Russia’s New Proselytism Ban

For those who have not yet heard, Russia recently enacted an expansive new law against proselytism that may significantly hamper organized missionary efforts and severally curtail the freedom of members to speak about their faith to friends, and even family. This is a disturbing development for those who have deep love for the incredible Russian people. It is also another foreboding omen of increased repression and intolerance in Putin’s Russia. The First Presidency issued a very measured statement about the law, but has not yet announced concrete steps that it will take to come into compliance with the law.

Forum 18, a news service focused on religious freedom related topics, has published what appears to me to be the best description and analysis of the new law. What becomes clear when reading their analysis is how incredibly amorphous and broad the language of the law is. On an expansive reading of the law, it is possible that for Russians to even discuss their faith with their friends or neighbors without a permit will become illegal. And of course, the danger is that prosecutors and police officers in regions of Russia will take this law and use it to try to expel unfavored groups. Continue reading

Were the Ammonites pacifists?

Most readers will be familiar with the story of the people of Ammon. Because of Ammon’s missionary work to the Lamanites (and the work of his brothers), many of them were converted. They repented of their war-like ways and buried their weapons of war. They were attacked by other Lamanites but allowed themselves to be killed rather than fight back. They then emigrated to Nephite lands and were protected from further battle by the Nephites. Later, their children fought to help protect the Nephites and became the “stripling warriors.”

At first glance, it appears the Ammonites were clearly pacifists. But this post makes some good points worth considering.

To sum up, the Ammonites may not be considered pacifists because:

1)They allowed the Nephites to protect them through force of arms.
2)They try at one point to take up arms again but are convinced not to by Helaman (see Alma 53).
3)They provided material support to war efforts on their behalf.
4)They never encourage pacifism in others.
5)They never express a coherent anti-war philosophy.
Continue reading

Freedom and Fourth of July Fireworks

I have seen some pretty impressive firework shows in my life. In particular, I have been blown away by the craft and ingenuity on display at Disney World as music, fireworks, and narrative combine to tell incredible aerial tales.

But I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watched fireworks more than while living in Utah. When standing at a high vantage point, one can see the simultaneous firework displays of scores of towns across the valley. And because of relatively lax laws regarding aerial fireworks, private individuals are also simultaneously launching high quality fireworks.

Individually, each of these displays cannot compare to the magic of a high quality professional display. But the collective power of the sky filled with a cacophony of colors and sounds is far greater than the power of any individual display. And because the fireworks are launched by a variety of individuals, the show lasts for much longer than a single professional one would. Continue reading

Going to church while on vacation

I am on vacation in the Rocky Mountains with the family. We went to church today and there was an announced crowd at Sacrament meeting of more than 400 people. The reason they announced the crowd was that this was apparently a record. The chapel was filled, as well as the two overflow rooms, Primary and Relief Society. It took nine members of the Aaronic Priesthood 40 minutes to administer the Sacrament.

It was Fast Sunday, so we also heard some nice testimonies. During the testimonies, we learned that normally there are fewer than 100 people in the chapel for Sacrament meeting. The year-round residents were astounded but impressed to see so many people there for church.

When you go to Church on vacation you have to do a bit of planning. You need to bring something resembling Sunday clothes. When you have children, this adds a bit of stress because something is always forgotten. In our case, I forgot to bring a tie and a belt for my slacks. My wife forgot to bring a skirt. The kids forgot their Sunday shoes. So we were a motley crew sitting in the back today. But we were happy to be there among the Saints, and I don’t think anybody cared that we weren’t in our Sunday best.

I have been to Church literally around the world while on vacation or traveling for work. I regularly go to church near Waikiki in Hawaii. I have been to a small chapel in Puerto Montt, Chile where the members all kept their down jackets on throughout the service, even though the building was heated. I have been to chapels in London and Hong Kong. Sometimes I just stay for Sacrament — more often I stay all three hours.

I am happy to report that Church services in southern Chile are almost exactly the same as services in the U.S., Hong Kong and London. And I am also happy to report that people have been friendly and welcoming in nearly every chapel I have attended. So, the Church is true, even on vacation.

Feel free to share some of your stories about church services while traveling.