Author: Kent Larsen

International Bibliography 2010


With the growth of the LDS Church worldwide, I think few academics of Mormonism disagree that the Church’s international progress deserve more attention. Even so, I was surprised when I compiled a list of international publications from last year. The list is substantial.



Sometimes unintentional mistakes lead to interesting lines of thought. A few weeks ago I misheard a speaker in an LDS meeting. The speaker was quoting John 14:27, and either because of the speaker’s mispronunciation or my imperfect hearing, I heard the word “live” instead of the word “leave.” This lead me to think about what it means to live in peace.

Missionary Visas and Political Strategy

Mexican-American activist Raul Lopez-Vargas letter asking Mexican President Felipe Calderón to hold up LDS missionary visas to Mexico because of proposed illegal immigration enforcement legislation is being called a blatant blackmail attempt. If true, I have to wonder how he could possibly think it would work.

Times and Seasons’ 2010 Mormon of the Year: Elizabeth Smart


Times and Seasons has selected Elizabeth Smart as Mormon of the Year for 2010. Elizabeth Smart has been in the public eye this year in the United States and around the world as the chief witness in the trial of Brian David Mitchell, who abducted her in 2002. And her testimony gave her significant influence, despite her apparent distance from the spotlight while serving on an LDS mission during 2010. In her testimony, Smart showed a poise and decorum that is rarely found among private individuals thrust into the public spotlight. Central to Smart’s impact is her religion. Mormonism was part of what the public knew about her from the beginning, and was part of the story of her testimony at the trial. While Smart’s impact is rooted in her abduction, and thus in being a victim, in succeeding years she has also become known for her own actions — for her activism in favor of Sexual Predator legislation and…

Will 3rd Mormon make Baseball Hall of Fame next year?

When I looked at the results of voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, I was somewhat surprised that two LDS players were still getting enough votes to stay on the list for next year, even though they haven’t yet been selected. And one of the players looks like he may eventually be selected — perhaps even next year.

Vote for Mormon of the Year 2010

This post opens the voting for Mormon of the Year. Votes will be taken until midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, January 8th, at which time the voting will close. The voting mechanism will attempt to restrict votes to one per person. The order of the choices is set at random, and is different each time the form is presented. THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!!

Nominate the 2010 Mormon of the Year

Its that time of year again. The media are already reviewing the important news stories of the year, Time will soon select its Person of the Year (one Mormon — Glenn Beck — has been nominated this year); so we should get busy selecting the Mormon of the Year. For those who don’t remember, T&S selected Mitt Romney as the Mormon of the Year for 2008, and Harry Reid for 2009. As in the past, the choice does not mean that the person is a good Mormon or even a good person. This designation is solely about the impact the person has had. I think the ground rules are basically the same as in the past (suggestions about changes to the rules are welcome – we try to improve the rules each year): Nominees must be Mormon somehow — nominees must have been baptized and claim to be Mormon. Nominees must have been living at some point during the year. The…

Elected Mormons, 2010


With the U.S. 2010 elections over more than a month ago, I’ve wanted to put together a summary of the results for Mormon candidates for some time, and finally got around to finishing it this past weekend. There were a few surprises.

Armistice Day and What We Honor

Today is Armistice Day. You were supposed to bow your head in a minute of silence at 11:11 today, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, in recognition that peace was achieved at that time in 1919, ending what we now call the First World War. Did you do it?”

Notes on the Priesthood Session

My summary and reaction to the Priesthood Session of General Conference: Elder Nelson: A very nice complement to President Monson’s remarks of the morning session. Elder Nelson focused on missionaries and missionary work, reviewing why we have missionaries and what members should do to forward missionary efforts. He said that the Church has more than 52,000 missionaries serving in 300+ missions. FWIW, the number of missionaries has fallen for most of the past decade (probably due to the decline in the birthrate among members in the U.S.), and the Church has even had to reduce the number of missions as a result. Elder Nelson also said that among his descendants and their spouses (children, grandchildren, etc.) 49 have served missions. Personally, I have only one so far, so I’ve got a way to go on this metric. I found his promotion of the new as a missionary tool very interesting. Elder Kearon: Told story about growing up on the…

Notes on the Saturday Afternoon Session

Notes and reactions to the Saturday Afternoon Session of Conference: Elder Hales: Spoke of sending LDS materials to an old friend and getting a letter back from the friend complaining of terms that he didn’t understand, such as “agency.” Elder Hales said he confirmed that our definition wasn’t in the online dictionary he consulted. He then gave a long description of our beliefs about agency, including the plan of salvation. Told story of being told to varnish a floor and literally “painting himself into a corner.” I’m fascinated by the way that we, Mormons, use terms differently from others. So I started the Mormon Terms website in an attempt to get better definitions written. What we now call “agency” was called “free agency” in the past, but this has seen less use in the Church in recent decades because it is thought redundant. Elder Cook: Said he received a CD of music sung by World War II era British singer…

Notes on the Saturday Morning Session

The following is my own summary and reactions to the Saturday Morning Session of General Conference. President Monson: Spoke rather briefly. He welcomed everyone to conference and mentioned that 4 Temples were dedicated since the last conference. He then announced plans to construct 5 additional Temples. He also urged members to serve missions, saying that it is an obligation and duty for young men, welcome from young women, and needed from senior couples.

Who Else is Passionate for Moderation?


Last General Conference Elder Quentin L. Cook suggested that we need to improve the quality of discourse in our country, following the Church’s own statement of almost a year ago. And the suggestion may have drawn some action, since in July the Church-owned Bonneville Media’s radio stations started letting the most egregious of its talk show hosts go, including Sean Hannity. More recently, the Deseret News stopped allowing comments on news story pages and KSL dropped comments altogether on its website, all because of the lack of civil discourse. The overall message seems clear: “Take it down a notch.”

Give us this day our Daily, One-of-a-Kind, World-Famous, Awesome Magic Brand Bread

By Adrienne Cardon [Adrienne sent me the following submission.] I was just a Beehive when those rosy, soft around the edges Homefront commercials rolled out on late-night television. These iconic spots featured families in motion, well-coifed moms and busy pops who metamorphosed from 90’s corporate dads to storyteller/ballplayer dads in 30 seconds. Family, isn’t it about time? asked the ads. They were a bit schmaltzy, they were a bit dewy, they were a bit, well backlit. But here’s much forgotten takeaway – they were effective. This little tagline, this bookend to each commercial was extremely successful. Little by little, public perceptions started to change. People started to pair the word “Mormon” with the word “Family.” Congratulations, branding team. Mission(ary) accomplished. So, seeing the newest efforts is a bit puzzling to me, because the takeaway word I’m hearing this time around is “same.” “I’m an artist.” “I’m a surfer.” “I’m a fashion designer.” “I’m a public relations manager.” “ . .…

An Apostle on Muslims


Yesterday, I read the following comments on Muslims by an LDS Apostle: I am aware it is not without a great deal of prejudice that we as Europeans, and Americans, and Christians in religion and in our education, so called, have looked down upon the history of Muhammad, or even the name; and even now we may think that Islam, compared with Christianity as it exists in the world, is a kind of heathenism, or something dreadful…

Stop Forwarding Lies and Hate!

It happened again. Another batch of forwarded emails from my family, filled with misinformation, outright lies and sometimes even hate. Once again I went through them message by message, looking them up on snopes, responding to point out the misleading parts, the lies, and the hate. What should I do?

Temples & Mosques & Zoning

Although I grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs when the Temple was being built, I don’t remember the controversy and protests to its construction, since I was just a deacon when it was dedicated. I’ve been told that there were objections from the neighbors — one of the early examples of what has become a very normal part of constructing a Temple both in and outside of the U.S.

Redefining Morality in the Public Sphere

This past week more than 10,000 scientists launched the Vienna Declaration, a call for a major change in handling drug crimes and treatment. Noting that the global war on drugs has failed, the group wants governments to use scientific methods to determine policy instead of, as one health professional puts it, “a moralistic approach.”

Please, Please, Sing Out!

Congregation Singing

I’m currently visiting my in-laws for a few weeks. I attended their ward on Sunday and once again was shocked at the difference in the singing there compared to my home ward. Why don’t members sing the hymns in Sacrament Meeting here?

Four Dead in Ohio


What if you knew her and  / Found her dead on the ground?  / How can you run when you know? Today is the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre. Have we learned what we should have from the tragedy?

Higher Education and Mormon Culture

From Acorn to Oak...

While discussing the development of Mormon culture at the recent Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference in São Paulo, Brazil, one friend told me that Mormon culture would really develop when there was an LDS University for members in Brazil to attend.

Times and Seasons 2009 Mormon of the Year: Harry Reid


Times and Seasons has selected Harry Reid as Mormon of the Year for 2009. During 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the most visible and influential Mormon politician in the world, shepherding Democratic legislative proposals through the U.S. Senate after the party’s victories in the 2008 elections, including a landmark health care bill that represents one of the more controversial pieces of legislation to pass through the Senate in recent memory. Reid’s off-the-cuff style has also led occasionally to unscripted remarks that have attracted a lot of attention. While Reid’s faith is not always discussed as much as that of other Mormon politicians, he remains an active member of his ward. In recent years he has helped the Church on some crucial issues, including helping to broker a compromise over Martin’s Cove. Reid spoke openly about his faith in a 2007 address at Brigham Young University and touched on his conversion and beliefs in his recently published memoir. A…