I recently ran across this strange little website that had some interesting content. The website is called “Witnesses of Jesus Christ Project: Communicating the reality of Jesus’ divinity to Islam”. The homepage has two messages: one “to Islam” and another “to the radical Islamists”. The page is described as “a response to radical Islam’s call for the Christian world to convert to Islam.” Notably the project description declares it is a “private project”, “shall never be considered a Church, nor shall it offer any ordinances of salvation or accept tithes.”
Why are all those disclaimers there?
First, let me describe its founding.
The project seems to be started by an LDS man who received a revelation. On this page, there is an excerpt of the minutes from its first Board meeting. The project was said to have begun by a vision:
“Throughout the experience I was not my normal judgmental self and I was excited about the prospects of this vision. I could see the global potential of this project as a Christian grass roots movement that could unit Christianity in a way that the various denominations could not. I envisioned the officers and witnesses having opportunity to speak before numerous gatherings of Christians throughout the world, and uniting them through these special experiences with the Savior, Jesus Christ. I saw the church growing and becoming stronger and that the Christian unity that could come from this would speed the Lord’s coming. I saw the published witnesses of Jesus Christ providing a vehicle to invite others to come unto Christ.
“ ‘I cannot deny this experience and the requirements of it. I know that I must move this project forward one step at a time.’
“A dedicatory prayer was … read by the Administrator…”
However, two years later a “regional authority” opposed it. In 2010 the opposition was removed “by a higher authority in the church”. This was described in a letter from the founder to his wife. An outline of events is quoted below:
“1. The revelation is received (in 2007 recounted above)
2. (My congregational pastor) supports
3. (My local authority) supports
4. (In 2009 the regional authority) accuses me of various forms of apostasy and demands that I “cease and desist.” The Spirit informs me that “You cannot proceed without the support of your … brethren.” Not proceeding is not the same as cease and desist – it is a delay rather than an end. This was the only time I received the Spirit’s communication in this contentious meeting.
5. I cease and desist and write a defense to the (the church world leadership) which I share with (the regional authority), but hold pending his final report.
6. (The regional authority is changed) and I receive no final report.
7. (The high church authority), the source of the cease and desist order according to (the regional authority), is sent to (Anchorage, Alaska).
8. (church business item unrelated to the Project).
9. (church business item unrelated to the Project).
10. In a private interview about the (Project), and with the constant presence of the Spirit, (the high church authority) discloses:
a. (church business item unrelated to the Project).
b. He did not issue an order to “cease and desist” (the Project).
c. He did not accuse me of any apostasy – he “did not know me, to be able to make any such accusations.”
d. He read all the (Project) web content and had only one issue with it: While I was serving as … an official of the church, and as such I could not be advocating the payment of tithes to any other entity such as the (Project).
e. He stated that I could pursue the (Project) if I chose to (and that the church had no objection to it).”
Further down the letter to his wife it becomes clear that the church leadership’s main issue with the website/project was that it was possibly diverting tithing monies away from the church to this project. The founder says:
“You can see, as I have seen, that if (the regional authority) had expressed (the high church authority’s) concern accurately, I would have removed the tithing option (as it was not part of the original revelation) and the (Project) would have continued forward with no interruption.
“Another way to state this is that the Lord’s call to do the (Project) is still in place.
“At this point I am comforted by the Spirit that we are to continue the (Project) ….
“I have reviewed all of the (Project) content and intend to do the following:
“1. Remove the tithing option on the donation page while also encouraging donations only after tithing to a church.
“2. Remove the requirement for a notarized witness statement. Two or three personal witnesses will suffice.
“3. Add guidelines for personal testimonies that include faith promoting experiences.”
The primary goal of the project seems to be to collect witnessed testimonies of Jesus Christ. In fact, before continuing the project after it’s hiatus, the witnessed testimonies specifically needed to be notarized.
At this link, you can see the founder’s testimony was witnessed by “Garth”, “Fred”, and “Gregory Lee Coy” on 4 February 2007 and notarized by Arthur L. Flynn in the state of Alaska.
This whole idea of starting a project to collect witnessed, notarized testimonies of Jesus Christ seems a little weird to me. Read the other witnessed below and let me know what you think:
I read this article a long time ago and only rediscovered it again a week ago. Please. Everyone read it!
“Wealth and Poverty”
Richard E. Johnson
Brigham Young University
I’ve had a post sitting in the queue for a couple months now. It is tentatively titled “Does the LDS Church Fetishize the Family?”
Anyway. I was reminded of this unpublished post because of some news that seems to be going viral in some corners of the bloggernacle. I won’t comment too much, but wanted to direct any interested readers to the news that is breaking.
Bill Hamblin seems to have broken the news with a post titled “New BYU Religious Education Curriculum”. In it he describes the changes that will introduce a new required course on “The Eternal Family” (ugh, no thank you!) and other changes that essentially, in his sarcastic words, “change the name of their department to ‘Ancient Prooftexters.’ ” He also posted a letter from the dean that describes the changes.
So, once again, the mid-level managers of the Church seem to have taken it upon themselves to centralize the family (as if it is their favorite fetish) and reduce all other things to mere distraction. Unfortunately, this emphasis is a bad (preemptive?, reactionary?) attempt to defend that which is a current LDS cultural belief misunderstood as doctrine–which, by the way, will be at least partially abandoned in my lifetime.
Today the Washington Post published an article titled “Same-sex couples can now get married in the five most Mormon states”. I thought it would be interesting to look at the state of gay marriage compared to the LDS population in all of the states.
Here are some interesting observations (note that below the District of Columbia is, for all intents and purposes, considered a “state”):
Looking at the populations of the states that allow gay marriage we see that:
Note that (according the Wikipedia page cited above) the total US population is 314,379,551 and the total US LDS population is 6,398,889. Also, using Wikipedia’s estimates for LGBT populations by state, we can conclude that
So, it appears that the LGBT community has access to gay marriage nearly equal to that of the average American, while Mormons currently have access at a rate of 33% more percentage points than that of the average American.
We Mormons are always seem to be the lucky ones.
% LDS Population
Gay Marriage Legal
|Utah||68.12||Freedom to Marry|
|Idaho||26.68||Freedom to Marry|
|Wyoming||11.37||Freedom to Marry|
|Nevada||6.48||Freedom to Marry|
|Arizona||6.19||Freedom to Marry|
|Hawaii||5.23||Freedom to Marry|
|Montana||4.76||Pro-Marriage ruling at appellate level paving way for marriage|
|Alaska||4.54||Freedom to Marry|
|Washington||4.05||Freedom to Marry|
|Oregon||3.90||Freedom to Marry|
|New Mexico||3.34||Freedom to Marry|
|Colorado||2.89||Freedom to Marry|
|California||2.03||Freedom to Marry|
|North Dakota||1.43||Marriage Ban|
|South Dakota||1.28||Marriage Ban|
|Texas||1.25||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Kansas||1.24||Pro-Marriage ruling at appellate level paving way for marriage|
|Oklahoma||1.20||Freedom to Marry|
|Virginia||1.14||Freedom to Marry|
|Arkansas||0.97||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|West Virginia||0.93||Freedom to Marry|
|Iowa||0.86||Freedom to Marry|
|South Carolina||0.84||Pro-Marriage ruling at appellate level paving way for marriage|
|North Carolina||0.83||Freedom to Marry|
|Maine||0.82||Freedom to Marry|
|Kentucky||0.77||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Florida||0.76||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Tennessee||0.75||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Maryland||0.74||Freedom to Marry|
|Vermont||0.73||Freedom to Marry|
|Indiana||0.66||Freedom to Marry|
|Louisiana||0.64||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|New Hampshire||0.63||Freedom to Marry|
|Minnesota||0.59||Freedom to Marry|
|Delaware||0.57||Freedom to Marry|
|Ohio||0.52||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Wisconsin||0.45||Freedom to Marry|
|Illinois||0.44||Freedom to Marry|
|Michigan||0.44||Pro-Marriage court ruling; pending further action|
|Connecticut||0.43||Freedom to Marry|
|New York||0.41||Freedom to Marry|
|Massachusetts||0.40||Freedom to Marry|
|Pennsylvania||0.40||Freedom to Marry|
|District of Columbia||0.39||Freedom to Marry|
|Rhode Island||0.39||Freedom to Marry|
|New Jersey||0.37||Freedom to Marry|
Some interesting statistics:
* 48 of those people would live in the United States or Canada
* 36 of those people would live in Latin America
* three would live in Europe
* three would live in Africa
* three would live in Oceania
* seven would live in Asia
* 48 members of the ward joined after “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was written (the proclamation was first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Sept. 23, 1995).
* 36 attend sacrament meeting on a weekly basis
* five can’t read or write
* 21 of the members of our ward live in countries with less than $9,200 per person gross domestic product
This was bound to happen.
A Sister serving an LDS mission in San Fernando, California reported the “saddest news”–that the missionary department has decided to postpone her mission receiving iPads due to its inappropriate use by missionaries in other missions. She quoted a message from her mission president:
“On a separate note, I have some disappointing news. I received a call from the Missionary Department that they have decided to postpone the rollout of iPads to our mission. It appears that there were some missionaries in another mission who decided not to follow the rules for the use of the mobile devices and used them inappropriately. The Missionary Department has decided to hold off on providing additional missions with mobile devices until they can review the situation and determine an appropriate path forward.”
The LDS Church’s official Youtube channel recently released a video with pictures (and a brief introduction–which some have criticized) of sacred temple garments. Many will claim “this is nothing new”, but it is indeed very big news. No longer will you rely only on creepy pictures of people wearing LDS temple garments that can be found by a Google image search (no link provided). This move signals that it is okay to openly talk about sacred temple garments with anyone.
A few days ago we reported on the gathering of Elite Mormons who were invited to the premiere of the Church’s new film Meet the Mormons. Since then Jana Riess has written a very thoughtful post about the film that we encourage you to read here.
In response to that post, we received a number of interesting emails from readers. One reader sent us the following screenshot of an email showing that his/her stake has assigned each ward to send 10-15 members to attend each of the six showings in the area. If you suppose there are 12 wards in a stake, the stake is asking that 120-180 members attend each showing. That equates to 720-1080 people all six showings.
The letter even says that if you can’t afford tickets then the ward will pay. We wonder if this will come from tithing funds or fast offering donations. In our opinion, neither of these sacred funds should be used to pay for members to see a film (at $15 a ticket).
Do you think tithing/fast offering monies should be used to help members attend a showing of the Church’s new film?
A few reviews of the new LDS film Meet the Mormons have started to trickle out. While Elder Holland said “the film was so successful with test audiences that our research division had to recheck the data a few times verify the results”, the reviews I have read by non-members seem to contradict that. For example, here are a few reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:
I have not yet seen the film , therefore, will reserve judgment until after I have seen the film. As a Mormon, I expect to like parts of the film, be bored at parts, and cringe at parts.
Though still withholding judgment of the film, the spectacles surrounding the film and its release have started to annoy me a bit. Meet the Mormons premiered last night at the Jordan Commons theater in Sandy, Utah. ABC 4 in Salt Lake City reported about it:
“Not only is the film called ‘Meet the Mormons’, but if you were here tonight you could have met some of the most famous Mormons you could think of: Mitt Romney, Marie Osmond, and more.
“Some of the LDS Church elite gathered Tuesday night at Jordan Commons for the premiere of ‘Meet the Mormons’.
” ‘It’s fun to be like a low ring celebrity around here, for me personally to be – Mitt Romney is here? Huh? What?! So this is exciting,’ said Elaine Bradley, drummer, Neon Trees. “
The Deseret News ran an article about the event with the title “Big names attend screening of ‘Meet the Mormons’ “.
It is unbelievable to me that such an event occurred: “Elite Mormons” gather and mingle with Elders Holland and Bednar and celebrate what some outsiders (and some insider) recognize as “slick propaganda”. This group of “LDS Church elite” included the following people:
Clearly there is a list somewhere in downtown Salt Lake of church members that leadership apparently considers in a higher class that get invited to premieres and other “elite” events, with the understanding and hope that, in exchange, their faces will be used the faces of the Church.