Filed under: General Conference, Mormon Missionaries
When the Prophet stands up to talk at the beginning of the LDS General Conference, I usually expect some interesting announcement. Not many years ago, we were surprised by President Thomas S. Monson announcing the construction of the Rome Temple. This time also, he started by announcing the construction of a couple of new temples.
However, since President Hinckley increased the construction of temples at an unprecedented pace, I am not surprised now when the Prophet announces “only” a couple of new temples (unless it is in Rome or perhaps in Jackson County, Missouri or in Jerusalem).
After informing us about the construction of the two new temples in Arizona and Peru, President Monson quickly changed subject, and said:
Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter--namely, missionary service.
The presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, as the prophet himself mentioned in this General Conference, is a very demanding office, and a president needs oversee and direct all aspects of the work of the Lord on the earth. However, prophets are usually remembered for some specific aspects of the work that were emphasized during their administration.
For me, among all the many things that were accomplished by President Hinckley, one stands out above all the others, and this is the new emphasis and expansion of temples building.
For the first few months of President Monson’s presidency, I was asking myself what specific and perhaps unique contribution he would make as the new president of the LDS Church. Obviously he is making and will make many contributions, but after this announcement, it is not too unreasonable to assume that more is to be expected in relation to missionary work under President Monson. Perhaps the next few years we will see even more emphasis placed on missionary work.
Everybody who is interested in Mormonism, by now already know what happened, President Thomas S. Monson announced during the Church 182nd Semiannual General Conference that men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at age 19. He said:
I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the opportunity of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of the age of 19, – said President Monson. – As we prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service we have also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve. Today, I’m pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.
When he made the announcement I was very happy, and as it happened before, I had the feeling that the change was right, done at the right time, even if I absolutely didn’t see it coming. This is one of the things that impress me about the Mormon Church and the prophets, and which confirms to me over and over again that they are inspired instruments of the Lord: the fact that they make announcements that are revelations, and like all revelations, they are a surprise, but they have a good taste. They make sense, and since they are so necessary and appropriate, we usually end up thinking that those changes should have made before. However, usually they are right also because they happen at the right time.
I had always wandered why sisters were supposed to wait for so long, and why elders could not serve at eighteen. I had been happy to discover last year that in some countries elders were beginning to serve at age eighteen. Based on that, I could have expected such change to be extended to the rest of the world, but the lowering of the age at which sisters can serve, it was a completely different story. The two changes combined have more implications for missionary work.
I have read the comments of several people about this change, especially sisters, mostly happy but at times a little sad because the change did not arrive earlier, so that they could have gone on a mission. Among many other more important consequences, someone suggested that now perhaps young men will suffer a little smaller competition from girls to access BYU and other LDS schools, because more of them will go on missions!
I had asked myself in the past why there was such a difference in age between missionary callings for elders and sisters. There is really no point to speculate about it, especially now that is all in the past, but focusing on the future, I can see many good outcomes following this announcement.
What really matters, however, is contained in President Monson’s words:
What does this mean for you? First of all it means that God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world.
The Lord ia hastening His work. This is the essence of what just happened. Before we could do without the 18 years old elders and the 19 years old sisters. Now we cannot. Since President Kimball especially, the total number of missionaries had been growing quickly for years, until they passed the 60,000 mark. However, in the last few years, that number had declined, until it went below 52,000. Now the number is back close to 60,000, but with this change, I suppose it could reach 100,00o in a few years. This will make a huge impact at all levels and in all aspects of the Church.
Finally, many missions that were starving for more missionaries will receive more of them, and many new missions will be opened and the work will be hastened.
This is obviously another sign that the Second Coming of the Lord may not be too far away.
This morning I read an article about some of Romney’s supporters in Utah who adopted a well-known Mormon slogan “Choose the Right” to campaign for Romney.
While Mitt Romney has repeatedly made clear that his Mormon faith has no connection to his presidential candidacy, this group of supporters in Utah probably haven’t got the message.
Since in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this slogan is almost everywhere, and considering that the Church has a long and clear history of not supporting political candidates, I believe that this group of supporters are not doing a favor to Mitt Romney or the Church.
To choose the right, according to the Mormon Church’s slogan, is a reminder to obey the commandments, and you can still be a good Mormon and not necessarily vote for Romney.
According to BuzzFeed, one of the group’s leaders said
“We sought a slogan that would simply but directly capture our message and be the focus of our cause….While we considered other possibilities, ‘Choose the Right,’ a phrase familiar to our faith and upbringing, made sense; simple but direct.”
I believe that this group of Romney’s supporters are free to use this slogan, if they think that is the best they can come up with. However, while Romney is trying to become the President of all Americans, and seems to be overcoming faith-based attacks by his opponents, this kind of support probably goes in the wrong direction, even if it is limited to places like Utah or Idaho.
Finally, it seems parochial and a little bit patronizing to me to use that slogan in this context.
At the end of the day, however, most slogans and many political discussions are also superficial and narrow minded, so probably we can live with one more. It’s part of the game.
The important thing is… choose the right (whatever it may be)!
It may be easier than you think
I started doing Family history or Genealogy many years ago, when I still lived in Italy. I started by simply asking my living relatives about what they remembered about their families. It is always interesting to see how different people react to questions about their ancestors, but most of them are happy to talk about it, and wonder why you are so curious.
After asking my closest relatives all that they knew, I then went to the next stage, I spent a good amount of time researching in catholic parishes information that could help in my search. Fortunately, at least some of my ancestors (and many of my wife's) used to live relatively close to where we lived at that time (in Piedmont).
I could have waited to do that work, after all, those parishes were close to my home!
However, I am glad that I decided not to wait, and moved by a strong desire and urgency, in a few months I found all that I could in that area.
What happened next was that I had the opportunity to move to Brazil and for many years I had no chance to go back to Italy. Even now, when I travel to Italy, I really do not have enough time to work extensively on my family history.
While living in Brazil, I worked as a volunteer for the family history center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assisting members and non members of the church to find their ancestors (many Brazilians have Italian ancestors).
One day, almost by chance, I decided to take a look to the microfilms of Italian records of another part of Italy (Puglia), from where 25% of my ancestors came from. I was surprised and happy to find out that the Church had many microfilms of those areas, and that gave me the opportunity to move forward my work.
Those were the pioneer days of family history. Now we have many new resources made available to genealogists, thanks to the internet and the new programs created by the church and others.
As the Family Search website suggests, to search for our ancestors "can be a life-changing experience. Learning about our ancestors can bring perspective and understanding to your own life. It only takes a few minutes to learn how to get started."
I have tried it and I can say that it was and still is a life-changing experience
The Internet is really a great tool for learning. I remember when I went to school, there was no Internet to turn to when I did not understand something in school, and the text book was not clear enough. When I needed information about something I had to go to the library and hopefully I would find something. But it was really time consuming.
How different is today. If I have a question I can probably find some kind of information online.
So it was when I first joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The material about the Mormon Church was limited, and to find a book translated in my language (Italian) was also rare, we only had a few books. In fact, my initial reason to learn English was to be able to read Church books, including some very interesting book by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (The Messiah series).
However, now is so different, and the material available on the Internet is growing daily. For example, last week someone mentioned to me the well-known (but not well understood, including by me) principle of making our calling and election sure and asked me if I had the book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith or Bruce R. McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary.
I had to say that I did not have them. However, I just did a quick internet search a few minutes ago, and I found very easily what I was looking for, without the need to buy them, or even go to the library.
On page 321 of the Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith we read:
That which hath been hid from before the foundation of the world is revealed to babes and sucklings in the last days.
The world is reserved unto burning in the last days. He shall send Elijah the prophet, and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers.
Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election made sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.
It is a comforting doctrine for fathers and mothers who may be struggling with some of their kids. There is a lot more about calling and election made sure in the Bruce R. McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:325-353.
If you are interested in this topic, it is worthwhile to spend some time reading those pages. Below I copied just the first paragraph, to give you a taste of it.
Among those who have received the gospel, and who are seeking diligently to live its laws and gain eternal life, there is an instinctive and determined desire to make their calling and election sure. Because they have tasted the good things of God and sipped from the fountain of eternal truth, they now seek the divine presence, where they shall know all things, have all power, all might, and all dominion, and in fact be like Him who is the great Prototype of all saved beings–God our Heavenly and Eternal Father. (D&C 132:20.) This is the end objective, the chief goal of all the faithful, and there is nothing greater in all eternity, “for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6:13.)
I am reading an interesting book by Will Durant, ‘The Reformation” and particularly a chapter that discusses the famous Papal Schism.
It was clearly a time of confusion, when politics and religion were mixed. According to Will Durant,
The Papal Schism (1378-1417)…like so many of the forces that prepared the Reformation, was conditioned by the rise of the national state; in effect it was an attempt by France to retain the moral and financial aid of the papacy in her was against England.
Because of the schism, there were two popes, or better two lines of popes both claiming to have the authority.
Will Durant comments:
…the divided Church became the weapon and victim of the hostile camps. Half the Christian world held the other half to be heretical, blasphemous, and excommunicate; each side claimed that sacraments administered by priests of the opposite obedience were worthless, and that children so baptized, the penitents so shriven, the dying so anointed, remained in mortal sin, and were doomed to hell – or at best to limbo – if death should supervene….
The Council of Pisa met on March 25, 1409. It summoned Benedict and Gregory (the two popes) to appear before it; they ignored it; it declared them deposed, elected a new pope, Alexander V, bade him call another council before May 1412, and adjourned. There were now three popes instead of two. Alexander did not help matters by dying (1410), for this cardinals named as his successor John XXIII, the most unmanageable man to mount the pontifical chair since the twenty-second of his name.
Not all popes were elected in a situation so extreme, amid so much confusion, but it is good to know that we have a simple but effective system in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when a new prophet needs to be called.
It is a system in which the senior apostle become the new prophet, so that there is no space for campaigning, confusion, or fights when it is time to decide who will be the next prophet.
Filed under: Mormon Church, Mormonism, News & Politics
It is becoming always more interesting the debate about Mormons and politics. In the next presidential elections there will be two Mormons trying to become the President of the United States, John Huntsman and Mitt Romney.
But as someone said,
one of these two guys could be our next president….the other one is John Huntsman (Colbert report).
Many Americans still do not know what Mormons believe and therefore are a little bit suspicious, but this presidential campaign is helping people to know Mormonism better, or at least it helps to put Mormon beliefs in perspective, even when this is done with a good amount of irony.
For example, again in the Colbert Report, the “weird” beliefs of Mormonism were compared to the similarly “weird” beliefs of Christianity and Judaism.
Mormons believe that Joseph Smith received golden plates from an Angel on a hill, when everybody knows that Moses got stones tablets stones from a burning bush on a mountain
Many may have never noticed how strange is Moses’ story while at the same time they attack Joseph Smith.
In another case, in an article titled ” The ultimate organization Men”, the author James Carrol does an interesting job of explaining the “organizational” propensity of the Mormon Church (and many of its members) as a consequence of Mormon theology. He writes,
For the Mormon God is not like other gods. God did not create the world out of nothing, as in other monotheistic traditions; according to the revelation given to Joseph Smith, God "organized it out of chaos.'' Drawing order out of preexisting "elements. . . [that] may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed,'' God was working with what was already there.
But what most impressed me in this article is when the author humbly recognizes the need of correcting himself from something he had written previously.
The distinction between God as creator and God as organizer matters because the perennial religious call to imitate God made organizing a defining act of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Note to readers: In my last column, I omitted "Jesus Christ'' from the formal name of the Mormon religion – a not insignificant mistake.)
Not everybody who writes about Mormon obviously is so ready to correct their own mistakes, but this campaign will help to make Mormon beliefs better known among the public, someway forcing the media to be more careful when they talk about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the wrong information that was so commonly disseminated in the past will have to be more carefully reviewed before publication.
Even this article (with a video) on CNN.com is probably a consequence of the political campaign and is fair enough.
Filed under: Jesus Christ, Mormon Church, Mormonism
I started paying attention to this comment about Jesus being the brother of Satan only in the last few years here in the US. I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in Italy and I had never heard this argument when people tried to attack the Mormon Church.
While living in Brazil I heard it only a few times, but I thought that it could be dismissed very easily, since it seems to me a very dumb comment anyway.
Since we are all children of God, brothers and sisters in spirit, then Jesus is the brother of Satan the same way some of us have brothers and sisters, but this fact doesn’t really tell us anything about what we believe, or it does not mean that the Mormon Jesus is someway “friend” with Satan or that they stand for the same things
However, during the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I began noticing people who were raising signs like the one below.
Clearly, some people extrapolate all sort of meanings from the simple belief (and fact) that Jesus and Satan (and all of us) were spiritual brothers and sisters before this life.
Many anti-Mormons claim that Mormons are not Christian. But Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement for our sins. It is only through Jesus that we are saved. Many Christians who claim you only have to accept Jesus to be saved have a problem with Mormons because we likewise accept Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, despite our doctrinal differences. So, the thought goes among some who refuse to accept us as Christians, that we must believe in a different Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible. As supposed proof, these critics argue that the so-called "Mormon Jesus" is the brother of Satan, and therefore it doesn't matter if Mormons accept him or not because he is the wrong Jesus. Alternatively, to other detractors, accepting the "Mormon Jesus" actually matters very much, because following the "Mormon Jesus" would be the same as following Satan, his "brother."
Whichever the case, this ridiculous notion is a "straw man" or a gross misrepresentation of actual LDS belief…In short, the entire argument is a disingenuous attempt to demean and belittle Mormons. It is bigotry pure and simple.
It is obvious to me and many others, but unfortunately it is not to some, that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians, not just because of the name of the Church, but especially because of the teachings of the Church about Christ.
Many articles and books have been written in favor or against, some saying that Mormons are Christians and some saying that they are not. This website can help to show what is true and what is not, and it will give valuable insights about what really Mormons believe regarding Jesus Christ.
Sincere seekers of the truth and members of the Church of Jesus Christ will really like the website.
The Messiah website http://messiahjesuschrist.org contains videos and text created by and for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. The More Good Foundation has been involved in the creation of the websites in English and in other six languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Germans, French, and Japanese).
The websites are all at different stages of completion, but there is already a lot that can be already found in each of them.
Filed under: Book of Mormon, Mormon Church, Mormon Videos
The Book of Mormon is the word of God, like the Bible. It is Holy Scripture, with form and content similar to that of the Bible. Both books contain God’s guidance as revealed to prophets as well as religious histories of different civilizations. While the Bible is written by and about the people in the land of Israel and surrounding areas, and takes place from the creation of the world until shortly after the death of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon contains the history and God's dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD.
I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and this means that I have read the book, and thought about its teaching, and prayed about it, and I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that is a true book, written by ancient prophets. The Book of Mormon contains the word of God, and if we live by its precepts we will be blessed in our lives.
Filed under: Joseph Smith, Mormon Church, Mormon Prophets and Apostles, Mormon Videos
I am really excited to see the new version of the movie about Joseph Smith.
When I first arrived to the US (in 2001) I went several times to watch the movie The Testaments, one of my favorite movies ever. When they finally released the Joseph Smith movie I thought that it could not be better than The Testaments, but I was actually impressed by the new movie. I have not decided yet which one is better, but the few things I have heard about the new version make me feel that I will probably like it even more now.
According to LdsMediaTalk,
This is the first full-length motion picture the Church has released on the Internet. It is a revised version of the film that has been shown since 2005 in the Joseph Smith Building in Salt Lake City and in 19 visitors' centers around the world. The revisions are to make it more easily understood by a wider audience, now that it is available to everyone online.
Ron Munns, who produced the original film, said, "The first Joseph Smith film was excellent and was well received by many. However, some parts were not easily understood if you did not already know the story. Everyone comes to the film with different backgrounds and knowledge and we wanted to make sure that every person who sees the film walks away with a better understanding of the Prophet Joseph and what he did."
In the new version, "there is less focus on Joseph the man and more focus on Joseph the prophet. It's the same story, just with a different emphasis," said John Garbett, who produced the new movie. For example, a scene showing a leg operation Joseph had as a young boy was removed because it was less essential to the purpose of the film. Those who have seen the film before will notice that the revised version has a new narrator: an actress representing Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother.
"We chose this device to tell the story because Lucy Mack Smith was an eyewitness to everything that happened," Garbett said. "This is a mother talking about her son in her own words."
Now, I need to leave and go take a look at the movie!