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.

General Women’s Meeting: Covenants, Temples & Living the Gospel More Fully

Can you stand one more post about General Women’s Meeting? Ok, here we go. I promise I’m not going to re-summarize the meeting; Meg and Rameumptom have already done that. But I wanted to share some thoughts had about the talks and my over all impressions.

First, there was a nice and very welcome international element to the meeting. The opening prayer was given by Sister Dorah Mkhabela from South Africa. Her prayer was heartfelt, sincere and full of love for the women of the Church. The Young Women’s Board, the members of which come from all over the world, were on the stand as well. I cannot wait until the Relief Society and Primary Boards also have international members as well. I was reminded that the Church is worldwide and as such, is working to include and incorporate different people, cultures, and needs into the organization.

I know the inner and outer critics of the Church are quick to jump on the Church because it seemingly does not respond to needs of its members in a timely manner, or that is seen as a North American church, which only caters to the needs of Wasatch Front Utah. But a thought occurred to me, this Lord’s Church – and it is an international Church. We have to get it right. When policies and changes are being made, there is a very careful process that occurs, which checks and double checks that things turn out right, or as right as possible. It has to be this way, we’re God’s children and He does not want us to make mistakes with His children. Perhaps we need to be more patient with the people and the process.

Provo Temple night

The second thing which impressed me was the principle of covenants, which are made individually, point us to the temple, which, in turn, points us to Christ. That is where our power is. To endow means to freely give, and when we go to the temple and participate there, we are endowed with God’s power. The Lord, our Father in Heaven, FREELY gives us His power. Think about that for a minute. I hope we each take some time to reflect on our endowment a bit more, and what it really is. Continue reading

The Sisters Nailed It

One of the good things about being on the high council is I get to occasionally sit in on General Women’s Conference.  This is the second for all sisters, and I think sets a very high standard for all General Conferences. First, the meeting had a clear theme: Temples and Covenants.

Next, the videos were well done. Six months ago, they had a video that seemed a little kitschy, kind of like having too many knickknacks on display.  However, beginning with a Korean Primary, dressed in traditional robes, singing “I love to see the temple” in their native language, while standing in front of the temple doors was tremendous. It quickly reminded me of my military time there in 1985, when the temple was built and dedicated (I was in the English choir).

Later, another video displayed sisters bearing their testimonies in their native languages of the temple. The stories of a young girl converting and taking her deceased mother’s name to be baptized, or the Haitian mother who lost her 6 children in the earthquake, finding joy of eternal families in the temple, were definite high marks of the meeting.

The talks were excellent, giving great examples of covenants and the spiritual and revelatory power of the temple. I applaud the sisters who spoke on a level that could touch all the sisters in attendance, from 8 to 108. (We often will have General Priesthood meetings, where someone will speak only to the deacons, or a specific group, and seems to leave others out, so this is a great example to next week’s speakers).

Finally, President Uchtdorf said something that I was excited to hear.  He called the Women’s Meeting the “opening session” of General Conference, as training will be conducted this following week for General Authorities and Auxiliary leaders, culminating in the final sessions next weekend for all members.  To officially recognize General Women’s Meeting as the opening meeting of General Conference, gives the meeting its appropriate recognition and importance to Conference.

I hope all sisters listen to this session. Then, I hope they have their husbands and sons also listen. There is some great counsel we can all gain from these talks. I hope that next weekend’s talks can be of the same high caliber!

 

Elder Bednar’s Social Media Guidelines

Elder BednarElder David A. Bednar spoke yesterday at the BYU Education Week on using social media to “flood the earth” with the message of the Restored Gospel. After listening to his remarks, I felt, more than ever, the excitement of the times we are living in. We are literally watching, and taking part in the fulfillment of revelation and scripture.

Read and watch his address HERE, on LDS.org

He quoted Brigham Young, who said, “Every discovery in science and art that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan.” When I think of how this has come to pass it is humbling. Things like the internet, satellite, radio, television; the ability to record and save audio and video of General Conference, all have a place in spreading the Gospel. We can send and receive messages, pictures and video instantly as well. Twenty years ago when I was a full time missionary in Bulgaria, it would take six months to get a VHS tape of one or two sessions of General Conference into the country. Now, members can watch Conference as it happens on line, and the following week in their meetinghouses as a Branch. It is truly amazing! Continue reading

Conference: THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE: EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

Conference Schedule

The Academy for Temple Studies and the Utah State University Religious Studies program announce further details of the conference to be held on October 23, 2013, on the campus of Utah State University.  It will start at 9:15 a.m. in the Eccles Conference Center and adjourn at 4:30 p.m.  Since seating is limited, we recommend that you register now if you want to attend.

THE LADY OF THE TEMPLE:  EXAMINING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

This conference will approach this topic from a temple perspective with biblical, archeological, liturgical and LDS components.  Looking at the abstracts below it is clear that this conference should promote a lively discussion and time is being allotted for panel discussion and response to questions.

8:45 Benchmark Bookstore open in the lobby.

9:15 Welcome and Introduction of the conference.

9:30 Margaret Barker, well-known for her numerous books and articles on temple theology, whose book called The Mother of the Lord:  The Lady in the Temple was published last year.  Her presentation is entitled, “The Woman Clothed With the Sun in Revelation 12.”  A female figure, apparently not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, appears in the centre spot of the Book of Revelation.  She is a royal figure, crowned with stars, and she gives birth to the king who rules from a throne in heaven.  She is attacked by a red dragon, escapes to the wilderness, and there waits for the allotted time to pass. Her other children were the Christians, but who was she, and where had she been hiding?  The implications are that the Lady is the Mother of Yahweh.

10:20 Q&A

10:40 break

11:00 William Dever, distinguished professor of Near Eastern Studies; has written 26 books and 350+ articles on Near Eastern archeology.  The writers of the Old Testament clearly present monotheism—the exclusive worship of the male deity Yahweh—as the ideal.  Yet the frequent condemnation of “idolatry” by prophets and reformers indicates that in folk religion other deities were often worshipped.  In particular, the Mother Goddess “Asherah” appears as a shadowy figure, almost forgotten in later times.  But several recent archaeological discoveries of both artifacts and texts have revealed that the cult of Asherah was widespread throughout the monarchy.  And in many circles she was regarded not simply as a patroness of mothers, but as the consort of Yahweh. Even in later Judaism, she appears as the “Shekinah”—the earthly Mother who represents the presence of a remote God.  Prof. Dever will give an illustrated lecture on Asherah, based on his recent book Did God have a Wife?  Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel.

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