Recommended Reading for CES Instructors, in light of Elder Ballard’s recent remarks

If you follow any Mormon topics on any form of social media, it’s likely you’ve heard about Elder Ballard’s recent remarks:

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and the teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.”

What I hope to do in this post is list a few resources that a seminary/institute (or even a really dedicated Sunday School teacher) could read to help them get the knowledge to either give good answers to these questions or to know where to look and find the answers. Continue reading

Toward A True International Church

It has been more than five years since the LDS Church counted more members outside of the United States than inside. For a Church that believes it will cover the whole earth, this is good news. That does not mean that it has reached “World Religion” status by a long shot. Although making the statement with a dismissive tone, Prof. Douglas J. Davis was right when he said calling Mormonism a World Religion at this point is dubious. Nor is it likely that it will be until the Millenium (but that is a topic for later). With 7 Billion people in the world and growing, 12 million doesn’t cut it as anything beyond a deeply humbling statistic. Missionary work has a long way to go.

Despite a long road ahead, the LDS Church is taking strides toward a true international church. Too many members are getting confused between the designation of “World Religion” with numbers, political power, and social influence and “International Church” where a sizeable membership lives in different countries. It is the latter designation that Mormonism has made progress with more promise.

A few have noted a diverse crop of international located leaders have been called in the lower ranks of general officers. It is a good sign that the future might be less U.S. centric. Leaders in lower positions can be called to the highest responsibility. South America is where the largest number of new leaders are emerging. Interesting enough, Cantonese turned out to be the first non-English language spoken in General Conference by Elder Chi Hong “Sam” Wong of Hong Kong. Hardly the most represented language of the LDS Church, although the Spanish spoken by Elder Eduardo Gavarret of Uruguay is for a large portion of members.

A few years ago former general authority Elder John K. Carmack predicted someday General Conference could be held outside Utah and even the United States:

“The international church may yet become stronger than in the United States,” said Elder John K. Carmack, an emeritus general authority of the LDS Church. “I’m not a prophet, seer or revelator, but I believe this will happen.

“I can envision general conference being held in Sao Paulo or Mexico City or Manila. . .”

Now, six years later, Carmack said, “We can see the dim outlines of the benefits that surely will come to the international church. Already, a not insignificant number of our leaders in areas with the program are coming from the ranks of PEF recipients.”

Carmack said the church’s area president for northern South America recently reported that more than 10 percent of the region’s stake presidents and bishops are PEF graduates.

Brazil is the clear hot spot for the fund, followed by Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The prediction General Conference will be held outside of Utah is not particularly feasible. Salt Lake City still remains where the central resources are situated. Technology has made logistical requirements for a traveling conference unnecessary. The LDS Church, however, will continue to have speakers give talks in their own languages. English and Spanish will be the two main languages over the pulpit, with others included as the leadership desires. Of course, that means that English speakers will have to get used to reading or listening to interpreters as a large portion of LDS membership outside the U.S. already does.

This is an exciting development. It is a tremendous opportunity. As Elder Carmack said, we are close to, “where it is time to trim the parts that are peculiar to the United States and not relevant to the international church.” That means asking what are the basics of the Church in a world of multicultural and political geography.

The Order of the Relief Society

This is the final in a series about Mormon Priesthood theology and development. The others can be read here, here, and here although this one is about the Relief Society. No discussion about the Priesthood is complete without a mention of this organization of women.relief society logo true blue

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, regardless of birth and station in life. A person does not even have to belong to the Church for the atonement to help in repentance and answers to prayers. The formation by the Lord of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to have an authorized organization to spread the Gospel and administer the ordinances of Salvation and Exaltation. Church is where the Priesthood is gathered for administration of those ordinances that include baptism and Temple work. For Mormonism, those who do not have the Priesthood are without authorization to administer those ordinances. For believers, Joseph Smith restored the ancient covenants and authority that had been lost since the time of the Apostles. No person or group can claim having the Priesthood unless they can prove an unbroken line directly to Joseph Smith and those he ordained. A revelation to those already in authority or a visit by angels are the only ways those who were not allowed the Priesthood can receive it. What the Lord takes, He can give. What He gives can be taken away, such as Israel in the days of Moses. The Priesthood is forever. Any mortal person’s right to it is not.

When the Priesthood was given to Joseph Smith, the Lord gave it to men and not women. The Scriptures and history indicates it has been that way from the days of Adam and Eve. Men have been tasked with leading the Church and giving the ordinances. It is an awesome responsibility that has not always been appreciated. Sad experience has proven that not all men are worthy of wielding such a precious and powerful tool. Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, no one on Earth is perfect. That is why there is a need for the atonement. Both men and women can partake of this divine gift and prepare for greater blessings. Women may not have the Priesthood as currently understood, but the Lord has provided them with their own authority and responsibility to work along side the Priesthood structure. The Relief Society is much more than a gathering of women in Church. Fully utilized, it can be a powerful influence for good, or as Emma Smith put it, “something extraordinary.” Continue reading

Women and the Restoration of the Priesthood

Today is the 185th anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. The introduction to Doctrine & Covenants 13 states:

“The ordination was done by the hands of an angel who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient Apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time this higher priesthood would be conferred upon them.”

AP restoration 1 finished

John the Baptist pronounced the following blessing:

”Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

With the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood and a short time later, the Melchizedek Priesthood, the world was changed forever. Man again had the authority to perform ordinances essential for salvation for all mankind, and the door was open for the further restoration of priesthood keys.

A few years ago, my husband and I had the chance to visit the Church Historical sites in the eastern United States. We pulled off the highway and stopped at the Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site. It was not a big place, nor was there a visitor center or name-tagged missionaries there to greet us. There were just some signs explaining what had happened there, and the foundation stones of the Smith cabin. Nearby was the cemetery where Emma Smith’s parents and Emma and Joseph’s first baby are buried. Despite the simple setting, the spirit at this site was very powerful. My husband and I hopped a fence and crossed a rail road track and managed to make our way down to the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was beautiful, reverent and the perfect setting for such an important event. The Holy Ghost testified to both of us of the power and importance of the priesthood and of vital importance of its restoration.

These days there is much chatter and discussion about the priesthood in the Church. The leaders of our church have taught us many times over the years about what the priesthood is, about who may exercise its keys and how all members of the church are entitled to access its power.

In his most recent General Conference address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the 12 spoke about The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood. In this talk he made some key points that clear up the confusion and contention that cloud discussions on the priesthood. Continue reading

Origin of the Priesthood Ban for Blacks

With the LDS Church releasing commentary on Race and the Priesthood, it has become fashionable to believe someday a full apology will be given that a ban was ever instituted. Most Mormons say we don’t know why or when the ban was first instituted, questioning if it was from God or man. The prophets, the arguments go, were wrong. The problem with these lines of thinking is that the record indicates the why and when does exist, even if existential questions remain.

Since the start of Mormonism, written records have been an important part of the religion. A few revelations, such as D&C 47, instruct individuals to write and collect records as a testimony. Researchers have noted the amount of history and biography available for research. Very few religious organizations have as much of a paper trail to read. Although not everything was written down to substantiate, it doesn’t matter if a person agrees with the attribution of the divine hand of God. There is a lot to sift through and examine for each facet of development.

The Priesthood ban for blacks is not without its own records. Probably the best study of the issue is from Chapter 4 of Neither white nor Black, an article written by Lester E. Bush, Jr. Despite the introduction that claims he refutes the orthodox explanations of the origin of the ban, his findings actually substantiate that a well recognized ban did exist. It it true that some of the more “folk doctrine and history” are seriously questioned. The clear line of authority for its beginnings remain intact, even with some inexplicable twists and turns.

For a complete understanding of where and when the ban developed, it must be acknowledged that it didn’t come from Joseph Smith. That seems to be the major roadblock to accepting it as a genuine authorized policy. Although still having the prejudices of the time, he was progressive in treating blacks as worthy of equal treatment. That isn’t to say he was an abolitionist in the strict sense of the word. For him masters still had claim to slaves even if ideally all men should be free. This was consistent with the New Testament “hands off” approach to the currently reviled institution. In the Church during his life blacks had no Priesthood ban or any restrictions. For those who insist that the ban was wrong and without authority, this would be the end of the argument. Yet, the Church he founded believes in a continual line of prophets and revelation. His words and teachings might be the first and most scrutinized, but not the last. Continue reading