Monthly Archives: March 2012

City Creek Mall

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Salt Lake City, Utah was founded by leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1847, as they arrived after a difficult overland trek to escape religious persecution. Over time, the church has grown from a small, regional group to a world-wide, thriving major religion. Likewise, the city has grown into a major center of commerce and industry, with residents of many religions. Despite the broadened scope of each, a special relationship between the Church and its headquarter city remains.

Salt Lake City has faced many of the challenges common to cities: upper-income flight to the suburbs, aging infrastructure, an influx of low-income residents with heavier claims on public services, decreased economic vitality, and increased crime. Like many cities, Salt Lake City has sought to attract businesses in order to provide jobs for residents and prevent the degradation of the city environment.

The Church has shared the city’s concern for economic vitality, both out of concern for the residents’ livelihoods and because of the Church’s downtown Temple Square which attracts thousands of visitors annually. Were Salt Lake City to suffer urban decay, these visitors would be affected.

In recent years the area around Temple Square in Salt Lake City looked likely to suffer exactly that fate. Many businesses had moved to other areas of the city and the area was becoming run down, decreasing the quality of life for residents.

The Church has responded in two ways. First, through its Inner City Project, the Church has assigned service missionaries to provide job training, transportation, and other help to inner-city Salt Lake City residents. The hope is that the city environment will benefit from residents who are less plagued by joblessness, health troubles, and feeling hopeless to rise economically. Second, the Church has invested in the City Creek Mall as an economic development project, in hopes that the construction and other jobs will provide opportunity for residents and that the new infrastructure will stave off urban decay.

Some criticize the church for its investment, judging that the funds could have been better spent elsewhere. (The total estimated cost of the project is $1.5 billion; it is not known how this was shared between the church and its development partner, The Taubman Company.) These criticisms ignore the merits of the Church’s strategy–the City Creek Center addresses the roots of urban decay, and the Inner City Project addresses its symptoms. There are many places in the world with greater need–and the Church’s humanitarian programs commit significant resources to them–but the Church shouldn’t be condemned for helping its own neighbors in the city to which it has special historical ties.

Whatever funds the Church spend on City Creek did not come from member tithes; the funds came from returns on church properties and investments. The Church owns these assets from the happy historical accident of acquiring them many decades ago and prudent management since then.

FAIR Questions 3: Sharing the Book of Mormon

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FAIR Questions features a question that was submitted to FAIR volunteers through the FAIR website at fairlds.org. The answer in each episode is compiled from the various responses provided by the volunteers.

And now for the question:

I just want to start out by saying that I have the highest respect for all church apologists. I am 19 years old and just saving up some money before I send my papers in to serve a mission. I download the podcasts from FAIR and I listen to them all the time. I just want to say, thank you so much for everything you do. After having some questions of my own answered, my testimony has been strengthened beyond words. I have also been able to help others because of what I have learned from the podcasts and books I have read. I just want to ask a question from the point of view of someone who deals with non-members and apostate members on a daily basis: What is the best advice you can give me as a prospective missionary in regards to teaching people about The Book of Mormon? I know it’s a very general question, but if you could leave one ounce of your knowledge with me it would be a blessing to me!

And now for the answer:

Thank you for your kind words. We here at FAIR are not compensated monetarily. Our only “payment” is kind words of gratitude that we get from individuals such as you.

Congratulations on your decision to serve a mission! Although it will be challenging at times, it will be completely worth it.

Can you think of anything the world needs right now more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Unfortunately, the world is extremely divided as to what is meant by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible alone, as magnificent as it is, has not united the believing world under one Lord, one faith or one baptism. In fact, it seems that the Bible itself has never come under more criticism or skepticism at any time since its inception than it is today. Many around the world are concluding that the Bible is irrelevant in their lives. They say that Jesus may have been just a legend or a mere myth which, over time, transformed him into a God in the minds of a group of people who came to call themselves Christians. The very value of scripture seems to be assailed constantly.

What if there was a record that shared a common genesis with the Biblical record, yet was maintained and revealed to us from a separate nation apart from Judea? What if another people, or several groups of people had preserved their own witness of the divinity of Christ? What would be its value to the world today? What if there was a volume of scripture, apart from the Bible, that bore witness of the foundational truths contained in the Bible? What if that volume came to us as a result of God calling a Prophet today to once again bear witness that Jesus is the very Eternal God manifesting Himself to all nations – a book that reminds us of the important promises and Covenants made long centuries ago, to a people long dead, which are being fulfilled in our day? Wouldn’t that go a long way toward showing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that he remembers his covenants to the children of men, and that no matter how long it seems to take to the human mind, He has not forgotten or forsaken his ancient promises?

The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 before Joseph Smith was even 25 years old. In a few short years you will be that same age. Even with all the educational advantages you will have between now and the time you are that age, can you imagine producing a volume like the Book of Mormon? Could you sit day after day in front of a scribe and recite endless passages of Isaiah, or even Jacob chapter 5? Could you speak for days in one long paragraph, without any double checking, without any punctuation, without any proof reading, and then submit the final product of hundreds of pages to a publisher?

Several months before the Book of Mormon was published, Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants was written. It is inspiring to note that this section was given by the young Prophet to his father, who had encouraged Joseph to listen to the Angel Moroni when Joseph had confided in him about the angel’s visit almost five years previously. Looking back over the nearly two hundred years since this revelation was given, its prophetic import is astounding:

“Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. For behold the field is white already to harvest: and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul…. Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you, Amen.”

This revelation was given in February of 1829. The Church would not be officially established for over another year. Yet the young Prophet had the temerity to predict that this effort, the Restoration of the Gospel was going to result in a Marvelous Work. You live in a day and time where over a hundred Temples dot the earth, with dozens under construction. You are going on your mission at a time when there are nearly fourteen million people around the globe who are now members of the Church established by a twenty five year old Prophet and five other men on April 6th, 1830. Before you are much older, this Church will celebrate its Bicentennial. Who would have gambled on the chances of this movement in its infancy in February of 1829? Yet that is what young Joseph did. Why? Because he told the truth. He knew that God was behind the work he had begun and nothing was ultimately going to defeat it.

Section 5 of the Doctrine and Covenants was also written before the Book of Mormon was published. It tells us that there will be three other witnesses who will see the plates and bear witness to the world that they are real. They will affix their testimony to the volume and millions upon millions will read their words and know that they, not just Joseph, have actually seen the plates with their eyes and will bear solemn and consistent testimony that it is the work of God, and not man, as long as that work is published to the world.

What kind of audacity would it take for a complete fraud and a forger to make such a statement before the witnesses had seen the plates he supposedly didn’t have?  Imagine after making such a prediction in the absence of real plates, that you were to actually find three people to lie for you, stand by their testimonies despite the fact that they would all become estranged from you at some point, and who would never deny their testimonies regardless of suffering, persecution, loss of reputation and cruel mockery even decades after your untimely death at the hands of a mob? Where in the world can you find an instance where a confederacy of liars ever withstood such a test? What could possibly hold these witnesses to their word under the most trying circumstances even after the ring leader of the conspiracy was long dead and could no longer hold any influence over them?

When weighed in the balance, as incredible as it seems at first glance, the only consistent explanation for the success of this Church, and for the lives of the witnesses and most especially for the unshakeable testimony of Joseph Smith despite all the forces arrayed against him is, that the Book of Mormon is true. Every other explanation seems to wither with the test of time or persecution. No other explanation can account for the rise of this Church out of total obscurity to what it is today.

The Book of Mormon is tangible evidence for the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. As Hugh Nibley once said, books don’t write themselves. Somebody had to have written the Book of Mormon. The question is whether it is ancient or modern. Critics who wish to dismiss Joseph Smith as a fraud must confront this book.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently said:

“I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: ‘a stone of stumbling, … a rock of offence,’  a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work. Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. ‘They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,’ they declared. ‘Wherefore, we know of a surety that the work is true.’”

With regard to how to teach from and about the Book of Mormon, follow the suggestions that are found in the missionary manual Preach My Gospel. If your investigators have unusual or difficult questions, you can always refer them to our FAIRwiki where many of these kinds of questions are addressed. But remember that it is the Spirit that will convert people to the gospel. And the Spirit will confirm the testimony of Christ that is found in the Book of Mormon. Remember that the Book of Mormon has the potential, if it is read, to re-convert an unbelieving generation to Jesus Christ.

Finally, always keep in mind that our witness is primarily the testimony of Christ and his apostles, that he died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven, and that he will come again in glory. Everything else is merely an appendage to that witness. Keep that foremost in your mind as you engage both the honest in heart as well as the rest of the world, and it should be a great help to you.

If there is an issue that you have been wondering about, you can often find the latest answers at the FAIR wiki, found at fairmormon.org. If you can’t find your answer there, feel free to pose your question to the FAIR apologists by visiting the FAIR contact page. Occasionally, such a question will be featured on FAIR Questions. Before questions are used for this podcast, permission is obtained from the questioner.

FAIR Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to podcast@fairlds.org, or join the conversation at fairblog.org.

Tell your friends about us and help increase the popularity of this podcast by subscribing in iTunes and by writing a review.

Music for this episode was provided courtesy of Lawrence Green.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.

John Carter

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I went to see John Carter of Mars last night (bear with me… this is actually NOT off-topic from apologetics), and the theater was gracious enough to give me a (virtually) private screening in 3D. ;)

Loved the movie (although apparently no one else does, and my teenage kids refused to come with me, saying all their friends hated it…).

But (believe it or not) I actually mentioned this movie in my home teaching message earlier this month about prophets, and the role of prophets.

Why?

Well John Carter is really over-the-top fantasy. Mars does not look like this, as we all know. But we need to remember that the first John Carter story was written 100 years ago. This was only 20 years or so after an Italian astronomer looked through a telescope at Mars and thought he saw canali (it means channels, but it got translated into English as canals). Everyone thought that he had seen signs of civilization on Mars. This included Percival Lowell, the top astronomer in the United States at that time. So when Edgar Rice Burroughs took to his typewriter a few years later to write fantasy tales about this Mars, he was building off of the best scientific evidence of the day. It was not utter fantasy, in other words.

And this is decades AFTER Brigham Young had speculated about men on the moon or men on the sun. So while BY may look foolish today, and generates reams of hilarity penned by the antis, he would not have looked foolish in his own day (and in fact in all the anti-Mormon hysteria generated in those days, nobody ever remarked on Brigham Young’s silly non-scientific ideas), and not for a generation or two afterward either.

I brought all this up to my home teaching families. Prophets are not supposed to be super-scientists. But I said the antis will object anyway, saying that prophets cannot make scientific mistakes like that, even if the world does not know better, because God would tell them how the universe really works.

But would He really, I asked. Did God tell Isaiah that you cannot stop the sun and make it go backward 15 degrees? Did God tell Moses and Abraham about quantum theory? Or disabuse them of the notion that the Heavens are a dome over the world? Well, if not, what DOES he tell prophets? The short answer is that He tells prophets how to guide the people through the perils of the day. Specifically, I mentioned the Church Presidency message on lds.org that changes several times a week, with messages on such topics as civility in politics, or generosity and moderation in dealing with immigration.

Surely this is more important than knowing whether there really are canals on Mars, and populated by beautiful Martian princesses waiting to be saved by dashing Confederate cavalry officers… ;)

David Farnsworth
Tigard OR 97224

Mormon FAIR-Cast 80: The controversy surrounding Mormon baptisms for the dead

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In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 18, 2012, Martin Tanner and Steve Densley, Jr. of FAIR discuss the recent controversy regarding the practice of baptisms for the dead as practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How did this controversy arise? Why do Mormons perform this ordinance? Were baptisms for the dead really practiced in the ancient Church? These and other topics are discussed.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 79: Does Mitt Romney belong to a “racist religion”?

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In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 11, 2012, Martin Tanner and the president of FAIR, Scott Gordon, discuss the recent allegation of a Florida minister that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a “racist religion.” The minister has called on Mitt Romney to, as the minister puts it: “openly renounce his racist Mormon Religion.” Tanner and Gordon discuss the past history of racism that was pervasive in many Churches, even before the founding of the LDS Church, and the way in which some racist attitudes and myths may have crept into the thinking of some early members of the Church. They emphasize the more recent statements from the Church that “unequivocally condemn[] racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” (See Official Statement here.)

Listeners should note that the first part of this recording was cut off. This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

“FAIR Conversations,” Episode 16: Max Mueller, on blacks and the priesthood

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The most recent public discussion on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and race was spurred by the comments of a BYU religious education professor which were published in the Washington Post. Professor Randy Bott related justifications for the ban which included ideas about the curse of Cain, and the restriction being a means of divine protection. An official response from the LDS Church quickly appeared online at mormonnewsroom.org. It read, in part:

The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints….The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form…We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

Max Mueller, a Ph.D. candidate in religious history at Harvard University, wrote a response for Slate which stated:

For many Mormons, reading Bott’s words was like unearthing a theological dinosaur long thought extinct but suddenly rediscovered in the corner of an obscure BYU office. His positions seem radically out of place in a modern church with an international membership that includes probably some 500,000 Mormons of African descent. The church’s expensive and ubiquitous “I’m a Mormon” public relations campaign has been carefully and deliberately multiethnic; Mormon leaders want the world to view the religion as the diverse global community it has become. Unfortunately, Bott’s beliefs, though arcane, represent a strain of Mormonism that has persisted well past the 1978 revelation.

Mueller, also the associate editor of a forthcoming online journal called “Religion & Politics,” joins host Blair Hodges for the latest episode of FAIR Conversations.

The views expressed by Mr. Mueller here or elsewhere do not necessarily represent the views of FAIR or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to podcast@fairlds.org. Or, join the conversation in the comments here. 

Runtime: 89:51

To download, right click the “Download” link below and select “Save link as…”
You can also download the episode or subscribe to all episodes of the Mormon FAIR-Cast in iTunes here.

 

______________________________

Apologies for the occasional sound pops in this episode, production was a bit rushed. See also the FAIR Blog posts by Mike Parker and Scott Gordon which also include links to other discussions on this subject.

 

 

“FAIR Conversations,” Episode 15: Matthew Bowman on his new book, “The Mormon People”

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The latest, greatest one-volume history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published just in time for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. It’s Matthew Bowman’s The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith. He’s been all over the place since the book came out, including appearances in Slate, the Huffington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In this episode, Bowman talks about the genesis and production of his new book. Find out why he describes Bruce R. McConkie as a “Progressive-minded” leader, and why he sees the LDS Correlation department as being a sort of “catechism” constructor. We also discuss Bowman’s view of how the media has treated Mormonism during this, the latest of many Mormon moments.

Bowman earned his Ph.D. in American religious history at Georgetown University. He currently teaches that exact subject at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. He’s also the associate editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and the author of a variety of award-winning articles on Mormonism.

Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to podcast@fairlds.org. Or, join the conversation in the comments here. 

Runtime: 69:48

To download, right click the “Download” link below and select “Save link as…”
You can also download the episode or subscribe to all episodes of the Mormon FAIR-Cast in iTunes here.

FAIR Issues 32: A Lutheran bishop’s perspective on Mormon baptism for the dead

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The Mormon practice of baptism for the dead has been the subject of heated discussion of late by many who seem to not understand the practice. Suprisingly, one of the most sympathetic views of this ancient practice come from an eminent New Testament scholar named Krister Stendahl. Professor Stendahl served as chaplain and dean of Harvard Divinity School and as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm (i.e., effectively, as the head of the state church of Sweden). Professor Daniel Peterson shares how Professor Stendahl became the author of the article on baptism for the dead in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

The articles referenced by Dr. Peterson include: 1) “Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity,” by Roger D. Cook, David L. Paulsen and Kendel J. Christensen; 2) “Baptism for the Dead in Early Christianity,” by David L. Paulsen and Brock M. Mason; 3) “Redeeming the Dead: Tender Mercies, Turning of Hearts, and Restoration of Authority,” by David L. Paulsen, Kendel J. Christensen and Martin Pulido; and 4) “Redemption of the Dead: Continuing Revelation after Joseph Smith,” by David L. Paulsen, Judson Burton, Kendel J. Christensen and Martin Pulido. The first three are accessible online at maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/; the most recent article is available in print, but hasn’t yet been put online.

Dr. Peterson also referenced the video entitled “Why Mormons Build Temples.”

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, where he also serves as editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative and as director of advancement for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. He is the founder of MormonScholarsTestify.org. Daniel Peterson is the author of many books and articles, including Offenders for a Word, which is available, along with other talks by Brother Peterson, at the FAIR Bookstore.

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