Category : Mormons

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Why some religions, like the Mormons, sing

Religions have a mixed relationship with music; within both Christianity and Islam, you can find strains that eschew all human compositions as a distraction from the divine, as well as robust musical traditions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to use the Mormons’ official name) has leaned firmly to the latter side since its foundation nearly two centuries ago. Among the revelations claimed by their founder Joseph Smith was God’s affirmation that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me”””in other words, the faithful could and positively should sing as well as speak to their Maker. The faith’s choral and orchestral talents were soon reinforced by an influx of converts from Victorian England, some of whom were Methodists and bearers of that faith’s strong musical heritage.

As Markus Rathey, a professor of music history at Yale University puts it, some faiths hold that “the use of music transports you into a state in which you’re open for the divine.” And the Latter-day Saints have always been of that persuasion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Music, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Religious Leaders urge Pres. Obama to renounce report on religious freedom

In the tug of war between religious freedom and nondiscrimination rights, the weight seems to be pulling toward the latter.

At least that’s the view of 17 religious leaders ”” including LDS Church Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé ”” who addressed their concerns with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ recent report in an Oct. 7 letter to President Barack Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The report, titled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties,” comes down squarely on the side of civil liberties for individuals, the letter says, and “stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Deseret News) What lies beyond the grave? At BYU, leaders of 10 faiths share their views

Harvard University Episcopal pastor and chaplain Luther Zeigler said the Anglican view of the Christian hope in the afterlife is for a new age when heaven and earth merge in a newly created and embodied life.

“God will reframe the cosmos,” Zeigler said. “We’re not just mere bystanders in this re-creation but collaborators to make the kingdom real. Our job is to now become kingdom-bearers.”

Several hundred people attended at three sessions Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium on campus. The conference was sponsored by BYU Religious Education’s Office of Religious Outreach.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Eschatology, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CC) Kyle Beshears–A Mormon militia in Oregon?

The new year was rung in with the surprising news of a small militia occupying a federal building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, deep in rural Oregon. Armed protestors, calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, have called on the U.S. government to reverse policies dealing with public lands that they consider unconstitutional.

The group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, a confessing Mormon, said they would remain there until they “restore the land and resources to the people so people across the country can begin thriving again.” While most media outlets have covered the political and ideological aspects of the group’s motivation, few have considered the issue historically.

One of the first clues came after a militia member identified himself to a reporter as “Captain Moroni.” That name, of course, would most likely not match his birth certificate, but the captain is not just hiding behind a pseudonym. Instead, as others have noted, his choice of nickname is a tip of the hat to the motivation behind his actions: an odd blend of patriotism and Mormonism.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Mormons, Other Faiths, The U.S. Government, Theology, Violence

(NPR) Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent. Here's How.

The chronically homeless, on the other hand, are a subset of the homeless population that is often the most vulnerable. These are people who have been living on the streets for more than a year, or four times in the last three years, and who have a “disabling condition” ”” that includes serious mental illness, an addiction or a physical disability or illness.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that represents about 20 percent of the national homeless population.

By implementing a model known as Housing First, Utah has reduced that number from nearly 2,000 people in 2005, to fewer than 200 now.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Mormons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Poverty, State Government, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(RNS) Religion scholar boycotts BYU conference to protest university policy

[Mark] Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and global studies, and affiliate professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was scheduled to speak at the conference Wednesday (October 7) but withdrew for reasons of conscience.

On Saturday, he received an email from the Free BYU organization, which has for some time now been attempting to change the university’s policy toward students who enter the school as Mormons but then either lose or change their religion during their time there.

Free BYU contacted all of the speakers for the conference to make them aware of what the organization has called “BYU’s policy of terminating, evicting, and expelling LDS students who change their faith.”

Under the policy, students who enter the university as Mormons but then undergo a faith transition can be expelled, evicted from student housing, and fired from on-campus jobs.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Young Adults

(GR) Richard Ostling–Evangelicals+Mormons: is this America’s most unlikely interfaith dialogue?

With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.

That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Evangelicals, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

The TEC Presiding Bishop’s sermon from the recent Executive Council Meeting's Closing Eucharist

Every religious tradition has its skeletons and its saints, and sometimes they are the same people. Paul is warning his hearers not to count themselves better than their ancestors, for they all depend on the same rootstock ”“ a root that nourishes the olive tree or the grape vine we cling to as intimate connection to God as Creator of all. That root is why we are here, and it is also why the LDS church is here.

When General Convention shows up here just over 3 months from now, many of the volunteers and dispensers of hospitality will be our sisters and brothers from that tradition. Will we recognize their welcome as a product of the same root, or will we assume that they come from a different and unrecognizable species?

Complexity defines human beings and their relationships, which just might convince us of the otherness of God. Difference is part of God’s creativity, from the riotous diversity of the species of creation to the inner chaos of most human beings. Paul names it when he says he wants to do the right thing, but he does something else instead.[8] Nevertheless, when people stay connected to that one rootstock, God can usually be found to bring something new and holy out of the mess.

Branches that seem radically different grow on the same tree and the same vine, even though we love to hate the ones who are not like us. We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms ”“ yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Mormons, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Gallup) Frequent Worship Service Attendance Highest in Utah (incl. Mormons), Lowest in Vermont

Slightly more than half of Utah residents say they attend religious services every week, more than any other state in the union. Residents in the four Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas are the next most likely to be frequent church attendees, with 45% to 47% reporting weekly attendance. At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont, where 17% of residents say they attend religious services every week.

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews throughout 2014 with 177,030 U.S. adults, and reflect those who say “at least once a week” when asked, “How often do you attend church, synagogue or mosque — at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom or never?” Church attendance self-reports are estimates, and may not reflect precise week in and week out attendance, but provide an important measure of the way in which Americans view their personal, underlying religiosity. In particular, the focus on the top category of “weekly” attendance yields a good indicator of the percentage of each state’s population that is highly religious, and for whom religion is likely to be a significant factor in their daily lives.

Ten of the 12 states with the highest self-reported religious service attendance are in the South, along with Utah and Oklahoma. The strong religious culture in the South reflects a variety of factors, including history, cultural norms and the fact that these states have high Protestant and black populations — both of which are above average in their self-reported religious service attendance. Utah’s No. 1 position on the list is a direct result of that state’s 59% Mormon population, as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Timothy Egan–History, Sexual Standards, and Mormonism then and now

Considering that it took the Mormon Church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, it may take another hundred years for the elders in Salt Lake City to proclaim that the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of their religion was the kind of guy who would have to register with the police today before moving into a neighborhood.

Still, for all its painful equivocating, the Mormon Church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past. For too long, the Mormons have tried to airbrush an extraordinary chapter in the history of the American West. Here was a sect, though persecuted and ridiculed, determined to institutionalize in the New World something that Islamic patriarchs and Old Testament graybeards practiced in the old.

Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century sex enthusiast, traveled to the Great Basin to witness this experiment in the Americas. Mark Twain, after visiting the social frontier of the Mormon kingdom, called it “a fairyland to us, for all intents and purposes ”” a land of enchantment and awful mystery.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(KUER) Percentage of Mormons in Utah's Population Increases Slightly

An analysis of public records by the Salt Lake Tribune shows about 62-percent of Utah’s overall population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just over half the population of Salt Lake County is listed on church records. There are three counties ”“ Grand, Summit and San Juan ”“ where Mormons are a minority.

The LDS church doesn’t provide information about how many of its members participate actively. Reverend Lyn Zil Briggs is the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville. She says many of the people attending her services each week are Mormon. And she says the large Mormon population in Utah makes newcomers more interested in religion generally.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Boston Globe Profile Article on Harvard’s Corbin Miller and his recent Mormon Mission

“It’s not the norm for an 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid to want to take on, especially if you’re playing basketball and going to a school like Harvard,” Bret said. “But Corbin’s a very spiritual person and it’s just something that he wanted to do.”

When he walked the streets of Puebla, Miller understood the perception that might have shadowed him.

“A lot of times, people see Mormon missionaries coming down the street and they think, ”˜They’re at it, they’re forcing it, you’ve got to listen to them, they want to convert you, they want to baptize you,’ ” Miller said.

“But the purpose was to invite others to come under Jesus Christ. Inform them about what we believe, and we always invited them to hold true to the truths that they know and then consider what we taught.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Missions, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Young Adults

(dotCommonweal) Michael Peppard–Joseph Smith's many marriages

Over the past decade or so, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints””usually known as the “Mormon” or “LDS” church””has moved toward greater transparency about its earliest era.

Through the publication of “The Joseph Smith Papers” and new historical essays on the official church website, lds.org, interested readers have been able to learn about the fuzzy period of early Mormonism, the roughly fifteen years from its founding to the settlement in Utah.

Now a new essay, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” makes frank admissions about the early days of polygamous relations (called “plural marriage” in LDS terminology) at Mormon settlements in Ohio and Illinois.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Two Cases of Latter-Day Apostasy are roiling Mormons

…the pending actions against both people represent the church’s established response to certain forms of dissent. Stretching back to the early years of the church under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, church leaders have demanded obedience and punished those who publicly challenged their authority. In 1979 the church excommunicated Sonia Johnson, who engaged in public protest against the church’s role in preventing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. In September 1993 the church disciplined six scholars (known as the “September Six”), several of whom were outspoken feminists.

Mormon excommunications cause tremendous trauma for individuals, families and the church as a whole. Latter-day Saint theology and ritual focus on sealing together couples and families for eternity. Excommunication imperils those sealings. On Ordain Women’s website, Ms. Kelly refers to the penalty as “spiritual death” and “evict[ion] from your forever family.”

Church discipline also means unwanted negative attention for a church that carefully manages its image. Thus, although other church critics also report heightened ecclesiastical pressure, the recent measures probably do not augur a wave of excommunications. Instead, by disciplining Ms. Kelly church leaders hope to quash Ordain Women while permitting and even engaging more moderate voices for change. While the church has on occasion changed course abruptly””as in 1978 when it ended the ban on men of African descent holding the priesthood””more often change comes slowly and incrementally.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology