175 Years of Awesome!

This coming week is 17/3/17, the 175th anniversary of the formation of Relief Society.

Throughout the world local Relief Societies are holding celebrations, often focused on service, though I’ve been to some parties where belly laughs were the fare of the night.

Whatever the women in these celebrations will do, it is a celebration of womanhood and sisterhood.

For this anniversary, I will be at the Women’s Retreat in Nauvoo participating in two days of great activity, along with re-enactments of Relief Society’s founding at the Red Brick Store.

The formal Relief Society organization went into hiatus as a formal Church-wide organization between 1844 and 1880. However even during that hiatus, the sisterhood formed in Nauvoo continued to bring women together to do good and strengthen one another.

Membership in Relief Society, during 1842, could be seen as virtue signaling, but it was a time when signaling was desperately needed. There were those in the community participating in gross iniquity, because they had been pressured into believing it was acceptable. These individuals needed to be rescued, and the Relief Society rose to the task.

On March 25 I will be reprising a bit of Relief Society celebration, celebrating in brief conversations with my Stake sisters the life of Jane Nyman. She was the first to act as a proxy in providing a deceased relative the ordinance of baptism. It was her anguish over the matter that had prompted Joseph Smith’s revelation that proxy baptism was the way in which salvation (as decreed by the Bible) could be offered to all mankind. Yet her daughters, and possibly she herself, became embroiled in the illicit intercourse scandal of 1841-1842. When she attempted to join Relief Society in Nauvoo, she was refused because of her association with or involvement in illicit intercourse. Yet the Relief Society did provide Jane needed support because she was a widow, even though refusing her formal membership.

Yet charity would cover knowledge of many of these sins. Even those instances that would be published in newspapers in 1844 were largely dropped from collective memory. Not that those who had lived through the terrible events of 1841-1842 had forgotten, but because they valued one another as children of God. No matter what sins had been committed, repentance could wipe the slate clean.

After arriving in Utah, Jane Nyman was selected to serve as Relief Society President in her congregation in Beaver. She who had been refused entry during a time of heresy had repented, and was now fully acceptable to lead her sisters in doing good.

While it isn’t directly related to Relief Society, I am delighted by William W. Phelps. He is rightly honored as one of the stalwarts of the initial Mormon movement. Yet he was excommunicated twice. The first excommunication was related to his betrayal of Joseph Smith in Missouri. At that time he briefly believed it was right that Joseph die. But in 1840 Phelps begged to be allowed to return to fellowship in the Mormon faith.

In 1850 Phelps again found himself on the wrong side of the prophet, this time for entering into plural marriage without proper authorization while serving a mission to England. But Phelps accepted the correction and moved forward in faith.

So as I celebrate the 175th anniversary of Relief Society, I will celebrate the charity that sees all as children of God, willing to help and support independent of whether the child of God in question is “worthy,” seeing all as able to someday receive all that the Father hath.

Elder Oaks’ recent talk was NOT about climate change or Trump

Elder Oaks gave a commencement address at BYU-Hawaii on Feb. 25, 2017.  The title of the talk was:  “Push Back Against the World.”

The anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune’s headline was “Mormon leader Dallin Oaks points to ‘aggressive’ Trump, climate change as ‘big worries’.”

I am going to shock you, I know, but guess what:  the talk was not about Trump or climate change.  Not even remotely.

I have seen this talk celebrated throughout the liberal Mormon on-line world.  At last, an apostle who is willing to accept the reality of climate change and who hates Trump!  “Hurrah!”

Except that was not the subject of the talk.  Keep on dreaming, liberal Mormons, but if you actually read the entire talk it is pretty standard social conservative fare.  And there is even a paragraph that will certainly disappoint the left (if they are paying attention):

We hear much about cleaning up the physical environment—air, water, and other essentials that are being polluted in a way that is poisoning the physical environment for all of us. We may choose to join in such efforts. But we who are responsible to push back against the world should be at least equally concerned about forces that are poisoning the moral environment. I refer to such moral pollutions as pornography. I also refer to language that pollutes public communications with profanity, vulgarity, and morally degrading coarseness. Push back against these kinds of pollutions also.

I am going to ask readers to read the entire talk.  I will be going through some key points of the talk, but it would be helpful for readers to read it themselves.  Done?  Ok, let’s move on.

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Outrage, virtue signaling and the Sermon on the Mount

I remember with special clarity the moment I accepted Christianity.  I was in my 30s and I was reading the Bible all the way through for the first time.  And I came to this passage:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV version Matthew 6:1-4).

For various reasons, this is what I needed to read at that time.  Over the next few days, I read and re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and it just seemed true to me in ways unlike anything else I had ever read.  And imagine my surprise when I finally read the Book of Mormon that the Savior also rehearsed the Sermon on the Mount to the people in the Americas.

I now, almost two decades later, have a printed out copy of the Sermon on the Mount on my desk that I read all the time.  I find it comforting and encouraging.

But I also am constantly reminded how often our modern-day culture seems to directly contradict the advice in the Sermon on the Mount.  The tone of forgiveness, gentle discussion, sincerity and lack of guile seems to be the exact opposite of the behavior of so many people today.  This especially applies to our outrage culture, which I find linked at the hip to the evil of virtue signaling.

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Joseph Smith’s First Vision and President Eyring’s Challenge

Yesterday, the Church released for widespread distribution a beautiful video of the events of the First Vision. That video has been on display at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, but as far as I am aware it was not widely available before yesterday. It is a remarkable video that integrates the various accounts of the First Vision. I especially loved how the video emphasizes the personal aspects of Joseph Smith’s prayer more than any other telling of the First Vision that I have seen.  Here was a 14-year-old boy seeking personal revelation and a remission of sins. I think the added details make the vision even more relatable and personal.

Yesterday there was also a remarkable face-to-face event for youth with Elder Holland and President Eyring.  Reflecting their location in Palmyra, New York, the Apostles spent a lot of time talking about prayer, testimony, and gaining a personal witness.

In particular, I was struck by President Eyring’s final invitation and challenge to the youth and I wanted to share that portion of the event here:

““Our dear young friends, that is our desire for each of you. That you may know for yourself, independent of anyone else, that the God of Heaven is real and he knows you, and that his son has atoned for the sins of the world. Our hope is that you will gain for yourself an unshakable testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”




Mercedes-Benz is against Church values?

There is a small but very interesting controversy involving a street name change in the Atlanta, George area.  Mercedes-Benz USA, which is investing in Atlanta, wants to change a street name to “Mercedes-Benz Drive.”  The Church opposes this, according to local Church “spokesperson” Bill Maycock.

The Mormon church will oppose the renaming of Barfield Road to Mercedes-Benz Drive, which goes before the City Council on March 7, according to metro Atlanta church spokesperson Bill Maycock. He called for a separation of church and brand.


“The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing,” Maycock said. “In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members.”


MBUSA met with church leaders, but is driving ahead, according to company spokesperson Donna Boland.

“We don’t feel that the road renaming has an adverse impact or implication on church beliefs, but understand if the church feels it must voice its disagreement to the city,” Boland wrote in an email. “We are focused on being a valued member of the Sandy Springs community and hopefully that will be a more important factor than what this particular road is called.”


The road is currently called Barfield in honor of an old farming family, several members of whom also opposed the renaming idea when it was announced in late 2015. The proposal went quiet for over a year due to the controversy, but is back now that construction on the new headquarters at Abernathy and Barfield roads is underway.


MBUSA, which is relocating to Sandy Springs from New Jersey, said it has a 40-year “tradition” of naming streets around its facilities for the company. German-based Mercedes-Benz is known for using its name in branding, including recently purchasing the naming rights of Atlanta’s new football and soccer stadium.

The story continues:

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