Tag Archives: Mormon

Porn business not something to be proud of

By Contributor Diane Kipp

Diane Kipp

Rick Santorum is concerned about pornography and its affects on Americans. His website states he, “believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced,” and, if he is elected president,  he vows to appoint an attorney general who will do just that.

According to Chris Moody, in an article on Yahoo’s “The Ticket” some of the main producers of American pornography claim not to be concerned about Santorum’s ability to impact their industry. Indeed, they seem to strongly disapprove of  Santorum’s plans, apparently based on their deeply held philosophical beliefs.

One Porn Titan (a title used in the headline of the article), obviously an earnest student of American political history who possibly minored in psychology, offers this insight, “This is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned. This is what Rick Santorum envisions. And I think the guy is crazy.” Does the Porn Titan think anything he produces is what the Founding Fathers envisioned? Does he imagine any of the Founding Fathers would feel satisfaction in knowing pornographers  appropriate the freedoms and protections of the United States Constitution to further their industry?

Another Porn Titan believes that even if Santorum wins the election and directs prosecutions of those in the pornography industry, the industry will prevail because, “People are more comfortable with hardcore pornography than ever before.” (Yay for us!  And yes, I’m being sarcastic.) An attorney for the pornography industry agrees, “Fortunately, we become a more tolerant society over time . . . we don’t want others telling us what we can and can’t do.”

Has our prevailing characteristic as a people become “neener neener, you can’t make me?” We will tolerate an epidemic of filth wallowing and all its subsequent consequences, we will look at the addictive, misogynistic face of pornography and say, “that’s ok, it can stay,” rather than have someone else “tell us what to do”?!  Is that the price we are willing to pay in order to have the satisfaction of stamping our little feet, sticking out our tongues, and yelling “you can’t make me”?  Of all the values I associate with the American people, that is not one I would choose to define us or to be a determiner in where we are headed as a nation and as a people. Would you?

LDS volunteers celebrate Humanitarian Day

By Tracy Simmons

Creative amphibian creatures were just part of the agenda at the East Stake Humanitarian Day/Courtesy of the Latter-day Sentinel

Last month more than 200 Mormon volunteers spent the day serving the Spokane community.

On Humanitarian Day (Feb. 25) members of The Spokane East Stake Relief Society created “wish list” items for 15 area organizations, including toys, pictures books and quilts.

“I love the origin of this day. Instead of our sisters creating projects that we would find homes for, the Humanitarian Leader, Jill Woolf, went to organizations and schools and asked them, ‘What is on your wish list?’ They gave several ideas which we took to our sisters and they decided what they wanted to sponsor. The thrill of the day was in being able grant wishes. It’s not often that we get to do that,” said  Stake Relief Society President Karen Spear.

Check out the Latter-day Sentinel to read more about this story.

Romney knows realities of poverty

By Contributor Diane Kipp

Diane Kipp

The TV in my bathroom, there so I can be entertained during the boring tasks of hair drying and makeup application, is often set to CNN, where I currently watch the soap opera-like Days of Our Republican Presidential Candidate Hopefuls.  This has led me to an observation about Mormon bishops, which may be relevant to the one person who is a Republican presidential candidate and a (former) Mormon bishop. I do not know said candidate (Mitt Romney) personally and am not endorsing him politically; I am merely making an observation I suspect applies to him.

Conventional wisdom says a rich person cannot understand poorer people and their specific challenges.  While I agree most of us do not really, truly get anything unless we’ve experienced it, it is possible to gain a certain depth of understanding through vicarious life experiences. And I believe for most Mormon bishops, bishoping (a verb I just made up; if you say it to another Mormon, s/he’ll look surprised) gives them some genuine understanding of what it means to be poor.

Mormon bishops are shepherds to their congregational flocks and they have an active and anxious regard for the flock’s well being; helping those who are in financial distress is a prime responsibility. Members who need help obtaining food, housing, employment, money for utilities, etc. meet personally with the bishop. He evaluates their needs, provides appropriate help through the church’s welfare system or through the congregational community, and helps them learn to help themselves. All humans tend to love those they serve (it’s a magic formula) and bishops love their congregations, especially the struggling members who need their help the most.  It’s impossible for a bishop not to have a fairly personal, up-close idea of what it’s like, on a very practical level, to be poor.

Mitt Romney is a former Mormon bishop/Wikipedia photo

This concept generally applies, to a lesser degree, to all Mormons.  Mormon congregations are close communities; virtually all members who attend church regularly are active participants.  We teach each other, perform service together, spend time in each others’ homes as visiting teachers and home teachers (more on that another time), and lend active support during health issues, unemployment, child rearing, death, divorce  — all the challenges of life.  So even those who are financially comfortable-to-wealthy are closely linked to fellow congregation members who are struggling, or worse, financially.

This description of Mormon congregations and Mormon bishops is probably very similar to that of any ecclesiastical leader and his/her congregation or community. My point is not that Mormons are special this way, my point is simply that anyone who has been a Mormon bishop probably has a surprisingly intimate and accurate idea of what it means to be truly poor. Even a very wealthy former bishop, even one whose wife drives two Cadillacs and who can be his own worst foot-in-mouth enemy, is likely not the isolated, “unacquainted with the realities of poverty” person that many assume him to be.

Meet Matt Wise, our gospel philosophy writer

Matt Wise

Before earning his bachelor’s from Brigham Young University-Idaho, Matt Wise served in Japan as a missionary for the Church of Jesus of Christ Latter-day Saints.

He’s originally from Spokane Valley and is currently working on personal entrepreneurial pursuits and preparing for graduate school. He’s involved in numerous church activities and enjoys studying the scriptures, health, politics, news, history and business.

For SpokaneFAVS Wise writes about gospel philosophy and Christ-like attributes. From time-to-time he’ll also tackle news and politics.

Why do Mormons baptize the dead?

By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has apologized for a Mormon who baptized the late parents of famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. But despite calls this week from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and others to rethink the controversial rite, the church is unlikely to drop it entirely.

Mormons practice baptism for the dead in special temple baptismal pools to offer salvation to ancestors who may not have had a chance to accept the Mormon faith. RNS photo courtesy LDS Church.

Latter-day Saints trace posthumous baptism to the Apostle Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:29, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, their faith’s founding prophet, restored the apostolic practice after centuries of neglect by mainstream Christians.

Proxy baptism was also Smith’s answer to a classic Christian conundrum: What happens to people who, through no fault of their own, did not join the church during their earthly lifetime? Should they be barred from heaven?

Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom. To Mormons, only members of the LDS priesthood possess the power to baptize.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Baptist or a Buddhist,” said Kathleen Flake, a Vanderbilt University scholar who has studied the church, “it’s about who has the authority to perform the sacrament.”

Flake said Mormons are encouraged to baptize at least four generations of forebears to seal the family for eternity. So the LDS church has built the world’s most extensive genealogical library in Salt Lake City with 700 employees and more than 2 billion names.

Baptisms need bodies, so young Mormon men and women dressed in white robes stand in for the departed souls in temple ceremonies worldwide. Mormons youths consider it an honor to be immersed in baptismal founts while the names of the deceased are recited.

LDS leaders emphasize that the spirits of the dead must accept the baptism — it cannot be involuntarily imposed. And Mormons are instructed to only baptize family members, particularly after Jewish genealogists discovered in the 1990s that 380,000 Holocaust survivors had been vicariously baptized. In response, the church imposed safeguards and spent $500,000 removing Jewish names from its baptismal registries.

But with 13 million Mormons worldwide, the church insists that it cannot control “pranksters or careless persons” who submit Jewish names or famous people such as President Obama’s late mother, Stanley Anne Dunham. And the church considers the ritual too essential to forswear.

“With deepest respect to our Jewish friends, the church cannot abandon fundamental aspects of its religious doctrine and practice,” the church writes on its website, “and it should not be asked to do so.”

Blessing Foods delivers food, hope as part of nourishing mission

Courtesy of Latter-day Sentinel

Most people have heard of the parable of the fish and loaves. Lisa Bickham is living it.

Spokane resident Lisa Bickham founded Blessing Foods Inc. in May 2009 by delivering donated food from the back of a truck. These days, Bickham provides nutrition to around 3,000 people throughout the region each month. Photo by Craig Howard

It began three winters ago when Bickham gathered frozen turkeys from Spokane-area food banks and navigated through the snow and ice to deliver Thanksgiving dinners to stranded residents. By May of 2009, Bickham was receiving donations from area grocery stores and dropping off food to shelters, group homes, retirement centers and apartment complexes.

A single mom, Bickham had relied on food banks herself for years. Now she was driving across Spokane County, carrying shipments of nutrition and distributing the Bread of Life, or in her words, “the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ.” She calls the ministry, Blessing Foods Inc.

Read full post here.

Local woman a standout volunteer, athlete

Latter Day Sentinel

Trudy Reese has lived in the Spokane Valley area for 35 years. She currently serves as the Humanitarian leader in the Evergreen Ward of the Spokane East Stake. Contributed Photo.

Perhaps someday there will be an event that combines the challenge of a cross country ultra-marathon with the unique rigors of volunteer work. Participants would stride down forest trails and check in at designated stations, gathering supplies and rallying support for nonprofit causes along the way. Winning would be based on a calculation of time and overall community impact.

If that event ever does take place, chances are that Trudy Reese will be on the medal stand.

From visiting prisoners at the Eleanor Chase Halfway House to organizing clothing drives for homeless shelters, Reese sets an inspiring pace on the pathway of service.

Read full story in the LDS Sentinel.

Hayden Lake Stake prepares to haul handcarts over pioneer route

By Gloria J Warnick
Latter-day Sentinel

Members of the Hayden Lake Stake will be trading in their cars, trucks, bikes and skateboards for handcarts this summer.

Authentic handcarts like this one will be part of the Hayden Lake Stake reenactment pioneer trek this summer. Contributed photo

A reenactment pioneer trek is scheduled for the Hayden Lake youth this summer, from June 20-23. They will traverse similar terrain traveled by the famous Willie and Martin Handcart Companies over 155 years ago.

The original two handcart companies were comprised of poor European emigrants and consisted of 980 people and 233 handcarts. They started in Iowa City, Iowa, and literally pushed and pulled their belongings from Iowa to Salt Lake City, Utah without the benefit of horses or covered wagons.

Because this company started their trek late in the season, they had to build their own handcarts. The journey was filled with mishaps and misfortunes. With the lateness of the season and the harsh travel conditions, 220 members of the two companies died on the high plains, the majority freezing to death in early snowstorms near the Continental Divide in central Wyoming. Many others suffered the amputation of fingers, toes, and legs due to frostbite.

Under the direction of President Brigham Young, rescue parties from Salt Lake City were organized and helped avert further tragedy. Over the years, faith-building stories from the survivors have been passed from generation to generation.

This June, over 200 people will leave their cell phones and other electronic devices at home, and will push or pull a handcart with their belongings 18 to 20 miles. They will leave Bing Canyon near the Columbia River on the Washington side in rough terrain and have the opportunity of learning to work together as they push their handcarts to Zion. This contemporary Zion will be a place of rest, with green grass and running water. In keeping with the spirit of the trek, no modern-day equipment will be seen or used by members of the trek. The delivery of mail is expected via pony express.

A total of 20 handcarts, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be packed with 5- gallon buckets of belongings for each of the eight youths and two adults assigned to it. It will also have enough water necessary for the trip. Advance supply wagons (actually Jeeps and pickup trucks, not seen by the walkers) will shuttle in tents and advance supplies, a luxury the original pioneers did not have.

A couple assigned to be a “Ma and Pa” will walk the entire distance with the eight youths assigned to each cart. The trek will feature many of the same games and music that the pioneers enjoyed. The day will end with a campfire and stories of the pioneers who made the original walk.

The youth participating in this shortened version of the trek are being prepared in ways the original pioneers may have considered a luxury. Square dancing, quilting, and even a 5-mile hike, using the same shoes they will walk in, have been planned. Other precautions, such as supply checks and health certificates must be completed before a youth can participate.

Approximately 60 adults will be leaders on this trek. They have been banded together under the direction of Hayden Lake Stake President Dirk Baird and Counselors Grant Oyler and Dave Asper. Dave and Kathy Freeman have been called as trek leaders.

Are Mormons Christian? It’s complicated

By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service

Mormons believe Joseph Smith received personal revelations from Jesus Christ and God the Father — two separate beings in Mormon theology — as seen in this stained glass window.

Ask Mormons if they are Christian, and their answer often starts with a sigh.
Look at our name, they’ll say, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read The Book of Mormon’s subtitle, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Examine our Articles of Faith, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved…”
“When we read in the press that some religious person who should know better refers to us as non-Christian, it is baffling to us,” said Michael Otterson, the church’s head of public affairs. “To suggest that we don’t embrace Christ and his sacrifice for all of us is insulting.”
Yet nearly a quarter of Americans remain unconvinced, according to a recent poll conducted by The Salt Lake Tribune. The Vatican and several Protestant churches do not accept Mormon baptisms as legitimate (neither do Mormons recognize theirs), and some conservative evangelicals call Mormonism a “cult.”  Mormons, meanwhile, believe they belong to the one true Christian church.
The theological debate might have remained relegated to Sunday school discussions and interfaith summits were it not for the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon and onetime LDS bishop. While the former Massachusetts governor and current GOP frontrunner has muted religious talk during this campaign, he indirectly addressed the Mormon-Christian issue during his previous White House bid.
“There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked,” he said in a 2007 speech in Texas. “What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.”
Stressing the similarities between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity makes political sense. Republicans who say Mormons are not Christian are less likely to view Romney favorably or support his campaign, according to a November survey by the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
During the 2007 speech, Romney acknowledged that “my church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths.” But explaining theological arcana is not a politician’s job, he argued. It amounts to a religious test for office, which the Constitution forbids.
Still, the debate lingers around Romney’s campaign: Are he and fellow Mormons Christians? The question seems simple enough, but the answer is quite complicated.

    Who’s in and Who’s Out? 
    According to “The Atlas of Global Christianity,” there are 41,000 Christian denominations. No definition of Christianity could encompass their doctrinal diversity, said Martin Marty, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School. “I wish there was some official place where you could determine who’s in and who’s out, but there’s not. No one can speak for all of Christianity in all its nuances.”
    The atlas lists Mormonism as a “marginal” Christian group, along with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, primarily because it deviates from traditional Christian teachings on Jesus and claims sources of revelation beyond the Bible.
    The “marginal” category is not a perfect fit and rings a pejorative tone, said Todd Johnson, editor of the atlas and director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. “It’s not a category that helps you understand what these groups believe. It’s just saying that they have something besides the Bible that is quite significant.”
    For centuries, most Christians have relied a closed canon of scriptures and creeds to draw the circle of membership. Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox Christians and many Protestant churches recite the 4th Century Nicene Creed, for example, which states foundational Christian tenets.
    Mormonism’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith, blasted the Christian canon wide open and cast aside the creeds. At a time when religious revivals engulfed his Upstate New York homestead, a 14-year-old Smith reported a vision of God and Jesus, who told him that the Christian churches had fallen into apostasy.
    A second vision directed Smith to a stack of buried golden plates, according to LDS Church history. The plates, which became The Book of Mormon, told of an ancient society visited by Jesus in North America that was destroyed by warring tribes.
    With the impatience of a prophet, Smith set out to restore the Christian church. He revised the Bible; reported receiving “keys to the priesthood” from John the Baptist; rejected the traditional idea of the Trinity as three-gods-in-one; taught that God was once a flesh-and-blood man, and that men could become gods through purification and obedience to the church.
    They were all — including Smith’s promotion as Prophet of the Restoration — radical departures from centuries of Christian orthodoxy. And intentionally so.
    Smith’s Latter-day Saints consider The Book of Mormon as much a part of God’s word as the Bible, and continue to honor their top leader as “prophet, seer and revelator.”
    “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations,” Smith said, “and where is our religion? We have none.”
    The Fourth Abrahamic Faith?   
    Jan Shipps, the preeminent non-Mormon expert on the LDS church, draws a comparison between the early Christians and Latter-day Saints. Both introduced new scriptures and ideas to established religions, and insisted that their new faith fulfilled the old. Christians added the New Testament to Judaism, and Smith added The Book of Mormon to Christianity.
    Richard Land, an ethicist with the Southern Baptist Convention, goes even further, calling Mormonism “the fourth Abrahamic faith,” after Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Like Islam, Land said, Mormons receive the Old and New Testament as sacred texts, but not as the final divine word. Like Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, Smith is considered an authoritative vessel of God’s word.
    “Whatever it is, Mormonism is not Christianity,” Land said. “They do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, they do not believe in God the Father as he is recognized in the orthodox Christian faith, and they believe that ‘As man now is, God was once.’ The only thing right about that sentence from the orthodox Christian perspective is the punctuation.”
    Evangelicals like Land tend to be the most eager to keep Mormons from the Christian camp. In addition to doctrinal concerns, Johnson said, conservative Christians worry about sheep-stealing Mormon missionaries. “It’s a pragmatic decision to call (Mormons) non-Christian, to protect church members from Mormon evangelism,” he said.
    But even Catholics and more liberal Protestants, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church, do not consider Mormon baptisms valid.
    “The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by self-definition, does not fit within the bounds of the historic, apostolic tradition of Christian faith,” the Methodists wrote in 2000.
    Cherishing Mormon Distinctiveness
    Mormons do not deny their differences with traditional Christianity. According to a recent survey, Mormons are as likely to say their religion resembles Judaism as it does evangelical Protestantism.
    Otterson says Mormons cherish their distinctiveness, much as Catholics or Methodists show special devotion to their traditions. But Mormon leaders have also sought to tie their unique theology to the earliest Christians, using the ancient past to sanction the present.
    For example, arguing that Mormons are not Christians because they do not recite the Nicene Creed would leave Jesus and his disciples outside the Christian fold as well, argues Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles. And, Holland says, the idea of a flesh-and-blood God should not sound strange to Christians, who, after all, believe in the bodily birth and resurrection of Jesus.
    Christians who insist on a single, closed canon forget that Catholics and Protestants use different versions of the Bible, argues Stephen Robinson, a professor of religion at Mormon-run Brigham Young University in Utah. And didn’t differing interpretations of the Trinity contribute to the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054?
    Mormon theologian Robert Millet has been laboring to convince Christians that the Mormon idea of deification — humans becoming gods — resembles the mystical union with the divine taught by early church fathers like St. Augustine. But Millet said he worries more about the opinions of Christians in the pews than the specialized scholars who read his books.
    “When people call Mormons non-Christian, they might believe that we do not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, or believe in the New Testament,” Millet said. “We don’t want to fight about this. We just wish people would get it right.”

Study portrays Mormons as outsiders looking in

     In some ways, Mormonism is the ultimate American religion. Born in America, it was unveiled by an American prophet who believed the Constitution was divinely inspired and the Garden of Eden bloomed in Independence, Mo.
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown from six members gathered around a charismatic New Yorker named Joseph Smith in 1830 to nearly six million believers in the U.S. alone. Richard Ostling, a religion expert and co-author of the book “Mormon America,” calls it “the most successful faith ever born on American soil.”
    But even as a devout Mormon leads the GOP field for the presidential nomination and the award-winning musical  “Book of Mormon” plays to overflow crowds on Broadway, a new survey portrays Mormons as strangers in their own land.
    The vast majority of Mormons believe that Americans do not embrace Mormonism as part of mainstream society, and most say Americans know little about their religion. More than half worry about discrimination, according to a survey released Thursday (Jan. 12) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
    “Clearly this is a population that sees itself as outsiders looking in,” said Gregory Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum.
     The survey — called the first of its kind conducted by a non-Mormon organization — interviewed 1,000 American Mormons between Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 2011, by telephone, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
    “I wish the public could see us for our day-to-day doctrines, devotions and practices, which are just like other devout religions,” said George Robinson, 63, a cardiovascular surgeon and local LDS leader in Gadsden, Ala.  “Instead, the public either hears pejoratives about us, or focuses on differences, many of which are rarely brought up as part of our religion.”
    Still, Robinson and many other Mormons remain upbeat, saying that American attitudes toward their faith are changing for the better.
    Nearly nine in 10 Mormons say they are happy with their lives and judge their communities as excellent or good places to live. More than half say the country is ready for a Mormon president.
    But most Mormons also say that popular entertainment damages their public image. In recent years, a number of TV shows, such as HBO’s “Big Love” and TLC’s “Sister Wives” have featured polygamous families who belong to offshoots of Mormonism. According to the Pew survey, 86 percent of Mormons believe that polygamy, which the LDS Church banned in 1890, is morally wrong.
    Perceptions of anti-Mormons animus are likely also fed by the presidential candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, despite his front-runner status.
    While three in four Mormon voters identify as Republican or lean conservative, less than 40 percent believe the GOP is friendly towards Mormons, the Pew survey found. The hostility directed at Romney’s Mormonism by some evangelicals — a key GOP constituency — reinforces that perception, Smith said.
    Most evangelicals do not believe Mormonism falls within the Christian fold, according to a separate Pew poll, and some have been outspoken about opposing Romney’s candidacy on those grounds. Half of Mormons, according to the Pew survey released Thursday, pick up an unfriendly vibe from evangelicals.
   “It’s frustrating that some people are trying to build a hedge of deceit around the church so that people won’t decide to take a look for themselves and find out what our church is all about,” Robinson said.
    Most Mormons do not deny the differences between their faith and mainstream Christianity, the survey found. While 97 percent of Mormons believe their faith to be a Christian religion, less than half say it is similar to Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism.
    And yet, Mormons remain firm in their religious commitments, even to practices and beliefs that set them apart from mainstream Christianity.
    For example, 94 percent believe that the president of the LDS Church is a prophet of God, and that ancient prophets wrote the Book of Mormon. Nearly the same percentage believe that families can be eternally bound in temple ceremonies, and that God the Father and Jesus are separate beings. (Traditional Christianity calls them unified, along with the Holy Spirit.)
    “Mormons want acceptance, but not assimilation,” LDS spokesman Michael Otterson wrote in The Washington Post on Thursday.  “No church leader I have ever heard preach has suggested that Mormons should drop their distinctiveness  — the very characteristics that the Pew study identifies — in order to become more popular with the world at large.”
    In fact, Mormons are among the most committed religious groups in America, according to the Pew survey. More than 8 in 10 say they pray daily; three-quarters attend weekly religious services; and 82 percent say religion is very important in their lives. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses approach Mormons’ religiosity, Smith said.