelers from the People's Republic. "They said, 'If a state governor can have kids singing in our own language, it's even better than traditional diplomacy,' " says Shawn Hu, a former Utah state trade representative who helped arrange numerous Utah trips for Chinese delegations.
Some people are speculating that John Huntsman will run in 2016. If he runs, that will be an election China will watch closely.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Changing Our Perceptions Of LDS Housewives: The Hot Mormon Muffins Calendar

The creator of the calendar that featured 12 LDS RMs posing shirtless has just released a new calendar where 12 LDS mothers are posing in the kitschy vintage pin-up style.
A spokesman for the calendar stated that the calendar is designed to shake up stereotypes that paint Mormons as "stuffy or hyper-conservative and mothers in particular as homemakers from another era."
"For Mormons, the most holy calling next to missionary work is motherhood," the spokesman said. "But they're not all the subservient housewives that people think they are."
I think the creator's intent to dispel people's stereotypes about LDS mothers is not really necessary because LDS mothers and housewives of today are nothing the mothers of previous generations. I don't think this is strictly an LDS issue either.
The mothers and wives of today have grown up playing Nintendo or Atari), watched MTV, downloaded songs from Napster in college (when it wasn't illegal to download free music) and are now listening to their favorite songs on their ipods while taking the baby stroller down the street. Even the grandmothers of today who grew up and got married that "stuffy" or "hyper-conservative" era have seem to have shed the old stereotypes of that time.
The truth is that we don't need the calender to change our perceptions about motherhood and housewives because of the changes in the cultural, political, and economic landscape of America have already done that.
What do you think? Does people's perceptions about LDS housewives really need to be changed and improved?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thomas S. Monson: The Most Powerful Octogenarian in America.

Slate.com has just released its 2009 list of the most powerful octogenarians in America. Thomas Monson is #1 on their list:
The top spot this year goes to 82-year-old Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only person on the list to rule over millions of people as a prophet of God. Enjoy it while you can, Monson—you're only old once.
Congrats, President Monson.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Charting The Book of Mormon: A Cool Way To Study The Book of Mormon

I accidentally came upon a great website, hosted by BYU, called "Charting the Book of Mormon" where you can get a visual understanding of the Book Of Mormon in the form of charts and graphs. Looking at some of the charts, its pretty detailed and comprehensive yet it is presented in an easy to understand format which goes along way in understanding the Book of Mormon.

This website is useful in a lot of ways. For those of you who are visual learners or like to have things presented in a logical and organized way, this is a great website to use as an aid to your study of the Book of Mormon. Even if you're not a visual learner, its a great personal study tool you can use to understand the more complex parts or aspects of the book. It is also resourceful for those of you who teach Gospel Doctrine and can use it when it comes time to teach the Book of Mormon in Sunday School.

I highly recommend the website and urge people to check it out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Elder Dallin H. Oaks v. Senator Harry Reid

On October 13, there were two interesting articles that came out at the same time. The Salt Lake Tribune published an article of Senator Harry Reid criticizing the LDS Church for its involvement of Prop 8 while the LDS Newsroom published an article about Dallin H. Oaks giving a speech at BYU-Idaho where he outlines his belief that religious liberty is being threatened in America.

I find it amusing that two distinct and separate articles come out at the same time that presents a brewing debate among prominent religious and political LDS leaders despite the fact that they work together often. I wonder how the discussion goes when Harry Reid and Dallin H. Oaks actually discuss the issue of religious liberty and gay marriage face to face. Harry Reid believes that religion, specifically, his religion ought to stay clear of being involved in the public debate over gay marriage whereas Dallin H. Oaks believes that any faith, including the LDS Church, have a right to promote and preserve religious liberty in the public square.

Clearly, there is a disagreement about which right deserves federal protection: religious liberty or same sex marriage. This is a legal debate between a LDS Senator and an Apostle who has had a successful career as an attorney. If you want to read a good legal treatise that reflects Elder Oak's position on this issue, I highly recommend the Harvard Law review article titled, "Or For Poorer: How Same Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty" By Roger Serverino. For a good legal treatise that reflects Harry Reid's position, I recommend, "Same Sex Marriage And Slippery Slopes" by Eugene Volokh.

Who is correct here? Elder Dallin H. Oaks or Senator Harry Reid? Whose voice do we listen to? A politician or an Apostle?

UPDATE: Here's the transcript of Elder Oak's talk.

Friday, May 1, 2009

How The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected

US News & World Report has an interesting short little interview with John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge who have worked together to write a book. The book, God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World, makes the case that on a global scale, secularism is on the wane and religion is making a strong comeback.

In the interview with US News & World Report, the authors make an interesting observation about America's approach in resolving the tension of modernity and religion and how it has an influence on the revival of religion around the world:
"You've had two sorts of versions of modernity competing with each other, both stepping from the Enlightenment, one stepping from the French Revolution, the other from the American Revolution. The European version is: The more modern a country becomes, the less religious it becomes. The American version is: So long as you separate church and state and create a free market of religion and don't have an official church, the two things can coincide. You get competition between various religious groups, and religion can therefore become a friend of democracy, a friend of technology, a friend of all the things you see in the modern world. What you're beginning to see is the American approach to things becomes quite universalized. It is the slow spread of an American model whereby religion is a choice, not just something that's just inherited, and different religious groups compete for souls."
This is an interesting observation in light of the recent finding that most religious groups in USA are on the decline. Counting the number of adherents in a religion can be a challenge but the drop in church membership is steep enough to prompt the Christian Science Monitor to publish an article about the future collapse of Evangelical faith in the United States.

So, how is it that America can be the principal driving force for reviving religion around the world IF church membership in the United States is on the decline?

The perfect explanation for this is that we're not really reviving religion around the world. We're not reviving anything really because religion has always been around for since time began. Religion can survive, even the most harshest of circumstances, such as in secular countries or oppressive regimes as evidenced throughout history.

What is going on is that we're exporting something new that hasn't been seen since the beginning time or religion. The truth is that we're exporting the democratization of religion around the world. In other words, we're exporting the ability to choose whatever faith you want to belong to.

Its the Internet that is making the ability to learn about other religions easier. Prior to the recent explosion in communications, learning about other religions was pretty limited. You could visit some local churches, visit a library or read some news articles. However, with the Internet, anyone regardless of where they are or what kind of governmental system they live under can read up on just about any religion they want.

What we're witnessing is the fulfillment of Joseph Smith's prophecy that the standard of truth:
"will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
Until I read this article, I used to think that the "standard of truth" was referring to the LDS Church. While we're seeing the rapid growth of the LDS Church around the world, I am inclined to believe that that "standard of truth" about something broader, deeper and more profound.

I believe that the "standard of truth" to represent agency, freedom, and choice. Isn't that the "truth" that we fought and defended in the Pre-existence? Isn't this the same battle we fight for on earth?

President Howard W. Hunter explained what the "War in Heaven" was all about:
"Our Father in Heaven wanted our growth to continue in mortality and to be enhanced by our freedom to choose and learn. He also wanted us to exercise our faith and our will, especially with a new physical body to master and control. But we know from both ancient and modern revelation that Satan wished to deny us our independence and agency in that now-forgotten moment long ago, even as he wishes to deny them this very hour. Indeed, Satan violently opposed the freedom of choice offered by the Father, so violently that John in the Revelation described “war in heaven” (Rev. 12:7) over the matter. Satan would have coerced us, and he would have robbed us of that most precious of gifts if he could: our freedom to choose a divine future and the exaltation we all hope to obtain."
President Gordon B. Hinckley explains that the War in Heaven continues here on earth:
"Brethren, the war goes on. It is as it was in the beginning. There may not be the intensity, and I am grateful for that. But the principles at issue are the same."
The principles are indeed the same and it is principle of agency and choice that is going forth boldly, nobly and independently. It is currently penetrating every continent, visiting every clime, sweeping every country, and sounding in every ear!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Orange County Mormon Choral Organization: Virtuous, Lovely, & Praiseworthy Music

If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. (Article of Faith #13)
I would like to make a good report about lovely music I heard over the weekend.

Last Saturday, I went to see the Orange County Mormon Choral Organization (OCMCO) perform at the Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The theme of OCMCO's 2009 annual spring concert was The Lord Is My Shepherd which was appropriate for the Easter celebrations. The concert gave a moving and inspiring presentation of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and Overture to Candide as well as Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18. The choir also sang some African-American Spirituals which were pleasing to the ear and soul.

I was blown away by the choir. However, I was also equally impressed by the two directors, Brett and Brandon Stewart. They are two brothers who both have graduate degrees in music and are the founders of OCMCO. I appreciate the directors, for going beyond just a simple choir by having a choral organization composed of choirs composed of saints of all ages backed up by a wonderful orchestra.

That is what made The Lord Is My Shepherd a phenomenal concert. Not only was there a choir full of adults but that there was a choir composed of youth, a children's choir and a "sunbeam" choir. Each of these choirs were magnificent and were complimented nicely with the Orange County Mormon Orchestra. This is what makes the OCMCO unique because it is the only Mormon choral “organization,” (including the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir) that consists several choirs, including those for children, youth, and adults, and an orchestra.

If you are able, I suggest that you attend future OCMCO events and hear the awesome and amazing music created by LDS members who reside in Orange County. I also highly encourage my readers, if they can, to make a donation to OCMO which will go to help support good, uplifting and inspiring music, which is rarely heard today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It is Not Good For Men AND Women To Be Alone

Larry Barkdull, wrote an article for Meridian Magazine, called Why It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone. He argues that only men (not women) are under the duty to not remain alone, or single because it his Priesthood duty to obey and fulfill the commandment to be married in the temple. The basis for his argument rests primarily on the passage in the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price that states that “it is not good that the man should be alone.”(Genesis 2:18, see also Moses 3: 18 and Abraham 5:14) The simple and major flaw of his article is that he believes that this scripture applies only to men.

The truth is that that scripture applies to BOTH men and women.

Whenever the word, “man” is used in the in the scriptures, it has always referred to both men and women. President Hinckley explained that the “word man and the word men are used in scripture without also mentioning the words woman and women. I emphasize that these terms are generic, including both sexes. They are so used in the scripture and have been used in other writings through the centuries of time." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 97) Thus, the idea that it is not good for males to be alone also applies to females. It is not good that either gender remain single.

The scriptures support President Hinckley's statement. The Bible is clear that the responsibility to avoid remaining single falls on both men and women’s shoulders because it teaches that we should “let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2). The Lord’s doctrine that men and women are to both be active players in finding a spouse is reinforced with the teaching that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

It is clear that forming a bond of marriage requires both a man and a woman and that neither gender have a passive or active role to play in obtaining celestial marriage. Men and women are both needed to create a marriage. It is the responsibility of both genders to actively and aggressively work on creating that marriage since neither men or women can be without the other in the eyes of the Lord. This concept is affirmed by Prophet Howard W. Hunter, who explained that men and women cannot “fill the measure of their creation without the other.” (Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 49)

Larry Barkdull cites D&C 132:4, D&C 132:5-6 and D&C 132:19-20 as support for his contention that ONLY men are under the obligation to avoid being single. That is not true. Those scriptures are clearly gender neutral and are applicable to men AND women.

For example, D&C 132:5-6 reads:

"For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God."

Note the use of the word "all." This clearly shows that the Lord had both men and women in mind concerning all who enter into the temple and are under the duty to abide by the Celestial law. The connection between Priesthood as being the power to act in God's name and the Priesthood holder’s duty to get married in the temple is extremely weak. He attempts to establish this link by citing D&C 132: 23:

"Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same."

Once again, Brother Barkdull misses the key word "all" which means that the revelation was given to both genders and that they are both under the obligation to obey the commandment to obtain the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. His interpretation would be correct had the passage said "all men." But it doesn't say that. It just says "all" which clearly is gender neutral and therefore applies to both men and women.

Brother Barkdull is clearly stretching the scriptures so that it fits nicely into his thesis. The problem is that upon closer scrutiny and careful reading of the scriptures, the passages won't comply with his erroneous interpretation. He correctly points out that the Priesthood is the authority, given by God to man, to perform ordinances in his name but then he makes a giant, unsubstantiated, leap into arguing that males are under a Priesthood covenant to be married in the temple. The link he's attempting to make is that the revelation of Celestial Marriage applies only to males and as he states that "once a man learns of the law, he must obey it or face serious consequences. "

What do the scriptures and the Prophets tell us about the Priesthood? What it tells us is that God delegated the power and authority to Man, which in turns, makes it possible for us to receive and perform the ordinances needed for salvation. Had God not delegated the Priesthood to Man, the existence, or possibility, of such saving ordinances would not occur on earth. In other words, had God withheld His power from us, there would be no baptism, sacrament, Priesthood blessings or temple. The saving ordinances wouldn't have come into existence unless God first delegated his authority to Man.

Brother Barkdull's article is a good example of a shoddy exegesis of the scriptures. He attempts to force the scriptures to fit his thesis and commits several major errors which makes his analysis of the scripture stating “it is not good that the man should be alone” extremely flawed.

The simple gospel truth is that BOTH men and women should not be alone.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Mormon Doctrine IS NOT Mormon Doctrine

Many people within the Church and outside the Church think that Bruce R. McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine, is the official declaration of the LDS Church doctrine. Here are several reasons why Mormon Doctrine is NOT Mormon Doctrine:
  1. Mormon Doctrine was written when Brother McConkie was a member of the First Counsel of the Seventy (1946-1972), not when he was an member of the Quorum of the 12.
  2. The Prophet is the only individual who could put forth official doctrine of the Church (D&C 28:1) which makes Bruce R. McConkie's book in violation of D&C 28:1-3.
  3. Given that the Prophet is the only individual who can set forth the official doctrines of the Church, Bruce R. McConkie's book is in violation of Doctrine and Covenants 19:31 because all other individuals in the Church, except the Prophet, are in no position to declare what the "tenets" of the Church are but are allowed to simply declare "repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea , even the Holy Ghost."
  4. He did not submit it to the Church's Reading Council before publishing it.
  5. The Prophet, David O McKay objected to the fact that the book implied it was the official representation of official Church Doctrine.
  6. Two senior apostles, Mark E. Peterson and Marion G. Romney, at the request of David O. McKay, reviewed Mormon Doctrine and found that the first edition had 1,067 "corrections" that needed to be made.
  7. David O. McKay insisted that the book never be republished not even in corrected form.
  8. David O. McKay insisted that the book not be recognized as an authoritative source of Mormon Doctrine and that Bruce R. McConkie take full responsibility for his book.
  9. The book itself has the presumptuous title of Mormon Doctrine when the book really should have been called "Doctrine according to Bruce R. McConkie."
  10. Despite the fact that David O. McKay declared the book not be republished, Bruce R. McConkie published it anyway six years later when the Prophet was in poor health.
  11. If you look at subsequent editions of Mormon Doctrine, it now has the standard disclaimer that the book does not represent the official position on the doctrines of the LDS Church.
Despite the many reasons why the book is not an official declaration of Church doctrine, it still gets cited and quoted in General Conference and Church talks, lessons and articles. Thus, while the book does not represent the official statement of Church beliefs, such actions of using it in official Church meetings by General Authorities and members gives the book undeserved legitimacy and authority.

It is no wonder that opponents of the LDS Church attack the Church by citing from Mormon Doctrine. We deny the near canonical status of the book, yet, the book sales and use of it in Church tells the critics of the Church otherwise. 

UPDATE: The LDS Church announced that it would stop publishing Mormon Doctrine in May of 2010 and explained that it was due to low sales of the book even though it is still a wildly popular book. As a result of discontinuing the publication of this book, the LDS Church has also removed references to McConkie’s book in the new Gospel Principles manual that was reissued in that year for use in Priesthood and Relief Society classes. Given that much of the Bible Dictionary in our current editions of the LDS scriptures comes directly from Mormon Doctrine, will the LDS Church be coming out with a new edition of the Book of Mormon in which we will get a new Bible Dictionary that is free of material taken from Mormon Doctrine