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Mormons Can Now Talk Openly About Temple Garments

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.

LDS Church Paying for People to Watch “Meet the Mormons”?

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?

LDS Church Paying for People to Watch "Meet the Mormons"?

Meet the Mormons or Meet the Mormon Elite?

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:

  • “Meet the Mormons isn’t substantial enough to screen on the first day of LDS 101; the church’s most basic tenets – and controversial aspects – are elided completely.” –Inkoo Kang, Village Voice
  • “Slick, relentlessly upbeat propaganda that suffers from too many sins of omission.” –Roger Moore, McLatchy-Tribune News Service

Another review posted at the Atheism portal of Patheos.com is also quite negative towards the film.

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:

  • Politics: Mitt Romney
  • Athletics: LaVell Edwards, Danny Ainge , Greg Miller (Utah Jazz), and Shawn Bradley
  • Music: Elain Bradley & Braden Campbell (Neon Trees), Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), David Archuleta, and Marie Osmond
  • Apostles: Jeffrey R. Holland and David A. Bednar
  • Film: Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite)
  • Entertainer: Shay Carl
  • Education: Kevin J. Worthen
  • Meet the Mormons stars: Jermaine Sullivan, Ken Niumatalolo, Carolina Munoz Marin, Gail Halvorsen, Bishnu Adhikari and Dawn Armstrong

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.

Meet the Mormons or Meet the Mormon Elite?

New Blog by Anonymous Bishop

Someone just shared with me a new blog that has popped up on the internet written by a bishop who wishes to remain anonymous (for now). So far the bishop has only written two blog posts, but promises more. The first post is fairly interestingly and worth the small amount of time to read it.

http://www.anonymousbishop.com

Mormon Missionary Reports on Church Inactivity

Mormon Missionary Reports on Church Inactivity

Last week we wrote a blog post about the seemingly new rule in the South America Northwest area of the Church requiring potential converts to pay a fast offering or tithe before baptism. We recorded four missionary accounts of this rule. One of those accounts included another interesting piece of information shared by general authority Elder W. Christopher Waddell, member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The missionary reported (emphasis mine):

“He talked a LOT about not baptizing less actives. He said out of 1,800,000 members, 1 MILLION of them don´t go to church. A million. So. We know have higher standards before someone can get baptized. They need 3 attendances in a row in ALL 3 classes. AND need to pay an offering of tithing before their baptism. This is helping us to ensure true conversion. Wow. It was inspired.”

It’s not clear what the “1,800,000 members” refers to, but my guess would be the (1,800,000?) members in the South America Northwest area.

I wondered whether other missionaries had reported activity rates either in the local wards they served in or in the mission or area as reported by mission presidents or area leaders. Here are some reports I found (all underlining and text bolding is mine):

Germany

Sister Sprouse, in “Deutschland”, reported how two stake presidents had left the Church and there was following in their wake. She said :

“So our ward here in Dortmund is awesome but tragically 90 percent of the ward is inactive!! They had 2 stake presidents in a row leave the church and there was a big following of inactives because of it. Seriously, we have a ward list and only about one or two of the names on each page are of active members. Lots of work to do in Dortmund.”

Dominican Republic

Sister Olsen serving the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission reported on Sept. 22, 2014 about the cities Ocoa and Parra:

  • “people are refusing callings and the branch seriously lacks unity, fractured by picking sides and pointing fingers. (It’s no wonder we visit 6 past branch presidents, all either inactive or excommunicated)”
  • “We also received the news that Parra is going to be shut down (at least for a while), meaning no more church meetings there and no more missionaries visiting. It’s an isolated village of 350 members, basically all inactive and all unwilling to change, despite our best efforts. It’s like Jacob 5 tells us: when a branch, after much care and pruning, still produces bad fruit it must be cut off for the good of the tree.”

Arizona

Sister Healy, while on reassignment in the Arizona Scottsdale mission waiting for a visa to Brazil, reported the activity rate in the ward she was serving in:

  • “we would be working solely with inactive and less active members…without any updated area book!”
  • “THERE IS A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE, but we know that we can do it and they we can make this ward one that is strong and unified.  The 2nd counselor to the bishop told us that 75% of the ward is inactive…so we know that we are much needed and we’re excited for all the good we can do.”

West Virginia

Elder Latimer, serving in West Virginia, recently reported that fortunately his new area has a lot of youth–unlike “most [of] the wards and branches” there. He says:

“And the ward here is great! It has a much bigger youth program and a lot of young families, as opposed to most the wards and branches here where everyone is old or inactive.”

Colombia

Elder Dahlin, serving in the Colombia Cali mission, shared his experience of how many leaders have become inactive in the ward he was serving in:

“Our ward is going through a bunch of changes right now, most of the ward leaders are inactive so we are working with the Bishop to be able to fill in the holes. I basically ran the ward council meeting yesterday.”

Belgium/Netherlands

Sister Mizell, serving in the Belgium-Netherlands mission, reported:

“We went to church for the first time and the ward is great!  I can’t wait to get to know them and work with them.  So get this about 3/4 of the ward is inactive!  Isn’t that crazy!  I can’t believe it.  So the stake plan is to work with inactives and try to get them back to church.  The goal for the ward is to have 50 more people coming to church by the end of the year I think.”

Argentina

Sister Hill, serving in the Argentine Mendoza mission, actually calculated the numbers for her ward:

“Oh and I actually I did the math this week. 60.8% of the ward is inactive and 73% of the Hispanic people are inactive.

Two months later (I am not sure if she was still in the same ward) she reported:

A little over 90 percent of the ward is inactive and I am so excited to start working with less actives. This area has so much potential.”

Canada

Sister Cottrell, serving in the Canada Montreal mission, reported low activity and “borderline” commitment of those who are active:

“The ward is tiny here. Most of the ward is inactive and those who are are borderline-we’ll really have to work with them but we’ll change that:) I’m excited.”

Michigan

Sister Gordon, in the Michigan Detroit mission, exclaims her ward to be the “smallest ward ever” due to inactivity:

“On Sunday we went to church and we have the smallest ward ever! There was only like 30 people there because the rest of the ward is inactive.”

Spain

Sister Brown, serving in the Spain Malaga mission, blew her mind with regards to the low activity in her ward:

“I am serving in a ward. And seriously everyone is the best. But what will break your heart is that 70% of the ward is inactive. SEVENTY! That is just crazy. It blew my mind.

Phillipines

Sister Anderson, in the Quezon City, Phillipines, “swears” her ward has 95% inactivity—though that might exaggerated:

We teach so many less actives here- like SO MANY.. It is ridiculous! I swear, 95% of the ward is inactive. They are all such wonderful people and they have so much potential, however, they don’t like to make commitments.”

Texas

Elder Gaughan, serving in the bilingual Dallas 5th ward (in a town called Seagoville, Texas), reported “enourmous” inactivity:

“I found out yesterday that an ENORMOUS portion of the ward is inactive, so I want to try to make helping those members a bigger priority than we did in Oak Cliff.”

Phillipines

Sister Robison, serving in the Philippines Cebu mission, reported:

“S. Hansen told me that the majority of the ward is inactive and Mabolo ward is one of the most difficult to keep together, but it is really becoming stronger, and its amazing to see the change in people.”

California

Sister Burchett, serving in the California Sacramento mission, also mentioned the large task they have regarding inactivity:

“President also challenged Sister Vaughan and I to get La Sierra up and running again. They haven’t baptized in a long time and so much of the ward is inactive. We accepted his challenge, and so off to work we went. “

Remarks

This was, by no means, meant to be an exhaustive search on the topic of inactivity in LDS congregations. There are many(!) other missionary accounts that describe similar situations throughout the world. This is just a sampling of them. For the most part, these are a result of looking over fairly recently blog posts from missionaries and this post is only meant to demonstrate the difficulties the Church is facing worldwide.

Is This How “Preach My Gospel” Was Written?

Is This How "Preach My Gospel" Was Written?

I never used Preach My Gospel on my mission.  I am fairly familiar with parts of it though, as it has been pushed by all levels on leadership in the Church (from apostles, as FHE lessons, as mission prep, in scripture study, as a type of missionary, as a unifying tool between members and missionaries, etc.).  There is a lot to like about the new approach.  And missionaries seem convinced it works.

Well, I was reading a missionary blog recently and I was taken aback by his story about how the Preach My Gospel manual was created. He says (emphasis and formatting mine):

“Another thing I learned from a general authority.

He asked all the stake presidents in our mission some questions. Do you have a planner? They all said yes and raised their phones. Then he asked how many of you set goals every day? 2 stake presidents raised there hands. He then goes on to tell us how he chastised them for not setting daily goals to have something to accomplish every day.

He then proceeds to tell us after this story that we need to always set goals every day and the things in your day should be focused towards those goals. Especially after our missions. It talks about how to set goals in chapter 8 of PMG. Elder Clark, the general authority, told us that if we master chapter 8 we will triple our income in our life. It was written by experts that train CEOs and then the general authorities added the spiritual side to it. I thought that was so cool.”

A few things stand out to me:

  • Yes, goal-making (and goal-keeping) are very important and are great skills I learned on my mission
  • “Elder Clark”? I am not sure, but I imagine he is speaking of general authority Elder Don R. Clarke of the Second Quorum of the Seventy (but it is possible he is speaking of area authority Elder Samuel W. Clark).
  • Elder “Clark” told them they could triple their income? This sounds suspiciously like this (though, as I mentioned before, goal-making is a good skill to acquire)
  • Experts that train CEOs wrote the Preach My Gospel manual “and then general authorities added the spiritual side to it”? I don’t think that’s “so cool”.

What? The Preach My Gospel manual is a business training book with spiritual things “added” in by general authorities (who are mostly businessmen themselves)? Why would he say that? That wouldn’t be a good selling point for me or many of my friends and family. If I wanted book that mixes spiritual and business/CEO principles I might choose something like this.

Is this where Correlation has taken us to?

One principle I have grown to love in Mormonism is that all things are first created spiritually. It is taught in Moses 3:5 (“For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth”) that God creates things first spiritually and the physically.

Another principle is building on a strong foundation. President Monson shared a story from President N. Eldon Tanner in his October 2006 (as 1st Counselor in the First Presidency). President Monson said (emphasis mine):

“At the time I met him, President Tanner was president of the vast Trans-Canada Pipelines, Ltd., and president of the Canada Calgary Stake. He was known as “Mr. Integrity” in Canada. During that first meeting, we discussed, among other subjects, the cold Canadian winters, where storms rage, temperatures can linger well below freezing for weeks at a time, and where icy winds lower those temperatures even further. I asked President Tanner why the roads and highways in western Canada basically remained intact during such winters, showing little or no signs of cracking or breaking, while the road surfaces in many areas where winters are less cold and less severe developed cracks and breaks and potholes.

Said he, “The answer is in the depth of the base of the paving materials. In order for them to remain strong and unbroken, it is necessary to go very deep with the foundation layers. When the foundations are not deep enough, the surfaces cannot withstand the extremes of weather.

This is why I am concerned to learn that the foundation for the Preach My Gospel manual is written by “experts that train CEOs” with “the spiritual side” added in later by General Authorities. The foundation is weak and the creation process is backwards (spiritual is second). That is not the process of creation taught in the scriptures nor one that provides a deep, solid foundation for the text used by missionaries (and members) throughout the world.

New Mormon Converts Must Pay to be Baptized?

New Mormon Converts Must Pay to be Baptized?

 

UPDATE (9/25/2014): A Reddit user found another report of this new baptismal requirement by Sister Stringham in the Peru Piura mission. She says (archive, emphasis mine):

The mission has changed a few rules. To have a baptism an investigator needs to attend church 3 times and for 3 hours! Also they have to pay tithing or fast offerings before their baptism. These rules also apply to less actives to reactivate them. It is a little bit more than before, but President Rowley assures us that we will baptize more. Just have faith. It is better this way, because the converts are true converts not just numbers.”

UPDATE (9/19/2014): I found a fourth account of this rule change from Elder Monson, also in the Peru Lima East Mission. He says (archive, emphasis mine):

“This week was pretty good. President made a few new rules so we are trying to get used to them. Now our investigators have to attend church 3 times for all 3 hours before they can get baptized and they have to pay tithing and fast offerings.

UPDATE (9/18/2014): Elder D. Todd Christofferson also visited the South America Northwest Area with Elder Neil L. Andersen (source, archive, English Version) (Deseret News article). According to the article, the both visited the area between August 21-29, 2014

——————————————————————————————————————————–

While the title “New Mormon Converts Must Pay to be Baptized?” is a little sensational it seems to now be true in parts of South America. There have been multiple reports (see below) from missionaries in the South America Northwest area that new converts “need to pay an offering of tithing before their baptism” (I first saw this on Reddit). This seems, on the surface, similar to the Catholic sell of indulgences as it requires people to pay money in order to receive the “saving ordinance of baptism”.

From what I have found, this new requirement appears to be localized to South America Northwest Area whose area presidency consists of:

The following missions are part of the area (organized by country):

  • Perú (Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cusco, Huancayo, Iquitos, Lima Central, Lima East, Lima North, Lima South, Lima West, Piura, Trujillo)
  • Bolivia (Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz)
  • Ecuador (Guayaquil North, Guayaquil South, Quito)
  • Colombia (Barranquilla, Bogota North, Bogota, South, Cali)
  • Venezuela (Barcelona, Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia)

On September 15, 2014 (Monday) Sister McKenna Hill of the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission said they had just had a “special conference with Elder Waddell, the seventy representing our region.” She continues (screenshot, archive, emphasis mine):

“He talked a LOT about not baptizing less actives. He said out of 1,800,000 members, 1 MILLION of them don´t go to church. A million. So. We know have higher standards before someone can get baptized. They need 3 attendances in a row in ALL 3 classes. AND need to pay an offering of tithing before their baptism. This is helping us to ensure true conversion. Wow. It was inspired. “

Similar news came from Sister Jones of the Peru Lima West Mission. Recall that the South America Northwest Area is headquartered in Lima, Peru.On September 8, 2014 Sister Alayna Jones said (screenshot, archive, emphasis mine):

“We went to Lima and had our monthly leadership training which was awesome.  They put in a couple of new rules for baptizing in this area. The investigators have to attend church three times, and they have to go to church all three hours three times before getting baptized.  Also, they have to pay some sort of offering or donation before they can get baptized.  It will make things a bit trickier but I can definitely see the wisdom in these rules, making sure that the converts remain active and faithful members of the church.  We’ll see what type of good results it brings!”

A third account of the new rule came from Elder Roderick Dallon Maxwell of the Peru Lima East Mission. On September 15, 2014 he reported (screenshot, archive, emphasis mine):

“WEDNESDAY, we taught Jean Franko about fasting because there is a new rule just for this ward, that the investigators need to fast and pay a fast offering in order to be baptized. interesting.  it went really well and he said that he would do it. i feel like he has a need, but we just cant find it. he sort of avoids the topic of baptism, but with faith and patience  i think we will get there! “

While Elder Maxwell claims this is a rule for the particular ward he is serving in, that doesn’t make sense because 1) wards don’t make rules regarding who can or can’t be baptized–the rules are set by the mission president, and 2) there are other accounts that similar rules are being enforced in other areas of Lima, Peru as well as in Bolivia.

Interestingly, this new rule appears on three blogs (spanning three missions), just weeks after Elder Neil L. Anderson visited and met (screenshot, archive) with members of the Area Presidency. It is difficult for me to imagine he is not aware of this rule.

In summary, there are accounts of this rule being implemented in three missions:

The Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI), as far as I can tell, does not explicitly forbid charging for baptism, but Book 2 does forbid charging for two things associated with baptism:

  • “No charge is made for using a baptismal font”
  • “Local units should have baptismal clothing available and should not charge for its use”

Maybe they have read Neylan McBaine’s new book Women at Church and are taking an approach she recommends. In her book she suggests that silence in the CHI on a matter should be taken as an opportunity to make our own decisions based on local circumstances rather as a general prohibition on the subject. To illustrate that she quotes a stake president (emphasis mine):

“I went through the handbook. I couldn’t find anything that proscribed young women visiting teaching with Relief Society sisters. I think going through the handbook is always a good practice because a lot of times things are rooted in tradition or folklore or it’s just the unwritten order of things, which is important, but many times the handbook is silent and we are free to make our best decisions.

The Book of Mormon, however, twice mentions baptism/forgiveness and money. Neither time is it encouraged:

  •  “Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (2 Nephi 9:50)
  • “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.” (Mormon 8:32)

Finally, Boyd K. Packer has spoken on the matter of offerings in his April 1990 General Conference speech titled “Teach Them Correct Principles”. In it he says (emphasis his):

“The scriptures speak of tithes and of offerings; they do not speak of assessments or fund-raising. To be an offering, it must be given freely—offered. The way is open now for many more of us to participate in this spiritually refining experience.”

However, no longer is just a commitment to pay tithing a requirement for the “saving ordinance of baptism”, but it is actually required that one pay an “offering” (as an assessment of commitment or worthiness)–something President Packer explicitly spoke against.

Notice from LDS Church Headquarters

Notice
Date: September 9, 2014
To: General Authorities; Area Seventies; Stake,
Mission, and District Presidents; Bishops and
Branch Presidents
From: Priesthood Department (1-801-240-2134)
Subject: Gospel Topics

To help members with their study of Church history and doctrine, the Church publishes reliable information on topics of current interest. This information is found in the Gospel Topics section of the Church’s website, at lds.org/topics.

The purpose of the Gospel Topics section is to provide accurate and transparent information on Church history and doctrine within the framework of faith. It includes an article titled “Gospel Learning: Seek Learning by Study and Also by Faith,” which explains principles of seeking truth.

When Church members have questions regarding Church history and doctrine, possibly arising when detractors spread misinformation and doubt, you may want to direct their attention to these resources. Also help them understand that prayer, regular study of the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets, the exercise of faith, and humility are fundamental to receiving inspired answers to sincere questions.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lpig04xcmazhe5n/MemoFromChurchHQ.pdf?dl=0

Women’s Limited Roles in Mormon Leadership

New Page: Ezra Taft Benson Resources

New Page: Ezra Taft Benson Resources

There is a new permanent page on Nearing Kolob called for Resources on Ezra Taft Benson. It will include quotes, teachings, speeches, pictures, and other resources to supplement personal study. It will be “under construction” through at least 2015.

It will hopefully be a good resource as we study the new Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual on Ezra Taft Benson

 

http://www.nearingkolob.com/ezra-taft-benson-resources/

 

New Page: Ezra Taft Benson Resources