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Monday, October 31, 2016

389: "I THINK I'LL DEDICATE THAT ONE. IT"S GOOD FISHING UP THERE"

In October 2011, President Thomas S Monson in the opening session of the 182nd annual General Conference announced the new temples to be built. He said,

"I am pleased to announce new temples in the following locations: Barranquilla, Colombia; Durban, South Africa; Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Star Valley, Wyoming... I think I’ll dedicate that one. It’s good fishing up there." 

Well, President Monson was not able to take his fishing trip up to Wyoming this weekend to dedicate the now complete Star Valley Temple. Instead, Elder Bednar dedicated the Temple in all three sessions. Here is his photo outside the temple that was published in the Deseret News. 




While most might not notice, it is now becoming commonplace to no longer have an East facing Angel Moroni on top of the Temple.. Last month, I wrote a blog post "Does the direction we face matter"about the new Meridian Temple where I pointed out that the iconic statue faces South. The decision was made to align Angel Moroni to those entering into the Temple instead of the symbolic facing east symbolically heralding in the Lord's Return. The Angel Moroni on this newly dedicated temple in Wyoming does not face East either. It actually faces directly West. With this new orientation, Angel Moroni will always have his back to the rising sun (see the photo below.) I am not sure why the departure from the symbolic East direction.  Having Angel Moroni facing the complete opposite direction seems odd to me.








Thursday, October 27, 2016

388: LDS CHURCH DONATES MILLIONS TO NEW DOWNTOWN SLC THEATER

It appears that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has donated millions to the new theater in downtown Salt Lake which is part of the City Creek Downtown Rising Project. The new theater is an extension to the LDS Church's high end office building called 111 Main. The 100 million plus theater is interconnected and actually shares the same lobby as the Church's latest addition to City Creek building portfolio. I wrote about 111 Main Office Tower here.


Below is a photo of the ribbon cutting gala event that took place last week.

 

 In the photo below, is the cutting the ribbon. The Eccles family were the highest donors to the building which the theater is now named after. The family representatives are the ones holdind the giant scissors. Elder M Russell Ballard is also part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and can been seen just to the left of the Eccles. The LDS Church is the listed as the third highest donor. Hard to know for sure if the listing is in order of donation magnitude, but if it is, that would put the church’s donation somewhere between $6,000,000.00 and $2,000,000.00 million dollars.  I wasn't in attendance, but I wonder if instead of  shouting "Let's Go Shopping" the said in unison "Let's Go the Show". 

 Here is the list  of the Top Five Listed Donors:

First Listed Donor (building named after)
George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation = $15,000,000.00

2nd Listed Donor
Delta Air Lines = $6,000,000.00
3rd Listed Donor
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints Foundation and 
City Creek Reserve, Inc.

4th Listed Donor
O.C. Tanner Company

5th Listed Donor
Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation = $2,000,000.00 million

As part of the three-day Grand Opening Celebration, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasted  their weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" from this new theater last Sunday on Oct. 23, 2016. The MoTab's radio and TV broadcast was the first time in its 88-year history that the program originated from a Salt Lake venue other than the Salt Lake Tabernacle or LDS Conference Center.


Ironically, the 2016-2017 Season tickets for the Eccles Theater are now on sale.  Some of the shows include: Dirty Dancing, Kinky Boots and the less then flattering Broadway show, The Book of Mormon: the musical.  So interesting that that the Church would donated tithing money to a venue that would play such shows instead of building homeless shelters and food kitchens. One day I hope to get an explanation on why the Church spends the widows mite on such things. 
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Sidenote:
I was in Cedar City this past weekend and drove by the new LDS Temple that is being built. (See below on the left).  The Church does a great job in finding the most exclusive areas and high end residential areas to build their Temples.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

387: TEACHING GOD'S COMMANDMENTS IN THE HOME: A Sacrament Talk

Last Sunday, a friend of mine gave this talk in his LDS ward during Sacrament Meeting. His assigned topic was Teaching God's Commandments in the Home. I asked him for permission to post his talk in this blog post. Here is a link to the pdf file. I know many are struggling with attending their traditional Church meetings. Maybe if more talks were given like this in Sacrament, more would continue to attend. 

Teaching God’s Commandments in the Home
Sacrament Talk given by Bob Sonntag on 10.16.2016


If the scriptures are adamant about one point, it is that all of us must come unto Christ and be saved. If they say a second thing, it is that there is only one very specific path back to Christ’s presence.
Romans 10 says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” as preached by a messenger sent by God. If someone is not sent by God, or if they deviate from God’s word, their message cannot produce faith, no matter how zealously it is believed.
In Mosiah 4 we find that the miraculous response to the repentance of King Benjamin’s people came “because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.”
Saving faith could only come “according to the words” given by God. Christ said of his commandments given in the Sermon on the Mount:
Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so to  do, he shall in no wise be saved in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach these commandments… the same shall be called great, and shall be saved in the kingdom of heaven. (JST Matthew 5:21)
A study of that sermon suggests why Christ is so particular: the commandments of God exalt you in the act of keeping them. They reveal God’s nature by causing you to emulate his mercy, integrity, and loving kindness.
It sounds simple enough. What goes wrong? A third core message of the scriptures is that we will be presented with “commandments of men” as a counterfeit of the commandments of God. Since most people are actually trying to be good, the best way to lead them astray is to give them a false standard of goodness.
These counterfeits are created when well-meaning teachers think they can improve on God’s commandments by addition, subtraction, or modification (3 Nephi 11:40; D&C 10:68).
In 3 Nephi 18:3, Christ says

But whoso among you shall do more or less than [my commandments] are not built upon my  rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
He then warns us to be watchful and prayerful to make sure we are not led astray by falsehoods.

When we attempt to teach the gospel disconnected from the words God has caused to be written then the difference between God’s commandments and the commandments of men is obscured. The spirit cannot override our neglect of the scriptures and force truth out of our mouths (D&C 11:21-22; Mosiah 1:3-5). The less we ground our teachings in a careful and correct reading of the scriptures, the more our teaching will consist of stock phrases, trite platitudes, sentimental stories, clichés, and folk traditions. Worse yet, we will develop guidelines; standards of dress, speech and behavior; and invented commandments that spring from those traditions rather than from God’s word. At best those things  simply distract us, waste our time, and turn the beautiful simple gospel of Christ into a soul crushing exercise in behavior control. At their worst they actually cause us to break true commandments. Just as  we come to know God through his true commandments, we gain a false and distorted view of him when those commandments are added to or diminished. Since eternal life means to know God, a false understanding of him will thwart our salvation until we abandon it for truth (John 17:3).
D&C 93 contrasts the commandments of God with the traditions of men:

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one.
27 And no man receiveth a fulness [of truth] unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things…
39…that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
The most damaging false traditions are those which come to be seen as fundamental, indispensable, essential features of a religion, causing people to disobey God while thinking they are righteous.
[Paragraphs in red cut for time] Orthodox Jews at the time of Jesus were taught that the teachings of their leaders were more important than past prophets, including the head of their dispensation. They were taught that only the rabbis could provide authoritative interpretation of scripture. They were taught that they were to treat the teachings of the rabbis as if God had spoken it, and follow them and be blessed or reject them and suffer. The inevitable result of those beliefs was that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, developing an invented set of laws they treated as though it were the Torah (Matthew 15:1-9). One such faux-commandment involved a ceremonial washing of the hands before a meal, wherein they recited the following prayer:
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.”
They knew that we are sanctified by keeping God’s commandments, but, as God’s people almost always do, they invented commandments which could not sanctify. They claimed God commanded them to wash their hands; ask them where God commanded that and they could only point to their traditions.
Latter-day Saint history provides us with numerous examples. I’ve chosen one from the 19th century, because if I chose one from the 21st  century we’re uncomfortably close to some steep gullies that are

perfect for an angry mob to throw a heretic into. This example will help us focus on the role of parents in teaching their children truth.
Here is an excerpt from a letter shared with me by a friend, from her ancestor Gilbert Belnap to his wife Adaline Knight, dated February 25,1856
"Instruct the children in the ways of the Lord and be not too severe in your chastisement of them. Kiss them all for me and teach the little boys to avenge the Blood of the Prophet."
I’m not the most careful reader, but even I noticed that this advice took a left turn somewhere in the middle. Where did Gilbert get this idea to teach his sons vengeance? Shortly after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, it was thought to be appropriate to cause the saints to enter into a covenant to
promise that [they would] pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that [they would] teach the same to [their] children and to [their] children's children unto the third and fourth generation.1
This covenant was thought so important that it was administered in the Saints’ most sacred places, as part of their most sacred ceremonies.
While the wording of the covenant remained the same for 90 years, the saints’ understanding of it evolved, as traditions do. In the decade-or-so between Joseph’s death and Gilbert’s letter the saints came to believe that the covenant didn’t simply mean to pray for God to take vengeance on the nation, but that the saints themselves were responsible for taking vengeance. Gilbert was simply repeating to his sons the version of the gospel that was current among the saints. It was orthodox. It was a fundamental and essential feature of what Gilbert thought Mormonism was. So what could he have done differently?
When he heard over the pulpit that the saints were themselves responsible for vengeance could he have thought back to the wording of the covenant he had made and realize he was now hearing a misinterpretation of those words?
Going back further, when Gilbert was asked to covenant to pray for divine vengeance to rain down upon his enemies, could he have asked himself whether that was the right thing to do?
If he studied his scriptures, he might have read D&C 84, where God informs the saints that they are under condemnation for “treating lightly” the Book of Mormon and failing to do what it taught. Maybe that would have led him to read the book very carefully, where he would read of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, and others praying with all their hearts for the salvation of people who wanted them dead. He would read in 3 Nephi 12:
behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven
“Pray for”. Not pray against. And certainly don’t seek vengeance (3 Nephi 12:39).


Gilbert would be faced with hard choices. Should he remain orthodox, and prize the words of his leaders over Christ’s own words, and keep the covenant he had made? Or should he instead follow Christ’s instructions, that he might be a Child of his Father in Heaven? Had the saints chosen that second path, D&C 84 says they would have brought forth fruit meet for the kingdom of God (vs. 58). Instead, the violent rhetoric about vengeance and bloodshed only grew more intense and elaborate in the months following Gilbert’s letter. Words were soon tragically matched by action in eruptions of violence so horrific we still haven’t fully processed them as a Church.2 As Gilbert should have examined his most precious beliefs before passing them on to his children, so we should ours.
We must not expect God to conform to our traditions, no matter how precious they are to us, how  popular, or how orthodox. If our obedience is to the commandments of men, we will only experience a tedious oppressive version of the gospel. Truly seeking God, and leading our children to him, will require setting aside our creeds and seeking truth as little children. As Joseph Smith said:
To all those who are disposed…to set up stakes for the almighty—[you] will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son [a man] must put away all his traditions. (Smith Diary, August 27, 1843)



Bob Sonntag 10.16.2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016

386: THE NEW THOMAS S. MONSON LODGE FOR THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

Yesterday, another building was dedicated and named after President Thomas S. Monson. This comes just weeks after the last building that was dedicated and named after him and days after the LDS General Conference where there were no announcements of any new temples to be built. 











This building is a multi-million dollar lodge located high up in primitive Uinta Mountains that will be used by the Boy Scouts of America. It is an impressive building especially when you consider that it is in a remote area that has always been used for rugged camping for the Boy Scouts in enjoy the rustic outdoors. Below is photo of the view from the patio of the new Monson Lodge.



 On the lower level of the lodge there are many private showers for the scouts to use so they don't come home smelling like a campfire. Below is a photo that was part of the Deseret News article.


President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the concrete facility, along with the Utah Governor Gary Hurbert. (It seemed like both of them coordinated to wear the exact same tie. See photo below. )


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However, more disturbing to me than the 5.5 million of dollars that went towards the building of this lodge, more disturbing that the distraction of this concrete structure will be to natural mountain beauty, and more disturbing to me than the need to put in showers.....what is the most disturbing thing to me is the larger than life painting of President Monson with his awards around his neck hanging in the multi-storied grand lobby right next to the "The King Room". (Thank goodness, the room is named after King Husein, the President and CEO of Span Construction & Engineering, not Saddam Hussein)

Here is selfie photo of President Eyring and friends in front of the painting.








President Monson has been a member of the National Board of Boy Scouts of America for decades. Back in 1991 there was an Deseret News article that reported the dedication of another Boy Scout Lodge near Payson, UT.

In this article  Glen W. Swalberg, Utah National Parks Council president, reaffirmed the Boy Scouts of America position that the BSA would  maintain its policy on membership, excluding homosexuals and girls.

"We will not be intruded upon by . . . homosexuals, and we will not be intruded upon by young girls. There is no place for them in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts," Swalberg said. In a position statement prepared by the Boy Scouts of America, the organization claimed the right, as a private membership organization, to determine the qualifications of its members and leaders.

Wow have things changed since then. As we all know that the Boy Scouts of America on July 27. 2015 ratified a resolution removing the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees, The previous statement that they will NOT be intruded upon by homosexuals and girls is no longer true. Below is a photo taken yesterday at the Thomas S Monson Boy Scout Lodge where two young girls are part of the flag ceremony. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. 


Sunday, October 2, 2016

385: "POST-GAME" SHOW..(LDS CONFERENCE). WHERE WILL YOU GO?

Just finished watching all the sessions of General Conference. For those who didn't tune in, it was encouraging that many talks focused on The Book of Mormon and the need for repentance.  I enjoyed three talks, Elder K Brett Nattress on the importance of teaching our children, Elder Dale G Renlund on Repentance, and Elder LeGrand R Curtis on the Book of Mormon.

That being said, In Elder Stevenson's talk he quoted from chapter 8 of Mormon where Moroni basically says, I saw all of you Mormons living in the last days.  He read verse 34 when Moroni says, "I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing." I find it interesting that Elder Stevenson stopped at that verse and didn't continue to describe the things that Moroni saw and didn't read any more verses. Maybe because if you read the things that Moroni saw, none of which are very flattering. Moroni basically said, you guys suck. If you don't believe me, read again the verses 34-40 in Mormon 8 for yourselves.

Many are waking up to the current state of the Church,  Elder Ballard spoke this morning and addressed the Brethren's concern that so many members are leaving the Church. He said, "For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard—or difficult to accept. Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present." But he ended by saying... "where else will you go? or what will you do?"  Well to offer a solution to those questions below is  a friend's website written for those who still have testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the Restored Gospel but also have the same question that Moroni had and asked us "why have ye polluted the holy church of God?"

Here is the website:



In the heading on the homepage of the website under THE RESTORATION there are seven short paragraphs that describe what has happen over the past 200 years since the beginning of the Restoration to where we are now.  Here are some of the quick links to those pages:


It is the hope that this website might be a helpful resource for others find a place where they can go for more answers. We need to remember what has been been give through the Prophet Joseph Smith, do our best to preserve it, and remain humble enough to move forward in harvesting the field before the Lord's coming.