Trump Derangement Syndrome infecting Mormon brains

Ivanka Trump and her children were harassed this morning by a man for political reasons while she was flying on coach on JetBlue from NY to Florida.  Here is what happened:

According to the report, a man – holding a child of his own – began yelling at her and “jeering” at the young kids.

“Your father is ruining the country,” he reportedly told her, while questioning why she was on the flight instead of flying privately.

Daily Mail identified the man as Dan Goldstein, a lawyer from Brooklyn. Before boarding the flight, Goldstein’s husband, Matthew Lasner, tweeted: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil”

I mention this report because it is the latest in a long line of crazy incidents involving unhinged responses to the president-elect.  I am saddened to report that there are even members of the Church of Jesus Christ who are opposed to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir  performing at Trump’s inauguration.  Shame on them.

This issue should not be controversial.  It is only the hyper-politicized culture — akin to college campuses with safe spaces and trigger warnings — that allows it to be controversial.  Trump is the legally elected president of the United States.  The Inauguration Committee invited them to perform and they accepted.  The MoTab choir has performed multiple times in front of Democrat and Republican presidents:

The choir has previously sung at the inaugurals of five other U.S. presidents, including the official swearing-in ceremonies for George H. W. Bush (1989), Richard M. Nixon (1969) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1965). They performed in inaugural parades for George W. Bush (2001), George H. W. Bush (1989) and Ronald W. Reagan (1981).

When the choir sang its signature song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the inaugural parade for President Reagan in 1981, he dubbed the choir “America’s Choir.” President George H. W. Bush called the choir “a national treasure” during his swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol in 1989.

Over the years, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed on other occasions for five additional U.S. presidents. The choir sang in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for Jimmy Carter in 1978 and John F. Kennedy in 1963. Gerald Ford heard the choir sing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 1974. White House performances included a 1958 appearance for Dwight D. Eisenhower and an occasion for William Howard Taft in 1911.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed in multiple Communist countries that have values significantly worse that the Trump administration.  The choir brings the Spirit of the Lord, which is a necessary thing now and at all times.

The MoTab choir performing at Trump’s inauguration is not an endorsement of the man.  It is simply an agreement to perform at a high profile event and is completely in line with past decisions by the choir.

How would a decision not to perform ever be justified?  The MoTab choir is willing to perform in Communist dictatorships that have killed and imprisoned hundreds of thousands, but not in front of the legally elected president of the United States?  Such a decision would be impossible to defend.  But even worse, it would create a precedent where all future MoTab performances are judged by politics.  Let’s say Hillary Clinton is elected in 2020 — would the MoTab be justified in refusing to perform for her because of political reasons?  (For the record, I would never vote for Hillary, but I would have no problem with the MoTab performing for her, and I would look on such an event with pride).

It does no good for Mormons who oppose many things about Trump (as I do) to become unhinged on minor issues like this.  If Trump tries to implement a registry of U.S. citizens based on religion (which I doubt is going to happen), then let’s scream bloody murder.  If Trump tries to restrict the First Amendment, then let’s complain loudly.  But it makes Mormons look petty and contentious to spend their time complaining when the MoTab choir does something that should not be controversial — and is in line with precedent.

The deranged behavior by Trump opponents — including Mormons opposed to the MoTab’s decision to perform at the inauguration — is alarming and embarrassing.  There are appropriate times to be political and there are times that are completely inappropriate.  This is one of those times where such behavior is inappropriate.  It makes Mormons look like the crazy guy harassing Ivanka Trump on a plane, and believe me this is not an image I want for the Church or its members.

Curriculum and Correlation with David B. Marsh

Russell Stevenson of LDS Perspectives Podcast interviews David Marsh, who has worked developing curriculum for the LDS Church for decades. Together they discuss the nitty gritty details of taking a teaching concept from its inception stage to the classroom.

Who hasn’t found their mind wandering during a Sunday School lesson or wondering why the manuals repeatedly emphasize the same basic principles? And who writes these manuals? Are they scholars, professional teachers, or members who are called to the task? What is Correlation? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

Dr. Marsh walks us through the process of curriculum creation, which includes the following steps:

  1. Concept Development
  2. Text Prototype
  3. Manuscript Creation
  4. Feedback
  5. Revision
  6. Full Prototype with Images
  7. Translation
  8. Publicity
  9. Printing

Manuals are reviewed by hundreds of people before they are distributed, including the managers and directors of curriculum development, executive directors, the Priesthood and Executive Committees, the General Auxiliary Presidencies (YW, YM, RS, SS, and Primary), and sometimes the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.

From his years teaching and writing curriculum, David Marsh dispenses wisdom about how to approach our Sunday experience in order to minimize frustration. He speaks to the echo chamber of academia and our responsibility to seek out for ourselves the deeper doctrines of the gospel and become self-reliant learners.

To access more resources, visit the LDS Perspectives website.

Some reasons for cautious optimism about the incoming Trump administration

Eight years ago, I passed through a brief moment of cautious optimism about the Obama administration.  His election has been so historic, and the country had just suffered the traumatic 2008 market crash.  Like many people, I wanted some reasons for optimism.

I am much more optimistic about President-elect Trump, but I am also cautious.  Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and his horrible performance during the debates sealed the deal that I could never vote for him.  But I have been pleasantly surprised since his election.  To be quite frank, I was certain Trump would govern like a moderate New York Democrat.  But if anything, his Cabinet choices indicate he may have the most conservative administration since Reagan.  Trump is certain to disappoint in some areas, but there has been a lot of good news for conservative Trump skeptics since his election.

Here are some of the primary reasons for optimism from my perspective.

1)Religious liberty.  The last eight years have been frightening for those of us who care about religious liberty.  Every week brings a new outrage with Christians on the defensive if they actually follow traditional Christian teachings.  Religious freedom has been one of the primary Church causes in recent years, as can be seen from this page on the Church web site.  The good news is that, much to my surprise, Trump’s administration seems to see religious freedom as an important issue.  Trump has said that the country will be saying Merry Christmas again, which is an important rhetorical signal, in my opinion.  But most importantly, Trump’s appointment for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is one of the biggest defenders of religious freedom in Congress.  Trump has also indicated he will appoint conservative judges who understand the importance of religious freedom.  There is a lot of room for optimism.  (Note:  Trump said some truly unfortunate things about Muslims during the campaign.  This story details Trump’s comments on a Muslim religious registry.  To sum up:  Trump has gone back and forth on that issue.  Let me be perfectly clear:  a registry or database of Americans based on their religions would violate the first amendment, and all Mormons should oppose such a scheme.  If Trump or his administration takes such steps, I will be one of the first to condemn it.  Personally, I don’t believe we will get anything close to a Muslim registry.  I hope I am not wrong.  Note the use of the word “cautious” in the title of this post).

2)School choice.  Trump made school choice and opposition to Common Core central to his campaign.  This is a huge issue for those of us with children, especially if you live in areas where the public schools are failing.  The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is a reason for hope.  DeVos is one of the country’s leading supporters of home schooling, vouchers and charter schools.  Despite what you may have read from some fringe publications, she also opposes Common Core.  DeVos’ leadership has the potential to revolutionize education in America.

3)Federal court appointments.  The latest information from the transition team seems to indicate Trump really will appoint constitutionalist judges.  All I can say is:  Hallelujah!  I am sure that Trump will disappoint us on some appointments, but his list of potential Supreme Court justices is top-notch.  There are all kinds of encouraging signs here:  Trump met with Judge Andrew Napolitano to consult on federal appointees.  Utah’s Thomas Lee is apparently high on Trump’s list of appointees, and he would be an excellent choice.

Continue reading

When Was Jesus Born?

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25?

Was it just a random date chosen by the early Christian fathers or is there more to it?

Dr. Chadwick, an archaeologist and Herodian scholar, became interested in this question and thinks he has found an answer.

Using Matthew, Luke, the Book of Mormon, and historical clues, he comes up with what he thinks to be a pretty sound theory on the dating of the birth of Christ. As he shares his research, we discuss old Jerusalem and LDS thought on the topic from Elders James Talmage, Reuben J. Clark, and Bruce R. McConkie.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast in a fascinating discussion that brings into question how we can use scripture.

Can it accurately pinpoint historical events?

Listen in and let us know what you think.

For links to resources mentioned in this podcast, visit the LDS Perspectives website.

The Christmas Tree Rock

DC Temple Lights, image courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.In DC, one of the highlights of the holiday season is the Festival of Lights lighting ceremony, where the Church honors a featured world ambassador and invites the rest of the diplomatic community to participate as the 650,000 lights decorating the DC temple grounds are illuminated.

This year the honored ambassador was His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, ambassador of Japan. As Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has spent many years in Asia and Japan, we were honored to have Gary and Lesa Stevenson visit with us.

The lighting ceremony was covered by Deseret News <ref>If you look carefully you can see my knee in the picture of soloist Sandra Turley. I was playing violin but also sing in the choir, so was not dressed in black.</ref> but perhaps a more delightful evening was the annual Temple Workers’ Christmas Devotional, held the previous Sunday evening in the Solemn Assembly Room of the DC temple. As Elder Stevenson was planning to be in town to honor His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, he arranged to participate in the devotional.

That is where Elder Stevenson told us the story of the Christmas Tree Rock. Continue reading