Ask Mormon Guy

I'm an Intermountain-born, West Coast-raised, East Coast-educated journalist. I'm a new media connoisseur.
And I'm a Mormon.

Jul 8

Jul 6

Elder David F. Evans, the executive director of the missionary department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently sat down with church public affairs representatives to put together this video interview as an update on the immense surge in missionary activity.

Elder Evans said that more than 85,000 young men, women and senior couples were currently serving as missionaries for the church. Much of the surge has come since President Thomas S. Monson announced a significant change in the age of missionaries, to 18 for young men and 19 for young women, at the October 2012 General Conference. At the time, 58,500 missionaries were serving for the church — a 68 percent increase in total missionaries in the field.

In the video, Elder Evans announced significant changes that will undergo missionaries in North America, Japan and western Europe. More than 32,000 missionaries will be using iPad Minis to aid in study and teaching efforts by early 2015. Each missionary will be expected to purchase the $400 digital device, though assistance will be offered to missionaries whose financial circumstances may prevent them from making the purchase.

The specially-configured iPads will include access to Preach my Gospel, the Gospel Library and the Area Book Planner app, which will replace the current area book and Missionary Daily Planner that has been used for several years.

Read the full release on the Mormon Newsroom, and watch the video above for more information.


Jun 29

First Presidency statement on Priesthood

The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Saturday morning about the Priesthood. The key distinction between this statement and others in the recent past is that it was released on LDS.org, and not MormonNewsroom.org, the church’s public affairs website.

The statement is signed by “the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The timing comes just days after Ordain Woman founder Kate Kelly was excommunicated in a highly public and high-profile disciplinary council for “conduct contrary to the laws and ordinances of the church.”

You can read the full statement online here. The following is a sample:

In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

(Photo courtesy of MormonNewsroom.org)


Jun 25

10th circuit court overturns Utah’s gay-marriage ban; Supreme Court awaits

The state of Utah’s gay-marriage saga continued Wednesday as a federal appeals court panel affirmed a judge’s earlier decision to overturn the state’s voter-approved Amendment 3, which legally defined marriage between a man and a woman.

The ruling, which was granted 2-1 in favor of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby, said Utah cannot fail to grant the benefits of marriage on the basis of gender of both marriage applicants, according to the Deseret News

The court stated in its ruling:

"We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm."

Utah will now seek another appeal from the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States. The high court’s ruling is expected to solemnly define marriage for the rest of the country.

The LDS Church, which is based in Utah, released the following statement about the ruling:

"The Church has been consistent in its support of marriage between a man and a woman and teaches that all people should be treated with respect.  In anticipation that the case will be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court,  it is our hope that the nation’s highest court will uphold traditional marriage."

The ruling also provided same-sex married couples the right to “remain married,” effectively striking down the state’s ignoring of couples who married last December in the brief window that same-sex marriage was legal in Utah.

While the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals  struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, the SCOTUSblog.com noted that ruling was effectively put on hold as the state sought its appeal from the highest court.

The court also said in its ruling that civil marriages do not interfere with religious sacraments or ordinances as they relate to marriage. This distinction may become key as the church seeks to further clarify, and potentially overturn, this ruling at the highest level.


Jun 24
“Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.” Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women.

Jun 23

Excommunication

Kate Kelly, the founder of the Mormon activist group Ordain Women, has been excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church,” according to the group.

Kelly was to go before a disciplinary council Sunday, June 23 in her former ward in Oakton, Virginia. She could not attend, owing to her current residence in Utah, but she did send a strong letter of defense to the bishopric hearing her case.

Kelly released a statement on the decision immediately following its announcement:

“The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”

Prayers to the Kelly family at this time, as well as with those LDS church leaders who had to make this difficult decision. Church leaders sent a strong message to the movement at this time. Hopefully both sides can regroup and learn from this experience, whether that be the women or church leaders.


The Day Arrives … and Waits

The founder of a Mormon activist group advocating for the ordination of women to the LDS church’s all-male priesthood had her disciplinary council Sunday.

Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, currently lives in Utah, but sent a personal letter as well as a brief from a lawyer friend of hers as defense to her LDS bishopric and a disciplinary council in Oakton, Virginia for today’s proceedings. 

Meanwhile, across the nation, a few dozen candlelight vigils were planned as supporters voiced their affirmation for Kelly and the OW movement. Kelly attended a vigil in Salt Lake City, where she said supporters sent more than 1,000 letters to her former bishopric voicing their support of her cause.

You can read news repots of the vigil here and here, depending on your media consumption. Ask Mormon Guy would recommend both, for context.

According to both reports, Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin attended the SLC vigil as a supporter of Kelly. Dehlin, like Kelly, is under investigation for apostasy in the dissemination of his website and podcast, which delves into difficult questions, concerns and doubts of LDS church members such as same-sex marriage and doctrinal “truth claims.”

Late at night, Kelly’s bishopric sent her an email, which OW published on its Facebook page

"After having given intense and careful consideration this evening to your membership status, and after carefully reviewing the materials you sent to us, we have decided that we want to prayerfully consider this matter overnight. I will notify you once we have a final decision, probably tomorrow or Tuesday."

LDS church public affairs also released a statement, which can be read on the church’s newsroom website hereAMG would encourage all readers to read and ponder the statement, as it concerns both sides of this difficult decision involving discipline.

“Tonight, our prayers are with those who have to decide these difficult personal matters. We also pray for those whose choices may place them outside our congregation.  In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. But how we ask is just as important as what we ask. We should not try to dictate to God what is right for His Church.”

(Photo from the Salt Lake Tribune)


Jun 21

Jun 20

Church statement on member questions and concerns

The LDS Church has released a statement, courtesy of church spokeswoman for broadcast media Jessica Moody, in response to members’ questions about questioning — whether in doctrine, practice and concerns. The statement can be found here, or here, or here.

Portions of the statement can be read below:

First, there is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online. On the contrary, Church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it’s how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another. 

So neither Ask Mormon Guynor By Common Consent, nor This Week in Mormons, nor any other LDS-themed blog, website or podcast will be disciplined simply for blogging or discussing questions online — so long as those questions and discussions are presented in a civil manner.

Keep it civil, friends.

At the heart of the conversation are matters of faith and doctrine. We believe these doctrines are given to us by God in simple ways: through scripture and through living prophets and apostles. If our personal goals go beyond what has been provided from those sources, we must ask ourselves whether we are we trying to change His Church to match our own perspective.

As the TWiM podcast said this week, part of the church’s efforts in Perfecting the Saints requires individual members to resolve concerns, questions and doubts — and occasionally change their own line of thinking. 

Questions involving church culture or pre-established norms can indeed lead to corrections as a church, whether at a local or general level. The example of women praying in General Conference is a perfect testament to that change. But in matters of doctrine, the church is making itself clear.

In dealing with all of these issues and questions, a local lay leader is the one who determines how they apply to those he serves. If he becomes troubled by a member’s actions, he can rely on his own spiritual insights, personal prayer, guidance from handbooks and his training to determine how best to address the members circumstances.

Matters of church discipline and personal correction of members is handled at the local level of the church. Perhaps we should focus on that same level as we seek to apply cultural changes within our own congregations and homes.


Jun 18

Report: “Mormon Stories” founder believes Apostles behind discipline

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(Screenshot: KUTV.com)

The founder of a popular podcast involving difficult questions and themes related to Mormonism believes officials from the top level of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are behind a disciplinary council set on his behalf, according to an interview with KUTV news in Salt Lake City.

John Dehlin, who hosts “Mormon Stories” and has attracted a significant online following, sat down with the Utah news station a few days after news broke he was called to a disciplinary council by his stake president in Logan, Utah. 

"I value my membership, and my hope is that this all goes away," said John Dehlin, a former professional with high tech concerns, turned doctoral student in psychology, and avowed podcaster. "I believe the biggest problem with the church is our collective inability to talk about difficult things openly."

LDS church leaders and public affairs officials have said many times that matters of church discipline are directed at the local level, including stake presidents and bishops.

You can see the full interview here


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