The Church still loves you, Richard Dutcher

I will always remember Richard Dutcher as the LDS missionary who dies after giving a blessing to a crippled man who is a new convert to the Church. In a spiritually soaring scene, that man is miraculously healed, and then Richard Dutcher, content but suffering from a terminal disease, passes away overnight.

That might be one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema.

As many readers know, that was the climactic scene of the 2000 film “God’s Army,” still probably the best of LDS cinema after all of these years. Richard Dutcher played “Pops,” the faithful Elder Dalton, who refused to leave his mission.

Artists like Richard Dutcher are given special gifts. They are able to synthesize the thoughts, emotions and feelings of millions in powerful scenes that allow us to feel the urgency and clarity of God’s love for all of us. And when these artists direct, write and act in such personal and poignant movies, how can we not feel special empathy for them?

Most readers probably know that Richard Dutcher made another very good movie called “Brigham City” after “God’s Army.” He then went on to make a several more movies…and during that period he announced he was leaving the Church. He gave what I considered to be a melancholy interview for Mormon Stories, then he got divorced, and then there is this horrific story about an ex-girlfriend filing a request for a protective order against Dutcher. Dutcher is quoted saying the following: “These are very painful and worrisome allegations. I do feel the need to state publicly that I have never in my life hit a woman, never choked a woman, never kicked a woman — certainly never sexually abused a woman.”

Continue reading

Some important thoughts from the prophets during October General Conference

Some important thoughts from the prophets during October 2021 General Conference, in order. You can read these thoughts like a long, united discourse with some key messages:

President Nelson, Saturday morning introduction:

I invite you to listen for three things during this conference: pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ, and pure revelation. Contrary to the doubts of some, there really is such a thing as right and wrong. There really is absolute truth—eternal truth. One of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth.2 I can assure you that what you will hear today and tomorrow constitutes pure truth.

Elder Christofferson, Saturday morning session:

The way of the world, as you know, is anti-Christ, or “anything but Christ.” Our day is a replay of Book of Mormon history in which charismatic figures pursue unrighteous dominion over others, celebrate sexual license, and promote accumulating wealth as the object of our existence. Their philosophies “justify in committing a little sin”17 or even a lot of sin, but none can offer redemption. That comes only through the blood of the Lamb. The best the “anything but Christ” or “anything but repentance” crowd can offer is the unfounded claim that sin does not exist or that if it exists, it ultimately has no consequences. I can’t see that argument getting much traction at the Final Judgment…

…Here is the solution for our incessantly quarrelsome times—the love of God. In the golden age of Book of Mormon history following the Savior’s ministry, it is reported that “there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.”31 As we strive toward Zion, remember the promise in Revelation: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the [holy] city.”32

Continue reading

Taking the Stone Out of the Hat, Part III: Rescuing the Urim and Thummim

The history behind The Book of Mormon translation is based on written records. Who writes the history and what they have to say has a strong impact on how the events are understood. It is assumed that history comes fully formed in a textbook or what was written by an author who did the studies. For the modern historian, no history exists unless it is written down and somehow explained. Some physical evidence can be used to corroborate or refute the written record, but only words explain human thoughts and experience. People can only write from their perspective, and sometimes they lie or remember incorrectly. The Urim and Thummim found with the gold plates has a lot of evidence, while the stone in a hat a few strong statements. What can be known about the translation of the Book of Mormon depends on who and what to believe.

Remember that no one other than Joseph Smith was allowed to see, save perhaps Oliver Cowdery, the gold plates or Urim and Thummim before the translation was finished. The Lord had warned that anyone who saw them before given explicit permission would be destroyed. A warning of destruction applied to Joseph Smith if he showed them to anyone. To protect against this he always had the items covered or placed in a safe place, unless in use. After the translation the Lord gave permission to show the holy items to a select few. When the Book of Mormon was published, it contained the testimony of Three Witnesses that an angel showed them the gold plates. It also contained the testimony of eight other witnesses that they handled the plates. All official copies of the Book of Mormon through to the most recent contain the witness signed declarations. None of them ever denied the printed testimonies. On the contrary, the Three Witnesses later testified independently they saw the gold plates, the Interpreters, and other items.

How the translation was accomplished is a complete mystery known only to God, Joseph Smith, and possibly Oliver Cowdery when he was once given permission by revelation to try. Any statements about what Joseph Smith did or saw to translate the gold plates come second hand. None of them claim to be direct quotes from the Prophet, although they sometimes say that is where they got the information. Almost all of the descriptions are of a rigid reading. Mistakes found in the original manuscript pages that have survived refute such exact renderings; except for proper names and places. Whenever Joseph Smith does explain the translation in his own words, it is in the vaguest of terms. He does make it clear that the translation was from the plates using the Urim and Thummim that came with them by the Power of God. This implies having both together was essential to the translation work. Either he is absolutely truthful in his descriptions or he deliberately left out the stone in a hat portion of the process.

Continue reading

Interview with one of the UK’s leading libertarians, who is a believing Latter-day Saint

This is an interview with Dan Liddicott, who is LDS and the former Chairman of the Libertarian Party UK.

  1. Could you describe how you joined the Church and talk about your testimony?  Are you married in the temple and do you go to the temple in England?  If you are married, how many children?  What do you do for a living?  

I’m what is usually called a life-long member of the Church and grew up with family and friends both in and out of the Church. 

In the UK, where I was born, it’s normal to be very much in the minority regarding Church membership. Being a religious minority gives one a perspective all of its own. Growing up with and attending school with others of different faiths and none endowed me with a broad multicultural and multi-faith perspective that I am grateful for. I feel kinship to all people of goodwill, I feel no prejudice or resentment towards any by virtue of their race, nationality, colour or creed. I believe my upbringing, and gospel teachings that I grew up with are a huge influence on this perspective I have.

I’ve remained an active member my whole life, I graduated Seminary, served honourably in the Ireland Dublin Mission, and eventually married my wonderful wife in the Preston England Temple. We have two sons.

  1. Please describe your political conversion to libertarianism and what role you have in the libertarian movement in the UK.  

I began to awaken to politics in my first years as a College student in the 90s. During this time I would probably be best described as leaning towards Christian conservative – with a small ‘c’, since I never signed up to the Conservative Party over here. 

I spent probably too much time in message groups arguing for conservative values, which agreed with my religious principles, when I should have been studying. At this young age I’d not yet fully understood that authoritarianism isn’t good just because it agrees with you. I was learning. It was as a student that I began to formulate my fledgling view of the relationship between left and right, and the various political parties in the UK. I also learned a great deal about the dual standards of so-called liberalism, calling for free speech to promote their views but quickly pulling up the ladder after them, attempting to deny voice to their opponents. Little has changed in that regard in 30 years other than greater polarisation and more extreme measures being taken in seeking to silence others. 

I opposed ID cards when they were mooted in the UK in the early 2000s, and my interest in the effect politics had on everyday life continued to grow. A good friend of mine pointed me to the writings of Ezra Taft Benson, but I still made no political commitment to any party.

My political dormancy remained for many years, but I began to more fully awaken when the Brexit question became a real possibility for a referendum in the UK. 

I am not someone who wants to draw a wall around my spiritual life separating it from the rest of my life. As Brexit became more and more prominent, I began to study to know where my allegiances should be, and my question was this: “what form of Government would God want us to have on this earth?” I sought to approach the question as completely openly as I could, rejecting any preconceptions as best as I could.

Continue reading

How many new temples?

I continue to be astounded at the new temples being announced at General Conference.

As a reminder, in April 2021 the Church announced new temples in 20 locations:

  • Oslo, Norway 
  • Brussels, Belgium 
  • Vienna, Austria 
  • Kumasi, Ghana 
  • Beira, Mozambique 
  • Cape Town, South Africa 
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore 
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil 
  • Cali, Colombia 
  • Querétaro, Mexico 
  • Torreón, Mexico 
  • Helena, Montana 
  • Casper, Wyoming 
  • Grand Junction, Colorado 
  • Farmington, New Mexico 
  • Burley, Idaho 
  • Eugene, Oregon 
  • Elko, Nevada 
  • Yorba Linda, California 
  • Smithfield, Utah 

On Sunday, President Nelson announced new temples in:

  • Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • Tacloban City, Philippines
  • Monrovia, Liberia
  • Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • Culiacán, México
  • Vitória, Brazil
  • La Paz, Bolivia
  • Santiago West, Chile
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Cody, Wyoming
  • Rexburg North, Idaho
  • Heber Valley, Utah

Who knew there was a need for a temple in Cody AND in Casper? (I say this as somebody who lives near the Wyoming border and goes there all the time).

It seems only one of two things can be possible: Church membership is expected to grow, or the existing members are paying more in tithing. Or perhaps both are happening at the same time?

What do you make of this massive temple building project announced during the pandemic?