Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Messenger and Advocate Has Moved

Like many blogs in the Bloggernacle, The Messenger and Advocate has moved over to WordPress. It is now located here. Please feel free to stop by, and if you have suggestions feel free to leave them. Also, if you have been kind enough to link to Messenger and Advocate on your current blogroll, if you would please update your blogroll link to the new site--that would be a wonderful favor. Thank you in advance.

All future posts will be at:

New Messenger and Advocate Location:

Like A Lamb To The Slaughter

So described the Prophet Joseph, his last trip to Carthage Jail, in Illinois in June, 1844--162 years ago this evening. He and his brother Hyrum were jailed for exercising their First Amendment rights in their practice of Revealed Religion. While under the protection of the State of Illinios, The Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were brutally murdered in cold blood by a mob.

President John Taylor penned the most fitting of tributes, now cannonized as Doctrine and Covenants section 135 (emphasis mine):



Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, at Carthage, Illinois, June 27, 1844. HC 6: 629—631. This document was written by Elder John Taylor of the Council of the Twelve, who was a witness to the events.

1—2, Joseph and Hyrum martyred in Carthage Jail; 3, Preeminent position of the Prophet acclaimed; 4—7, Their innocent blood testifies of the truth and divinity of the work.

1 TO seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the amartyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o’clock p.m., by an armed mob—painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. bHyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a cdead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: dO Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.

2 John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, were the only persons in the room at the time; the former was wounded in a savage manner with four balls, but has since recovered; the latter, through the providence of God, escaped, without even a hole in his robe.

3 Joseph Smith, the aProphet and bSeer of the Lord, has done more, csave Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the dfulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own eblood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not fseparated!

4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a alamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a bconscience cvoid of offense towards God, and towards all men. I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME—HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:

5 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been afaithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made bclean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I . . . bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the cjudgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The dtestators are now dead, and their etestament is in force.

6 Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old in February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843; and henceforward their names will be classed among the amartyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a bgreen tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal creward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.

7 They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the aaltar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.

Praise to the man . . .

Praise to the Man


TUNE—Star in the East.

Praise to the man who commun'd with Jehovah
Jesus anointed "that Prophet and Seer,"
Blessed to open the last dispensation;
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven,
Traitors and tyrants no fight him in vain,
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren,
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

Praise to his mem'ry, he died as a martyr;
Honor'd and blest be his ever great name;
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Stain Illinois, while the earth lauds his fame
CHORUS—Hail to the Prophet, &c.

Great is his glory, and endless his priesthood,
Ever and ever the keys he will hold;
Faithful and true he will enter his kingdom,
Crown'd in the midst of the prophets of old.
CHORUS—Hail to the Prophet, &c.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man!
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice,
Millions shall know "brother Joseph" again.
CHORUS—Hail to the Prophet, &c.

Source: [W. W. Phelps] "Joseph Smith," Times and Seasons 5 (1 August 1844): 607.

Friday, June 23, 2006

President Hinckley At 96

President Hinckley will celebrate his 96th birthday at the groundbreaking of the new alumni and visitors center bearing his name at BYU, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Last year we all had the opportunity to watch his 95th birthday celebration at the conference center in the Church Conference Center. This year's will be somewhat more subdued, and there apparently remains some concerns about his health:
Today's milestone will likely pass more quietly, especially in light of concerns about Hinckley's health. The leader of the 12 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will celebrate his 96th birthday "at Brigham Young University in Provo, attending an 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for a new alumni and visitors center named in his honor," LDS spokesman Dale Bills said. "Family, invited guests and university leaders will host him at a private luncheon following the groundbreaking."

It will be one of the few public events Hinckley has attended since surgeons removed a cancerous growth from his colon and he has undergone chemotherapy treatments. "Things have changed and are changing," Hinckley told Mormons at the church's annual General Conference in April, mentioning his January surgery and some "residual problems."
Still, President Hinckley maintains a rigorous schedule, and continues to serve the Church membership worldwide:

"The life of a president of the church is not his own," Hinckley said. "He has very little privacy and no secrets." He maintains a regular work schedule, Bills said, which means most days Hinckley goes to his office at LDS Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. He is, after all, a guy who never spent a night in the hospital before January.

In March, he traveled to Santiago, Chile, to rededicate a temple and preside over a lively cultural celebration by thousands of Chilean Latter-day Saints in an outdoor stadium. On June 11, he was in Iowa City, Iowa, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of 10 Mormon handcart companies' trek across the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains to the Salt Lake Valley beginning in 1856.
So, Happy Birthday President Hinckley! We're hoping for many more!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Gospel In Iran

This is not a topic one usually associates with Iran (at least present day Iran); however, the Deseret News has a fascinating article about how that Islamic republic once had a flash of the light of the Restored Gospel. The article tells the story of Jamileh Zaifnejad Hogan, an Iranian Church member, who was actually baptized in Iran back in 1975:
Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a leap of faith for Jamileh Zaifnejad Hogan, who in 1975 was the first Iranian woman to be baptized into the Utah-based church.

"Joining the church is a challenge," said Hogan, a Brigham Young University graduate who spoke to students on Wednesday. "(But) when it is really difficult, that is where there is room for miracles."

Some of those miracles include getting a visa and passport, which allowed Hogan to come to the United States. Another miracle was being able to work with the leadership of the LDS Church in creating a mission in Iran, which lasted only a little while until violence erupted. Another was seeing her mother and sister also join the LDS Church.

Hogan, who has worked as a language analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice for 10 years on Wednesday shared the story of her conversion, punctuated with details of the political unrest that gripped her country.
As I read her story, I thought "here's an actual Latter-day Saint." You know, the kind called on to sacrifice on the scale of the early pioneers--yet her spirit was and remains incredibly optimistic (I think they call that faith).

About her baptism:
On the day she was supposed to be baptized, a student riot broke out at the university in Tehran where the 21-year-old was studying. Hogan described seeing the military move in and open fire on a group of students.

"Blood spattered on the heater (the wall)," she said. She ran to the women's bathroom and hid in a stall, hoping the soldiers wouldn't find her. After hiding for hours, she started to leave so she could make it to her 4 p.m. baptism. She went through a crowd of soldiers who pointed guns at her head and one who hit her with the butt of a rifle. Finally a senior officer told them to let her leave.

Hogan was introduced to the LDS Church through working with Lloyd Miller, an American and Mormon who was studying jazz in Tehran, and the two ended up co-hosting a radio program. Accepting an invitation, Hogan attended an LDS meeting in Iran, made up mostly of international members, not native Iranians.

That led to more questions, months of studying and finally praying to a God she hadn't ever believed in. On Jan. 8, 1975, after breaking through 3-inch thick ice on a neighbor's swimming pool, Hogan was baptized.
Kind of makes your blood run cold (literally to read stuff like this). Its also interesting that at the time in Iran's history, within a few short years they were about to depose Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, and take American citizens hostage. This was not a fruitful time for an American/Utah based Church.

Jamileh's family, at least her parents were supportive--though her brother apparently disowned her. She essentially said good bye to life as she knew it in Iran, and left for the United States to begin an entirely new life on a grand scale:

After her baptism, Hogan traveled to the United States to visit Salt Lake City and the temple. When she arrived, she met with LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball and other church leaders who asked her to help translate mission materials and train future missionaries.

Despite being one semester away from graduating in Tehran, Hogan agreed and stayed in Utah. She enrolled as a freshman at BYU and began to work with church leaders. An initial batch of missionaries was sent to Iran but were redirected to England when riots broke out again in 1978.

Although there is no current LDS mission in Iran, Hogan said there are congregations of Iranian members in Switzerland, Italy, Ecuador and Japan — something she didn't think possible 30 years ago.
I read things like this, and get just a bit more perspective in life. I had no idea the Church even established a mission in Iran--something unthinkable today. But, as Sis. Hogan notes, it is when things are or appear the most difficult that there is room for miracles. She is now a language analyst with the Department of Justice--bet there's lots of work for her these days! You can hear her entire speech here. (Given 6/21/06).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Senator's Response

As everyone (well probably almost everyone) in the 'nacle knows the First Presidency asked LDS members to express their views to their senators about the federal constitutional marriage amendment. I posted my email letters to my senators here. Below, is the email I received this morning in response from Senator Diane Feinstein.

While she did not in accordance with my request, I did appreciate the fact that she took the time, or had someone take the time to make a formal response. I have heard nothing from Senator Boxer's office. Anybody else hear from their senators?

June 20, 2006

Mr. Guy Murray
PO Box
Nipomo, California 93444

Dear Mr. Murray:

Thank you for writing to me about the so-called Marriage
Protection Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment
which would require that marriage in the United States consist only
of the union between a man and a woman. I appreciate you
expressing your thoughts to me.

I have continually opposed this amendment, as well as
other federal attempts to regulate marriage. In my view, enacting
such a measure would overstep the role of Congress by interfering
with the States= constitutional authority to legislate in the area of
family law. Policies that regulate families and marriage have
always been, and I believe should continue to be, a State right and

On June 7, 2006, the Senate voted on a procedural motion
regarding the Marriage Protection Amendment. I voted against the
motion which would have led to the Senate's consideration of the
amendment and I have attached a copy of the statement that I gave
on the Senate floor which further explains my views on this

I recognize that people have very strong and distinct
opinions regarding the institution of marriage, and I respect your
views. While we probably will not change each other's minds on
this amendment, I hope we can still have a dialogue and find
common ground on issues where we do agree.

If you should have any further comments or questions,
please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC staff at (202)

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein
on the Motion to Proceed to the Marriage Protection
United States Senate
June 6, 2006

"Mr. President, I rise today to oppose the Marriage
Protection Amendment to the Constitution.

With all the problems in the world today, the Senate is
spending valuable time debating a bill which we know does not
have the votes for cloture, which is divisive, and which, I believe,
does not belong on the national agenda.

The fact of the matter is that all family law has historically
been relegated to the States.

Marriage, divorce, adoption, custody - all aspects of family
law and domestic relations - have been the province of the States.

That's what the Supreme Court has said in case after case -
from In Re Burrus in 1890 to Rose v Rose in 1982.

In that 1982 case, the court affirmed the holding of In Re
Burrus that:

'[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of
husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the
laws of the states, and not to the laws of the United

Similarly, in Sosna v. Illinois (1975) the Supreme Court

'Domestic relations [is] an area that has long been
regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the

And in 1982, then-Associate Justice Rehnquist, dissenting
in Santosky v. Kramer, wrote:

'The area of domestic relations...has been left to the
States from time immemorial, and not without good

And just this past November, in a television interview,
Justice Stephen Breyer stated very simply: 'Family law is State

So it's clear that domestic relations have been the
jurisdiction of States - and that's where they should remain. I
deeply believe that this body should not be involved in putting
amendments in the Constitution dealing with any aspect of
marriage, of divorce, of families, of adoption, of any of those
areas. The States reign supreme.

So why is it when Republicans are all for reducing the
federal government's impact on people's lives - until it comes to
these stinging litmus test issues, whether gay marriage or end of
life - they suddenly want the federal government to intervene?

For the life of me, I don't understand why this keeps
coming before this body. It is extraordinarily difficult to pass a
constitutional amendment. We all know that. Both Houses have to
pass it by 67 votes. Then, over a seven-year period, it goes out the
States, where it has to be ratified by three-quarters of the States.

The last constitutional amendment that went out to be
ratified by the States was the Equal Rights Amendment. A simple
25-word amendment that said:

'Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied
or abridged by the United States or by any state on
account of sex.'

And guess what, they were not able to get the necessary
three-fourths of the States over a seven-year period.

So, I don't believe this constitutional amendment would be
successful, even if passed out of this body.

I haven't seen one passed in the 13 years I have been here.
And it is extraordinarily difficult to get one ratified, as I said.

Family law, indeed, is the purview of the States. So,
there's no need for a constitutional amendment.

This proposed constitutional amendment strikes at the heart
of States' rights in the area of family law, and in doing so, actually
undermines our Constitution.

Moreover, I believe that Americans believe that the States
should deal with same-sex marriage as the States see fit. And so I

And, Americans are especially concerned about amending
this Constitution if it means closing the door on civil unions.

Now, why do I say this? How do I know this? Fifty-three
percent of Americans polled recently would oppose a
constitutional amendment that also bans civil unions and domestic
partnerships, such as we have established in California.

Many legal experts believe that this amendment would do
just that. The language in the second sentence of the amendment is
ambiguous, at best, stating that:

'Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of
any State, shall be construed to require that
marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred
upon any union other than the union of a man and a

Now, some on the other side have argued that the
amendment would still allow for legal unions passed by the States
legislatures, just not those instituted by the courts.

However, when similar amendments were passed in states
like Michigan, Ohio, and Utah, domestic violence laws and health
care plans for couples - both gay and straight - were taken away.

So, we know that it has an effect. So, I really believe that
to put this on the Constitution - if it were to prevail, if it were to be
ratified by three-quarters of the States - it is very likely that all
domestic partnerships and all unions of any civil kind would be
wiped out as well. And I think that doesn't make any sense at all.

States are well able to handle the issue of marriage on their
own - without the heavy-hand of the federal government
intervening in people's private lives.

What is currently happening in the States indicates to me
that they are, in fact, actively engaged on this issue.

In fact, the numbers speak for themselves:

* To date, 45 states have acted to restrict marriage to
only one man and one woman;

* 18 of those have done so by amending their State

So, why are we doing this?

* This year, 7 more states are poised to join them
when they hold statewide votes on constitutional
same-sex marriage bans: Alabama in June, and
Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Virginia and Wisconsin in November.

* In addition, at least 9 other states may take up
similar amendments in the not-so-distant future:
Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and

* And in fact, only one State - Massachusetts -
recognizes same-sex marriage. One State, that's it.

So, why all the fuss? Why is the Senate devoting its time to
this issue when one state has taken action?

I say that based on the laws of this land, that that's the
prerogative of that state, or any other state. So there's no need for
us to be considering a federal constitutional amendment,
particularly when we have important global and national problems
to address.

* Deficit -- We've got an enormous deficit in this
country. We don't spend much time on it.

* Iraq -- Things are going from bad to worse -- just this
morning we read about of an "unrelenting" kidnapping
campaign happening in the streets of Baghdad.
Thousands of Iraqi citizens are being snatched from the
streets - 56 just yesterday - all rounded up by gunmen
dressed in Iraqi police uniforms.

* North Korea - has announced that it possesses nuclear

* Iran - is trying to become a nuclear power.

* Stem Cell Research -- Passed by the House a year ago,
still not on the Floor of the Senate. So, why, why, why,
are we doing this now when we could be doing stem
cell research? When we could possibly provide the
hope for juvenile diabetics, for Alzheimer's victims, for
cancer victims, for spinal cord severance victims?

* Appropriations -- The Senate has not taken up and
approved any of the 12 appropriations bills that it must
complete by the end of the session and it is already
June. So I can't understand why we're doing this.

* Defense Authorization and Intelligence Authorization --
We've got the Defense Authorization and Intelligence
Authorization bills. These are critical bills at a time
when our nation continues to be fighting in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror. And we
have not passed these bills.

* Gas Prices. I was in Los Angeles last week, and it cost
more than $3.50 a gallon to fill up a tank of gas. And
we haven't taken steps to deal with that.

So there are dozens of critical issues including the
mandatory business of this body in two major authorization bill
and 12 major appropriation bill that we haven't addressed. 45
States have taken action.

And yet this body seems pressed to defend the nation, to
amend the Constitution, to provide something which is the purview
of the States and which the States are handling.

To me it makes no sense, other than this is an election year.
It makes no sense other than throwing red meat to a certain
constituency. And it certainly is not what the Constitution of the
United States is all about.

Mr. President, I hope we will vote no on cloture and I hope
we will return to business that is important to the American people.
I do not believe that this issue merits the time of this Senate at this

Thank you and I yield the floor."

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator


Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the
Nation are available at my website http://feinstein.senate.gov. You can also
receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nor is Nielsen Martin Luther . . .

Two days ago, The Salt Lake Tribune, compared Jeffrey Nielsen, their latest LDS martyr, to Henry David Thoreau. Today, The Tribune's implication is that he is the modern day Martin Luther for the LDS Church. Today's Tribune article begins by painting a rather bland and mundane protrait of Mr. Nielsen:

OREM - Jeffrey Nielsen drives a red minivan, but most days he takes the bus.
He goes to his LDS ward in Orem on Sundays. He likes to read and play catch with his two youngest daughters, ages 10 and 12. Lately, he has been hooked on dominoes. Most mornings, he and his 21-year-old son go jogging.

"I'm a pretty boring person," Nielsen concedes. But that is Nielsen's private self-image. His emerging public persona is anything but boring. The part-time Brigham Young University philosophy instructor has become the subject of a steady stream of letters to the editor and who knows how many office water-cooler chats since he penned a guest column earlier this month questioning his church's support of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

That attention ratcheted up this past week when BYU opted not to rehire Nielsen because his remarks in the June 4 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune publicly opposed leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on an issue they deem of supreme importance.

Now the spotlight-shy Nielsen is being flooded with even more e-mails. His name is surfacing in even more letters to the editor. And his voice is popping up in radio interviews.

But don't label Nielsen a rebel with a cause. "I'm not a revolutionary,” he says. "I'm a very flawed human being. I'm not a spokesperson for any movement." Even so, he is speaking out - as a matter of conscience if not convenience.
A couple of questions (if I might) to the Tribune and Mr. Nielsen:

Why--if you are not a spokesperson for any movement or a revolutionary; why, if you "cherish" your LDS membership; why, if you consider yourself to be just a "boring person"; why, if you truly do not want to be the subject of newspaper columns, water-cooler conversations, radio interviews, and general "ratched up" attention; why do you continue to speak with Salt Lake Tribune reporters openly and unapologetically still criticizing the LDS Church and leadership?

Well, it appears the answer--according to Mr. Nielsen is that his conscience just won't let him keep silent:
Even so, he is speaking out - as a matter of conscience if not convenience. The 44-year-old father of four not only openly questions LDS leaders on their backing of the marriage amendment, he also criticizes church statements on wedlock. In addition, he wonders about his church's position on its past denial of priesthood to blacks, its polygamous history, its membership counts and more. Nielsen, who says he cherishes his church membership, hasn't always been the questioning type.

"I was a very conformist . . . youth," he says. Reared like many Utah Mormons, Nielsen was born in Salt Lake City but did most of his growing up in Brigham City. Everyone in his immediate family was Mormon - mom, dad, three sisters and two brothers.

He graduated as student-body president from Box Elder High, earned a scholarship to BYU and served an LDS mission to Zurich, Switzerland. There he labored in one of the highest missionary leadership posts: assistant to the president. His mind-set was much different then. "I just took the line that you don't question your priesthood leaders," Nielsen recalls.
Why is it that Mr. Nielsen's conscience compels his criticisim of Christ's Church? Despite his protestations to the contrary--does he see himself as a modern day Martin Luther sent to guide The Brethren, to reform and correct LDS doctrine and practice? If so--how fortunate for us all! Who would have guessed such a reformation would come through a part time philosophy instructor at BYU nailing copies of the Salt Lake Tribune on the Church Office Building's front door? After noting how Mr. Nielsen dutifully fulfilled an LDS mission, never questioning his leaders, the Tribune continues:
Twenty-five years later, Nielsen is doing just the opposite. He believes the foundation of his about-face was laid by an introductory philosophy class he took his last semester at Weber State University . . . The philosophy class flicked on a switch in Nielsen's brain. "It opened me up to this idea of the 'world of ideas' that I hadn't ever experienced before," he says. With that light-bulb moment, poof went Nielsen's plans to attend law school. Instead, he earned a graduate degree in philosophy from Boston College, then returned to Utah and began teaching philosophy at BYU.
So, it's Plato's fault! I'm sympathetic to the notion that philosophy classes can in fact open up a person's mind to ideas. I've had a few of those classes myself (but unlike Mr. Nielsen I went to law school instead of graduating in philosophy). But, isn't it equally as likely that a person's mind can and is opened up to a world (and eternity) of ideas by praying, pondering and studying scriptures, conference talks, or even attending a lowly, unsophisticated Sacrament meeting?

His current thoughts are found in The Myth of Leadership, a 2004 book he wrote that advocates leaderless organizations and peer-based management. The book rests on two premises: Real communication can occur only between equals; and secrecy breeds corruption and abuses of power.

And so it is that the LDS Church's unbending stand against same-sex marriage isn't the only issue that troubles Nielsen. He wants LDS leaders to be more open about the church's membership numbers, its finances and its history. He wants leaders to more clearly address the church's past - and future - teachings about polygamy. (The church abandoned the practice in 1890.)

And he wants LDS temple weddings open to nonmember and non-tithe-paying parents. His reasons are both moral and personal. One of his sisters left the faith when, in her view, some church teachings didn't mesh with its history. In addition, a parent of his son-in-law wasn't able to attend the young man's temple wedding to Nielsen's daughter. "I really hope the membership has the privilege to raise these concerns and not be silenced," he says. "I don't want to attack the church. I'm not an enemy of the church. I don't want to hurt the church or destroy anyone's faith. I want to do things to strengthen the church."
I think the real Mr. Nielsen begins to emerge in these paragraphs. He's not really interested, as he suggested previously, to thoughtfully question and benevolently criticize Church leaders. He wants to dismantle the entire organization from the top down (or bottom up--depending on the point of view). So, all that "revelation" stuff on Church organization and priesthood offices, that The Prophet Joseph received from God--it just breeds corruption and is an abuse of power. Mr. Nielsen would have us throw out canonized scripture (portions of the Doctrine and Covenants) received via revelation, and supplant it with his own version of the philosophies (his) of men--mingled with scripture!

Not content to deconstruct the entire current Church hierarchy, Mr. Nielsen advocates further reforms to allow non members and non tithe payers to attend temple weddings. Why stop there? Why not open the endowment ceremony to the general public? After all that would really make us all equals. But, keep in mind Mr. Nielsen isn't attacking the Church, isn't its enemy, and doesn't want to destroy faith. He wants to strengthen faith and the Church. He comes not to bury the Church but to praise it. Are you kidding?

What of Mr. Nielsen and his future now that those corrupt, power abusing BYU administrators have so unrighteously and summarily fired him as a part time philosophy instructor?
David R. Keller, a philosophy professor at Utah Valley State College, can see Nielsen's reasoning. "He was motivated through ethical concerns, not to ruffle feathers or to create a situation of animosity," Keller says. "The tone of it was really concerned about the betterment of the human condition." Keller would like to see Nielsen teaching at UVSC one day. He already has tapped Nielsen as a speaker this fall for the Orem school's Center for the Study of Ethics, which Keller directs.
Not to worry: Mr. Nielsen has a bright future at a much more enlightened educational institution--one that has real academic freedom. Then of course there is his book The Tribune promotes in almost every article it prints. It sounds as if Mr. Nielsen is a much better fit over at UVSC or any other "secular" college or university--assuming he has the academic credentials to go beyond a mere part time instructor. My question to Mr. Nielsen is why was he so untruthful with himself and BYU administrators when he signed on at BYU as a philosophy instructor--given his true beliefs about the Church and its leadership? Was that an ethical lapse of judgment by Mr. Nielsen?

The more I read about Mr. Nielsen, the less I believe his originally stated motivation that began this ridiculous series of events: to thoughtfully question and benevolently criticize Church leaders. To the Tribune I repeat: Mr. Nielsen is not Henry David Thoreau or a modern day Martin Luther. To Mr. Nielsen: if you truly are as you portray yourself to the Tribune--the smartest thing I think you can do is stop speaking with their reporters.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Church Is Not A Democracy--Nielsen Not Thoreau

The Salt Lake Tribune, predictably has joined the cacophony of voices against the Church for what it has described as Nielsen's participation in the grand tradition of "The Duty of Civil Disobedience". In this morning's editorial, The Tribune notes:

To fully participate in the grand tradition of what Thoreau called "The Duty of Civil Disobedience," it is necessary to risk retribution from the powers that be. Otherwise, you can be dismissed as just another crank. Or, if you lack amateur standing, an editorial writer.

Jeffrey Nielsen is no crank. And, though all he has lost so far has been a part-time teaching gig, he may still claim kinship with those who have risked imprisonment or worse by speaking truth to power.
The Tribune's editorial page--not always one to be bothered with the details when it writes about the LDS Church, should take another look at this one. First, Thoreau's piece (which in fact was and remains a masterpiece) was originally titled Resistance to Civil Government. Why is this important? Well, none of us have a choice about whether or not to be subject to government. We as Americans are born into our democracy. It has the power to coerce. It has the power of the purse and sword--powers that can be enforced--and often are--against the will of its citizens. Civil Disobedience as envisioned by Thoreau remains a powerful force as a check on civil governments all over the world.

The Church, is an organization with which one affiliates by choice, not force. No one has to be a member of the Church. No one even has to be affiliated with BYU either as a student, faculty, or staff. Yet, Mr. Nielsen voluntarily chose to do so--with his eyes wide open. And, as a faculty member, Mr. Nielsen knew full well what the boundaries were before he ever started philosophizing--for money--down in Provo. And, more importantly, he agreed to those boundaries, in writing.

The Tribune continues:

After this term, Nielsen will be out as a philosophy instructor at Brigham Young University. That is because he wrote, with his eyes wide open, a commentary published in the June 4 Tribune criticizing a political stand taken by his church, the church that owns BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wrong! Nielsen is out because he labeled the BYU trustees' (who also happen to be Prophets, Seers and Revelators of his Church) position on a critical moral issue already well established by the Church, "
troubling, immoral, discriminatory, and based on fear and superstition." This is a big deal, considering Nielsen, claims to be a believing LDS member. The LDS Church believes that The Brethren are inspired by God, not by fear, discrimination, superstition, and immorality. By extension the implication is that these men themselves and their views on the family as the fundamental unit of society as well as gay marriage is "troubling, immoral, discriminatory, and based on fear and superstition."

Furthermore, Nielsen chose as his venue, the Salt Lake Tribune, the most public avenue available. It is one thing to disagree with the Church's position. It is quite another to publically ridicule that position in the press, and all over the world. Nielsen knew before he put pen to paper that because of his position as a part time BYU faculty member, because of the highly charged moral issues involved, because of recent First Presidency announcements on the issue, and because of the political climate that his chosen method of expression would do great harm to the Church and BYU in terms of bad publicity. Yet, he went right ahead to exercise his "freedom of speech." Choices have consequences--and Mr. Nielsen is now experiencing his.

Continuing, the Tribune opines:
BYU is a private organization, owned by another private organization. If it thinks it necessary to dismiss anyone for speaking out of school, it has that right.

It is the beauty of civil disobedience, though, that those who exact the punishment also take some risk.

BYU and the church will now be criticized in some circles as being overly harsh and for forgetting the mission of a university to tolerate and nurture different strains of thought. More importantly, Nielsen's dismissal calls attention - more attention than was raised by his initial writing - to one of his main points.

That point was that by taking a public stand in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the church's leadership went beyond its normal role of defining moral behavior for its own faithful and sought to determine law for all Americans.

The church has an unquestioned legal right to take such a stand, but no expectation that it can do so without being itself labeled, by some, as speaking out of turn.

A self fulfilling prophecy to be certain. Thank you Tribune for joining the cacophony of criticism against the Church and BYU--never one to miss a cheap shot against the Church, one can always count on the Salt Lake Tribune to come through in its self appointed role as the LDS Church watchdog.

Dissent without risk, by individuals or institutions, scarcely qualifies as dissent at all. Without the possibility of retribution, dissent has little power to change anything.

This debate will continue, within the church and without, in public and in private. No matter the outcome, Jeffrey Nielsen will know that, when faced with the choice, he did his duty to his conscience rather than take the easy way out. And how many of us can say that?
Nonsense! Mr. Nielsen's duty as a part time BYU faculty member was not to breach the terms of his employment contract. His duty as a faithful Latter-day Saint was not to publically ridicule and humiliate the governing body of his Church in the time, place and manner he chose. In fact, it was he who took the easy way out, by seeking, and now obtaining his 15 minutes of fame in joining the popular political discourse of his time. He took the easy way out by taking cheap shots at The Brethren and his Church. Sorry Tribune; but, the Church is not a democracy and Mr. Nielsen is no Henry David Thoreau.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Religion Do You Preach?

The philosophies of men . . . . mingled with scripture. With each passing day I am ever more grateful for an open cannon, for living and past Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, for The Gospel Restored, for Revelation of Truth Eternal.

New Rare Bookstore To Open In Provo

Brent Ashworth, a rare documents and book collector is opening a new (actually probably old) rare bookstore in Provo. According to the Deseret News:
  • Image
  • Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
  • Brent Ashworth stands inside his rare-book and collectibles store in Provo. The business will specialize in rare books and collectible documents.
Collecting rare books, manuscripts and other odd things has long been a passion of Brent Ashworth's. Now, after 45 years of dreaming and collecting, Ashworth has opened a collectibles shop, "B. Ashworth's," at 127 W. Center, Provo. "Most of those years I have wanted to share the things I have collected and the information I have gleaned," he said . . .

While most of the collectibles in the new B. Ashworth's are from Brent Ashworth's personal collection, he has a few consigned items. Among them are first and second editions of the Book of Mormon and the first hymn book of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compiled by Eliza R. Snow. The book has no music; just words. A song by printer W.W. Phelps, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" was added to the end.

Only nine copies of the hymn book are known to exist and are valued at about $500,000.
The first edition of the Book of Mormon has chapters inserted by a printer's assistant, but no verses. The second edition has the verses, and about 2,000 grammatical corrections made by Joseph Smith, Ashworth said. Smith is listed as the author. The books are valued at $75,000-$100,000.

In 1833, Church officials were printing the first Book of Commandments in Independence, Mo. A mob came in, destroyed the press and threw the pages into the street. Some children picked them up and placed them in the bushes to hide them. Later they took the pages to church authorities who were able to publish about 25 of the books. Ashworth has one of them on consignment with the words "fifth book" handwritten along the wide bottom margin, purportedly by Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith's scribe.

While collectible LDS items bring some of the western American history to the shop, other items are of national or international importance. For example, Ashworth has a framed document signed by Abraham Lincoln designating J. W. North of Minnesota as surveyor general for Nevada, a document worth as much as $9,000.

An 1813 framed letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to his son is another prize. Napoleon items were rare until the 1960s when 40,000 documents the French conqueror signed were found in an old barn outside Paris. The value of Napoleon items plummeted but have been coming up in recent years, Ashworth said.

He also has a page from the Gutenburg Bible. Only 48 known copies of the Bible are in existence, some not complete. One copy was so incomplete that in 1920 it was taken apart and sold page by page, starting at $200. Ashworth values his page at $65,000.

Other documents he has for sale were signed by Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Clara Barton and Winston Churchill. Ashworth's inventory includes a section of movie memorabilia, with a monogrammed pink dress worn by Marilyn Monroe and a brown leather jacket actor James Dean wore in "Rebel Without a Cause."
What makes Ashworth's bookstore venture more interesting is his involvement in Utah, and LDS history as part of the Mark Hoffman saga. Hoffman, of course, was the skilled document forger who forged not only many early LDS documents and sold them to the Church and others; but, he also forged some early American documents as well. When things went south in the forgery business, Hoffman began a string of murders to cover up his involvement in the forgeries.

Ashworth was an attorney and rare document collector who had done business with Hoffman in the early years. Police believe, as does Ashworth that he was Hoffman's third intended target.

For an interesting recap of the 20 year anniversary of the Hoffman murders, see here. If I were still stomping around Provo, Utah, B. Ashworth's bookstore would definitely be one of my stops.