The Fourth Mission of the Church: Why Absent from Conference?

At this last General Conference, I was anxiously awaiting someone–particularly President Monson or the Presiding Bishopric–to discuss details about the Church’s new mission: helping the poor and needy. This mission will be added to the the Church’s existing three missions, which will be called four purposes: perfecting the saints, proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead, and helping the poor and needy.

I assumed that it would at least be mentioned. Which would have been nice, as most members I’ve talked with, including priesthood leaders, are unaware of the announced addition to the church’s mission.

To my surprise, there was no mention of it (unless I missed something). This post is not a complaint; I imagine the Brethren know what they’re doing in terms of implementing the new mission. Perhaps they just want to take the time to develop a systematic program before they make a big deal out of it.

So why did the Church make the announcement several months ago? Perhaps it was more a message to the world than to the Saints. Perhaps they didn’t want to wait to let others know that we are really serious about helping the poor and the needy.

I’m curious if anyone has information about the rolling out of the fourth mission. Has the Church communicated anything about this to stake or ward leaders? Has anyone’s ward, stake, or quorum began any kind of organization or new callings associated with helping the poor? For example, has anyone’s Elders Quorum called a Helping the Poor and Needy chair? And would it be OK to do something like this, absent specific instructions from Salt Lake?

Highlights from General Conference, April 2010

This was kind of a rough General Conference for me — because of the little one — but it was still inspiring as always. Dominant themes included the Resurrection of Christ, teaching children the gospel, and having hope and faith in the midst of turmoil and adversity.

Because this post is late and synthesis requires more effort than chronology, I’m just going to list the Top 10 “moments” that stood out to me (in chronological order), and include some of my own thoughts:

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Another Post about Evolution

This site has been quiet for some time and it makes me wonder if we’ve stopped “thinking in a marrow bone.” I haven’t stopped thinking, but I’m not sure if I’m doing much thinking that’s worth anything. So instead, I’d like to issue a challenge and have you do the thinking for me: someone help me understand why so many Mormons accept evolution whole cloth without settling some of the most crucial divisions between doctrine and Darwinian dogma?

Let me reveal my ignorance by talking about things I don’t understand.

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Highlights from General Conference, October 2009

I always feel spiritually rejuvenated after General Conference, and this conference was no exception. Here are some of the dominant themes and highlights I noticed, along with some of my own thoughts:

1. Fresh ways of looking at the “fundamentals”

I sometimes grow tired of the way the “fundamentals” in the Church are sometimes talked about by church members: “the Sunday School answers; you gotta read, pray, and go to church; you gotta make good habits; etc.” It’s not that I disagree with the importance of the “fundamentals,” it’s that I think they are too often talked about in shallow ways.

This conference, however, had several excellent talks that can aid members in the way they think and talk about the “fundamentals” of consistent scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and worship.

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Lessons from Primary

My five-year-old daughter came home from Primary one Sunday and told us all about her lesson the Word of Wisdom. Her teachers had creatively made pictures of things that were “bad” so the children could throw them away. They threw away images of cigarettes, alcohol, tea, and coffee – all the things that are restricted based on D&C 89 and other, later admonition from the prophets.

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Highlights from General Conference, April 2009

We had another great General Conference! Some of the dominant themes were faith and endurance amidst trials, temple worship, and unselfish service. Here are some highlights, with some of my own thoughts (and at least one soap box.)

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If I could ask God one question…

Things are quiet on the blog lately, so I figure it’s a good chance to make an appearance. Perhaps few people will read this entry and then I can likely avoid being blacklisted.

I applied to teach at Messiah College in Pennsylvania recently and part of the application was affirming the Apostles’ Creed. I affirmed the Apostles’ Creed, and I did so because I agreed with all the statements that were made within the creed. However, after having done so, I couldn’t help but recall the words of Joseph Smith when discussing his First Vision: “the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (JS-H 1:19).

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Highlights from General Conference, October 2008

I thought I’d take a minute and discuss what I consider to be the highlights of this weekend’s semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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The Kingdom of God Is Among Us

Whenever I hear people talk about the kingdom of God, it seems like it’s always referred to in the future tense. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the kingdom of God isn’t already all around us.

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The Restoration of All Things

Many of us compartmentalize our lives in a way that would seem strange to scholars of past centuries. We talk about our religious lives and our academic lives as though they were two separate things, divided in a way that protects one from the effects of an error in the other, as a bulkhead on a ship may protect other compartments from being flooded by water. However, this modern separation of our academic and spiritual life is a very recent development. I believe that the division between spiritual and secular knowledge is a false distinction, and, as Richard Williams has pointed out, found nowhere in scripture.1

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Pew Forum Question Does Violence to Mormon Belief

A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study, in which over 35,000 Americans were interviewed, had an interesting result. According to this Time article, the Pew Forum study found that

70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept that theirs might not be the only path to salvation.

Agreement was also made here by 83% of Protestant Christians and 79% of Catholics.

The Time article goes on to say,

In fact, of the dozens of denominations covered by the Pew survey, it was only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who answered in the majority that their own faith was the only way to eternal life.

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June 8, 1978: Revelation on the Priesthood: 30 Years Later

Last Sunday (June 8, 2008), a member of my ward, Whitney, gave an excellent talk in sacrament meeting in commemoration of the 30 year anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood (the formal announcement of). With Whitney’s permission, I am including a written version of his talk here. It is an excellent talk, which speaks honestly of some of the historical difficulties with this topic, and addresses how we need to move forward with better racial relations in the Church.

We generally speak of the restoration of the gospel in the past tense. We refer frequently to the spring of 1820 and to April 6, 1830. Article of Faith 9, however, encourages us to take a more expansive view. That “He will yet reveal many great and important things” signifies an ongoing restoration and one which continues today. June 8, 1978, thirty years ago today, the date when the priesthood was extended to all worthy males, and the blessings of the temple to all worthy members of the church, “without regard for race or color,” is a date that ought to hold a place next to those early dates of the 1800s when we speak of the restoration of the gospel. For without the full blessings of the restoration extended to every worthy member, the restoration of the gospel remains an incomplete one. Just as those important early dates of church history give us the chance to reflect upon the first vision and the founding of the church, so does today allow us the chance to reflect back upon our history and the current state of race relations within the church. Continue reading

Rough Stone Rolling vs. No Man Knows My History: The Heavyweight Championship of Joseph Smith Biography

The following is a paper I wrote a few years ago in a history class about Joseph Smith from Grant Underwood at BYU.

Released in 2005, Richard L. Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling has been hailed by many as the definitive biography of the Mormon founder. It is only natural, then, to put the book in the ring with Fawn M. Brodie’s classic, No Man Knows My History—without question the most famous, and controversial, biography of Joseph Smith to date. In this paper I compare the two biographies according to four criteria: (1) key similarities and differences, (2) characterization of Joseph’s personality, (3) coverage of key events, and (4) interpretation of teachings and doctrine. Continue reading

Highlights from General Conference, April 2008

I thought I would take a moment and express what I consider to be some of the highlights of General Conference. I encourage others to leave a comment and do the same.

Of course, the major highlight is President Thomas S. Monson.

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Does God Have Exhaustive Definitive Foreknowledge? Another Case Study in a Pragmatic Approach to an LDS Theology of Possibilties

This post might only make sense after reading this post or this post.

To help concretize the essential need of an open folk belief (OFB) LDS community, I will illustrate a case example regarding a theological issue for which there are substantial gaps from authoritative Latter-day Saint sources. For this fictional example, imagine two individuals, Susan and Gary, having a conversation about their differing beliefs regarding the foreknowledge of God. There are differing LDS views concerning whether God has exhaustive specific foreknowledge, although it is commonly assumed that one position – the affirmative one – is the official position of the Church. Therefore, this position is a classical case in which an folk belief is commonly confused to be a CFB (closed folk belief). Continue reading

Do Tattoos and Piercings Remain in the Resurrection? A Case Study in a Pragmatic Approach to an LDS Theology of Possibilities

As I have mentioned before, I am giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 27) at the University of Utah, for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference. My presentation is entitled “Toward a Latter-day Saint Theology of Possibilities.”

The basic logic of the underlying problem I tackle in my presentation is that (a) there is a tenuous relationship between authority and freedom in the Church, (b) there is not a clear cut authoritative theology that is sufficient to guide Latter-day Saints in all matters of life, (c) Latter-day Saints cannot help but construct folk beliefs, (d) folk beliefs are not bad in themselves; the problem occurs when these beliefs are seen as closed folk beliefs (CFBs), rather than open folk beliefs (OFBs). Continue reading

Illegal Immigration vs. Article of Faith 12

The following post is slightly modified from a comment I left in answer to a reader’s question, in the comments from the Why Mormons Should Consider Backing Obama post. The question was concerned with illegal immigrants being able to have temple recommends (as well as, in some cases, high-level local leadership positions), considering the Latter-day Saint belief “of obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12). I admit in addressing this question that I am nowhere near an expert on this issue. The following represents simply a few tentative, humble thoughts on the matter. I would be curious to hear what others think. Continue reading

We Cannot Live in Fear

In today’s leadership training meeting, Elder Holland said, “We cannot live in fear in this Church.” Elder Oaks added, “Perfect love of the Lord casteth out fear.”

Amen. Amen.