Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 2017 Newsletter

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John Pack Lambert said...

I have to say I loved Elder Ballard's talk. His invoking the memory of Sister James was quite noving. It was designed to work to make the message have hopefully impact

John Pack Lambert said...

I hope his message has impact broadly both among many in the US and elsewhere.

John Pack Lambert said...

Elder Ballard's talk might be the most powerful attack on racism in the Church. I also liked his guidance on many topics. Especially the warning against get rich quick schemes.

james anderson said...

Elder Ballard also mentioned healthcare scams. The healthcare quacks are out in force so he had to warn against them too, including CBD (hemp or marijuana) oil, toenail fungus cures, diabetes cure scams, as well as people who offer in-office quack treatments, I have received email spam for almost all of the above the last two days and for months now so everyone has gotten this stufff at least once recently.

Elder Cook delivered about the racism issue too.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Good shout out to China by Elder Anderson, regarding Elder Nelson, the surgeon.
Great conference. More desires to do good and go to the temple. Do family history and work hard, study more. Teach others. And learn and listen to others.

brycen said...

We will all miss Elder Robert D Hales. I didn't expect to be so emotional when he died, given how sick he had been for a while. But I found myself shedding a tear over his passing.

When I heard about his death, I immediately started asking myself, I wonder how long it's been since a general authority passed away during a General Conference.

I don't know the exact dates of many older conferences, but I did find 3 cases of apostles dying during the first week of April or October:

1881- October 3, Orson Pratt, the last of the original 12 apostles called in 1835.

1951 - April 4, President George Albert Smith (8th President of the Church, on his birthday)

1961 - October 6, President J Reuben Clark, counselor in the First Presidency since 1934.

brycen said...

Also, other General Authorities (not emeritus or former General Authorities):

1946, October 7, Marvin O Ashton, 1st Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric died.

1991, April 7, Derek A Cuthbert, in First Quorum of the Seventy, died.

coachodeeps said...

Bruce, I was wondering three same thing. I know President George Albert Smith passes after conference. I would imagine Pres Clark, Elders Ashton and Cuthbert did also. Not sure admit Elder Pratt.

twinnumerouno said...

I found some online info giving the days of the week:

1- Orson Pratt died on a Monday, so probably after conference.

2- Bishop Marvin O. Ashton also died on a Monday.

3- Pres. George Albert Smith died on a Wednesday.

4- J. Reuben Clark died on a Friday. I'm not sure if that was after or during conference, wikipedia gives the day before, Oct. 5 for the calling of Pres. Hinckley as an apostle though that could be just the day he was ordained. (He was called before the death of Pres. Clark because Elder Hugh B. Brown had been called as additional Counselor in the First Presidency back in June.)

5- Elder Cuthbert died on a Sunday- I'm pretty sure it was during conference, I remember hearing his death announced in one of the sessions just like Elder Hales' was.

james anderson said...

President Hinckley had both announced Elder Cuthberts poor health, then while closing the conference announced his death the hour before, its part of what you see for that conference on As to the Friday and Monday dares, before the late 60s every conference lasted four days and some of those fell either side of that. They did not go to the present format until 1977

MainTour said...

Did you catch that President Nelson had only 15 minutes to run from the morning session to Hales bedside before his passing?

BYULAW said...

I wonder if the church will wait until April to call a replacement or do so earlier. An article in the Salt Lake Tribune seems to suggest President Monson’s health may play into the decision of when to call the next apostle. In looking at potential replacements I would not be surprised if they selected someone that is in the Presidency of the 70 since that seems to be the most common source, and my hunch is that it’ll be one of those already serving in that position before this last conference. Based on the track record of calling non-minority apostles, which I wish wasn’t the track record, that leaves Clayton, Christensen and Robbins. With Christensen being the youngest of the 3 I’ll guess he becomes the new apostle. But, I would love to be surprised (I’m all for making the quorum more diverse).

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yes, I know a lot of people would love to see a potential Hispanic apostle; I'm thinking of Elder Gonzalez or another. When I served my mission in Chile in the early 1990s there were about 300,000 members in that one Spanish speaking country alone. Elder Ayala was called as a seventy, which was a boost to many. Members and investigators would always ask. To not have a Spanish (or Portuguese) native speaker among the quorum of 12 seems like an offense to many, non-sensible.
Of course I am no one to tell the Son of God which 12 men of the tribe of Judah to choose in 30 AD, or 12 Nephites in 34 AD. God is in charge but there are many precedents of His believers wondering how things are proceeding among His flock.
Chile alone in 2017 has maybe 400,000 less active members; it would be pretty cool for the thousands of missionaries across Latin America and Spain, Europe, Africa, and everywhere that there is a non US citizen called to the most revered calling. French speaking, Japanese, anything.
But again, I am not Joseph Smith stuck in a dark basement in Liberty, I am just an American who thinks it only makes sense to be or at least appear less exclusive and less ethno-centric as quite possibly the best run organization on earth, and maybe it's best hope.
People are chosen to send messages from God; the next apostle selected sends an ever bigger message in the acutely aware social media world of these latter days.
A Frenchman or any other nationality would help the "public face" of the Church's evangelization and outreach to the hearts and minds of the world. And, dare I add, the 14 US men could probably be served by a more foreign voice in their midst. My 9 Chilean companions and countless others have helped me, I feel, open my mind and heart to how others view their membership and commitment to a worldwide international faith.
Not Utah, not US, not "white", not all the other categorizations it is too often accused of. But we, no one, knows the mind of the Lord.
His will be done.

twinnumerouno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
twinnumerouno said...

James Anderson,
I know there used to be 3- and 4-day conferences, and I seem to recall something about a Welfare Session on Thursday. Did every conference have 4 days before 1977, or did some years have more sessions than others? Was it Friday through Monday or Thursday through Sunday? Do you (does anyone) know more information about that?

If I'm calculating right, then April 1951 and October 1961 both had the 1st fall on a Sunday just like the conference we just had, so that Pres. Smith and Pres. Clark both probably died a few days after the conference. (I seem to recall that Elder Hinckley was sustained an apostle on Sep. 30 in 1961.)

It also occurred to me that Lorenzo Snow died on Oct. 10, 1901. This was a Thursday, and 4 days earlier Joseph F. Smith and Rudger Clawson had been sustained as 1st and 2nd counselors, presumably in General Conference, after the death of George Q. Cannon (they were not set apart owing to Pres. Snow's death).


I think Elder Andersen said that he (President Nelson) had left the session early in response to a prompting, but I don't know how early.

I agree with you about the Presidency of the Seventy. It seems like any time new apostles are called at least one of them is from there, though I know that 1984 and the apostles of the '90s did not follow that pattern. (Elders Wirthlin and Cook were both in the Presidency of the 70 for less than 2 months when they were called to the apostleship.)

I agree with both you and Eduardo that it would be nice to have more diversity among the apostles, and I suspect that the day is coming when there will be non-whites or more non-Americans among them, though I don't have any idea when.

Of course, whether or not we have diversity depends on how you define it (I'm not sure that the media's obsession with race has anything to do with how the Lord sees us). After all, we do have a non-American in Pres. Uchtdorf, and several of the newer apostles have significant experience in living, working in and fluently speaking languages of other cultures and countries, which should counts for a lot in that matter (actually, all of our current apostles have traveled and ministered on a global scale, and I'm sure that none of them could accurately be described as racist, a white supremacist or anything less than loving and kind to all- not that I think anyone was saying that).

I would think this would make it more likely that people of other races and nationalities would be considered when vacancies arise- I suspect that others are already being considered, we won't know it if the Lord selects someone else.

For myself, I would not be upset if Elder Soares or Gong were called, for example. But the Lord may have other assignments for them, for all I know.

james anderson said...

For decades, April Conference ran four days, or if inconvenient for some reason three, and sometimes would skip a day so the ipening or closing would fall on April 6th

October conference would run four days and would not skip a day.

Eventually it would go to three days, Frisay to Sunday, and they discontinued having one day be April 6th unless the three-day period fel on one of those weekdays.

Various meetings were also scheduled, including a welfare session, that continued until the early 80s, and near the end was held at 6am and broadcast primarily on KBYU rather than KSL until it was discontinued for good at present.

Priesthood session was not printed at all until the 50s or at latest the early 60s.

James said...

Hello, everyone! First, I want to thank Matt for this great newsletter. What wonderful progress the Church has reported since the end of last month. Second, on the death of general authorities round about General Conference, I know that with the death of George Albert Smith, it occurred just prior to General Conference weekend, so the Saturday Afternoon Session was used as the time for his funeral, and in view of his passing, a solemn assembly was held during that conference for the new Church President, David O. McKay.

I was saddened as well by the passing of Elder Hales, but that was not wholly unexpected. And in regards to the question of what happened to allow President Nelson to be there, I clearly remember Elder Andersen mentioning that President Nelson was inspired after the Sunday Morning Session to skip his lunch and go directly to Elder Hales's side, which is how he was there when Elder Hales passed away 15 minutes after the session ended.

As to when we might see a funeral, I am guessing it will be held on Thursday or Friday this week. And in terms of how soon the apostolic vacancy might be filled, the Church has options there. There is precedent for waiting to fill that vacancy until the next conference. But there is also the precedent of Elder Holland's call to the apostleship. President Benson, who authorized the apostolic appointment of Elder Hales during the April General Conference, passed away on May 30, 1994. His successor, Howard W. Hunter, was ordained June 5, 1994, and, acting under the inspiration of the Lord and with the consent of the other apostles, President Hunter called Elder Holland into his office on June 23, and within the next few hours, called him to the apostleship, invited him to join the other 14 apostles in their temple meeting, gave him his apostolic charge, set him apart, and had him presented to the media.

So based on that past precedent, the Church could easily call a new apostle prior to the next General Conference. But I am more interested in addressing those who are so intent on seeing an internationally born apostle, rather than another American=born. Those called to the apostleship have been foreordained to receive the assignment at the time they come to it. The Lord knows whom He wants to fill each vacancy, and He not only controls the life and death of each apostle, but He also knows who is coming to the apostleship and when.

As to the argument that the Church needs to be seen as more diverse, I get that to a certain point. But I would remind individuals who make such an argument of the response given by our three newest apostles when they met the press in October 2015 and were asked what they would say to anyone who asked why someone internationally born had not been called. It was Elder Renlund who responded that they were called to be apostles and witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world, and who also observed that all of them had had international experience through service as members of various area presidencies. Since they had first-hand experience with other cultures, they could minister to the Saints worldwide just as well as they could to those within the United States.

That said, would I be delighted to have another foreign-born apostle join President Uchtdorf? And would I like to see someone younger? The answer to both of those questions is yes. But I will be just as delighted to see someone in their 60s who was born in the United States. Why? Because I have gained for myself a testimony of the process by which such selections are made, and because I know that whomever is called has been foreordained to that position.

I have, however, drawn up a preliminary list of possibilities, to which I would like to share a link. Enjoy, and, if you feel so inclined, share your thoughts on my thoughts. Thanks.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yeah, I will prayerfully and willfully accept the next apostles and presidencies to be called. Same as my next bishop and stake president, high priest group leader, Sunday school president, etc.
But I do empathize with non-American, or non dominant ethnic groups, and women for that matter. They are currently some of the biggest strengths of our modern faith, and it will be great for them to feel further acknowledged by high leadership callings. Empowerment also comes through how we represent them in our messages.
May we continue to do so.

James said...

I can fully understand empathizing with minority groups who may feel that the Church has not represented their interests well enough. But we have constantly heard from the leading brethren (and sisters for that matter) about how God is no respecter of persons, and how the blessings of the gospel are available to all. Some of these minority groups that do feel excluded forget just how far the Church has come, and forget the statements given by leaders past and present regarding the equal place all individuals have in the eyes of the Lord. Those who have publicly stated the Church leadership should be more culturally diverse, or, for example, that women should have equal privileges to men, forget that there are separate but equal roles each play in the Church. We have also heard from our new apostles, and those who have served for a while as well, that new apostles have the same responsibility as those who have served for a longer period of time, to bear witness of Jesus Christ and to be apostles to all the world. And in the Seventy, we have seen men appointed from vastly different racial backgrounds. Among the latest appointments have been one or two from the "Mormon corridor", but we also have an increasing number of foreign-born seventies. I am sure the Lord has a view to calling more apostles from an international background, and I hope to see more diversity in the apostleship at some point, but if the Lord needs another US-born apostle with international experience who can represent Him just as well as someone born and raised with an international background, that will be what happens. In the musings I have posted regarding the current vacancy, I look at qualified individuals both American- and foreign-born. Someone in the comments of that post observed that Elder Gong might be a good fit. He is of Asian descent, but is American born, is right around the age at which apostles have typically been called, and is well educated. The Lord has many worthy candidates to choose from. The only question is, who does He need to come to the apostleship at this time? And in that regard, if we prepare ourselves by asking the Lord to help us know that whoever is called has come to the calling under His inspiration, then we will not be disappointed, no matter whom He may actually call. Hope no one takes offense at this. Just wanted to post that additional thought.

BYULAW said...

I am in general agreement with the comments above. I do feel, though, that for whatever reasons the church in general still struggles with race. Whether a minority apostle would help mitigate these struggles I guess is debatable. However, it definitely couldn't hurt to have alternative perspectives in the quorum of the 12.

An anecdote of how non-minority members of the church still struggle to understand other cultures is in the following article: Odds are that some of the actors/students/faculty involved in this play had served missions in other countries and among other cultures, but still struggled to perceive how many Polynesians would interpret the play. Obviously no harm was intended, but I feel like it is very difficult for non-minorities to fully understand the perspectives of other races and cultures regardless of international experiences or foreign language proficiency.

Unknown said...

The debate over the ethnicity of the apostles reminds me of a quote from a talk by Elder Lynn G. Robbins ( He quotes Elder Packer who said “A Seventy...does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people. Never forget which way you face!”. In the same manner I believe that an apostle does not represent his ethnicity or his fellow countrymen, etc., but rather he represents the will of the Lord to everyone. It doesn't matter if every single Apostle is from New Guinea, India, Nigeria, Chile, the U.S., or any possible combination. Race and ethnicity are irrelevant.

To address the Tribune article linked by BYULAW, I'm sure that if asked, 95% or Pacific Islanders would want to watch the sketch and would find it funny. The article only quotes one person who is described as an "activist". Unfortunately, there are many people who seek to stir up contention by telling people what they should be offended by even when no offense is obviously intended. I wish less people payed attention to that nonsense, but there you have it. To suggest it highlights any kind of struggle with race or ethnicity in the church is, in my opinion, silly.

Eduardo Clinch said...

We all struggle with racial and ethnic issues, Church or no. We as Church members have a harder time relating to worldly peoples, some have issues with us because of our stances on marriage and the family, chemical avoidance that is largely accepted by most others... Language or nationality or no, homogeneous demographics are yet another measure of how the world judges the Saints. Maybe God wishes it so.
But, a member from Latin America in the highest quorum would lift the hopes of millions, no doubt. I think of it as a win-win.
I guess it may be a question between Ephraim and Mannaseh, too.
The scriptures have a lot to say about these tribes of Israel in the last days.

james anderson said...

Can't find it, but Google should turn up an incident last year where one of the songs for this yeas youth theme music was pulled days after posting because some objected to the title. 'White, was about moral purity, but some saw something racist in that, apparently that is what the Trib allegedly reported.

James said...

Interesting to be sure. I have before freely admitted that I have trouble getting out of the "Utah LDS mindset" and in relating to other cultures primarily because my health has never allowed me to live anywhere else. That said, I have had the opportunity to mingle with many remarkable LDS members from other cultures. I have previously on this forum mentioned the nurses of different cultures who have tended to my medical care in the past, including one from Romania who spoke with great hope about Church progress in her country. And I gained a whole new appreciation for diverse cultures working in the temple with young missionaries preparing to go to a variety of places, and with coworkers from a variety of backgrounds. We had a very humble man born in South America who worked on my shift for a while, and he often spoke to me of how different things were being a Church member from that region. Because I took the opportunities that came to do so, I gained exposure to 12 languages during my six years of service in the temple. If there was ever a foreign language patron, my supervisors automatically came to me to take care of him or her, not because of my expertise in such languages, but because I wanted to help these patrons in their native tongues. They always came through smiling, though it is unclear if that was more from my pronunciation and horrible accent than from any genuine gratitude that I had made the attempt. But when that was in doubt, their "thank yous" in either their rudimentary English or their own tongue spoke volumes. So I know how well some of these Saints try to be faithful, even when surrounded by those who don't know and don't feel confident enough to attempt to assist them in their native tongue. And those Saints touched my heart. But I think I can say without fear of contradiction that if any Saint, regardless of language, takes time to gain a testimony of the process by which apostolic calls are issued and come about, there need be no feelings of disappointment if the Lord determines that another American-born man with international experience is needed in the apostleship at this time. In fact, I wonder if that happens as often as it does because the Lord is testing the faith of His people. It takes that same kind of faith to be a foreign patron going to an English-speaking temple that it does for anyone of any nationality to gain a testimony that apostolic calls (and any other calls, for that matter) are directed by the Lord. And those Saints who have done or will do so can be assured that the Lord directs His work and understands their needs and the desires of their hearts. So I hear what is being said about how it would be gratifying for certain Saints to see their ethnic or racial background reflected in the leading quorums of the Church, but for those Saints and all of us, the question is, are we prepared to accept the Lord's will regarding who fills this and any other vacancies? And I hope for all of us, that answer is yes.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Has anyone else tracked the Russian Orthodox Church taking possibly two LDS chapels in Russian occupied Ukraine? Apparently there are photos circulating on social media.

James said...

Really? I hadn't heard that. Thanks for the tip, Eduardo! Upon further investigation, it appears that the Facebook page for the Kiev Ukraine mission got word of that happening from a member (though it is not as clear what connections she has to know the information). It does not seem surprising, given the current political climate in that nation.

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

Considering that 2 of the 7 oresidents of the seventy are not white, that 1/3 of Utah's current US house delegation is not white, there are various ways to see things

John Pack Lambert said...

James Anderson I do remember the article about the song. It was written by an Asian American young woman and was specifically drawing on Isaiah's statements. some of the attacks on it seemed to be sent up by adults who in my view far umderestimated the ability of youth to understand symbolism. The fact that the author was not even Euro-American made the attacks on the song ludicrous. Not all actions that offend racial sensituvities are done by Europeans and Euro-Anericans.

John Pack Lambert said...

I still remember one of my youth leaders ( who was a Utah transplant) making a comment about how black's patriarchal blessings would not declare them descendants of Ham, in a way implying this was the literal truth.

I have since comme to realize that there is no good reading of the Bible that actually supports the notion. Hams descendants are heavily identified with groups in and around Israel, such as the Canaanites.

Beyond this the Bible and Pearl of Great Price imply that the descendants of Israel will be scatter in all parts of the world.

The issues with blacks in the US are also affected by most having some amount of European ancestry, as well as some portion having Native American ancestry. How prevalent the latter is is a source of major disagreement, heavily influenced by debates on how the conflation of blackness and slavery makes reading colonial American records difficult combined with the seeking to avoid the "stain" of blackness by Native American groups, especially in the southern states.

James said...

For myself, I would hope that certain talks from last General Conference have dispelled any notion in anyone's mind that racism is condoned or sanctioned by the Church, or that the Lord has a racial preference when He speaks to those with responsibility to fill an apostolic vacancy. And I can never forget the wonderful first talk Elder Joseph W. Sitati gave following his call as a General Authority Seventy, in which he focused on the notion that the blessings of the gospel are truly available to all. This is a man who was 26 when he first learned that the priesthood was going to be extended to all. And this is the man whom, as a native-born Kenyan, was asked to conduct the media event held in June to field questions from the media regarding the Nairobi Kenya Temple. Whomever the Lord might choose to fill the apostolic vacancy, whether US- or foreign-born, I know that the leading Brethren, whatever their racial or ethnic background might be, will accept this as the will of the Lord. I hope each of us can do so as well. But the point I wanted to make is that we have seen ample evidence from the Church, especially in recent years, and in light of recent events, that clearly indicates that Church leaders are calling racial supremacist attitudes out for being the evil notions that they are. We would be wise to do the same. The days when any race is seen as inferior or less worthy have long since passed. I say we let them die away.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Right, there are also regional and cultural factors at play, regardless of race or ethnicity.
For example, I know many Californians who are pleased and reinforced in their commonality when general authorities have lived in the Golden State and often know many of the Saints, there are personal ties and connections, anecdotes, and faith-related stories that make our faith seem so real and personal.
People everywhere, at the end of the day, wish to feel connected and acknowledged. People of Mannasah will have their day, as all the tribes of Israel. The scriptures document it.

twinnumerouno said...

It seems like racial sensitivities have become so politicized that it's hard to know what to do any more. Today there were stories on a new Detroit fireman who didn't realize the other firefighters (mostly black) would be offended by his bringing a watermelon, and being fired, a Dr. Seuss mural being removed for its depiction of a Chinese man, and an attempt to re-name a mountain called Squaw Peak. (The news also mentioned a Samoan church in Las Vegas honoring the shooting victims while celebrating a traditional Samoan holiday called White Sunday- the article did not mention anyone being offended but it wouldn't surprise me.)

My point here is not to comment on whether any of these specific issues really are offensive, it seems hard sometimes to put yourself in other people's shoes and know what they will find offensive, but the stories are becoming so common- is it uncharitable to think that at least some of the "offenses" seem pretty silly? I know I am not alone in this matter, though perhaps it's a bit of a tangent from what the thread of this discussion has been.

My question is, how do we live with this new reality? In some parts of the United States it seems like you can't honor other people's cultures any more without being accused of offending them- which creates more division and makes loving others more difficult, rather than uniting us as children of God. I know we are commanded to love our enemies but in some cases it seems like they don't become our enemies until we try to love them.

I know in the Church we have other common values that help us unite against these things- when I visited Texas in February I attended a ward that seemed like it was about evenly split between whites, blacks and Hispanics and I did not see any signs of racial tension- yet I fear that the world is trying to impose their views on the Church (for example, it would not surprise me at all to see an attempt to pressure the leadership to become more racially diverse, which would be a test for many members- is their loyalty to the Church and the Lord's revelations stronger than their acceptance of what the world now teaches on these matters?).

On the other hand, perhaps these condemnations of racism and white supremacism, and increased diversity in the Presidency of the 70, the Presiding Bishopric and the auxiliary presidencies are an indication that that test is nearly over and helping to prepare us for more diversity in the apostleship. It should be interesting to watch this develop. That's my two cents and I hope everyone knows I meant no offense in any of this.

The Invisible Latter-day Saint said...

Changing the subject:

A friend of mine received a letter he received from the president of the Cascavel Brazil Stake, which was a letter from the Brazil Area Presidency, dated October 2, indicating that the Cascavel Stake is to be divided on November 26, creating the Foz do Iguaçu Brazil Stake. The new stake will have the following units: Cataratas, Foz do Iguaçu, Itaipu, Portal de Fox, and Porto Meira Wards and the Medianeira Branch. Remaining in the Cascavel Stake are the Alto Alegre, Cascavel 1st, Cascavel 3rd, Coqueiral and Palotina Wards and the Toledo Branch.

The Invisible Latter-day Saint

Eduardo Clinch said...

I know we keep talking about the dialog of diversity of the current Quorum of the 12, but I find the topic compelling and pertinent, hopefully worth someone's while. Again, we faithful do agree, we sustain and support our divinely appointed leaders. At every level.
The Church has had more international membership since about 1996, although the actual attendance and faithfulness can be questioned for Saints in numbers outside the United States.
Race is often a cannard, as expressed thoughtfully by others in this forum and thread.
Just as we make conjecture about potential new countries or cities entered by our missionaries or charities, or where new temples will be announced and new stakes created or divided, we as expectant followers of growth look forward to expansion of God's faith on the human scale, as we (of all people) are intensely interested in the worldwide growth of the faith, the global Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It only stands to reason that we eagerly anticipate the Lord's annointed in high callings from Mesoamerica, Europe, Africa or the Far East. Even Australia would be a novelty, again, regardless of race.
I see the conjecture in future leaders as healthy and interesting as the musings of future geographical locales for future LDS organization and outreach. From a strictly global point of view if nothing else.
Great news about growth in Brazil, thanks.

Anonymous LDS Member said...

Sorry if this comment offends anyone. Race in the church is an issue I feel passionate about. I understand the desire to avoid addressing controversial topics head-on because it is easier to avoid specific inquiries and assume that God will work it all out someday. I often take this approach with certain gospel topics, though not with this topic.

I wish James were correct in his statement that "the days when any race was seen as inferior or less worthy have long since passed," unfortunately I suspect it will always be with us. President Hinckley condemned racism in 2006 but the issue hasn't gone away. Convincing strong members of the church that I was not sinning for marrying a person of another race (even after President Hinckley's general conference talk) was extremely challenging for me and shook my testimony. Some members of the church, unfortunately, do see certain races as inferior and feel justified in their opinion by the words of the Book of Mormon.
The statement on "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form." is helpful in clarifying what church policy is today, but doesn't fully address some issues that remain.
For example, should we interpret the following scriptures as metaphorical? "O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God" Jacob 3:8; "And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites" 3 Nephi 2:15.
I could see why there may be reluctance to dismiss the literal interpretation of these scriptures. I have seen instances of people questioning which of Brigham Young's teachings were from God and which ones weren't after the church's statement. Opening up a similar debate about what things said in the scriptures were directed by God and what things were said as personal interpretation by the Prophets of that time could be problematic and weaken the role of the Book of Mormon. Additionally, a statement to regard scriptural references to the color "white" as being metaphorical rather than literal could similarly open the door to skepticism that other scriptures in the Book of Mormon are similarly metaphorical and not actual events (John Dehlin's excommunication for this interpretation of certain doctrines comes to mind).
One could argue that if the Book of Mormon is "the most correct of any book on earth" then the scriptures should be given greater credence than Alternatively, despite the continual references by General Authorities and others in the church to this quote by Joseph Smith, one could propose that the explanation is more correct than the scriptural references and that the "most correct of any book" quote should be interpreted in the past tense when it was made by Joseph Smith. Of course, isn't a book, so technically the quote could still hold true (although this argument is tenuous at best). Lastly, one could argue that the quote attributed to Joseph Smith is a matter of personal interpretation, and was not a divinely inspired quote.

Anonymous LDS Member said...

Given that both the scriptures and the church's position on are divinely inspired, it is difficult to reconcile the two. To interpret the scriptures literally would be in direct conflict with the most recent revelations on this matter. I only see a few ways to reconcile this problem. Perhaps one is truly inspired and the other is not, the scriptural references cannot be interpreted literally, or the quote is poorly phrased. Should the words of the Book of Mormon not be interpreted literally, then it exposes a slippery slope to understand what words are metaphors and what words should be literally interpreted. Most members of the church could agree that parables should not be interpreted literally and have hidden meanings. Metaphors, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult to identify. What if this Book of Mormon passage from 3rd Nephi were a metaphor: "And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness; And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all; And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land. And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen;" Perhaps we could live with the darkness as being metaphorical, but the following scripture we would likely adamantly deny as being metaphorical: "Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come." I'm of the position that neither of these examples I quote are metaphors; however, if scriptures about skin color are supposed to be metaphors then I could see how someone could interpret those examples as metaphors.
If I am to decide that the quote is poorly phrased and that black/dark skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse (contrary to but in accordance with 3 Nephi 2:15 then the scriptures make more sense. However, this is difficult for me to reconcile with my own personal beliefs and puts the church in a very negative light. I would also have to dismiss recent general conference talks as being uninspired (which I wouldn't want to do).
I feel that the scriptures and modern teachings are irreconcilable. I tend to favor the metaphor interpretation, but I'm afraid to fully embrace the idea that metaphors were used much in the Book of Mormon. One could hope that Joseph Smith's translation was incorrect and that the "translation of" the Book of Mormon has errors so that the Book of Mormon could be changed to eliminate/modify these scriptural passages that reference skin color being a curse and to more closely align with the intended sentiment of the prophets in the Book of Mormon. However, one could also say that to suggest such a change is blasphemous and goes against everything our church believes in since the Book of Mormon is supposed to be the most correct book.

Anonymous LDS Member said...

Exploring the position that the prophets of the Book of Mormon were sharing their own personal interpretation of race and not teaching as gospel truth that darker skin is a curse or that those who repent will have whiter skin, it may be possible to reconcile modern revelation with the scriptures. However, it may be easier to wiggle out of the claim that Brigham Young's priesthood ban didn't come from God than to suggest prophets of the Book of Mormon made comments that were not from God. The reason for this is that Mormon reviewed all of the histories and only retained the scriptures that were for our day. Why would Mormon allow speculative interpretation of prophets to remain in the Book of Mormon? Shouldn't Mormon have edited these verses to more closely reflect God's teachings? One could argue that Mormon made mistakes, or that he intentionally left these versus in to challenge/strengthen our testimonies. However, it would be the first instance that I am aware of where a prophet allowed false teachings to be promulgated and would fly in the face of the warnings on "false prophets." Perhaps Mormon did make a mistake in leaving these passages in there. However, wouldn't Joseph Smith have translated the words in a way that did not have the mistake?
Another proposal, is that we as members of the church aren't prepared to know God's will on race, and that we should disregard the words of the Book of Mormon for now and then when we are ready we will fully understand them. However, that would imply that there is, in fact, a negative connotation to having a darker skin color.
Disavowing racist policies and condemning racism is a great start but leaves much to be desired in understanding the church's position on race. For this reason, racism within the church will remain because this ambiguity about whether the Book of Mormon teaches the role of race correctly or if modern positions on race are correct allows members the option of interpreting for themselves how those of other races should be viewed.

Eduardo Clinch said...

It's possible the "white" and "pure" synonyms are to be interchanged when it comes to the countenance and appearance of the peoples, like the Lamanites. Very interesting points made about race and how to understand Book of Mormon scripture.
Sorry about any past negative feelings that you have gone through because of your righteous desires and actions. You know you will be blessed eternally by our Father despite the human imperfections and wrong judgments and persecutions that are put upon you inside and outside the Church.
Stay strong and keep going!

Anonymous LDS Member said...

Eduardo, thank you for your thoughts. I have considered this interpretation of synonymity between "white" and "pure." In fact, the 1840 edition and current edition of the Book of Mormon are different from the 1837 edition and editions subsequent to the 1840 edition until the 1981 when the verse was changed back to the 1840 phrasing. In 2 Nephi 30:6 it states "And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people." However, in the 1837 edition and editions between the 1840 edition and 1981 edition said "a white and delightsome people." So, clearly there is one instance in the Book of Mormon where white and pure were synonymous.
That said, it would make sense that similar changes would be made to Jacob 3:8 and 3 Nephi 2:15 as was done to 2 Nephi 30:6 in order to correct translational errors where "white" should be synonymous with "pure." The fact that the Jacob and 3 Nephi scriptures were not changed may indicate that these verses were intended to be phrased the way they read today. Perhaps hoping that references to skin color being a curse or a negative attribute should be construed to indicate uncleanliness is the best option we have as members to understanding the conflict between modern revelation and scripture. That said, there are issues with this metaphor interpretation that I raised in my previous post and unfortunately leaves the issue of race being a curse open to the interpretation of members.

James said...

I don't deny that issues of racial superiority still exist; I am in no way saying that the Church has completely expunged it. My comment above came more from a perspective developed over time, based on the notion that all are alike in God's eyes, and that we should endeavor to see our fellow travelers in this life as such. Obviously, issues of racial disparity still exist. But anyone who sustains the leading Brethren of the Church as the Lord's representatives in our time must put such issues aside, if only based on the many talks from this last General Conference alone. If it was not evident enough before now, I think the Brethren who tackled various elements of the issue in their talks this last go round made it clear that anyone who supports or condones the superiority of one race over another are not in harmony with the Lord's teachings. And that was more my point: Anyone who may have been in doubt on that point before this last General Conference was held should be in no doubt at all on that point now. That's all I meant. I know of areas in the world where racial superiority is a real problem. My mom's famiiy, as I may have mentioned previously, came to the US from South Africa. Some of her family members lived in that nation during the Apartheid. And those of her family who had (and might continue to harbor) feelings of offense towards the blacks, and who see the blacks as racially or culturally inferior are sadly among those misguided ones to whom such talks were directed. So I know racism exists. As an eternal optimist, I have to believe it's getting better, because I for one do not want to consider the alternative. I know very well racism exists. But if only primarily out of concern for family members trapped in the mindsets of the past, I have to believe that it is getting better, or that if it is not, the addresses of this weekend may turn the tide in that direction. Hope that helps to clarify what I was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Just saw today that the Garden Grove California Stake has been discontinued. Another stake bites the dust in Cali.

How much more contraction does anyone else see occurring in California?

james anderson said...

With Garden Grove being in Orange County but not as far north as Anaheim, this is starting to hit in more suburban areas. Garden Grove is on the southernmost east-west freeway (CA-22) if you don't count I-405. As people have moved further south the backfill is of more nonmembers.

As an aside, a military transport hauling munitions to a base nearby lost a torpedo on thsat road in March of 1978

John Pack Lambert said...

There are factors that cause people and especially Church members to not live anywhere in California.

I have to wonder what the over time effect of the Santa Rosa wildfires.

Ohhappydane33 said...

There are factors that cause people and especially Church members to not live anywhere in Michigan.

Ohhappydane33 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LDS Geographer said...

Here's a church oddity in California:
There are two adjacent LDS church buildings in Chino Hills. Between them are two regular wards and one YSA ward, which one building should be able to sustain. I'm surprised the church hasn't torn one of the buildings down (or whatever they do to a discontinued building) because geographically speaking, if the church is going to pay double property tax for two buildings right next to each other outside of the Mormon Corridor, wouldn't it be more efficient to place two buildings further apart to suit the needs of more distant members? I don't attend either building so I don't know the circumstances, but if the church can continue operating two adjacent buildings for three wards, I don't see why the church should discontinue buildings where the members are assigned to meetinghouses several miles further like they've done in my stake.

LDS Geographer said...

Please don't insult others on this blog. We are all part of the Kingdom of God and spewing insults is not Christlike. If you wish to disagree with someone here, please do so politely.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Maybe our current prophet will send two apostles to California like Brigham Young did in the 1850s. Seven temples and umpteen missions need to keep chugging. I wonder if they could consolidate missions like Europe has done?

Brian Rostron said...

Non-profits, including churches, don't pay property taxes.

Bryce .Gillespie said...

Sometimes it's Wise to keep a unused building.
In Lander Wyoming when the wind river branch was moved to lander the building it meat in was closed and unused for about 4 years but in the last couple of weeks with a 3rd ward in the lander\wind-river ariea one of the wards was moved back to the unused building.
If the church had sold it like some members wented to do. There would have be a need to build a new building. For the 3rd ward the lander building with the way it's built can't have more then one ward at a time so for three wards the meeting times would be 9-12,1-4,5-8
So in the California case it maybe the same invastment to keep the buildings that are not used.

LDS Geographer said...

Ok, well I meant the other expenses associated with keeping the building running for a ward, such as all of the monthly bills, etc.

John Pack Lambert said...

Since the Church expanded the number of missions in California in 2013 and added another mission since then I do not see mission consolidation as likely to happen in the short run.

While the population per mission in California is well below that in the north-east US it seems missionaries are needed and used.

There are costs to keeping chapels operating even though property tax is not one of them. That means the cost of aquiring property can often be much higher than maintaining it. Also depending on parking situations it can be hard to go above 2 units in one building. Ive seen cases of 4 wards in a building so it is doable but not neccesarily ideal. closing and selling one of the two ajacent Chino Hills buildings would seem to be a way to save money on a/c and heating costs and other upkeep costs. The one chapel could in theory be demolished to create recreational spave, or the area could be sold. However the latter might be hard due to a unified plot and even demolition could be hard because of various costs.

Still, depending on the sizes of the 3 wards involved it might be hard to use one building for all 3. It also depends on how big the buildings are. Another factor might be use as family history centers, seminary or institute building and other such factors.

LDS Geographer said...

*Excuse my ignorance, since taxes are a bit of an issue here I must have thought the same applied to meetinghouses. The church is a tax-exempt organization. I goofed.

L. Chris Jones said...

In the early 2000's I think three apostles were sent to live overseas in different places for a couple years. I can't remember who, but I think one went to Chile, one to the Philippines, and one to somewhere in Europe. Can someone back that info up and clarify it?

L. Chris Jones said...

The church pays taxes on business properties such as the mall but not on the churches and temples.

L. Chris Jones said...

Here in Idaho Falls there is building that has only two wards. The building and parking lot are small and can't handle overlap. One ward at 9am the other at 1pm.

Brian Rostron said...

Oaks went to Chile, Holland went to the Philippines. They were sent to deal with large numbers of baptisms with little retention.

twinnumerouno said...

I thought it was Holland in Chile and Oaks in the Philippines. And I believe Elder Perry went to Europe.

John Pack Lambert said...

It was Elder Holland to Chile. Elder Perry went to the Europe Central Area a few years later. I believe one is his main inovations was a newly invigorated YSA program.

John Pack Lambert said...

Here in the Michigan Detroit mission none of the buildings currently have more than 2 units meeting in them. we have 12 buildings with 1 unit and 11 with 2 wards or branches. At the start of the year it was 14 and 10 but one building has been sold since then. It was the most expensive to keep up and huge but had less than 50 attendance in Sacrament meeting. Depending on parking lot size some wards overlap time and some dont.

James said...

Elder Holland and Elder Oaks served in Chile and the Philippines respectively from 2002-2004. Elder Perry served in Europe from 2004-2005. The main purpose of that was to allow the apostles to focus more fully on issues that were happening in those areas. And the Church has not said that it will not do that again in the future, even though it has not occurred in the past 12 years. So it could happen again. The main reason I know the particulars is that, even back then, I was following changes in area leadership extensively. Additionally, I have previously spoken here and on my own blog about the friends of our family who were surrogate grandparents to my siblings and me. They were called to serve a mission in the Philippines, and their function was to assist Elder Oaks in the area office. Even today, Elder Oaks remembers his association with them. Though the wife in that couple passed away several years ago, a celebration was held recently for her husband marking the 90th birthday he will observe early next year. And Elder Oaks was in attendance at that celebration. I didn't run into him there, but his presence indicates just how much he valued his opportunity to get to know that wonderful couple.

In terms of Church building usage, this would likely be unheard of now, but when I was in Primary, we had four wards meeting in our Church building. Two of them would have their blocks at one time, with one that began with Sacrament Meeting, and the other ending with it. It was somewhat crazy navigating the halls in between meetings. And I also saw a time after moving with my family in the late 90s where our Church building was being renovated and expanded, so we had several wards sharing a nearby building. In that regard, the Church block was cut to two hours, with one part of the meeting block removed. That was interesting to be involved with.

As I observed (in another thread on this blog), my current stake created two new wards last Sunday. I have no idea what that means in terms of the plans going forward. Maybe another building was constructed for those two new wards. Or maybe one or two buildings that have only housed two wards now house three. It will be interesting to see what is done with that. Thanks for this discussion.

Anonymous said...

In most of the metro areas of Texas, there are very few chapels that have fewer than three wards meeting in them. Most have three or four wards each. Very sharp contrast with what's going on in California.

John Pack Lambert said...

When I was on my mission in Las Vegas there were some buildings that did 2 meetings at a time with flipped start order, that was in 2000-2002. I was in another ward that started at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Later, to avoid some of this over crowding while some buildings were under utilized, a ward was assigned so it didnt go to the chapel in its boundaries. Some people stopped attending because of the 4 mile journey, although I may be overestimating the distance, and some parts of the ward it was less than 2 miles from the newly assigned chapel. Having had a 10 mile jorney to Church when younger and having still been in the closer to the church part of the ward, I had no sympathy for such people.

LDS Geographer said...

In Japan, almost every chapel has only one ward/branch.
Which is a shame, really, because some chapels are much larger than the typical meetinghouses in Utah which carry 3 wards.
The Fushimi Kawagoe Ward, Togane Ward, and Kawasaki Ward buildings are a few examples of the large meetinghouses. They have rather limited parking spaces but not everyone travels to church by car. A Cumorah map lists the Togane Ward as having a mere 60 person sacrament attendance sometime between 2014-2016, which actually isn't that low in Japan, but it would be a bummer to have it discontinued.
Other branches in Japan have a rented space in another building.

brycen said...

I'm happy to hear about the plans to divide the Cascavel Brazil Stake. I served there for 5 months (in 1996-7), when Cascavel had 3 branches and a district. I visited Foz do Iguacu once, when our 2 mission zones had a combined conference with a visiting General Authority Seventy.

I live in New Hampshire, and as far as I know, only 2 LDS meetinghouses in the entire state have multiple wards in them (we have 3 stakes, all of which include at least one unit from a neighboring state). But then again, our largest city has 110,000 people, and the population of the entire state is only 1.3 million.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I have sympathy for a lot of people that live far from their respective wards, activities, and temples. Some people do not have easy time allotments, due to family, work, disabilities, lack of transport. Some people struggle to feed themselves, which on Mazlo's hierarchy is pretty basic.

Lack of testimony causes a lot of people to not be motivated to attend regular or extra Church meetings, which can be affected by hard weather conditions like cold chapels in Chile in the winter, rain and or snow that makes it hard on walkers or those susceptible to illness, older or younger people with extra issues to move and have a modicum of comfort while attending, trying to learn principles of the Gospel. It is hard to regularly attend any meetings where there are hardships involved, especially when it involves the old, young, infirm, and poor.

And then there are those whose work interferes with Church attendance. I guess empathy is a bigger word than sympathy, but I can understand why distance, as one factor, can make regular attendance difficult.

James said...

I understand more fully now than I ever did about how illness can impact Church attendance. About a year ago, my wife and I had to take a step back and not attend our own ward for a while because we were ill. That illness has continued now for over a year with little or no change. When we have been able to attend Church, it has only been the Sacrament Meeting of the other ward in our building, and that has been infrequent as well. Some in our ward, without getting to know us and the testimonies we have, have wondered about our "inactivity". Well-meaning home teachers who only visit when invited have exhorted us to faithfulness, making it clear they don't fully understand us or our situation either. I have had spells of times when my health has precluded my Church attendance, but never to this extent. It is just hard to live in an area where the members keep to themselves and where every member is needed to fill the callings the ward has. For the first time in both of our lives, we have had a really long stretch of ill health that has prevented us from full participation in Church programs. It has been very rough. So my heart goes out to any that are similarly having such trouble. I guess that is why I blog so much. Even when I am feeling my worst, I can still pass along important information about the faith I adhere to. In that small way, I hope I have been completely faithful, even when unable to regularly attend my ward or the temple.

Hope I didn't offend or bore anyone with this comment. It has been rough the last year or so that we have had difficulties. Things are looking up. But it appears that only the Bishopric fully understands our situation, and the rest of the ward largely keeps to themselves. It is difficult. But I am grateful that the Lord knows our hearts, even when no one else does, and that He is in control of such things. Thanks for letting me share this.