Elder Dallin H. Oaks – Focus and Priorities

Focus and Priorities
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
April 2001

We have thousands of times more available information than Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. Yet which of us would think ourselves a thousand times more educated or more serviceable to our fellowmen than they? The sublime quality of what these two men gave to us—including the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address—was not attributable to their great resources of information, for their libraries were comparatively small by our standards. Theirs was the wise and inspired use of a limited amount of information.

Available information wisely used is far more valuable than multiplied information allowed to lie fallow.

Volunteers needed to take online survey on marriage and the media

A Penn State Ph.D. Candidate needs volunteers to take an online survey on media coverage of the marriage debate and one’s views on the matter.

Supporters of marriage are needed for an online research study concerning communication messages about how marriage is defined within the United States.

Share your opinions by Nov. 7. Click here to take the survey, or copy and paste this link into your browser: http://pennstatecomm.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5q0jBQGKH2DXFWs

The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete. You are eligible to participate if you are at least 18 years old. This research study is being conducted as part of a doctoral dissertation at The Pennsylvania State University. It is NOT funded or commissioned by any political, religious, or advocacy organization.

The survey was interesting and worthwhile.

What’s the difference between a cult and Christianity?

I actually liked this defense of Mormonism from a non-believing perspective.

I’m a secular humanist, but Maher’s statement is incredible. How are Mormonism’s unique beliefs any “more ridiculous” than believing that a virgin gave birth, that five loaves and two fishes fed 5,000 hungry people, that spitting in mud and rubbing it in a blind man’s eyes made him see, that you can walk on water or that people dead for centuries will be brought back to life looking just as they did in their prime? And on and on…

My point is not to make fun of Mormons or Christians — people are free to believe whatever they want (but they can’t force their beliefs on others). No, my point is that Mormon beliefs only appear strange because they are not commonplace, not part of the culture. So leave the Mormons alone.

Why is Mormonism declared “weird” because we don’t believe miracles and faith-demanding events only happened in ancient times? That, and we are not allowed to claim we worship our Savior simply because we don’t believe in a political declaration that was written by a committee 300 years after he lived.

The Daily Show has a similar point in its own unique way.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 – Hardcore Sects Edition – Mormonism
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Maybe they like being called Gentiles?

A look at how other religious groups view Mormonsat who is least likely to have problems with a Mormon president is interesting. Especially about our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Why do Jews feel warmly toward Mormons? It cannot be because of a political alliance, as the groups are political opposites. Sixty-four percent of Jews are Democrats while 63% of Mormons are Republicans. Nor does it seem to be explained by a group’s perceived support of Israel. Mormons and evangelical Christians both tend to be vocal advocates for Israel, yet Jews give evangelicals a lower rating than Muslims.

We suspect that Jews’ warmth toward Mormons stems from solidarity with another group that is small and subject to intolerance. Jews and Mormons are the two American groups most likely to report that other people disparage their religious beliefs. Roughly 15% of both Jews and Mormons say that they hear derogatory comments “often.”

The warmth of Jews toward Mormons reminds us that, even at a time when religion and politics are increasingly intertwined, religious comity can transcend partisan differences. But this affinity is unlikely to have much political impact: Jews are typically loyal Democrats, and at any rate they are a small slice of the electorate.

However, I think the opposition by Evangelicals is overstated. Even the Pastor Jeffries, despite his political hackery of the past few weeks, has said he could endorse and vote for Romney.

Neal A. Maxwell – “Be of Good Cheer”

Be of Good Cheer
Neal A. Maxwell
October 1982

Thus we see, brothers and sisters, how we are justified in being of good cheer for ultimate reasons—reasons to be distinguished, however, from proximate circumstances. If, for instance, our attitude towards life depends upon the praise of men, the level of interest rates, the outcome of a particular election or athletic contest—we are too much at the mercy of men and circumstance. Nor should our gratitude for the gift of mortal life depend upon the manner in which we die, for surely none of us will rush eagerly forward to tell Jesus how we died!

Not another Mormon Speech

Fortunately, Mitt Romney is ruling out giving another “Mormon Speech” like the one he gave last campaign cycle.

“I think the great majority of American people want to select the person who’s the most capable of getting our country going again, with strong values and a strong economy and a strong military,” the Republican presidential candidate said at a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday afternoon. “Among the things that are unique and exceptional about our country is the fact that, in America, we recognize and appreciate differences in faith.”

His 2007 speech “Faith in America” did little to quell the media fascination with his religion as it is still going strong four years later. The best way to be treated like any other politician is to act as one and not like the an apologist super-missionary that some want him to be.

Elder Richard G. Scott – The Power of Scripture

The Power of Scripture
Richard G. Scott
General Conference October 2011

The scriptures provide the strength of authority to our declarations when they are cited correctly. They can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed. Their use provides a foundation of truth that can be awakened by the Holy Ghost. Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world.

Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.

The New York Times mocks Mormonism

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd launches a salvo against Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith by cobbling together the usual jeers and criticisms from such Mormon experts as Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, and those angry with baptisms of the dead, particularly of Holocaust victims. She also includes Richard Bushman and a member of the BYU religion faculty.

But her intention is clear: to roll out any claim that Mormonsim is weird, different, and an anyone who is a believer is unworthy of being taken seriously. Not unheard of but expect more of this from the Left as Mitt Romney gets closer to threatening President Obama.

Fortunately, Commentary – a conservative political magazine with a Jewish perspective – takes Dowd and the Times to rightfully task:

Of course, as she admitted, it’s easy to mock any faith, and the columnist is well-known for having a negative opinion about the Catholic faith in which she was raised. But would the Times let her get away with poking fun at the skullcaps or items of clothing associated with religious Jews such as the fringed garment many Orthodox Jews wear? Would she have mocked Muslims for their burqas or head coverings? But in an era where a satire about Mormons is a Broadway hit and many liberals worry about Romney’s ability to beat President Obama next fall, right now it’s open season in the Grey Lady on Latter Day Saints.

It should be specified the Mormon practice of seeking out every name of everyone who ever lived — even the victims of the Holocaust — and posthumously baptizing them into their faith was deeply offensive to non-Mormons. To its credit, the official LDS Church finally gave it up in the 1990s, but the ill will that this ritual created still lingers.

The Media’s One Word Obsession

Mitt Romney has essentially been running for president for five years. By now, you would think that those who knew of him would identify him with some of his accomplishments: successful businessman, salvaging the Winter Olympics, governor of Massachusetts, heck even “Romneycare.” Perhaps a proposed policy initiative or a campaign platform.

And yet the Washington Post seems surprised that among poll respondents asked to define a candidate by a one word description, Gov. Romney is overwhelmingly known as a “Mormon.”

Romney during both campaigns has repeatedly explained that he is not running to be “pastor in chief.” He reluctantly gave a J.F.K.-like speech to appease the calls for him to explain his religion. He wisely side-stepped this by instead emphasizing our nation’s principles of religious freedom and plurality. And yet after all this time he is still saddled with what the Post describes his “one word problem.”

Gee, why would he still be so overwhelmingly defined by his religion?

Newsweek Mitt Romney cover Mormon A Mormon's Journey

Time Mitt Romney cover Mormon Debate over Mormon Faith

Newsweek Mitt Romney cover The Mormon Moment

CNN debate last night broaches Mormonism

THe GOP debate last night in Las Vegas brought up the issue of whether it is fair to consider a candidate’s religion. I liked Sen. Santorum’s and Gov. Romney’s answers the best. I would say faith matters but only as it translates into values that may affect policy. Debating theology is a horrible way to select a president.

From the transcript, here’s the relevant part.

COOPER: And welcome back to the CNN GOP debate live from the Venetian in Las Vegas. Let’s continue. We’ve got an e-mail question that was left at cnnpolitics.com. This is from a Mike Richards who says: “With the controversy surrounding Robert Jeffress, is it acceptable to let the issue of a candidate’s faith shape the debate?”

Senator Santorum, this is in reference to a Baptist pastor who, at the Values Voter Summit, after introducing Governor Rick Perry, said of — said that “Mitt Romney is not a Christian,” and that “Mormonism is a cult.” Those were his words.



COOPER: Should voters pay attention to a candidate’s religion?

SANTORUM: I think they should pay attention to the candidate’s values, what the candidate stands for.


SANTORUM: That’s what is at play. And the person’s faith — and you look at that faith and what the faith teaches with respect to morals and values that are reflected in that person’s belief structure. So that’s — those are important things.

I — I’m a Catholic. Catholic has social teachings. Catholic has teachings as to what’s right and what’s wrong. And those are legitimate things for voters to look at, to say if you’re a faithful Catholic, which I try to be — fall short all the time, but I try to be — and — and it’s a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and — and how you would govern this country.

With respect to what is the road to salvation, that’s a whole different story. That’s not applicable to what — what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.
Continue reading

M. Russell Ballard – “Small and Simple Things”

Small and Simple Things
M. Russell Ballard
April 1990

The Lord has graciously provided the means for conversion even in the most simple and humble of circumstances. Unfortunately, some of us look beyond the mark and depend too much on buildings, budgets, programs, and activities for conversion rather than on the small and simple things that are central to the gospel. We need not look beyond our own hearts to experience the sweet spiritual feelings promised to those who obey God. That is why a new member in the most humble conditions can experience the gospel as deeply as a lifetime member who was raised in the shadow of Church headquarters.

Elder Oaks testifies in opposition to reducing charitable deductions

Elder Oaks testified before the U.S. Senate today, in opposition to proposals to curtail the charitable deduction.

“While I appear here as a religious leader, the possible impairment of the charitable deduction in order to enhance tax revenues is not a religious issue. It is not a political issue. It is not even an economic issue,” Oaks said in his prepared testimony. “It poses a question about the nature and future of America.”

President Obama’s Jobs bill is paid in part by limiting the charitable deductions for those making more than $250,000.

UPDATE: Here’s video of Elder Oaks’ testimony. Interesting, he also spoke on behalf of representative of the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here’s to uniting behind common values, regardless of theology!

And here’s a copy of his prepared remarks [PDF].

Top reasons why Mormonism is not a cult

The City Weekly, not usually a friend to the LDS Church, makes some good points, “8 Reasons Mormonism Isn’t A Cult:”

5. Cults separate you from relatives; Mormons force members to hang out with their families. . .

3. Cults are difficult to leave alive; annoying ex-Mormons are everywhere.

Not all are great, but some are funny AND true. But, if you still wish to bitterly cling to the notion that Mormonism is a cult, feel free to be validated at MormonCult.org.

Anti-Mormon emails not quite linked to Perry campaign

The Daily Beast’s headline reads, “Perry Camp’s Anti-Mormon Message.”

The Daily Beast has obtained a series of e-mails that show an influential evangelical activist with close ties to the Perry campaign stressing the political importance of “juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false God of Mormonism,” and calling for a “clarion call to Evangelical pastors and pews” that will be “the key to the primary” for Perry.

But the article doesn’t link the emails to anyone on the campaign. At most it sounds like ministers who support Gov. Perry have discussed using anti-Mormonism to hurt Romney. But there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a direct tie to the Perry campaign.

However, it seems more damaging that Perry refuses to disavow the pastor who kicked off the past week’s Anti-Mormon brouhaha. And yet, Perry and his wife have the temerity to claim their campaign has suffered because of their faith? It looks like Perry studied the Huckabee 2008 playbook on how to have it both ways.

Neal A. Maxwell – “A Brother Offended”

“A Brother Offended”
Neal A. Maxwell
April 1982

Quickly forgotten by those who are offended is the fact that the Church is “for the perfecting of the saints” (Eph. 4:12); it is not a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, we do notice each other’s weaknesses. But we should not celebrate them. Let us be grateful for the small strides that we and others make, rather than rejoice in the shortfalls. And when mistakes occur, let them become instructive, not destructive. . .

Besides, if the choice is between reforming other Church members or ourselves, is there really any question about where we should begin? The key is to have our eyes wide open to our own faults and partially closed to the faults of others—not the other way around! The imperfections of others never release us from the need to work on our own shortcomings.

Neal A. Maxwell – “O, Divine Redeemer”

O, Divine Redeemer
Neal A. Maxwell
October 1981

How dare some treat His ministry as if it were all beatitudes and no declaratives! How myopic it is to view His ministry as all crucifixion and no resurrection! How provincial to perceive it as all Calvary and no Palmyra! All rejection at a village called Capernaum and no acceptance in the City of Enoch! All relapse and regression in ancient Israel and no Bountiful with its ensuing decades of righteousness!

Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Red Sea and of Sinai, the Resurrected Lord, the Spokesman for the Father in the theophany at Palmyra—a Palmyra pageant with a precious audience of one!

That NY Times article Pres. Monson mentioned

That NY Times article Pres. Monson mentioned is David Brooks’ column, “If It Feels Right.” I don’t usually read Brooks but it made some waves in the conservative commentariat a few weeks ago. It’s an excellent read about society’s increasing inability to instill a sense of morality.

Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.

Neal A. Maxwell – “The Net Gathers of Every Kind”

The Net Gathers of Every Kind
Neal A. Maxwell
October 1980

Let us listen lovingly and encouragingly as all newcomers utter their first halting public prayers and give their first tender talks, feeling unready and unworthy—but so glad to belong. We can tell them, by the way, that the sense of inadequacy never seems to go away.

However, what we now are as a people is clearly not enough, for “Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness” (D&C 82:14). As in the time of Alma, the bad conduct of a few members slows the work (see Alma 39:11). Indeed, Zion will not be fully redeemed until after we have been first chastened (see D&C 100:13). Let us, therefore, not be too long-suffering with our own shortcomings. And when we are given thorns in the flesh, let us not demand to see the rose garden (see 2 Cor. 12:7)!

Let us participate in the rigorous calisthenics of daily improvement, and not just in the classroom rhetoric of eternal progression!

Ten Years

Angel Moroni Manhattan LDS Mormon Temple September 11 9/11
Manhattan Temple, 9-11 Tribute in Light by EmpireDreamState

President George W. Bush, Dedication of Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville, Pennsylvania:

“One of the lessons of 9-11 is that evil is real and so is courage.”

President Monson, “9/11 destruction allowed us to spiritually rebuild“:

If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from our experience of that fateful day, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us. We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. It should not require tragedy for us to remember Him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving Him our faith and trust. We too should be with Him in every season.

The way to be with God in every season is to strive to be near Him every week and each day. We truly “need Him every hour,” not just in hours of devastation. We must speak to Him, listen to Him, and serve Him. If we wish to serve Him, we should serve our fellow men. We will mourn the lives we lose, but we should also fix the lives that can be mended and heal the hearts that may yet be healed.

Two Mormon political dynasties

Business Insider takes a look at eight political dynasties (unfortunately it calls them the “New Kennedys”). Among them are the Romneys and the Udalls. I keep forgetting that Mike Lee is included among the Udalls along with former-Senator Gordon Smith and cousins Senators Mark and Tom Udall. Interesting how a party split followed family lines.

Patriarch David King Udall, a Mormon polygamist, had 12 kids, six with each of his two wives. The descendants of his wife Eliza have been Democrats, and descendants of his wife Ida have been Republicans.

Another Political Race in Utah, Another Mormon Card Played

“Uh oh” I thought when I saw the SL Trib’s headline, “Newcomer, Mormon card spice up Salt Lake City race.” Not another invocation of one candidate being holier than the other.

Fortunately that was not the case.

It started in late July, when a postcard using LaMalfa’s campaign logo was sent to an unknown number of District 2 households. It paints LaMalfa as the only progressive, non-Mormon and LGBT-friendly candidate, noting he participated in June’s gay pride parade.

“A vote for Van Turner or Michael Clara is a vote for more narrow-mindedness,” the mystery mailer read. “The two other candidates are Mormon Republicans — ENOUGH SAID.”

All three candidates deny sending the postcard, though the LaMalfa and Clara camps point fingers at each other.

Good for the Tribune for reporting this, but not much else is mentioned. Why the casual shrug of the shoulders? How often are political mailers attacking candidates for being Mormon? Is this a first for Utah? The mailer probably isn’t attempting the reverse psychology of last year’s “temple mailer” (which purported to align candidate Mike Lee as a worthy Mormon but was actually sent by a Senator Bennet ally).

I wouldn’t want too much made of this, and fortunately not much is. But it strikes me as very strange that such an attack makes good politics in Salt Lake’s west side.

Neal A. Maxell – “The Women of God”

The Women of God
Neal A. Maxell
April 1978

We men know the women of God as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, associates, and friends. You seem to tame us and to gentle us, and, yes, to teach us and to inspire us. For you, we have admiration as well as affection, because righteousness is not a matter of role, nor goodness a matter of gender. In the work of the Kingdom, men and women are not without each other, but do not envy each other, lest by reversals and renunciations of role we make a wasteland of both womanhood and manhood.