Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Church in Kurdistan, Iraq

The Church has experienced significant progress in regards to its establishment in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq within the past 18 months. There are currently three senior missionary couples who serve in northern Iraq. Member groups appear to operate in at least three cities: Duhok, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah. Convert baptisms appear to frequently occur in these cities although each of these fledgling congregations have only a couple dozens members and investigators who attend. This area of Iraq is under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government and there do not appear to be any significant barriers for missionary activity if it is conducted by member referral. Although the Church has a sizable amount of materials translated into Standard Arabic, there remain no LDS materials in Kurdish languages.

The assignment of senior missionary couples to Kurdistan deserves the attention and praise of LDS leaders worldwide. Many areas of the world present similar opportunities for an initial LDS establishment, such as the Chin Hills of Burma (Myanmar), northeastern India (e.g. Nagaland, Manipur, Assam), nations without an LDS presence in West Africa (e.g. Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali), and Amerindian peoples in Latin America. Progress in Iraqi Kurdistan also indicates opportunities for LDS outreach expansion in the Middle East, such as in the hundreds of large and medium-sized cities in Turkey, Lebanon, and Coptic Christians in Egypt. Perhaps the Church will formally organize a proselytizing mission headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon within the foreseeable future to provide additional resources and leadership oversight to this region of the world, particularly within the nations of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

69 comments:

James said...

Thank you, Matt, for this marvelous report regarding the expansion of the work of the Church in Iraq. As is usually the case, I learned much from this blog post that I had not previously realized. It is amazing to see the Lord's hand in the expansion of the work of His gospel. And the strides in Iraq reported today do give me a great deal of hope for the future of the Church in the Middle East. Please be sure to continue to keep us all posted on these remarkable developments. Thank you so much for your outstanding labor of love. Every time I come here, I am most amazed at the milestones the Church is continuing to reach in terms of worldwide growth. It is amazing and outstanding to be a member of this wonderful Church where so much good is happening and where miraculous milestones as those reported here are happening with even greater frequency than ever before. Thanks again for sharing these most marvelous developments.

Bryce .Gillespie said...

What great news for Iraq a country that just doesn't get a whole lot of good news, it show's no matter what the Lord"s work will get done.

L. Chris Jones said...

Awesome. I was not aware we had any church units in Iraq other than aany for our military.

L. Chris Jones said...

Awesome. I was not aware we had any church units in Iraq other than aany for our military.

James said...

In light of the holiday season and my upcoming job opportunity staring on Monday, I hadn't anticipated being able to blog a lot this weekend. However, contrary to that anticipation, I have done several blog posts just within the last 72 hours. I would appreciate it if all those of you who feel inspired to do so would take a look at the latest blog posts.

I would especially appreciate your continued prayers in our behalf. While I still feel confident in many ways about working again, in the last 24 hours or so, my doubts and fears about my ability to do so at this time have returned in full force. Additionally, and even worse, the gift I wanted to get my sweet wife Amy for our anniversary came today, and it was the right jewelry set, but the incorrect setting.

The one I had picked out has personal significance to Amy, as I explained in my latest post done just a few minutes ago, but now I have to undergo the hassle of correcting the mistake made by the company from which I ordered it, and the timing couldn't be worse.

Additionally, their company policies appear to provide no way that I can avoid having to pay to get the item returned, even if they are able to send the set with the setting I ordered. And their policies appear to be unbreakable, no exceptions. I will need help of a power beyond my own to get this whole mess resolved.

Also, even though L. Chris Jones probably won't mention this here, his work hours have been reduced lately, and he is in need of the prayers too. I am happy to offer what prayers I can in his behalf. But I still have no idea from one day to the next if I will be able to wake up sufficiently early enough before my work starts to resume regular prayers to begin the day. So I feel bad that I can only do so much for him.

Please pray for us all. Thank you. Merry Christmas.

R. Jofre said...

Thanks Matt for sharing. This is wonderful news. To think of the constant fear and insecurity people feel in war torn countries, and still be able to find opportunities to better themselves and see a brighter future. This is beautiful.

Michael Worley said...

What administrative unit do these senior couples report to?

John Pack Lambert said...

While northeast India such as Manipur and Nagalamd would seem to be a good target area there are problems. The population there in those two states is overwhepmingly, that is more than 80% Christian. Yet they are militantly Baptist in ways that might minifest as anti-Mormon violence. This is probably not a big enough concern to stop groth. However there are others. The population is fairly small so combined with the low limit on missionary visas from India 8t isnot a high piority area.

John Pack Lambert said...

On the other hand Nagalands 2 million 8nhabitants far exceed the population of Tonga so I think there is quite a bit of potential there.

Mike Johnson said...

Middle East/Africa North Area Branch

John Pack Lambert said...

A while back someone was saying there are attempts to make ward boundaries continuous. Not only in Midvale, Utah are there non-contiguous wards but in Salt Lake and Provo there are non-contiguous stakes. The Salt Lake Ensign Stake includes a brach that is an enclave in a ward in another stake. True this is a care center branch. The branch that covers the Utah Valley Reguonal Medical Center in Provo is in an Orem Stake with it being at least a me to the nearest part of the stake. I know this from only having done fairly minimal map analysis on units in Utah so there could be other such cases.

John Pack Lambert said...

Has an Apostle ever visited Iraq? This also leads me to wonder if a dedication for preaching the gospel will be done for just Iraqi Kurdistan or for all of Iraq. I am thinking the later although it would not mean the Church has any plans to send missionaries to Bagdad in the foreseable duture. There are several Iraqi members in my stake including a counselor in a bishopric. As far as I know they are all ethnically Chaldean. My favorite primary teacher growing up was a native of Mexiconwhose wife was ethnically Lebanese and born and raised in our stake boundaries. One of his 12 sibblings in currently the member of the high council assigned to my ward.

James said...

John Pack Lambert, I was intrigued by your question, so I did the research. Insofar as I have been able to ascertain, no LDS apostle has ever personally visited Iraq. It is true, however, that plenty of our apostles have visited Church units in other areas of the Middle East and that they have been able to counsel with members and servicemen in the area with some degree of regularity. However, with that said, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to have such an apostolic visit within the not-too-distant future. We are entering an unprecedented era in Church history where apostles are visiting far-flung nations more often, even locations that some may consider to be not the safest of places for these servants of the Lord. As more countries open their doors to the Church and are dedicated for the preaching of the gospel, we will see many more such events in the future. And, for my part, I will try to do everything I can to keep abreast of such developments. I'm sure Matt is committed to doing so as well. Between all available outlets, hopefully such news will be reported shortly. FWIW, that's the answer I was able to find.

On another note, somewhat related to the expansion and growth of the Church, news media outlets took great pleasure last year in "leaking" the "news" on how apostles receive briefings from informed sources on issues upon which the leaders of the Church may need to venture an opinion. As I read of those briefings, I wonder why this should be so surprising to any who know that the Church leaders, by virtue of them being limited in many ways as to the scope and span of their experiences, want to learn all they can on issues where the Church might need to take an official position. I have always said that knowledge is power. And even apostles, with their vast life experiences and wisdom, can't be expected to ascertain everything they need to know by revelation. So, it is in no way shocking, in my opinion, that these 15 men are wise enough to recognize that there are people out there who know more about certain issues than they do. And I am honored to hear that they are secure enough in their desires to become informed in all things to ask for help from those who know what they may not. It's liberating, even inspiring. And yet, no surprise here, the news sensationalizes this fact, and makes it appear as though there is something horribly wrong with these "secret goings-on." It's the same theory I hear over and over again about how our temples are also such secretive places.

But all that is really a side issue. Getting back to what I was talking about, while an official apostolic visit to Iraq has yet to be done, it is more than likely to happen within the near conceivable future. I for one look forward to that day. I can even see a day when Iraq will officially recognize the Church. While the imminent likelihood of that happening is tough to determine, I would definitely not rule it out, given what has happened in the recent past. Thanks for reading this comment. I am very glad of this milestone progress in Iraq.

John Pack Lambert said...

A missionary from New Zealand serving in South Africa was just killed in a car crash. http://www.ksl.com/?sid=42679123&nid=1284

John Pack Lambert said...

I got Mapping Mormonism for Christmas. I am so excited.

Bryan Baird said...

It would be great to see missions open in that area, even the reactivation of the Iran Tehran Mission which closed in, I believe 1979.

Bryan Baird said...

It would be great to see missions open in that area, even the reactivation of the Iran Tehran Mission which closed in, I believe 1979.

L. Chris Jones said...

It probably won't happen with the current government in power in Iran. In the seventies the overpowered the old government and took major control. The previous leadership was more open to freedom and Western ideals.

L. Chris Jones said...

I hope and pray for positive change in Iran. We do have several Iranians around the world who are members of the church.

James said...

Sad news indeed regarding the missionary from New Zealand who was killed during his service in South Africa. My mother is from South Africa, and my wife's nephew served his mission in New Zealand, so I felt ties to this news because of those facts. Thanks for sharing, John Pack Lambert. Curiosity question: What is Mapping Mormonism? I'm not familiar with that. Is it some kind of phone app that tracks Church growth? Either way, I am glad for you, John. Hope you enjoy it. It sounds like you got what you were wanting for Christmas. I am happy for you. If we can get missions open in the Middle East, whether such missions have previously existed or not, I think it could only be a good thing fo the Church. But I can see why an Iranian mission might not happen for a while. I had not been aware that a mission was operational in Iran at any time. Interesting. Can you imagine if that mission is reestablished sometime in the future? I have a feeling that the Lord is very much aware of the worldwide progression in the furthering of His work, and, in that respect, nothing would surprise me. I look forward to future developments in Church growth everywhere, and that is especially true of the Middle East. I will not be surprised in any way if the near future sees many more such developments within the next several years, including many future apostolic visits, to say nothing of the dedication of such lands officially for the preaching of the gospel. I love hearing of Church news and information. It's wonderful to live in a day when the gospel is restored and its message is so widely spreading.

And I have to once again express my hope that my blog will continue to serve as a prime place for such wonderful developments. I blogged just today about how my first day on the job went. There were so many unexpected things that happened. But I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given. And I am determined to make things work for me. I hope that you all enjoy following the opportunities I take to "sound off" about important things going on with us personally in general, and Church and temple news and developments in particular. Thanks again for the great comments. I have enjoyed reading them, and I hope to do so for many years to come. Thanks.

John Pack Lambert said...

I am not sure saying the regime of the Shah was "more open to Freedom" quite works. It was however more open to Western ideas and the presence of large numbers of westerners in the country. It was generally very oppresive towards the Iranian people.

One thing I have never figured out is if the Iran Tehran Mission actually had a goal of teaching the gospel to the Iranian people or if it focused on missionary outreach among the large number of expatriates in the country at the time.

L. Chris Jones said...

I understood we had a full operating mission and branches in Iran before the Shaw's lost power. A while back I was reading about life in Iran at that time and it appeared very western.

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Christopher Nicholson said...

I heard about it from a devotional speaker who served in the France Toulouse Mission. She said, "It was the second-lowest baptizing mission in the world. The first was in Tehran, Iran." *Cue audience laughter*

Christopher Nicholson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pack Lambert said...

Sorry, I should have explained Mapping Mormonism more. It is an atlas, that covers the history and geography of the LDS church. The edition I have is the second edition published in 2014. It includes maps showing where every stake and district was at the time. It shows the first areas with presidencies in 1984, and some earlier area arangements. It has lots of maps related to the early history of the Church, migration west and settlement of Utah. There are articles of text on each page.

James said...

Interesting. Thanks for that explanation. I may have to look into that for myself sometime when I have the means to do so. Thanks again.

John Pack Lambert said...

The map page for tempkes has a map showing the lication of all temples announced or completed using colors to show when they were built and different sizes of squares to represent 4 generalized sizes. It does make it hard to tell how truly big say the Mexico City Tempke is which at least before the Tijana Temple was dedicated had more square footaage than all other tenples in Mexico combined. It also soes not show the 7 most recently announced temples.

There are 4 very interesting graphs. The one of number of temples shows a mid 1970s spike followed by a slow progessiin unril the spike rifht around 2000. Since then the growth line is steeper than it was after the mid 1980s spike but nothing like what was seen in 1999-2001. The members per temple chart shows that the higest count ever was in the early 1980s. It crashed in the late 1980s to the level of about 1960. However it went up significantly through the 1990s. From 1999-2001 this figure fell to the level of the early 1930s. It has crept up a very little sine then maybe to the level of 1940. I imagine the dedication of 6 more temples this year has brought it down a little but maybe not even to the 2001 level. The number of members per temple since the great temple building at the start of this century is still about twice what it was just after the Salt Lake Temple was built or roughly 100,000 members ler temple while it was only 50,000 when the Salt Lake Temple was completed. In the early 1980s there were 250,000 members per temple. The average stake distance to temple is an even more i teresting chart.

John Pack Lambert said...

From the building of St George when the chart stars to the completion of Salt Lake the average stake distance was just over 200 miles. With the completion of the Salt Lake Temple it fell below 100 miles. By the mid 19eps it seems to have gone down to only about 75 miles. However the rise of stakes in California drive it up to 125 miles. In the mid 1950s it gets to 150 miles before going down with the building of the LA Temple. 1960 sees it shoot above 200 as several stakes are formed in the eastern US plus one in Canada. By 1970 with stakes formed in Japan and many countries in Latin America the average shoots above 400 miles. In 1974 it reaches almost to 550 dropping to just above 400 when the DC temple is dedicated. When 1977 closes the average is back over 550 with the growth in Latin America and in parts of the US hundreds of miles from the temple plus a few stakes in South Africa and East Asia far outstripping stake growth close to temples.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Sao Paulo Temple sees the stat come down to 400 miles in 1978. 1979 sees it spike to 450. In 1980 the Tokyo Temple brings the stat down to 400 but it goes back to 450 for 1981 and 1982.

John Pack Lambert said...

1983 with temples in Atlanta Georgia, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Chile and Mexico sees the stat drop to 300. The next few years bring it down to just over 150. It creeps back up to 225 by the late 1990s. At the end of 1999 it is 175 but then is only 125 in 2000. It finally drops below 100 with the dedication of the Accra Temple in 2004. Maybe 95 or so where it essentially staid until at least 2014.

My guess is that it has stayed there. While Nairobi which is hundreds of miles from the nearest temple saw a new stake this year as did Thailand and India, 3 new stakes were added in Aba where the temple is or Port Harcourt which is less than 50 miles away. Also Arizona saw 12 new stakes all close to temples. My guess is the number will stay about what it is for a while. Even though Kinshasa and Bankock Temples will greatly reduce the distance for some stakes the growth of new stakes in Kenya and Uganda and even in parts of the DR Congo hundreds of miles from the nearest tenple will counteract this.

Christopher Nicholson said...

ldschurchtemples.com says the Barranquilla Colombia Temple will serve seven stakes and two districts in northern Colombia, but nothing about the stakes and districts in western Venezuela that will be closer to it than to the Caracas Temple. Any idea why?

Ryan Searcy said...

My understanding is that Venezuela is having a lot of economic issues, and they do not want their citizens leaving and never returning.

Mike Johnson said...

John, thank you. Very interesting analysis.

Ryan, I agree about Venezuela. A big issue is Mercosur. Venezuela was admitted to a four year transition in 2012 and suspended in 2016 for failing to seriously begin the changes needed to be in the common market. Mercosur has among other thing freedom of transit for economic outputs (services and produced goods) and inputs (land--raw resources, labor, and capital). Mercosur citizens have rights to freely cross borders. But, Venezuela has not established these for crossing into and out of Venezuela. Thus the suspension and why the Church won't put Venezuelan members in a Columbian temple district. Venezuela doesn't allow easy access and the Mercosur full and associate members won't reciprocate until Venezuela achieves progress in its legal and administrative structures.

L. Chris Jones said...

Will this allow for another temple in Venezuela or is the current government more restrictive? On a side note the the temple in Frieberg Germany was dedicated when it was part of communist East Germany. The government came to the church asking us to build because of the number of members asking to for exit visas to leave the country to go to the temple. They did not want their citizens to leave the country either.

James said...

I would never rule out the possibility of another Venezuelan temple. A cursory glance at the number of units in any of the major Venezuelan cities is interesting. The largest stake I was able to find in that initial search contains 5 wards and 2 branches. But as to a city that might be the most likely host for the honor of the second Venezuelan temple, I would venture to say that it will be in Maracaibo. President Hinckley publicly proposed such a temple back in 1999 while traveling there. It was only the next year when Venezuela's first temple was dedicated in Caracas. But President Hinckley said that the eight hour drive between the two cities was sufficient, in his mind, to warrant a public proposal of a temple for Maracaibo. So I stand by that idea. However, in the same breath, I get the argument that a publicly proposed temple site speaks nothing of the imminent likelihood of such a temple. It would be good to see another temple in Venezuela. By all reports, the Saints there absolutely deserve it. It was high on my list of future possibilities when that list was 60+ strong. However, I am not sure such a temple is more likely than any of the other possibilities. I would never rule anything out. Given recent past precedents, no city is out of contention for a future temple site, no matter what conditions might prevail there. FWIW, that's my take on this.

John Pack Lambert said...

So even though some parts of Venezuela are mile per mile closer to Barranquilla it is an easier trip to Caracas. Maybe not shorter but going to Colombia involves lots of red tape and planning and might still end in failure.

John Pack Lambert said...

With the average members per temple at 100,000 one way to look for where new temples will be built is to find where this number is exceeded. For example Brazil has well over 1 million members but only 6 temples and 3 more announced. This suggests that more temples in Brazil could be announed easily.

John Pack Lambert said...

A year ago Nigeria had 142,000 members suggesting it is another prime candidate for a temple. On the other hand some temples have well below these numbers in their temple districts.

Mike Johnson said...

John, temples come in very different sizes and capacities as well. Some have looked at the measure by square footage, which is better than treating all temples the same, but still not necessarily the capacity of the temple. The number of members of record is not necessarily tied to the "demand" side. There are places of quite high activity rates and others with much lower.

I tend to think in terms of wards and stakes, with branches and districts counting as 1/3 of each respectively--this factor seems to work fairly well in aggregate, recognizing that in individual cases, branches and districts may be a lot smaller than 1/3 the size of a average ward/stake or even larger than 1 ward/stake. There are districts that mature into stakes leaving some portion of the old district as a new district--the stake starts out smaller than the district. And there are times when districts mature into stakes where 1 or more branches are reorganized into more wards than there were branches so reorganized. These events are rare, but do happen. But the typical average seems to be about 1/3 for each.

James said...

Interesting thoughts, as always, guys! Thanks. I find myself mainly looking at unit activity to determine my temple picks. Whether or not that is justified or even the best way to do things remains to be seen. FWIW, I did two Church-related blog posts today. One was to share the latest temple construction progress developments, and the other was in tribute to Elder Bruce D. Porter, General Authority Seventy, who passed away yesterday. Please check out my blog to see what I had to say about that, if that interests you. A link follows below. Thanks.

http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com

John Pack Lambert said...

Elder Porter evidently had just been replaced as president of the Europe East Area. I have not yet figured out who the new president is.

James said...

John, Elder Porter was indeed the Europe East Area President, and he was released earlier this month (no doubt to allow him the chance to die in peace in his own home surrounded by the company of his own family). It is not unprecedented in any way to have a change in an Area Presidency outside of the regular changes in August. Some of the more recent members to join the Presidency of the Seventy came to that assignment outside of August or a General Conference and had been reassigned to that position while serving as an area president. I do have someone I know who knows enough to have assured me that the area presidency has been reorganized already, but due to the nature of him having such inside knowledge of such things, he does not have sufficient clearance to give details until such information is officially announced by the Church. In watching as many Area Presidency changes as I have, I think it would be very safe to assume that Elder James B. Martino, who served as Elder Porter's First Counselor, is now the new Area President, and that Larry S. Kacher, Elder Porter's Second Counselor, is now First Counselor to Elder Martino. However, it is anyone's guess as to the identity of the new Second Counselor. I would be the very last person to be surprised if the area presidency has been totally reorganized, but from what I've observed about how Area Leadership has changed hands, I feel pretty confident that Elder Martino succeeded Elder Porter, that Elder Kacher succeeded Elder Martino, and that the new Second Counselor could be anyone, even if that necessitated further shuffling of some Church headquarters assignments. I welcome anyone who might disagree with this theory to speak up, but I have studied Area Presidency changes enough to know that this is the usual rotation pattern that prevails in such circumstances. Does that help at all?

Bryan Baird said...

Of the 200+ countries on earth how many have the church in them

James said...

That I don't know, Bryan. But it is an interesting question. I am not even sure how accurate you are in stating there are 200+ countries in the world. There seem to be a great deal more than that. But in running a cursory internet search on that very question, one of the top results is a post done on this blog by Matt back in 2012, where he indicated the Church had some presence in 161 world countries. By now, there are many more than that. There have been many countries that have opened their doors to the preaching of the gospel since then. I believe the most recent case this year may have been when Vietnam granted official recognition to the efforts of the Church in that country. Does that help at all?

James said...

Just found an updated post on this blog from 2015, which listed 164 countries. Again, I would defer to anyone else who might have a more current number update, but there it is.

James said...

Okay. I now have found out that there are apparently 195 countries in the world. That number decreases by 1 if you don't count Taiwan, which some don't simply due to the fact that China still claims Taiwan as part of itself. Now that we have that number, maybe it will be easier to figure out just how many of them are open to the gospel. For the sake of argument, I will say that there are 195 world countries. At Matt's last count in 2015, he reported 164 countries open to the Church. If we add Iraq and Vietnam to that, the new total is 166. That means there are just 29 countries left that need to open their doors to the gospel message, This means that in dividing the 166 countries who recognize the Church by the 195 total countries in the world, we arrive at the answer that the Church has some presence in 85% of the world countries. As my former seminary teacher Brother Kirby would say, "That is, by the way, a high percentage." If we are 85% along the way to getting the gospel preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, then it is easy to understand why I was told in my patriarchal blessing that we are in the Saturday evening of time. I know not how the rest of you feel, but it is my hope and prayer that Sunday will come very soon. Thanks for the fun conversation. I hope we can see even more wonderful Church growth milestones during this fabulous year of 2017. Thanks

David Todd said...

I don't think countries are equivalent to nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. It is a good indicator, but there are many more languages and nationalities than countries.

David Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Good point. But we area also called upon as Latter-day Saints to "take the gospel to all the world", so even if we have not yet reached every "nation, kindred, tongue, and people: we are much closer to that now than ever before. And that's been another great sign of Church growth. I's have to go back through the history of the languages in which the gospel is preached to know how many of those types of developments took place just this year alone. But whatever wording may be used to describe what has happened in that regard this year, we have in many ways entered an entirely unprecedented and most remarkable era of progress in terms of worldwide Church growth. With all that has happened in that regard just in 2016, we can look forward with great anticipation to what we might see happening this year. FWIW, that's how I see it.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Pretty good article about countries and what is permitted religiously.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865670047/The-fate-of-religious-freedom-in-the-former-USSR-25-years-after-its-collapse.html

James said...

Interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing, Eduardo! It will be most interesting to me to see what happens in the future in terms of Church growth development. I rely extensively on the updates Matt and Rick do on their respective labors of love to enable me to keep my readers informed on such developments. And this interesting news piece has contributed to that for sure. Thanks again.

Michael Mills said...

Two LDS Apostles visited Iraq in December, 1961. Spencer W. Kimball and Howard W. Hunter along with their wives spent a week in Iraq. My wife's family was living in Baghdad at the time, and the apostles visited historic sites including what was believed to be where UR was located; they were accompanied by my father-in-law. They then went to visit Bethlehem at Christmas.

James said...

Michael, I would like nothing more than to believe you on this point, but I have searched valiantly for verification and proof of that incident of which you spoke. It is nowhere to be found. Since I am one who prides myself on knowing or else being able to learn all that I can about our prophets and apostles, could you point me to where I can find such verification of this? I ran an internet search about it, and came up empty. Unless you can verify it, I'm not sure I will be able to believe you, however much I wish to, I have heard of too many instances where people will say that "Elder So-and-So was with my family member when they did thus and such." Without adequate proof, it's all words. And yes, before you ask, I did look for the information in the Howard W. Hunter manual. It appears that President Hunter's ties to the middle east only stem from his involvement with creating the BYU Jerusalem Center. Any light you could shed on this point would be appreciated.

David Todd said...

James, without starting an argument here, I feel that I should inform you that your response to Michael's post is very rude. His response to John's question based on his own knowledge or experience does not require verification from you. And to be frank, I don't think he cares if you believe it or not. Also, your reasoning is flawed. If someone provides anecdotal evidence for an argument or point, you cannot throw out their statement on a lack of supporting evidence. It would be impossible for you to go through every single source ever written to show that this isn't the case. Rather, you would need to provide evidence that contradicts their point, such as an article from a church source that says no apostle has ever visited Iraq. In your own reasoning, until you show me such an article, your point is just words and I don't believe you.

Michael Mills said...

James,

This was a sacred family experience of my wife's family. I shared it only to provide testimony of the fact that apostles had visited Iraq.

For President Kimball's own reference to this trip as written by his son and grandson, please refer to the book "Spencer W. Kimball" by Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr. published by Bookcraft, 1977, page 336. As quoted here:

"The trip around the world had whetted Spencer and Camilla's appetite for travel. That December they mailed their 750 Christmas cards and went with Elder Howard W. Hunter and his wife to the Near East during the Christmas break in stake conference assignments.

In Egypt they visited Karnak and other places they had missed the first time. They went to Iraq, to the ziggurat of Ur on the Euphrates flood plain, and to the ruins of Babylon. The world of Abraham came to life for Spencer. He read and dreamed and wrote about the patriarch.

On Christmas Eve 1961, the group reached Bethlehem."

Michael Mills said...

As further testimony of the two Apostle's visit to Iraq, please read Howard W. Hunter's biography by Eleanor Knowles, "Howard W. Hunter" published by Deseret Book, 1994, pages 162 through 164, as quoted here:

"Elder Hunter's journal is peppered with entries similar to this one dated November 30, 1961: 'I worked in the office until late this evening and then went to the library to see if I could find any material on Iraq and the Holy Land.' This particular research prepared him for one of his most memorable journeys, the Christmas 1961 vacation he and Claire took with Spencer and Camilla Kimball to Egypt and the Middle East. The two apostles summarized their experiences and impressions in a letter they sent from Istanbul to their associates in the Quorum of the Twelve:

'The three weeks have been full and rewarding. We have followed our Father Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees through his birth, youth, marriage and escape from the idolatry of the great valley between the two ancient rivers. We climbed with him the Ziggurat, wandered through the excavated city where he probably lived, moved with him up the valley to the Babylon site which was to become so great long after him.'"

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yeah, a lot of things in life have to be taken in faith. Is it a millenial generation that doubts everything they cannot prove by a few days search of Internet or by justification in Wikileaks?

Many things are hard to prove. But the human heart is the hardest. God made it. An re-makes it as we go.

James said...

Michael and Eduardo, I hope you know I meant no disrespect or doubt by asking for verification. A lifetime of trying to learn all I can about the lives of our prophets and apostles has proven to me that rumor flies swiftly. I have heard so many inaccurate and fabricated accounts about how an apostle did this or that. Since misinformation is so prevalent and because I have had too much of it, I have learned to be skeptical of some "accounts" from the life of these brethren. I had no reason to doubt the truthfulness of Michael's words on a level of them being posted on this blog, but it was hard to accept them as fact when I couldn't initial find any information about this on any source readily available. And I have been fortunate enough to repeatedly have been able to read the biographies of both of these great men. But somehow, this one detail eluded my memory. For my skepticism, I profoundly apologize. But I thank you, Michael, for the verification of what you said, even if you didn't need to "prove" it. And I thank you, Eduardo, for your reminder about taking things on faith. I will do my best to do better with that in the future. Due to some personal issues, I for a while was depriving myself of any spiritual nourishment. It was a foolish character flaw that I deeply regret. But I am getting back to praying regularly and hope to resume regular gospel study once my health calms sufficiently to allow it. In the meantime, thanks to you both again.

James said...

Also, FWIW, I do take being classified as a "millennial" as a compliment. I was born in 1986, so I guess I qualify. But my definition of what being a "millennial" was forever changed a while back when President Russell M. Nelson spoke to young adults like me about what it means to be, as he termed it, "a true millennial". For too long now, I have been off track as far as that goes. But I am determined to resume working towards that ideal. The comments and correction I receive here and on my own blog have served to give me a sense of what being a true millennial really means. And if I can ever be worthy of that title, I will count myself lucky. I am also, I freely admit, far too quick to open my mouth and promptly put my foot right in it. So many problems I have had in my life could have easily been avoided had I been more careful or prudent in thinking before speaking or had I taken the time to censor and filter myself, such things could easily be avoided. I always appreciate being called on my misconduct, even and especially if I don't always initially show that appreciation. Thanks again for the correction, and sorry if I gave any offense. That was never my intent at all.

Also, I did a couple of blog posts about temples and their progress yesterday (the 3rd). The first was about the milestones reached in temple construction, and in the second, I post my refined and reworked predictions, for which I have done additional research, in terms of when temple-related events might be announced and scheduled within the next 2 years or so. I invite all who might be interested to check out my blog at the address below to catch up on these latest posts. Any and all comments are welcome and appreciated.

James said...

Forgot to post the links to those posts. Here they are, along with one additional one I had forgotten about detailing the funeral arrangements for Elders Porter and Rudd, who were the last prominent Church members to pass away in 2016. Feedback is always welcome. I would always prefer if that feedback comes on my posts themselves, but I leave it up to those who might care to comment as to whether they want to do that on the actual posts or here. Thanks.

Funeral Services Announced for Elders Rudd and Porter: http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com/2017/01/funeral-services-announced-for-two-lds.html

Timeline in which I believe future temple events may be announced and take place: http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com/2017/01/refining-yet-again-my-predictions-for.html

First Temple Construction Progress Report for 2017:
http://stokessoundsoff.blogspot.com/2017/01/first-temple-construction-progress.html

James said...

I have had further reasons to do several more rapid-fire blog posts in the 16 hours or so since I made the above comment. There have been many wonderful Church-related developments so far this year, and I fully anticipate that continuing in the future. I post a general link to my blog again now, and any of you who feel so inclined can visit any post that strikes your fancy. Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated. Four days in, and it has already been quite the new year!

http://stokessoundsoff,blogspot.com

James said...

My frequent blogging continued today. Check out the link above for my latest updates, such aws they are. Thanks.

Sandy Watson said...

This information isn't completely true and I'd be curious as to where your information came from. My husband and I are currently one of the couples serving here. We are here as Humanitarian Missionaries with LDS Charities---the ONLY legally recognized LDS entity in Kurdistan. We were the only couple until a few months ago. NONE of the couples are proselyting missionaries. The Church is not officially recognized here yet and we are still trying to be very careful about what we share here. There are no other members in Erbil, there are a few in Duhok (certainly not a couple of dozen) and some in Sulaymaniyah (again only a few and nowhere close to a couple dozen). There are not frequent baptisms. You are correct that there are no Church materials in Kurdish. Don't look for a proselyting mission in this area anytime in the foreseeable future. We can't have a mission until there is a Church. We are doing a tremendous amount of humanitarian work here and serving the Lord's children--no matter what their religion or nationality. We serve Arabs and Kurds. We serve Christians, Muslims, Yezidis etc. I'm happy people are excited about the work in this part of the world but it's also a very sensitive part of the world and we try to be very careful.

We would appreciate knowing where you received your information. THANKS!

James said...

Hey, Sandy! Thank you for sharing your experiences in this regard. The one who posted this, Matt, was very careful in the wording he used in the post. I am not sure where he got this particular information, if it is true that you and your husband are the only couple serving in the area. But no one is talking about it being a place where the gospel is actively being preached. My wife and I had an excellent discussion on the subject of this blog post about a week ago. She was quick to remind me that a mission in the area to which this post refers is not likely anytime soon. I recognize how careful you have to be in the service you render, and I appreciate the comment you made above about how things may not be as bright for the Church as they were portrayed in this post. Matt has been very careful about the information he shares, and he tries his best to ensure that he is not reporting anything that is not true. As a quick example, he had a report sometime last year that the Church was close to establishing its first stake in Belize. When newer information indicated that this report was wrong, he posted his apology for the misinformation. From years of following this blog, I can tell you that Matt is very careful about posting things unless and until he is sure that they can be verified. If he has been in error on this point, you can be sure he will clarify and correct the error in a new post very soon. Even though the possibilities of expanding the Church in the Middle East have been mentioned over the course of this discussion, no one has said anything about it being imminently likely to happen. The responses have mainly been based on the initial report Matt received, which, as you say, may have been in error. I am sure he will clarify and correct any misconception or misinformation in a future post. In the meantime, as one who has frequently commented here, I would like to personally thank you for the information you provided. Matt will take all that into account and post an update if he feels that is necessary. He does receive information from time to time, but at times, it is unclear how reliable that might be. When mistakes are made, as happened here, he has been perfectly willing to correct that information in a future post. Sorry for droning on. My point is that Matt does his best to be as careful and accurate as possible and does post corrections and clarifications when needed. That is sure to happen in this case. In the meantime, thank you for your service. I have worked with humanitarian efforts myself (locally though it was), and I can attest to the vital importance of the work you are doing. May the Lord bless you and those who serve with you in your efforts.

Matt said...

Thank you Sandy Watson for the corrections. Yes, I am aware that none of the couples are currently proselytizing missionaries and that your primary role is humanitarian work. However, I also understand that couples in the area also provide some local member support. My understanding is that there is at least a couple dozen members, but it was difficult to tell from the report I had whether there were a couple dozen members in each city or within all of the cities altogether. I appreciate the clarifications. The Church in Turkey underwent a similar progress that you have described in Kurdistan at present. Perhaps this will lay the groundwork for proselytizing missionaries one day.

Andrew Terry said...

Is there a meeting place for services in Kurdistan? I currently have a friend from the UK visiting there looking for a branch or where the missionaries meet.

Sandy Watson said...

Andrew Terry---Where is your friend visiting? We have members in Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and Erbil. You can contact me and we can talk specifics.

sandy@lswatson.com

Andrew Terry said...

Thanks for responding! I'll find out specifics and get back to you.