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Courts as a Catalyst for Revelation: A Perfect Example

Courts as a Catalyst for Revelation: A Perfect Example

Have you ever wondered why every missionary from the U.S. pays the same amount ($400 per month) to serve a mission–no matter where they go? Certainly serving a mission in London or Paris is much more expensive than serving in Paraguay or Ghana.

Before 1990, missionaries to different mission would pay different amounts. One person gives an example of this is a Deseret News article from 2015:

For about $90 a month, my friend in Peru paid for his rent, food and a maid to cook the food and clean the apartment. My mission, on the other hand, cost four times more at $400 per month, and we had to do our own cooking and cleaning. I would have loved to have a helper to cook our meals and help clean our apartment. My friend in Switzerland paid $900 per month, more than double the cost of a Venezuelan mission.

The author continues by saying it was hard to plan for such differences in cost (I sure it was!):

For parents and prospective missionaries, this made it challenging to plan how much money to save for a future mission. It could be $90 a month ($2,160 for two years), or $900 a month ($21,600 for two years), depending on the mission.

Then in November 1990, the LDS Church announced a sweeping change to the mission contribution system. It switched to a system where missionaries or their families would pay the same monthly amount for living expenses no matter the mission, and then funds are distributed as needed. While this raised the cost of some missions, it lowered the price for many others.

You may have heard that this new (socialistic?) program was such a blessing. You may have heard it was to make it easier of families, etc. One blogpost describe it that way:

In 1990, though, a new program was introduced to equalize the financial responsibility for each missionary. Now, all young missionaries pay a flat monthly rate into the Church missionary fund.  Each missionary, then, is allocated what he or she needs for the expenses in that mission.  This approach has reduced the burden on the missionary, and his or her family, who may have been assigned to work in a more expensive area of the world.

But was the change in November 1990 really to help out missionaries and their families?

As you will find, this is a perfect example of what many call a blessing has an underlying reason based in law and the courts. In this case it was Davis v. United States, 495 U.S. 472 (1990). Wikipedia gives a summary that is good enough for out purposes:

Davis v. United States, 495 U.S.472 (1990), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court. It concerned claims made by parents of two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that their monetary contributions toward their sons’ mission expenses constituted a “charitable contribution” under provisions of Treas. Reg. § 1.170A-1(g) (1989), a position that lower courts had rejected. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that these contributions could not be seen as “charitable contributions” under provisions of that statute.

The case was argued in March 1990 and decided in May 1990. Do you really think it is such a coincidence that a new program to have families pay directly to the Church came out just 6 months after the Supreme Court decision?

I actually think the new program is better and more far. And kudos to the Church for adapting. It’s easier on families and I think they ought to be able to deduct the cost of a mission as a charitable contribution.

But. Let’s be clear. This change, that can be argued a blessing, has an underlying basis in law and a Supreme Court decision. And this is just one example. Let me list a few more blessings/revelations/changes that have an underlying basis in legalities:

What’s next? Full acceptance of gay marriage (in the temple?)? Women receiving the priesthood?

I guess we’ll just have to see what the courts decide.

The Convenient Proclamation, Establishing Control, and When was BYU-H Created?

The Convenient Proclamation, Establishing Control, and When was BYU-H Created?

I recently happened upon some letters posted on the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website between the various BYUs Presidents and the OCR regarding exemption from Title IX regulations. See the bottom of this post for links to the various letters.

To be clear, I don’t think there is anything scandalous in the letters, but there are some things that are quite interesting and help fill in some holes in LDS history.

Note: This will likely be a sloppy post, but I hope you look past that and instead see what is discussed and introduced. I think it’s better I just publish this post as an unedited post than never publish it because I don’t have time to clean it up.

 

When was BYU-Hawaii Created?

To be honest, I’m not even sure BYU-Hawaii has a consistent story about when it was created:

  • Wikipedia claims it was established on September 26, 1955
  • The “Brief History” page on byuh.edu says David O. McKay broke ground on February 12, 1955 and that classes began on September 26, 1955. At this time is was known as “Church College of Hawaii”. It became a university in 1974
  • The first two letters from BYU-Hawaii President Alton L. Wade to the Office for Civil Rights, dated March 1989, say “The Church originally created BYU-Hawaii on March 11, 1970 and has since been continuously and ultimately responsible for its operation.”
  • In a from BYU-Hawaii President Eric B Shumway, dated September 1997, to the OCR, it says “The LDS Church founded BYUH on February 12, 1955 and since that time the Church has been continuously and ultimately responsible for BYUH’s operation.”
  • A letter dated 1998 also claims establishment in 1955.

Why did President Wade, in 1989, claim BYU-Hawaii was created in 1970? I don’t know.

 

The Proclamation comes in Handy

Recall that The Proclamation on the Family was announced in September 1995.

There has been some interesting discussion online regarding the origins and true purpose of The Proclamation. Here is a sampling of some of the more interesting commentary:

  • Laura Compton gave a great overview of how The Proclamation’s origins are rooted in the Same-Sex Marriage battles in Hawaii that began in the early 1990s (LINK)
  • We previously mentioned that The Proclamation fits into the biblical tradition of “anonymous literature” that becomes scripture-for-a-purpose (LINK)
  • Ziff did some interesting analysis at Zelophehad’s Daughters in a post titled “Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?” (LINK) Note: Read the comments as well!
  • Guy Templeton at Wheat & Tares asks if it was written by lawyers (LINK)
  • Dave Banack at Times & Seasons suggests we might was to start “Rethinking the Proclamation” (LINK)

The Proclamation has been part of several amicus briefs since it was announced which, according to my non-lawyerly understanding, allows the Church to be more involved (standing) in fighting gay marriage than it otherwise would be allowed. The first amicus brief (that I am aware of) to make use of The Proclamation was in Hawaii in 1997.

 

More than just Gay Marriage?

Most arguments I have read online about the true origins of The Proclamation center on the issue of gay marriage. However, another convenient use of The Proclamation since its announcement has been its use in Church school’s claiming religious exemptions from Title IX regulations.

As you can read in the letters between Church schools and the Office for Civil Rights (below), the university presidents try to establish several things in the letters to be granted exemption by the OCR. I will present just a few of the more interesting things I read in the letters, but feel free to read them yourselves and comment below about the things that I missed!

 

Establishing a Religious Exemption

The OCR says

Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

So, the Church schools’ letters to the OCR try to establish that the schools are “controlled” by the Church and that Title IX is “inconsistent with [their] religious tenets.”

 

How does the Church control Church schools?

The OCR lists three ways control can be established (emphases mine):

  1. It is a school or department of divinity, defined as an institution or a department or branch of an institution whose program is specifically for the education of students to prepare them to become ministers of religion or to enter upon some other religious vocation, or to prepare them to teach theological subjects; or
  2. It requires its faculty, students or employees to be members of, or otherwise espouse a personal belief in, the religion of the organization by which it claims to be controlled; or
  3. Its charter and catalog, or other official publication, contains explicit statement that it is controlled by a religious organization or an organ thereof or is committed to the doctrines of a particular religion, and the members of its governing body are appointed by the controlling religious organization or an organ thereof, and it receives a significant amount of financial support from the controlling religious organization or an organ thereof.

#3 is the most important way of establishing control of Church schools. I will, therefore, focus on that.

 

Official Publications

In the letters to the OCR, school presidents would write what the religious beliefs of the Church are regarding gender identity, chastity, sex, abortion, the family, traditional gender roles and their influence career choices, etc.

After The Proclamation was released all they need to do is refer to the already prepared document (usually “Exhibit A”) that conveniently says all that needs to be said to allow Church schools to be exempt from certain Title IX regulations.

 

Appointments

Have you ever wondering why Board of Trustees of Church schools always has a few apostles sitting on them? Have you ever wondered why potential Church school faculty and administrators have to be interviewed and approved by General Authorities?

It’s to establish partial fulfillment of #3 (control) that the Church controls the university.

 

Financial Support

Have you ever wondered why Church schools heavily subsidized by Church funds (thus keeping tuition low)? Some people have: here and here.

It’s to establish control of the institution by the governing religious institution. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

 

Some Quotes

Below are some quotes that I found particularly interesting–most of which attempt to establish that Church schools are controlled by the Church (religious tenents, official appointments from the governing body of the educational institutions, or financial dependence/control).

In a November 1988 letter from BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland to the OCR (emphasis mine):

The Board of Trustees consists of persons appointed by the governing board of the LDS Church and over two-thirds of the BYU operating budget is derived directly from appropriations from the Church. While non-members of the Church are welcome to apply for admission as students and for employment, all students and employees are expected to live according to a behavioral standard that is rooted in the religious teachings of the Church.

In a March 1989 letter from BYU-Hawaii President Alton L. Wade to the OCR nearly the exact same thing is repeated:

The BYU-Hawaii Board of Trustees consists of persons appointed by the governing board of the LDS Church and over two-thirds of the BYU operating budget is derived directly from appropriations from the Church. While non-members of the Church are welcome to apply for admission as students and for employment, all students and employees are expected to live according to a behavioral standard that is rooted in the religious teachings of the Church.

Interestingly, a May 1985 letter from Ricks College President Bruce D. Hafen to the OCR states that “approximately 70% of our operating budget is funded directly by appropriations from the Church. This same letter (the first of all the letters, has several interesting questions to the OCR regarding how to meet their requirements for religious exemption.

An April 14, 1998 letter from BYU-Hawaii President Eric B. Shumway only claims “the majority of the University’s operating budget is derived from appropriations from the Church.” Since this letter is post-Proclamation, they are conveniently able to just attach The Proclamation to the religious exemption request to establish religious tenets (emphasis mine):

Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a copy of an official pronouncement of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dated September 23, 1995. This “Proclamation of the Family” makes the position of the Church with respect to matters addressed in it abundantly clear and reaffirms certain beliefs concerning marriage and the family to be principles of Church doctrine, which are binding on the Church, its controlled organizations, like BYUH, and the Church membership.

Notice the phrase “controlled organizations, like BYUH”. It’s convenient that The Proclamation makes “it abundantly clear and reaffirms certain beliefs”. To bad they didn’t have this document in the 1980s when they first requested religious exemptions to Title IX–it would have been much easier.

A similar letter, dated March 24, 1998,  from Ricks College President David A. Bednar to the OCR says nearly the same thing (emphasis mine):

Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a copy of an official pronouncement of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dated September 23, 1995. This “Proclamation of the Family” makes the position of the Church with respect to matters addressed in it abundantly clear and reaffirms certain beliefs concerning marriage and the family to be principles of Church doctrine, which are binding on the Church, its controlled organizations, like Ricks College, and the Church membership.

Are most members aware that Church leaders consider The Proclamation (or, at least, its principles) “binding on the Church”?

 

There is more…

Anyway, there is much more that can and should be discussed in the letters, but I think you get the point.

Not only was the release of The Proclamation convenient timing so that it could be used to more easily allow the Church to fight gay marriages in states like Hawaii, but it was also conveniently timed so that could more easily request religious exemptions to parts of Title IX.

I guess that’s has revelation guides happen in the modern church.

 

Links to Letters

BYU-Hawaii

  • BYU-Hawaii Request dated March 21, 1989 (LINK)
  • BYU-Hawaii Request dated March 28, 1989 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated May 18, 1989 (LINK)
  • BYU-Hawaii Request dated September 11, 1997 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated October 14, 1997 (LINK)
  • BYU-Hawaii Request dated April 14, 1998 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated July 11, 1998 (LINK)

Ricks College

  • Ricks College Request dated May 7, 1985 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated June 24, 1985 (LINK)
  • Ricks College Request dated November 12, 1985 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated June 22, 1988 (LINK)
  • Ricks College Request dated March 24, 1998 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated August 24, 1998 (LINK)

BYU-Utah

  • BYU-Utah Request dated November 17, 1988 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated January 6, 1989 (LINK)
  • BYU-Utah Request dated August 25, 1997 (LINK)
  • OCR Response dated October 14, 1997 (LINK)

OCR has also posted “historical documents related to OCR’s process for evaluating religious exemption”:

  • Smith Memo – October 11, 1989 (LINK)
  • Singleton Memo – August 2, 1985 (LINK)
  • Singleton Memo – February 19, 1985 (LINK)
  • HEW Form 639-A – 1977 (LINK)

General Authority: If You Don’t Like Something, Like It

General Authority: If You Don't Like Something, Like It

Elder Yoon Hwan Choi of the First Quorum of the Seventy and counselor in the Asia North Area Presidency, recently visited a few missions in Japan and gave one piece of advice that stood out to me. One missionary described in this way (emphasis mine):

We had a mission tour by Elder Choi of the Asia North Area Presidency! It was a very inspirational conference and it motivated me a lot. Pretty much, he told us to take things we don’t like and to just LIKE IT. His focus was on natto but he really said to just take anything you DONT LIKE and then LIKE IT. He also had a lot to say about marriage. Haha as soon as he brought it up, in my mind I was like “NO STAHP I STILL HAVE TEN TRANSFERS LEFT!” But by the end I left kinda wanting to get married as soon as I get home haha.

Another missionary (from another mission) wrote a blogpost titled “If you don’t like it, LIKE IT”. In it he said (emphasis mine):

Then the last thing that I’ll mention about it, is something that anyone can apply into their lives. It is the subject line, and a quote from Elder Choi. If you don’t like something, Like It. If you live in Seattle and you don’t like the rain, you can either continue on and be depressed because it’s Seattle, and there is always rain, or you can learn to like the rain, and have a good life. I plan on trying to apply that into my life a little bit more.

I will say that the advice is not horrible, but comes off as trite and incomplete. I am writing this blogpost to, first, highlight that this is the message that a General Authority is teaching to missionaries and, second, to add additional advice and completeness to his comments.

When I first read this advice I immediately wondered what he was talking about. Is he talking about being a missionary? Being obedient to mission rules? Doctrines of the church? Is this a Freudian slip in which he hints at how he handles things about the Church that he doesn’t like?

Many people are currently leaving the Church (some say “in droves”), is this the response they would get? “If you don’t like the teachings of the Church, the Church’s stance on gay marriage, the incessant phobia of pornography, the widespread conservatism of its American members, the apocalypticism, the many meetings, the three hour block, etc.—well, just like it!” I hope not.

So, what have others said about what to do when you encounter something you don’t like?

WikiHow has an article titled “How to Do Something You Don’t Like”. Go read it! They suggest:

  1. Be aware of the task
  2. Identify what it is that you don’t like
  3. Prepare yourself in advance
  4. Try to enjoy it!
  5. See the goal/end
  6. Don’t be too harsh on yourself
  7. Reward yourself
  8. Surround yourself with family and/or friends
  9. Let it out!
  10. See the bigger picture

Well, Elder Choi’s advice does match #4. Certainly he would probably agree with some of these, but not other. It’s would be difficult for a missionary to do #8 because they are specifically instructed not to call and talk with family. #9 would probably not go over well in the mission culture as well.

I did find one interesting piece of advice from someone on line: “Stop doing shit you don’t like”

I also found two great  quotes about the topic:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” —Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” —Mary Engelbreit

There you go. If you don’t like something the first piece of advice from Maya and Mary are to change it.

An Apostle is Coming. Hurry Up and Baptize!

An Apostle is Coming. Hurry Up and Baptize!

Missionaries often get excited when they hear a General Authority will be visiting. They often plan to arrive early to the meeting. They also speculate what he (yes, he) will speak or chastise them about. Elder Bednar usually asks that they read his 3-4 most recent General Conference talks as preparation.

Apparently Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the 12 will be visiting Japan Kobe Mission on May 22nd (as a side note, Elder Stevenson apparently has been appointed to oversee Asia–he visits there quite a bit. He picked his son recently who finished a mission in Taiwan).

Anyway. Back to the story.

In preparation for Elder Stevenson’s visit in 10 days, the missionaries received a challenge “that every companionship in the mission would see a baptism before he comes to speak to us.”

Here is the missionary’s report in larger context:

At the beginning of last week we learned that Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles would be coming to visit us on the 22nd of May! Along with this information we received a challenge- that every companionship in the mission would see a baptism before he comes to speak to us. Honestly, my first thought when I looked at the calendar was that we only have three weeks to find someone to be baptized, and we didn’t have anyone that we were currently teaching that was very close to receiving baptism. But I am constantly being reminded that this is not the work of man, but the work of God.

14 Million Active Mormons? Yes, If It Makes the Math Work Out Nicely

14 Million Active Mormons? Yes, If It Makes the Math Work Out Nicely

Back in February of this year Elder Nelson visited the Philippines Quezon City North Mission. While visiting the mission he performed a math trick while talking to the missionaries in which he implied that out of the 15 million members of the church 14 million are active and 1 million are inactive.

Elder Nelson explained the story in Judge 7 in which Gideon’s army of originally 32,000 warriors was reduced to 300–the purpose being that, in victory, God’s intervention would be made clear. He then compares that to number of Midianites which he claims was 150,000 (Judges 8:10 hints at an army of 135,000–close enough).

Taking the ratio of Midianites to Israelites, he than said Gideon’s army was outnumbered 500 to 1!

How many people are living today? 7,000,000,000.

How many people are Mormon? The missionary summarizes Elder Nelson’s answer: “15 million members although not all are active so let’s say 14 million.”

What’s 7,000,000,000 to 14,000,000? That’s right: 500 to 1!

This is the missionaries summary in larger context:

One of the highlights I wanted to share from the meeting was a portion of President Nelsons talk.  Near the end he was talking about facing the odds and doing the impossible.  He pointed out that God is a God of miracles and he tends to favor the unlikely.  For example Abraham’s Wife Sarah gave birth at 90 years old.  Christ was born of the virgin Mary.  I thought he was then going to go onto the strippling warriors, but instead he went to the book of Judges chapter 7.  At this point Gideon is getting ready to battle the Midionites to free the Israelites.  In the beginning there were around 30,000.  The Lord tells Gideon, that that is too many, the people will think they did it by their own strength.  So Gideon tells everyone that is afraid to leave and there remains 10,000 soldiers.  The Lord says that is is still too many, so they go to the river side to drink and whoever kneels and puts their mouth in the stream gets to leave, and anyone that cups the water in their hands stays.  After this there is 300.  Then the Lord says Perfect, 300 is all I need to free Israel! President Nelson then pointed out that later in the book of Judges we learn that the army of the Midionites is about 150,000.  So we have 150,000:300 or simplified 500:1.  Seems impossible but they won!  So 500:1 is just right! He then pointed out that in 1830 when the church was restored, there were 3-4 billion people on the earth and just the handful of members.  Now there are 7 billion and 15 million members although not all are active so let’s say 14 million, so 7Billion:14Million, what are the odds? 500:1 Just right, it’s a fair fight! Then President Nelson said something that I think I’m going to keep as a theme for the rest of my life “If you are doing impossible things, That’s Just Right!  The Lord wants to stretch you and help you grow!”

 

Problems in Armenia: From One to Zero Stakes

Problems in Armenia: From One to Zero Stakes in Armenia

Nearly three years ago Elder Nelson formed the first stake in Armenia, the first officially Christian state who adopted Christianity as the official religion in 301 AD.

At the time, Elder Nelson said, “We have good [Church] leadership here, strong people in the gospel.”

Fast forward to last week when the blog LDS Church Growth broke the news that there was “Apostasy in Armenia” (though some have complained the headline is misleading).

Apparently, there was a special stake conference a few weeks ago in which “Elder Katcher and Klebingat of the Seventy came to speak” and they dissolved the stake by making it a district once again, under control of the Armenia Yerevan mission president.

One missionary reported (emphasis mine):

Sunday was Stake Conference, this is all I’m talking about so hold on tight, Elder Klebingat and Elder Kacher from the Seventy came.  Elder Klebingat got up first and announced that the Stake was converted to a district, the President of the Stake was released and the keys are now with President Carlson.  A district just means that it’s under the direction of the Mission Presidency instead of the members in Armenia.  As soon as the changes were announced, One third of the people got up and walked out.  My heart broke, just like the hosts in heaven 1/3 walked out. I had to watch 1/3 of my brothers and sisters walk out of that building and I’m willing to bet that the feeling I felt was somewhat after the manner that I felt when one third of God’s children walked out after the council in heaven.  This time some may come back, but for some that could be the last time they come to church in this life.  I’m still recovering a bit…

They all gave wonderful talks.  Elder Kacher shared the story of the early saints in Utah building the Salt Lake Temple.  They sacrificed everything, they barely had any food or belongings to build this only for the foundation to crack.  They had to pull it out again and build it anew.  He told us that this change was us pulling out the old cracked foundation and putting in a new one.
Sister Carlson’s talk was pretty much a big stand against the people who had blamed the missionaries for all the changes.  She said that they only send the best missionaries to Armenia and the only sin that the missionaries have is that they love the Armenians too much.
Elder Klebingat invited us all to reflect back on our own testimonies and asked where they were centered on.  He asked if big changes came into our lives like this would we be able to stand on our own testimony.  He invited us to review our testimonies and to enforce them.  He also said that when Christ was about to be crucified he asked he each of his apostles “will you also go away?”  He asked us this many times.  It really got me thinking.  Would a big change like this change where I stand?  Would I also go away after Christ is gone?  Would I too go away?  I refuse to believe that I will go away.  I will not go away.  He finished his talk very powerfully by saying, “I’m not a liar, I have many faults, I’m not perfect, But i do not lie.  I know that this Church is true.”
President talked about how when we serve God we need to serve with all our heart might mind and strength. If you do see this President, I’m sorry but for some reason I can’t remember your talk at all.  That was my bad…
I’ve seen a lot more than I wanted to see this last week of what people can do.  I’ve seen to many of my brothers and sisters leave in the course of one week, so I just ask “Will you also go away?”  If you do I promise I will be two feet behind,, bringing you back.   I refuse to see more of my brothers and sisters leave the true church.  The Book of Mormon is truly from God and Joseph Smith trasnslated it through the power of God.  President Monson is God’s living prophet on this earth today and I had that reconfirmed to me at Stake Conference.  Ben once asked me how could someone who had served a full time mission leave the church.  I would add to that how could someone that has partaken from the Tree of Life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, go away?  This church is true.  No matter what happens, this church is true.  I also know that the Gospel is true and we stay true to the church which is the vehicle to keep us on the path back to our Heavenly Father.  I am glad Dad made us memorize Helaman 5:12 “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall “.

Another missionary reported (emphasis mine):

Well. Probably one of the craziest weeks yet. Things have really changed here. We had stake conference yesterday and it was crazy, seeing as all of Armenia is just one big stake so all of the members in Armenia gathered together in Yerevan, and Elder Katcher and Klebingat of the Seventy came to speak to us.

They announced that the Armenian stake will no longer be a stake. We have been moved back to a district under the direction of the mission. All of the wards, including Vanadzor ward, were changed back to branches. WOW.

Basically we are starting from the beginning. Things had gotten pretty bad and we are just pruning the tree so that it can grow bigger and bear fresh fruit. things will mostly be run by the mission president now and the missionaries.

The most important callings that they wanted to focus on is the ward clerk, so that none of this sketchy business goes on again. So they decided to have some of the missionaries serve as clerks for the branches, and of course, I got called to serve as the branch clerk for Vanadzor.

It will be very interesting to see how we will manage to do this as well as missionary work but the Lord will help me so no worries. More to come in the near future. We still aren’t sure on which members are going inactive, which leaders will stay or anything. Lots of stuff going on, but it is all for the betterment of Zion in Armenia.

This work will go on no matter what. I love this work and I am so proud to be here representing Christ, building Zion.

So, it seems there was some widespread problems in several wards and possibly at the stake level. My guess would be they were financial in nature as missionaries we asked to take over clerking responsibilities.

In fact, in one Armenian LDS Facebook group someone who seemed to have knowledge of the changes wrote (emphasis mine):

It is true. The real reason was misappropriation of funds/finances, pretty much theft. Numerous people, mostly bishops, even the stake leadership, were involved. Truly sad. This will set the church back years in Armenia.

Some more discussion of this has happened here, here, and in the comments here. Some Reddit posts that discuss it are here and here.

Compilation of My Jeffrey Holland Posts

Compilation of My Jeffrey Holland Posts

Given the recently leaked audio of Elder Jeffrey Holland speaking at a YSA Devotional meeting in Arizona a few weeks ago, I was asked by a reader to compile my posts about some of Elder Holland’s messages and actions while visiting missions–as reported by missionaries. Here they are:

Elder Holland Is At It Again

Elder Holland Is At It Again

We’ve written about some of the weird stories that missionaries have posted online regarding Jeffrey Holland’s mission trips (see here, here, and here).  Some of the stories included him getting heated, lunging at missionaries, grabbing and shaking a sister missionary’s hair, telling missionaries he will hunt them down if they leave the church, and that he hasn’t “devoted [his] life to a Fairy Tale.”

Well, he’s at it again.

Elder Holland recently visited the Peru Cusco Mission and some repeats of his visit are coming in.

Elder Brandon Neilson wrote (emphasis mine):

President informed us that Elder Holland received specific information about some missionaries who were being less than obedient, he received specific names that he then proceeded to give to President Harbertson. Insane right hahah. President had interviews with all those missionaries after the conference. (dont worry i wasnt one of them) And yes Elder Holland did literally smack some people in the face and strangle them during the whole mission meeting. It was super cool!

Elder Holland is report specific missionary names to the mission president because somehow he knows they are “less than obedient.” And, more importantly, he “literally” smacked and strangled a missionary and everyone thought it was “super cool”? If he can get away with that then he can probably get away with about anything.

Another missionary corroborates that Elder Holland is a snitch:

Yes, as Dad said in his email, our Mission President interviewed people that were not doing well according to Elder Holland, but luckily I wasn’t one of em 🙂

How did Elder Holland know who were the disobedient missionaries? He interviewed them, of course! Two missionaries describe these “interview.” Here is the first:

At 10 o clock we were seated in the chapel waiting for Elder Holland. Wow. I don`t think I can express everything that was mentioned or everything that I felt. He arrived at 12 (is plane was late) and he shook each one of our hands. He said he did it each to give us a interview and see if we were okay. Then he talked. He walked around the room as he talked. It was a classic Elder Holland talk. He talked a lot about the obedience and the reality of who the missionaries are.

Here is the second:

In the beginning, he shook all of our hands and looked us in the eyes as we told him our names and where we were from. It was amazing. He spoke about obedience.

Here is the third:

We got to shake his hand, and he said he did that so he could have a mini personal interview with us, and that through just looking into our eyes he could tell if we were okay or not. Talk about having the spirit!

Here Are Some of the New Area Plans from Around the World

Here Are Some of the New Area Plans from Around the World

 

Philippines Area Plan (link):

1. Obey
2.covenant
3. establish.
As we show out love for the lord by obeying all his commandments we can make covenants with this through baptism and in the temple that will help us establish families strong in the gospel.

 

Europe Area Plan (Link):

To Bring Us to Him–Him being Jesus Christ
Omni 1:26  “I would that ye should come unto Christ…and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.”

Three Simple Steps:
1.  Bring a friend.
2.  Become spiritually and temporally self-reliant.
3.  Find an Ancestor.

Ward Goals for 2016
1.  Increase average attendance by 20 through missionary work, reactivation and retention.
2.  Increase the number of endowed Temple Recommend holders by 14.
3.  Achieve 95 submissions to the temple using support and encouragement.

Relief Society Goals for 2016
1.  Support all of the above.
2.  Take upon ourselves the attributes of Jesus Christ.

The Europe Area Presidency gave this message:  “We hope for all to come unto Christ.  As we apply the three priorities, our faith will increase and we will have a greater sense of peace and security.  We will see people living joyfully, delighting in the Sabbath, preparing to go to the temple, and receiving ordinances and making covenants necessary for the exaltation of their families.

 

Africa Southeast Area Plan (Link, Link):

  1. Increasing faith in God and Jesus Christ
  2. Loving and serving one another
  3. Building members’ ability to build self-reliance in both spiritual and temporal matters

 

Africa West Area Plan (Link):

The objectives of the 2016 Plan are:

  • Build faith in Christ
  • Focus on Ordinances
  • Encourage and Strengthen the Rising Generation

To achieve this vision leaders and members of the Church need to focus on the following goals:

  • Increased tithing faithfulness of adult members
  • Increase sacrament meeting attendance
  • Increase temporal self-reliance
  • Increase in convert baptisms
  • Increase age appropriate holders of the priesthood
  • Increase the number of members attending the temple
  • Increase the number of young members serving or having served missions

 

Pacific Area Plan (LinkLink):

Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  With that in mind the  Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked Church members for focus on four key objectives as part of their vision in 2016 to “strengthen families and individuals by increasing faith and trust in Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ and His Atonement”. The objectives are:

1. Honour the Sabbath day at home and at Church
2. Increase Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance
3. Hasten the Work of Salvation
4. Seek the blessings of the temple.

 

Mexico Area Plan (describe here):

“The Area Presidency puts a lot of focus on the self sufficiency so that the missionaries have less responsibility and the members can do more. A lot of people are just so young in the church so they still dont really understand how the church works yet but with time it will get better.

“The new area plan came out for 2016. I felt a little weird because i remember when the plan of 2015 came out. It is a similiar plan and its perfect to help strengthen the church for us. It focuses a lot on the daily prayer and scripture study, paying tithing, keeping the day of rest, doing temple work, and simple things like that so that the members become more converted and receive more blessings in their life.”

 

We blogged about the 2015 Mexico Area Plan here:

1. Fast with faith, pay a generous fast offering and a full tithe
2. Everyday help someone to receive the teachings and ordinances of the gospel that will help them return to our Heavenly Father
3. Find names of your own ancestors and provide the ordinances for them in the temple.

Returned Missionary Commitment–Signature Required

Returned Missionary Commitment--Signature Required

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