Author: Kent Larsen

Literary BMGD #47: While of these emblems we partake

Including the sacrament prayers in Moroni 4, and indeed all the instructions in Moroni 2 through 6, seem almost like an afterthought to the Book of Mormon—kind of like “Oh, yeah, you’ll need to know this stuff too.” And these instructions only make sense if they are written for us today, for Moroni himself is apparently the only surviving follower of Christ at his time and place. Evidently the peoples of the Book of Mormon had this information recorded elsewhere and Mormon didn’t include it where it was given (presumably at the time of Christ’s visit). Of course, the basic ideas and symbolism in the ordinance is described elsewhere in the Book of Mormon and the rest of our scriptures, and there it is clear how central the ordinance and its symbolism is to the gospel.

Elected Mormon Politicians

The recent elections included some changes in the Mormons holding elective office around the country, but overall not a lot of change. We still have about the same number of Mormons in the U.S. Congress. The areas where a lot of Mormons are in state government still have a lot in state government. But some of the areas where there were few Mormons serving in elected office lost the few that they had. In the end, Mormon politicians ended up more concentrated.

Literary BMGD #46: Trials and Happiness

I often wonder how Mormon managed to keep it together. He saw his own civilization decaying around him, perhaps while he was in the midst of abridging the record of the Jaredites, summarizing the details of their decline and destruction, which was so similar to his own. Yet despite this, in the final chapters of Ether (12-15 are covered by this lesson), Mormon talks about the role of faith. Its an example of faith, I suppose, that he was able to show its importance while he himself must have felt in the midst of trials. And perhaps it is from enduring these trials that Mormon himself gained such insight into faith.

Literary BMGD #45: Song of the Exiled Saints

The Book of Ether contains the story of the Jaredites — a story that parallels the overall history told in the Book of Mormon. And, as I’ve observed here before, the story also is somewhat similar to that of the early Saints, who travel to a foreign land at the direction of the Lord, seeking a place where they may live in righteousness. Ether 1-6 tells the beginning of this story, including the revelations given to the Brother of Jared, his exemplary faith and the journey of his people to the promised land. While their home has descended into chaos because each person can not communicate with others due to the confounding of the language, still, I think, they must have had some longing for the familiar surroundings of their homes.

Joseph Smith and Baseball: The Evidence

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“In the 1830s, on the western frontier of Missouri, ball was the favorite sport of Joseph Smith, founder of a new religious sect called the Mormons1.” A couple of years ago I received as a Christmas present the Baseball documentary by Ken Burns, the PBS series that as much as anything has driven my current fascination with the game and led to the Mormon Baseball blog. Early in the first of the documentary’s 10 parts, the narrator makes the above claim, something that even today I don’t hear from Mormon historians. Could it be that Joseph Smith played and loved baseball?

Quick Mormon Election Results

Here are the results so far for Mormon candidates running for the U.S. Congress. I will have complete results for all races in the next few days, as they become available. Please let us know your thoughts and about any aspects of the elections that you though important:

Literary BMGD #44: The Book of Mormon

As Mormon completes his own record in Mormon chapters 7, 8 and 9, he prophesies about the role that the Nephite records will have in the future, saying that the record will come forth in the latter days, in a day of great wickedness, and urging readers of the book to believe in Christ. This role of the Book of Mormon was a very common theme in Mormon poetry, including this poem, written under the pseudonym “Equator.”

Mormons in the Running

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With the election approaching on Tuesday, I’ve been racing to put together a rundown of the candidates who are Mormon around the country.  I know that Kay Atkinson King has done an extensive series on BCC going over the congressional elections, but I think that my summary below has a few additional pieces of information, including both state level elections and information on a few candidates who aren’t actually Mormon but who have significant Mormon connections or were once Mormon — a status that we will probably see more in the future.

Literary BMGD #43: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part III

Mormon, the book in the Book of Mormon written by its compiler, is perhaps the most depressing of the book of scripture. It might be subtitled ‘the Decline and Fall of Nephite Civilization.’ And its author was all but hopeless in his assessment. But unlike Gibbon’s perhaps better known description of decline and fall, Mormon also describes the future effects of his record, predicting that millions will be convinced to come to Christ by the story he tells. In the following poem, Parley P. Pratt also traces this same history, in part three of his poetic description of Christ’s ministry to the Nephites.

Frequently in the NFL, Barely in the NBA

I”m late in updating my list of Mormons in professional football. Its not because last year’s post was hijacked by those talking about playing sports on Sunday. But it may be in part because I’ve focused more on baseball recently. But, I’ve finally got my act together, and here’s the current list, along with the now due list of Mormons in professional basketball — including an additional Mormon playing in the NBA preseason

Literary BMGD #42: The Gospel

In the final minutes of his visit with the Nephites (3 Nephi 27), Christ makes clear that the church established for the Nephites must bear his name and teach his gospel. He even specifies elements of his gospel: the atonement and resurrection, the final judgment, repentance, baptism, faith in Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. I don’t think it would be very hard to connect any Mormon doctrine to this list.

Mormon of the Year candidates from this past summer?

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In May I asked readers here to look at those who had made the news during the first part of the year and suggest who among them should be considered for “Mormon of the Year.” The theory is that looking at the question periodically during the year means that we will include those who have been forgotten by the end of the year. This way, we avoid a bias towards recent events. So, I’d like to suggest that we look at who has made the news since April and suggest possible candidates for “Mormon of the Year.”

Literary BMGD #41: A Vision

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Poetry by Joseph Smith? That is certainly not what Joseph Smith is known for, nor is it often claimed that he was a poet in all the writing and studies made about him. [Orson F. Whitney is the exception that comes to mind.] But the following poem, when published in 1843, carried his byline when it was published. As a paraphrase of D&C 76, this poem fits well, I think with the Gospel Doctrine Book of Mormon lesson #41. As Christ teaches to the Nephites in this lesson (3 Nephi 22-26) he focuses on making sure that their scriptural cannon is complete, adding the neglected prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite and the to them unknown teachings of Malachi. And then he expounds all things unto them. Doesn’t section 76 have that kind of “exposition of all things” feel to it?

New Progress for Mormon Studies

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The University of Virginia today announced today a $3 million anonymous donation to establish the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies in the University’s Department of Religious Studies. The chair is still subject to approval by the University’s Board of Visitors, after which a search committee will look for candidates for the inaugural appointment, due to begin serving in the 2013-14 school year.

Potential Effects of the Missionary Age Announcement

If you had any doubt about the impact of the announcement yesterday that missionary service for men and women can begin earlier, just read the reactions in the bloggernacle, on facebook and twitter and even in major newspapers. The largest of the blogs in the bloggernacle have already weighed in on the change… multiple times… in less than 24 hours. I have to wonder; has anyone not put in their two cents?

Is this the first bestseller by a Mormon not written in English?

A few weeks ago a book by the Brazilian language entrepreneur and LDS Church member Carlos “Wizard” Martins, who started the massive Wizard Language Schools chain (similar to Berlitz), reached the bestseller lists in Brazil. I’m fairly sure that the book Desperte o milionário que há em você (Awake the Millionaire Inside of You) is the first by a Brazilian Mormon to reach the bestseller list. I first heard of his book just before it was launched in April, and I didn’t give it much thought then—I’m not really in the book’s the target audience of those seeking a financial fortune and I suspect I could just as easily get a copy of the book that started this genre, Napoleon Hill’s 1937 self-help classic Think and Grow Rich, to say nothing of the various similar books penned by Mormons here in the U.S. But now that Martins has achieved a Mormon milestone in Brazil, I have to wonder if he…

Literary BMGD #40: The Gathering

Gospel Doctrine lesson 40 for the Book of Mormon talks about a subject that isn’t explored as often in Mormonism today: The Gathering. In Joseph Smith’s day it not only mean the gathering, literal and spiritual, of the House of Israel, but it also meant the gathering of Mormon converts to the ‘center place’ of the Church. While we don’t call for the gathering of Mormons to a single place today, the concept is still important when we examine the role of the House of Israel and the times preceding the millennium. The scriptures, including the Book of Mormon in 3rd Nephi 16, 20 and 21, teach that the House of Israel has been scattered and that it will be gathered in the last days.

Holding Steady: Forbes List Update

Feel like you’re treading water financially? I don’t suppose it will help to know that the wealth of the richest Mormons is also not growing? Perhaps not, but my analysis shows this to be the case. To be honest it’s hard to even think that they are put out!

Literary BMGD #39: Phelps’ The Lord’s Prayer

In the middle of his visit to the Nephites, Christ leaves the people for the night and then returns the following day (as recounted in 3 Nephi 17-19). Before he leaves, and then again after he returns the next day, Christ teaches the Nephites about prayer, and provides them with examples of prayers—one of which they were unable to even record. These prayers call to mind the model prayer that Jesus provided in the New Testament, the Lord’s Prayer, itself used as an oft-repeated prayer throughout Christendom and the inspiration for many pieces of poetry, including the following by W. W. Phelps:

Literary BMGD #38: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part 2

Following the destruction that accompanied Christ’s crucifixion, the Nephites and Lamanites didn’t see relief, or light, until his resurrection and visit to the Americas. This story, found in 3 Nephi 11, is the culmination of the Book of Mormon narrative, the central meaning of the book. His arrival is also the central point of Parley P. Pratt’s poem Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites. Included in his book of poetry (arguably the first Mormon book of poetry aside from Emma Smith’s Hymnal), this poem is also among the first published poems to reference the Book of Mormon, as well as the first to retell poetically its central story.

Cálice (Let this cup pass from me)

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Over the past year or so, I have become increasingly enamored of a popular Brazilian song, one that today makes me tear up simply from hearing the opening chords. On the surface, at least, the song, “Cálice” (Chalice), is quite religious. And its refrain is simple: Father, let this cup pass from me Father, let this cup pass from me Father, let this cup pass from me This cup of bloody red wine. And today, of all days, I think this song is particularly fitting. I will think of it during a moment of silence.

Literary BMGD #37: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part 1

During the crucifixion of Christ as portrayed in 3rd Nephi, the devastation seems like it is beyond our understanding. Certainly the descriptions portray devastation on a level that no one today has experienced. The very earth reacts to the death of the Savior, and continues that reaction, apparently until his resurrection on the third day. May we never experience anything like that. But the portrayal raises an interesting theological issue, one that Parley P. Pratt picked up on in his earliest Mormon poetry.

Literary BMGD #36: Who Watched in Faith

With the beginning of what we Mormons can call the fifth gospel, the Book of Mormon begins the story of Christ’s birth, life, death and visit to the Americas, all from the perspective of the people’s there. And the initial story in 3rd Nephi is quite different from those in the New Testament. Here we see signs and wonders also, but they are more widely known and come under a threat of violence. The faith of the believers in 3rd Nephi was tried publicly and directly, while the faith of the few who knew anything about the import of the events in Bethlehem (principally Joseph and Mary) was tried mainly in private, in embarrassment or humiliation.

Literary BMGD #35: The Savior is Coming

Spiritual history is replete with types and shadows. The similarities that appear between events in widely-separated places and times lead to the conclusion that the Lord is trying to point out some truth to us, something we need to understand. I see a kind of repetition in this week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson, in which Samuel the Lamanite tries to call the Nephites to repentance (Helaman 13-16). Samuel preached just a few years before the birth of Christ, and he prophesied about the destruction in the Americas that would accompany Christ’s crucifixion soon afterward. But somehow his prophecies don’t sound very different from those that we hear concerning Christ’s second coming.

Elliot’s Vagrants

Coreen Johnson has graciously provided this personal story of Mormon Life, which I loved and thought would be a great addition here. Coreen is a stay-at-home mother of 4 who now lives in New Mexico. Enjoy! Elliot’s Vagrants by Coreen Johnson, FMHer “Hey lady! Do you have a dollar?  Just a dollar!  Please lady! Just a dollar! Please, ma’am!”

Literary BMGD #34: On Home

Chapters 6 to 12 of Helaman highlight what Mormons have come to call the “pride cycle” — the cycle from righteousness and prosperity to pride and wickedness to suffering and to humility and repentance, leading back to righteousness and prosperity. Its a fascinating concept, one that I’m afraid we use too often to describe the world and others, and too little to refer to ourselves. I mean, when was the last time you asked yourself where you were in the “pride cycle?”

Moroni Torgan and the Church in Fortaleza, Brazil (part 3)

Moroni_Torgan_Mormon

[The third part of a translation of an article written by Emanuel Santana and published on the Brazilian group blog, Vozes Mórmons. The article raises many questions about politics and the Church—questions we are familiary with in the U.S. and perhaps Canada, but which are new territory for Mormons in Brazil and elsewhere around the world. Part one of this series was published Tuesday.] . Moroni Torgan and the Church in Fortaleza by Emmanuel Santana The 2004 race for mayor was more exciting. The “Juraci Era” had put Fortaleza’s voters in the mood for change. Inácio Arruda and Moroni Torgan both again sought the office, along with two others who debuted in the election: Aloísio, the candidate supported by Juraci Magalhães, and Luizianne Lins, who, even without the support of the national leadership of her party, launched her candidacy as the Workers Party candidate. From the beginning of the race polls placed the Mormon in front. The barbs exchanged between…

Moroni Torgan and the Church in Fortaleza, Brazil (part 2)

Moroni_Torgan_Politico

[The second part of a translation of an article written by Emanuel Santana and published on the Brazilian group blog, Vozes Mórmons. The article raises many questions about politics and the Church—questions we are familiary with in the U.S. and perhaps Canada, but which are new territory for Mormons in Brazil and elsewhere around the world. Part one of this series was published yesterday.] .  Moroni Torgan and the Church in Fortaleza by Emmanuel Santana Out of the books and stories of their elders. I can not remember anything of Moroni’s first election, since occurred just a few years after I was born. His subsequent elections, as lieutenant governor, and again as a member of the House of Deputies, I remember somewhat. The political rallies were lively, including comedians, forró bands and gifts meant to encourage people to come. In Brazilian elections, each candidate is assigned a number which is used by the voter in the electronic ballot box. Moroni’s…

Moroni Torgan and the Church in Fortaleza, Brazil (part 1)

Moroni_Torgan_Deputado

The following is a translation from an article written by Emanuel Santana and published on the Brazilian group blog, Vozes Mórmons. I have divided it into three parts because the post is so long and raises so many questions about politics and the Church—things that strike me as repeatedly-covered issues in the U.S. and perhaps Canada, but which are new territory in Brazil and elsewhere around the world. This first part covers background information, from the introduction of the Church in Fortaleza to Moroni Torgan’s arrival and rise to prominence as Brazil’s first Mormon Congressman.

Literary BMGD #33: The Epitaph

The corruption and internal strife in the initial chapters of Helaman are marked by the rise of secret combinations among the Nephites and Gadianton’s rule over the band eventually known as Gadianton’s Robbers. While I think our society today is far from the level of corruption seen then, we certainly deal with similar corruption to a smaller degree. And societies we do know today (perhaps Somalia and Zimbabwe and probably others also) seem as corrupt or worse than what the Nephite’s had to deal with. It is hard to imagine how anyone survives such regimes without also becoming corrupt.