It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Christmas season is upon us again – that season of the year when kindness and generosity seem to be the keywords of the day. It is during this season of the year that we see brightly colored lights, beautifully decorated houses and trees, shoppers rushing here and there to find that perfect gift for that special someone, and the air is permeated with music that lifts spirits and brings joy to the soul.
In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, the Washington DC Visitors Center is presenting its 36th Annual Festival of Lights with uplifting performances that every member of the family will enjoy. If you live in the area or will be visiting the area this holiday season, below is a schedule of events that will be taking place during the month of December. The Visitors’ Center is located at 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, MD 20985, and all performances begin at 7 and 8 PM unless otherwise noted.
|3||Tuesday||Bells at Mt. Vernon|
|4||Wednesday||We Three Queens (women’s trio)|
|5||Thursday||No Public Event|
|6||Friday||Olney Big Band|
|7||Saturday||Suzuki Association of the Greater Washington Area (flute ensemble)|
|8||Sunday||Young Columbians Glee Club (Performances at 6 & 7 PM)|
|9||Monday||Nova Institute Choir|
|10||Tuesday||McDonough High School Lords and Ladies Madrigal Choir|
|11||Wednesday||Olney Concert Band|
|12||Thursday||Follow Your Dreams Vocal Lyceum with Andrea Thornock (soprano)|
|13||Friday||McLean Virginia Stake Hand bell Choir|
|14||Saturday||Mormon Choir of Washington D.C.|
|15||Sunday||Jenny Oaks Baker/Alexandria Sharpe (violinist/vocalist) (6, 7, & 8 PM)|
|16||Monday||Jenny Oaks Baker/Alexandria Sharpe (violinist/vocalist) (6, 7, & 8 PM)|
|17||Tuesday||Paul Cardall (pianist)|
|18||Wednesday||Voices Four (vocal quartet)|
|19||Thursday||Britton Family (vocalists and instrumentalists)|
|20||Friday||Capitol Carillon (bell choir)|
|21||Saturday||Hit Singles (male vocal quartet)|
|22||Sunday||Washington D.C. Temple Orchestra|
|23||Monday||Todd Thatcher (vocalist)|
|24||Tuesday||Sister Missionaries (vocalists and instrumentalists)|
|25||Wednesday||Washington DC North Missionaries (vocalists and instrumentalists)|
|26||Thursday||Harbor City Music Company and Capitol Accord Choruses|
|27||Friday||Trifecta (holiday jazz trio)|
|28||Saturday||Lyons Sisters (violinists)|
|29||Sunday||Rockville Swing Band|
|30||Monday||Feliz Navidad (Spanish musical variety)|
|31||Tuesday||Chinese Children Dancers|
The concerts are free, however, tickets are required, and will be distributed beginning 90 minutes prior to each performance. There is also plenty of free parking available.
In recent years young Mormon missionaries have had qualification ages of 19 for worthy young men and 21 for worthy young women. In the fall of 2012 Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, announced in a General Conference of the Church that the qualification ages would be lowered to age 18 for qualified and worthy young men and 19 for qualified and worth young women. This change in age brought in a flood of applications for Mormon missionary service, with 50% being submitted by young women (whereas young women previously composed 14% of missionaries). There has been a ripple effect through colleges with a high percentage of Mormons in their student bodies and through the sports programs of those colleges and universities eager to recruit Mormon athletes. They have had to change their enrollment expectations and athletic policies to adjust.
As usual, the Church of Jesus Christ (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church), in lowering missionary age, has done exactly the opposite of what the world expects. Studies in America have shown what is easily observed—that young people are maturing slower than ever. When people say “30 is the new 20,” they are not just referring to youthful appearance, but youthful behavior, as well. Young people are becoming responsible later in life than ever, and yet the LDS Church has decided to send its young people into the world as missionaries earlier than ever. This is what happens when decisions are made according to the dictates of God, and not the logic of the world.
It is important to realize the responsibilities young people assume in the “mission field.” They are sent to foreign places and must master a new culture and language while essentially cut off from the support of their core family. They take great responsibility in leadership in the congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ. Young men who are on missions even head congregations that lack local lay leadership.
The LDS Church and LDS families are stepping up to make sure their young people are mature enough to handle these challenges at a younger age. Young Men and Young Women’s programs in the Church of Jesus Christ teach life skills and spiritual skills. Spiritual experiences enable young members to anchor themselves on Christ; they are personal miracles that increase testimony and certitude in things which are unseen. Experience with receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, prepares a young person to seek help directly from Heaven, expect to receive it when needed, to recognize when God is speaking, and then to act on inspiration received, and to do so with confidence.
Because so many LDS youth are stepping up and saying yes to the invitation to serve at a younger age, the Church of Jesus Christ is having to increase its ability to send them into the mission field. A high school in Mexico City will be turned into a Missionary Training Center. Existing Missionary Training Centers are shortening training time and expanding facilities. Mormon missions are preparing to receive an influx of new missionaries.
“I’ve never seen anything affect a generation of young people like what President Monson announced the Saturday morning of general conference,” says Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department and member of the Quorum of the Seventy. “What we’re seeing is just an absolute overwhelming response from this generation to the invitation of the Lord and His prophet to rise up and go and serve your fellow man and preach the gospel.”
Now that some months have passed since the announcement lowering the age when young people can serve, the increased interest has not waned. The new age qualification, although demanding an increase in maturity at a younger age, is actually very beneficial for youth as they plan for schooling and careers. Young men used to leave at the age of 19. Most were 18 and some months when they graduated from high school. This created a several month “dead space,” into which some were able to fit one semester of college, or even a year in college with participation on a sports team which then had to give them a leave of absence. Now, young men can associate high school graduation with departure for missionary service, without a loss of momentum.
Young women used to serve at age 21. Many were near college graduation and were forced to decide whether to interrupt college and go, or postpone missionary service until after graduation. Some were already married at 21 and therefore unable to serve. The new age of 19 means young women can go into the mission field soon after high school. More are single and enthusiastic about church service.
It is that wonderful, magical time of year again when sleigh bells are ringing, carolers are singing, and people in general appear to be a bit more kind to one another. Once again shops are decorated with holiday decor and shoppers are beginning to make their holiday purchases for those special family members, friends, and loved ones.
However, in the midst of all the merriment, everyone would be wise to remember the real reason that we celebrate the Christmas season. To help bring that reason to the forefront, each year the Washington D.C. Temple and Visitors’ Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) presents the annual Festival of Lights. This year marks the 35th anniversary. The festivities will begin on the evening of Friday, November 30, 2012, and will continue through the evening of Tuesday, January 1, 2013.
Nearly 600,000 multi-colored lights, featuring energy-saving LED technology, will illuminate the grounds of the Temple and Visitors’ Center at 9900 Stoneybrook Drive in Kensington, Maryland from dusk until 10:00 P.M., and a life-size nativity scene, with narration of the Christmas story from the New Testament, will once again be a major attraction.
Inside the Visitors’ Center, an International Creche Exhibit featuring 85 nativity scenes from around the world will be open daily from 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Musicians and performing groups from throughout the DC and Baltimore areas will present concerts at 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM every night in the 544 seat theater. All events are free to the public, and free tickets for the concerts will be distributed beginning 90 minutes before each performance.
“In addition to our annual Christmas decorations and programs, we have just completed a major renovation of the Visitors’ Center,”said Visitors’ Center Director Don Olsen. “We now have eight brand new exhibits featuring state of the art technology that help to explain the Church and its mission.
“Last December we had in excess of 91,000 visitors come to the Center to enjoy the Festival of Lights. We hope that this year we can welcome many more to celebrate the Season and to see all that is new in the Visitors’ Center.”
For more information about the Festival of Lights, please visit DC Temple Lights.
35th Annual Festival of Lights
Schedule of Nightly Musical Performances
Friday, November 30, 2012–Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Performances are 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM each night
|Date||Day of Week||Event|
|30 November 2012||Friday||Sandra Turley-A Broadway Christmas – (Vocalist)|
|1 December 2012||Saturday||Jenny Oaks Baker – (Violinist)|
|2 December 2012||Sunday||7:00 p.m. – Janelle Parker – (Vocalist); 8:00 P.M. – Christmas Devotional Broadcast from Salt Lake City|
|3 December 2012||Monday||Jenny Oaks Baker – (Violinist)|
|4 December 2012||Tuesday||Brass of the Potomac – (Brass Ensemble)|
|5 December 2012||Wednesday||Rockville Swing Band|
|6 December 2012||Thursday||“Madrigal Lords and Ladies” – (McDonough High School Choir)|
|7 December 2012||Friday||Capital Carillon – (Bell Choir)|
|8 December 2012||Saturday||Suzuki Assoc. of the Greater Washington Area – (Flute Ensemble)|
|9 December 2012||Sunday||Gene Summers and Rebecca Takemoto– (Vocalists)|
|10 December 2012||Monday||Olney Big Band|
|11 December 2012||Tuesday||Young Columbians Glee Club|
|12 deceber 2012||Wednesday||Encore Singers of Montgomery Co. Maryland – (Mixed Chorus)|
|13 December 2012||Thursday||Winter Song: a Women’s Double Trio|
|14 December 2012||Friday||Singing Sensations Youth Choir|
|15 December 2012||Saturday||Mormon Choir of Washington DC|
|16 December 2012||Sunday||Mormon Orchestra of Washington DC|
|17 December 2012||Monday||Voices of Triumph Choir of Alfred Street Baptist Church|
|18 december 2012||Tuesday||Paul Cardall – (Pianist)|
|19 December 2012||Wednesday||Shenandoah Junior Strings – (Children’s String Ensemble)|
|20 December 2012||Thursday||Antoniak Sisters – a Musical Nativity – (Vocalists and Instrumentalists)|
|21 December 2012||Friday||Jessica & Katelyn Lyons – (Violinists)|
|22 December 2012||Saturday||Todd Thatcher – (Vocalist)|
|23 December 2012||Sunday||Pacheco Family – (Vocalists and Instrumentalists)|
|24 December 2012||Monday||Sister Missionaries – (Vocalists and Instrumentalists)|
|25 December 2012||Tuesday||Voices 4 Contemporary Vocal Quartet|
|26 December 2012||Wednesday||Harbor City Music Company Show Chorus|
|27 December 2012||Thursday||Pickwick Players – (Vocal Ensemble)|
|28 December 2012||Friday||Feliz Navidad – (Spanish Musical Variety)|
|29 December 2012||Saturday||Trifecta – (Holiday Jazz Trio)|
|30 December 2012||Sunday||Follow Your Dream Singers – (“Scrooge, the Musical”) – (Vocalists)|
|31 December 2012||Monday||Washington Guzheng Society – (Chinese Instrumentalists)|
|1 January 2013||Tuesday||Olney Concert Band|
Studies in the United States have shown Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) give more and volunteer more than any other group of people. Here are the many ways that Mormons help the poor and seek to do God’s work.
Mormons pay tithing, ten percent of their income, to the LDS Church. The payment of tithing is confidential. There is no collection plate passed around during meetings. It is also optional, but all temple-worthy Mormons are full tithe-payers. Sometimes, people being taught the Mormon missionary lessons or new converts think they can’t afford to pay tithing. We invite those to experiment upon God’s word when He says,
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).
Every Latter-day Saint who pays tithing can testify of the miracles that come in times of financial trouble. Anyone who pays tithing ends up more prosperous, even having given away ten percent. Those who live this law know that everything belongs to the Lord, and He only requests ten percent back with which to run His church; then He blesses us for our obedience. We always remain in His debt. The payment of tithing also brings spiritual gifts and spiritual maturity.
Tithing funds are used in many ways. Press releases that focus only on the amount of money coming in to church coffers, are not telling the whole story. The beautiful Washington, D.C. temple and visitors’ center were paid for and are maintained by tithing funds. The LDS Church has 140 temples in operation (Fall, 2012) and more under construction. Although these Houses of God are built of the finest materials, no debt is incurred in their construction.
The Church of Jesus Christ is growing so fast that it constructs about 1 meetinghouse each week. These and other facilities are built with tithing moneys. The Church also has a vast educational network. Three university campuses (BYU Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah) and a business college charge very low tuition because of tithing funds. High school students may study the scriptures in seminary classes, while college students may study the scriptures and other religious subjects in institute classes, often housed in specific buildings near campus.
The LDS Church organization is the same everywhere, and Latter-day Saints participate in congregations established locationally. All manuals and organization materials are standardized. You can attend a Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class in New York City one Sunday for lesson 6, and participate in lesson 7 the following Sunday in Paris. All these manuals and materials are translated into many languages and paid for with tithing funds. Family history resources and libraries are also supported through the tithing of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Although Mormon missionaries support themselves on their missions, the LDS Church supports the missions themselves and pays for training and transportation, as well as materials for the missionary program. In the fall of 2012, there were about 58,000 Mormon missionaries serving, but in the October General Conference of the Church, the announcement was made lowering the qualifying age. Since then applications to serve have poured in.
More Mormon Giving
Ten percent may sound like a lot, but Mormon giving does not stop there. The first Sunday of each month is “Fast Sunday.” On this day Mormons fast for two meals (24 hours) if they are physically able and donate the value of those meals to help the poor and needy. Fast offerings support perhaps the most miraculous and remarkable welfare system in the world. The LDS Church owns ranches, dairies, orchards, farms, and canneries. Food produced at these sites go to stock “Bishops’ Storehouses” where they are made available to the poor. Since the system is based on self-reliance, employment counseling and skills development are part of the mix, and any help is expected to be temporary. These same supplies are stocked and set on pallets, ready to be transported at a moment’s notice to the locations of disasters all over the world.
At the heart of the welfare system is a recently opened facility in Salt Lake City, the Bishop’s Central Storehouse. It warehouses mountains of food and supplies, which are distributed to central storehouses in five other regions of the United States and Canada. From those five regional storehouses, food and goods are again distributed to more than 200 smaller bishops’ storehouses, to be used for the Church’s welfare system. The Bishop’s Central Storehouse also keeps emergency equipment and supplies that can be instantly dispatched whenever a catastrophic disaster occurs.
The size of the Bishop’s Central Storehouse gives a sense of scale to Mormon welfare and humanitarian efforts. Situated on 35 acres, the building’s current footprint is 570,391 square feet, with plans to add 100,000 more. The total planned capacity of the building is 65,000 pallets, and it stocks hundreds of foods—from corn, beans, and cereals to cheese, ice cream, and peanut butter—as well as toiletries, tools, and electric generators. It has its own trucking company, complete with nearly 50 tractors and 100 trailers, as well as a one-year supply of fuel, parts, and tires for the vehicles. The facility has even been built to withstand a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. (See “A Welfare System that Works“.)
Mormons don’t just give Fast Offerings to the welfare program. They also donate their time and resources. They harvest and can fruit and other products, assemble hygiene and baby kits, make hand-sewn quilts, baby booties and snow hats, make stuffed animals for children and assemble school kits from materials they purchase themselves. Humanitarian aid projects are sponsored all the time in local congregations and during larger events.
LDS Philanthopies is the name of the massive Humanitarian Aid arm of the LDS Church. Members and others may donate directly to this fund, as well as participating in the types of projects listed above. The LDS Church has ongoing aid projects at all times, but also quickly becomes involved when disaster strikes. Mormons are often the first to arrive and the last to leave the scene of a disaster. “Mormon Helping Hands” are groups of local Mormons who show up to help. In Africa over 100,000 such Mormons participate in local clean up – fix up projects at a time. These are local Latter-day Saints in African congregations. Because of so much volunteer help, 100% of monetary donations goes for relief.
Mormons may also donate to other individual funds. One example is the Perpetual Education Fund, which loans money to returned Mormon missionaries in poorer countries, so they can participate in higher education. Once they begin earning a living, they pay back the fund. This fund is modeled after the Perpetual Immigration Fund established by Brigham Young to help Mormon Pioneers immigrate to Utah.
No wonder Mormons are called the most giving people on earth. All of this is done to follow the example of Christ and to honor His statement that inasmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me, or when ye are in the service of your fellow men, ye are only in service to Me.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the “Mormon Church”) has very clear doctrine regarding homosexuality and gay Mormons. Mormon doctrine teaches that practicing a homosexual lifestyle is a sin, but that having feelings of attraction to a member of the same gender is not a sin.
For someone who was not raised with religious values or who simply does not feel that homosexuality is a sin, I can understand how the Mormon Church’s view on gay Mormons and homosexuality may seem like bigotry. However, as a faithful Latter-day Saints (“Mormon”), I feel I understand what the doctrine is saying, and I do not consider myself a bigot at all.
Mormon doctrine teaches that we are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and that He has a plan for us, which involves coming to this earth, gaining a body, and having life experiences. We are free to choose for ourselves which path to follow, but God has made it clear what path we have to follow if we want to live with Him again. Part of the purpose of this life is to bring more of God’s children to earth to gain bodies. He has decreed that this should only be done within the bonds of matrimony, which He has again defined as marriage between a man and a woman.
When two people of the same gender fall in love and want to be together, this does not make them evil. However, this is frustrating God’s plan because they cannot together bring children into the world. In addition, they cannot fulfill their roles in His plan as well as a faithful heterosexual couple can, because there are two people of the same gender trying to fulfill different roles.
Mormon doctrine teaches that men and women have different but complementary traits and characteristics. Neither is better than the other, but together they can progress more easily than they can alone by helping to balance each other. People of a different mindset may say that this can be true of any two people, which is true to a certain degree. However, God has declared that it is not His way, so there is some part of His plan being hindered by people of the same gender being in a relationship together, whether they are gay Mormons or gay people who have nothing to do with the Mormon Church.
If two people make the choice to live a homosexual lifestyle and they are happy together, I have no problem with that. We are all free to make our own choices. However, redefining God’s law is not an option we have. We cannot make it different simply by voting or saying it is different.
I have some very good friends who are homosexual. Some are gay Mormons; some are not members of the Mormon Church. The quality of the individual has nothing to do with their gender preference. We can respect each other’s beliefs and be friends. Just because I believe that their lifestyle is a sin does not mean I am going to judge them to be bad people for living a way they do not feel is bad. In turn, they can respect my belief system and realize that I am not judging them as individuals and that I accept them for who they are and how they choose to live.
I recognize the difficulty gay Mormons must have in trying to reconcile their personal gender preference and their religious beliefs. I have never had to struggle with this, but I feel from the bottom of my heart for people who do. It would be very difficult to have such strong feelings in a way that I truly believed was not God’s plan. However, it has become increasingly clear through church leaders’ comments on gay Mormons that they can still progress and receive all the blessings which other faithful Latter-day Saints can receive, if they are true to their covenants. If their homosexual feelings never change, then they will likely be single and celibate for their entire lives on this earth. That is a lonely prospect. However, single heterosexual Mormons are also expected to remain celibate. It is not an easy place to be in, but with a good understanding of the doctrine and exercising faith, anyone can turn to the Savior for love, understanding, peace, comfort, and support through any trials they face, and He will make up the rest.
Gay Mormons are of no less value than any other person, whether Mormon or not. Each individual is beloved of God, regardless of sexual preference or lifestyle. We should all be respectful of the right each of us has to make our own choices. We can disagree about what is sin and what is not, but we can still love and respect each other.
LDS Church Official Statement: Same-Gender Attraction
A Mormon temple open house is an event which takes place for every Mormon temple before it is dedicated. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the frequently misnamed “Mormon Church” is officially known) builds temples all around the world. This is because the temple is a central part of Mormon worship, but in the past, temples have been largely inaccessible by a significant number of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”).
In the past decade, a Mormon temple building has significantly increased. Many Mormon temples are now much smaller than older temples. This allows the cost to be cut down significantly, as well as the building time. This means that more temples can be built around the world, bringing the temples, and the blessings that come with them, closer to the people.
The function of each temple is the same. While the structures may have different designs and decorations, the purpose of each temple is identical. Mormon temples are used for sacred ordinances. In these ordinances, those who participate make covenants with God to live His commandments at a much higher level than most people do. In return, they are promised significant blessings, eternal in nature, if they are faithful to keeping the covenants they have made.
There is nothing cultish about what takes place in Mormon temples. Many people feel suspicious because Latter-day Saints who have participated in temple worship do not talk about their experiences when they are outside of the temple. For those who do not understand the sacred nature of temples, this can come across like people are hiding something. This is not the case. Mormon doctrine invites all people to qualify to enter Mormon temples and to partake of the blessings there. However, the standards are set very high because the eternal consequences of breaking the covenants one makes in Mormon temples are very severe. Church leaders want to make sure people are prepared to make and live those covenants.
After the completion of each Mormon temple, the building is open to the public for a period of a few weeks. Citizens are invited to take a free tour of the building. They are able to ask questions and learn more about what goes on in Mormon temples. Visitors can see for themselves the beauty of the rooms and may see the rooms where ordinances are performed. They are asked to remain reverent and respectful, but all are welcome.
Mormon temple open houses have succeeded in altering people’s misperceptions about the structures as well as the Mormon religion. The volunteer workers during Mormon temple open houses are friendly and helpful. They are there to answer questions and to help people feel more comfortable.
After a temple has concluded its open house, the dedication is held. Once a temple has been dedicated, only Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) in good standing may enter. Latter-day Saints are interviewed by two ecclesiastical leaders to determine their worthiness to enter a Mormon temple. If they are worthy, they are given a temple recommend which shows temple workers that they are members in good standing. One temple recommend will let the holder enter any Mormon temple across the world.
Mormon temple open houses are rare opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of what goes on in Mormon temples and what Mormons themselves believe and hold sacred.
Mormon history begins in the early 1800s, and so it is impossible to cover all the events of this somewhat newer religion. Following are a few of the more memorable events of that history.
“Mormon” is a nickname sometimes used for people who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The name of the church signifies that this church belongs to Jesus Christ. The Biblical followers of Jesus Christ called themselves Saints, and so the term “Latter-day Saints” simply designates that today’s Mormons are like those early followers of Christ.
At age fourteen, Joseph Smith, like so many before and since, looked at the tremendous number of religions available to choose from and wondered how anyone could know which one God wanted him to join. He had visited many, and each felt they had religion just right; yet they contradicted each other. As Joseph studied the Bible, he found James 1:5, which says:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
Recognizing that only God knew the answer to his question, Joseph went into the woods to pray. While praying, God and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision, and Jesus instructed him not to join any of the churches because none had the complete fulness of the gospel. When Joseph was older, an angel named Moroni prepared him to assume leadership of the restored gospel. Once he had proven himself worthy, Joseph was permitted to obtain records that had been kept on the American continent and had been hidden away in ancient times by Moroni. After a great deal of persecution and trial, Joseph, with the help of scribes (because he had minimal education) was able to translate the plates through inspiration and to publish them. This publication is now called the Book of Mormon and can be read free online or a free copy can be delivered to your home by a missionary who will offer a brief message about the book.
Learn more about the Book of Mormon.
Though Mormon history begins with Joseph Smith’s First Vision, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not organized until 1830 with six people as its original members, a number required by law. More people were baptized immediately, however.
The period of Mormon history that followed became one of the most extraordinary accounts of religious persecution and violation of freedom of religion found in American history. It is extraordinary in part because the Mormons survived it and thrived and today are noted for their patriotism despite early abuse.
The initial persecutions were the result of both religious beliefs and political beliefs. Joseph Smith ran for president on an anti-slavery platform, and most Mormons were also opposed to slavery. There was often fear they would vote as a block against slavery.
As a result of their beliefs, they endured tar and feathering (a process in which hot tar is poured onto the skin of an individual—a very painful process—and then feathers are dumped over the tar, making them extremely difficult to remove), beatings, murders (even of children), and forcible removal from their homes. Many persecutors violated constitutional laws concerning free practice of religion, but until after the Civil War, the federal government did not have the power to stop the persecution, even if it wanted to. Mormons had begun to gather into unified communities for protection and to enable easier communication in a time when it was difficult to teach or disseminate information. They found themselves frequently on the move, looking for places where they could be safe and practice their religion in peace.
Despite a constant need to start over, the early Latter-day Saints accomplished a great deal in these times. They built temples, published a book of doctrine, and sent missionaries out into the world. Leaders often faced arrest on unsubstantiated—and sometimes unnamed—charges. In Missouri, they were the victims of an extermination order, something unheard of and certainly illegal in American society against a religious group.
This came about in part due to the anti-slavery stance in a state attempting to stay a slave state. Agitators began spreading a rumor that Mormons were encouraging free blacks and mulattos to move into the state in order to stir up the racists in the state, a move that Parley P. Pratt, a church leader, pointed out would be pointless since state law allowed them to be removed if they did come. There were, however, some free blacks among the Mormons, but they were members of the church who went anywhere the church went. The church also interacted comfortably with Native Americans, another move that made them unpopular. Mormon history shows a very different attitude towards people of other races, particularly African Americans, than many critics of the Church like to show when they discuss the history of Blacks and the priesthood.
Because there were no penalties for persecuting or even killing Mormons in Missouri, and because it was now legal under the extermination order to force them out under pain of death, the Mormons were in great danger. Dozens were killed, including women and children. A “secret constitution” was written and presented to the Mormons, who were expected to sign it. Since secret constitutions are illegal and the demands—stopping the emigration of any further Mormons into the state, the loss of the right to have a newspaper, and a demand to leave the United States—Church leaders naturally did not sign it. Two church leaders were taken to town square and threatened with death if they did not renounce their faith. They refused and were tarred and feathered, but lived through the experience.
In Haun’s Mill, three days after the extermination order, 200 men took advantage of the new law to attack. They forced 200 men and male children into a barn with the threat of harming the women if they did not comply. They then began shooting at the barn and murdering anyone who escaped. Seventeen men and children were murdered and fifteen more were injured. Mormon history is sadly filled with such violent actions by mobs towards people who were trying to live their religious beliefs in peace.
Joseph Smith was arrested soon after, his crime being that he was a “Mormon”—under the new extermination order, that was the only “crime” required. He was ordered to be put before a firing squad, but General Alexander W. Doniphan refused to carry out the order. Doniphan also told the general of the militia who was next assigned to carry out the order that he himself would be tried if he followed through with the order because it was illegal, immoral, and pure murder. Doniphan was a rare friend and protector of the early Saints.
Church leaders offered themselves to the terrorists in exchange for the safety of other members. After some Mormons were beaten, fights broke out that resulted in several deaths. The governor ordered the guns of both sides to be taken away, but instead, Colonel Thomas Pitcher removed the guns of the Mormons and gave them to the oppressors. At this point, the membership was in so much danger, leaders decided there was no choice but to move on. It was the middle of winter, so they endured life in rough camps along the river as best they could. Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio, tried to send help, but were met by mobs with cannons. However, an unexpected storm began, which forced the mob to flee. When the storm finally passed, mob members discovered the rain had ruined the weapons.
The church’s founding president, Joseph Smith, was martyred, killed by a mob while in prison on unspecified charges in Illinois. Not long after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the Mormons were again on the move. They eventually settled in Utah, when Mormon history began another new beginning. Their journey comprised one of the more impressive historical migrations in the country. Unlike most migrations of the era, the Mormons were seeking peace and the Constitutional right for freedom of religion. In Utah, they found it to some extent. At any rate, although problems continued and some persecutors continued to ignore the Constitution (as when there was an attempt to keep Reed Smoot from taking his seat in Congress because he was a Mormon, or when the federal government confiscated church property and took away Mormons’ right to vote, hold office, or even take employment), circumstances for the Mormons did improve over time.
Women in Mormon communities had long enjoyed legal rights not found anywhere else. They had the right to vote in their own communities, for instance. However, when Utah became a state, that right was taken from them. Needless to say, they were angry, and the women’s auxiliary, the Relief Society, became the heart of the suffrage movement in the state as the women fought the federal government to regain those rights. Some traveled east, often to work with suffrage leaders, doing so with the full support of their husbands. Women from polygamous marriages were particularly free to travel, since the other wives could care for the children and home; some Mormon women were leaders in the movement with the full support of their husbands. When suffrage became possible, they were the second state to grant it.
Once Mormons no longer had to fight for mere survival, they were able to focus on larger aspects of religious life. Early in Mormon history, the church put the Relief Society in charge of obtaining and storing wheat to be used in an emergency, in much the same way the Old Testament Joseph counseled Pharaoh to store food against a coming famine. In some congregations, the women built fireproof granaries. The Church leaders instructed the men to assist in any way the women might ask.
In 1898–99 the wheat saved many lives during a drought in Utah. Relief Society wheat also fed Native Americans, survivors of the San Francisco earthquake, and people in China who were facing a famine in 1907. During World War I, the women sold their wheat at a low rate to the United States government to feed thousands.
Mormon women responded to a call to study medicine—a rare call in early America. The church assisted with costs, if needed, and many Mormon women in the 1800s became not just nurses and midwives, but even doctors, which was unusual. With so many highly trained women, the Relief Society established its own hospital in Utah in 1882.
In response to the Great Depression, church leaders began to emphasize the need for church members to be prepared for emergencies such as the Depression, ordinary unemployment, or natural disasters such as famine. This led to an increased focus on education, storing supplies for ordinary emergencies (not doomsday scenarios), and learning useful skills.
Humanitarian work has increased over the years as the church began to have the resources to expand its humanitarian aid program. The humanitarian programs of the church are varied. Some serve church members and others serve people throughout the world, wherever there is need and without regard to religion or nationality. Missionary work has also increased. Instead of sending men who may have families out, most formal missionary work is now done by young adults, both male and female, who are single, or by older couples serving together. Missionary service is done throughout the world, wherever it is legal to do so.
Mormon temples are now found all over the world. From the cornerstone of a temple placed in Missouri but never built, to the temples built and left behind when the Mormons were forced to flee, to the beautiful Salt Lake Temple that stands as a symbol of the church to many, temples have been an important part of Mormon history. Temples were sometimes completed even when the Saints knew they would be forced to abandon them soon, simply to fulfill a commandment from the Lord. They could not see the future purpose of these commandments, but they had faith, and the temples stand as a symbol of their faith and their willingness to do whatever is asked of them by God.
Mormons have several colleges and universities, as well as institutes of learning for college students. The universities are respected for high standards of academic knowledge and for high moral standards.
Mormons no longer live in gathered communities. They live throughout the world, wherever they choose, following any profession they desire, and living an ordinary life consisting of family, faith, community, and employment. They are still the subject of great curiosity, but as more people come to know real Mormons, rather than the false caricatures sometimes portrayed by media or people who don’t really know, they realize Mormons are just ordinary people living moral, family-centered lives and contributing to their society and whatever nation in which they live.
Mormons have come a long way since the small beginning in 1830. This brief article on Mormon history touches on only a few highlights. There is much more to learn.
It is common for people to feel suspicious of Mormon temples (temples belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) because they know so little about them. Because Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) do not openly talk about things that happen in Mormon temples which are sacred to them, those who have not been able to experience a Mormon temple for themselves think there must be shameful things going on inside if people won’t talk about it.
The truth is that the things which happen in Mormon temples are sacred. So sacred that God does not want them to be mocked. However, it is not even mockery which has caused God to set the standard so high for those who wish to enter Mormon temples; rather, it is to protect the individuals themselves who are unprepared to be held to a higher law.
Mormon temple rites, or ordinances, are sacred in nature. Individuals who participate in Mormon temple ordinances covenant with God to keep commandments which are even stricter in nature than the Ten Commandments. If a person covenants to live this higher law and then breaks that covenant, the eternal consequences are quite severe. In contrast, the blessings for keeping those covenants and living a higher law are also eternal in nature and are as great in nature as the punishments are severe.
I have been blessed to go through a Mormon temple and receive these ordinances spoken about above for myself. I have also been greatly blessed to return often to Mormon temples and do perform these ordinances by proxy, or in behalf of, those who died without the opportunity to receive these ordinances for themselves. Mormon doctrine teaches that doing this work in behalf of the dead is a sacred duty. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to do their family history so that they can take the names of their deceased ancestors to Mormon temples and do this work on their behalf. Some people have too many names to take themselves, so they submit these names to the temple and other Latter-day Saints can do the work for them. It is important to understand that when these ordinances are done by proxy, the person for whom the ordinance is being done is not forced to accept anything. Each individual still has the right and option to accept or reject this work. However, Latter-day Saints firmly believe that the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, temple endowment, and temple sealing (to one’s spouse and family) are essential to the individual’s eternal salvation.
God would be very unjust if He required these ordinances to be done, and then damned all those who did not even have an opportunity in their lives to receive these ordinances. This is the way that God has provided for all His children to receive or reject His commandments and blessings.
I can testify from personal experience that there is no work on this earth which brings me closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ, than Mormon temple work. I am not yet a mother, but I think motherhood will be the only thing that will be comparable in my life. When I go to the temple I am reminded of the covenants that I have made and the blessings that are promised to me if I faithfully keep those covenants. I am taught more about my relationship to God and about His plan for me, which reminds me of the eternal perspective I should keep throughout my life. It is easy to get caught up in the mundane things of this world and to be confused about what is really important in our lives. As I go to the temple often, I am reminded of the atoning sacrifice of my Savior and the freedom and peace that brings me. Then I get to share this with other people who have been waiting a very long time to be blessed with the things I have in my life. It is very humbling to be a servant of the Lord in this way. It is very empowering at the same time, because I know that when I am focused on doing the Lord’s work and put my own desires aside, He gives me strength beyond my own. I am grateful for Mormon temples and for my Savior.
Article Written By Doris
The recent Broadway production of The Book of Mormon Musical combined with Mitt Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, running as the Republican candidate for President of the United States, has brought more attention to the Church than at any time in its history. Journalists, opinion leaders, and others from around the world seem to have taken a sudden keen interest in what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as Mormons) believe.
As a means to address the questions that are being raised through public interest, a new informational exhibit about what Mormons really believe is now on display at the Washington DC Temple Visitors Center located in Kensington, Maryland. Concerning the exhibit, Don Olsen, the Visitors Center Director said:
The increasing discussion of the Church, its beliefs and doctrine, has spawned not only some misunderstandings, but also some interesting myths and legends. . . We have taken the questions about the Church that seem to have most captured the public’s fascination and answered them in an exhibit format.
The exhibit is called “We Follow Jesus Christ” which makes a powerful statement about Latter-day Saints in and of itself. Visitors who come to see the exhibit will be able to learn what the Church teaches about such issues as: race relations, political neutrality, religious freedom, and marriage. They will also be able to learn about the Church’s position on immigration and abortion, and read about proxy baptism (baptism for the dead). Other questions that are answered by the exhibit include: (1) Are Mormons Christian?, (2) What do Latter-day Saints believe about God?, (3) Do Mormons believe in the Trinity?, (4) Do Mormons believe in the Holy Bible?, and (5) Do Mormons believe they can become “gods” or that they will get their own planet? Furthermore, the exhibit speaks to the role of women in the Church, and addresses the question of why some Latter-day Saints wear Temple garments.
The exhibit will be on display at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center through the end of August 2012. As with all events and activities at the Visitors’ Center, the “We Follow Jesus Christ” exhibit is free to the public. The Visitors’ Center is located at 9900 Stoneybrook Drive in Kensington, Maryland and is open seven days a week, from 10:00 AM until 9:00 PM. For more information contact Don Olsen at (301)587-0144 or via email at [email protected].
On a recent Sunday, a few hundred members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in an LDS chapel just outside the Washington D.C. beltway, in Alexandria Virginia, to listen to an Obama administration official recount his conversion to Mormonism.
The speaker was Larry Echo Hawk. Echo Hawk was born on 2 August 1948 in Cody Wyoming. He and his family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 14. He is an attorney, legal scholar and politician. He is also a member of the Pawnee Nation. He was sustained by Church members as a General Authority and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy on 31 March 2012. Prior to becoming a General Authority, he was the United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. On 20 May 2009 he joined the administration of President Barack Obama as the head of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Echo Hawk also served as Attorney General of Idaho from 1991 to 1995. At the time he was elected State Attorney General of Idaho he was serving as a member of the board of trustees of LDS Social Services. His other Church callings have included: President of a student Stake on the campus of Brigham Young University, Bishop, and Stake High Council member. He resigned from his position in the Obama administration a few weeks after his presentation in Alexandria Virginia. Read more