LDS weekend news

Well, I enjoyed my Saturday off, but I wish it could have been more. Yesterday was back to work, unfortunately.

I was following some news from my Church this weekend as well. They just dedicated the 150th temple yesterday, with a cultural celebration on Saturday evening. It’s the Provo City Center Temple, which is the second temple in the city of Provo, Utah, where the Church’s biggest university, Brigham Young University, is located (My parents met while they were both students there). There are a lot of church members there, and one temple was no longer enough. It was built from an old tabernacle, a historic building that was gutted by a fire 6 years ago, and everyone was happy that they could save the shell and do something with it.

Next Sunday is Easter, and the day before, the Church kicks off its General Conference with the Women’s Session. The other 5 sessions will follow a week later, with 3 on Saturday April 2nd, and the last 2 on Sunday the 3rd. This will be the 186th Annual Ggeneral Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the following Wednesday marks the 186th anniversary of the church’s founding in 1830).

All the highest leadership of the Church speaks at the conference, as well as a selection of lower leaders. We also have a lot of wonderful music, including by the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These meetings are broadcast all over the world on satellite and the internet, and it is an occasion when Latter-Day Saints all over the world gather to listen and learn from our leaders. It is a time of great spiritual fulfillment for us. I will be working for most of the conference, but I will follow news from it and download the content a day or two later.

At the General Conference, many people expect to hear new temple locations announced. 3 were announced 1 year ago, and since then the Church has dedicated 6 new temples, and broken ground for 7 more. There had been quite a backlog of temple announcements that were not yet in the construction “pipeline”, and for that reason there were no temples announced between April 2013 and 2015. Today, there are only 8 temples that have been announced and are still waiting for their groundbreaking, including the 3 just announced a year ago. That is a big improvement.

There are, however, a couple of disturbing points when it comes to temple construction. First, one of the temples that is generally listed as under construction, has been halted for many years, in Fortaleza, Brazil, probably because of legal challenges. The Church may have to move to a different location in that city (this happened with the temple in Honduras as well). This was supposed to be the 7th temple in Brazil, but now I think another one is likely to be completed first.

Second, it looks to me that temples in the United States are moving ahead very quickly, while the ones in other countries seem to take a lot longer. There are 4 more temples expected to be dedicated this year, and only one is outside the U.S., in Japan in this case. We’ll see more international ones in 2017, as 2 in Europe are very close to completion, in very exciting locations, Paris and Rome.

Well, I intend to post more about temples, and about the organization of the Church (I want to contrast it with the Catholic Church, after listening to Tom Woods’ bonus episode from last Sunday). But I am out of time this morning, gotta get some more Zs.


First round of March Madness continues

Well, the first 16 games are over, and 16 more games today will wrap up the First Round of the men’s basketball tournament. 7 of these college team winners are upset victories, and since it would take too long to list off all the winners, I’ll just talk about those upsets. There were three games involving a number 8 seed against the 9th, and all 3 were won by the number 9 team. My friend at work was excited about Butler’s victory since a relative went to school there (My college is way too small for Division I, so they’re never making it into this tournament).

There were also two upsets each of a 12th seed over 5th, and 11th over 6th. One of the 12s is Yale, who I noted as being in the tournament for the first time in many years. Next they face fellow Ivy League school Duke. The other 12, Little Rock, beat Purdue and now faces Iowa State. The two 11s are Wichita State and Gonzaga, who now face #3s Miami and Utah.

Speaking of Utah, this is the highest they’ve been seeded in the tournament since 1999, according to a video on Rant Sports that my phone did not let me watch all the way through.

I tend to cheer on any Utah teams in the tournament since I have my roots there. I’ll go more into my genealogy later but my father and all 4 grandparents were born in Utah. My father’s parents spent their whole lives in that state except for a brief stint in Iowa. My first ancestor to reach Utah was just a few days behind Brigham Young in 1847. By 1870, I think all but one of my ancestral lines had arrived there, though some lived in neighboring states for a while after that. Anyway, that’s the state I feel the strongest connection to in terms of teams, especially since there are none from Maine or New Hampshire.

There’s another Utah team in the competition as well, which I just noticed this morning. Weber State, seeded 15, will play today against #2 Xavier. Good luck, guys!

LDS Temples

I promised way back when I started this blog to post about LDS (or “Mormon”, my church’s nickname) Temples, and then I forgot to do so.

We have two main types of church buildings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: churches, also called meetinghouses, or chapels, and the second type are temples. Chapels are used for everyday and “everyweek” purposes, such as Sunday church meetings, social gatherings for youth or for the women on weeknights, and family socials on a Friday or Saturday night. These buildings are open to the public, and there are thousands of them all over the place. Just in southern New Hampshire, I know of at least 7 or 8 of them. However, temples are a much more special building, which we don’t go to on Sundays. We have special ceremonies, called ordinances, that are only done in temples. They are closed to the public, except for a special open-house held just before they are dedicated (or rededicated after being closed for renovation). There are only 149 temples in operation around the world (with another 16 under construction and 8 that have been announced). The church has a page about temples on their website, at LDS temples, but my favorite page to learn about them is a private endeavor by a guy in Idaho, found at LDS Church Temples.

Studying about these buildings, and specifically where they are located, is one of my hobbies. In fact I have two large maps in my bedroom showing their locations, a US and a world map. It is exciting to me to see a new location on the map, especially if it is distant from all the existing temples. There has been a lot of growth in the spread of these. There were only 16 temples when I was born (one of which, in Washington DC, was dedicated in 1974, 2 months before I was born, and I was there in the womb). There were only 8 when my father was born. And now, they are all over the place! For example, when I lived in northern Maine as a kid we had a 16-hour trip to get to Washington DC to go to the temple. Now there are temples in Boston, Montreal, and Halifax Nova Scotia, which are all no more than 6 hours away. I served a church mission in Brazil 20 years ago, which at the time had only 1 temple in this whole country which is larger than the contiguous United States. Now there are 6, with 2 more announced or planned. Also, the whole entire continent of Africa, where some of the church’s most rapid growth is occurring (we have about 15 million members, with almost half of those in the United States), only has 3 temples in operation (and 3 more in planning). The temples in Asia are all in the eastern part of that continent, or its islands, but one was announced in Thailand last year and I think it will not be long until India gets an announcement as well.

I hope this post is not too boring for those who are not interested in religious things. You will see if you look at my links that these temples are beautiful buildings. I still think some of the most beautiful are the four that were built in Utah in the late 1800s. The architect for the Salt Lake Temple, the most famous one, went to Europe and studied cathedrals and other famous architectual masterpieces, and I love to look at their pictures as well as the maps. I also have a goal of someday visiting every one in the United States and possibly Canada (at least to be on the grounds), though it gets harder and harder over time as they build more. I don’t know if I’m going to venture into New York City to see the one in Manhattan (built inside a 6-story building the Church already owned there).

Anyway, I also thought I’d mention my interest in temples because it relates to some future plans. I am planning to travel with my twin brother (who shares this hobby) down to Philadelphia this summer, in August, when the new temple there will have its open house before being dedicated in September. He has visited me once before in New Hampshire, and we attended the PorcFest together in June of 2012. I am sure I will write more about PorcFest in some future posts, but it’s not that urgent to me right now.

For those in New England who might like to see one, we only have one temple in operation in this region, which is just outside of Boston in the town of Belmont, but there is another in construction near Hartford, Connecticut. It will probably be finished this year, or just barely into 2017.

Anyway, for those wanting to know about the sorts of things I’m interested, there you go!

My religion

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also commonly known as Mormons, though we tend not to use this nickname among ourselves. We usually say members, LDS for short, or sometimes Saints (a term we understand to mean all the members of Christ’s church, not used in the Catholic sense of a really holy person classified as such by the church). I was born and raised in this church, and though I am not always great at following all of the church’s teachings, I still believe in those things.

We have thirteen articles of faith that summarize our beliefs. These were written by our first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr, who lived from 1805 – 1844. He had a vision and saw God and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees near his home in western New York when he was 14 years old. Later, when he was 17, he was visited by an angel named Moroni who told him of a buried record that God wanted him to translate. He was tested and instructed by Moroni for 4 years before being allowed to take the gold plates, and in 1829 he finished the translation of the new book of scripture. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the same year that Joseph was instructed to formally organize the church.

We believe the Book of Mormon is scripture, alongside the Bible. It contains an account of two groups of people, two nations, who resided in the Americas in ancient times, and tells of their spiritual heritage, their revelations from God, portions of their history, and of their visit by Jesus Christ shortly after his resurrection in Jerusalem.

To us Mormons, the idea of personal and continuing revelation is very important. We have apostles who lead the church, with the head apostle being the president of the Church and also called our prophet. We have had 16 prophets since 1830, and are today led by a man named Thomas S Monson.

Twice a year, in April and October, we have something called a General Conference, where all the church leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, gather for five 2-hour meetings and speak to the members of the church. These conferences are broadcast all around the world on the church’s satellite system, and also on the internet, and on many radio and TV stations. I download the audio and some video files from the church’s main website, Last night I was listening to one of the sessions on a portable device while I was at work. I really enjoy being able to carry these messages with me. I also use this for liberty-related content including all the podcasts I follow faithfully every week.

As part of the LDS faith, we follow a code of health called the Word of Wisdom, revealed by God to Joseph Smith in 1833. It includes several statements about things that are good for the body, and also bans a few things, saying they are not good for you. These are strong drink (alcohol), tobacco, and hot drinks (always interpreted since the second President of the Church, Brigham Young, to mean coffee and tea). It is understood to be part of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom that illegal drugs are also banned by it, or abuse of prescription drugs. It will be interesting to see what happens if church members are found to be using marijuana legally under a medical program – which technically doesn’t fall under the category of illegal drugs, except for the fact that the federal government refuses to move it from Schedule 1 controlled drug to Schedule 2.

The Word of Wisdom also says we should use meat sparingly, eat fruits and vegetables in season, and says that grain is good for food. I do have some questions about this part, but the church doesn’t really try to enforce the nutritional aspects of the revelation.

The Word of Wisdom is found in another book of scripture, called the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains modern revelations from God (mostly received by Joseph Smith prior to his murder in 1844). It is found in Section 89 of the D & C. Besides the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we have a small 4th book of scripture, another “standard work” called the Pearl of Great Price, which came about around the 1850s and became scripture in 1880. It contains writings and works of Joseph Smith that were not in the Doctrine and Covenants. The first reference I gave you, to the Articles of Faith, is in the Pearl of Great Price.

In addition to those 4 books of scripture, as I mentioned we believe in continuing revelation. This is one of the most important doctrines of our church, which distinguishes us from many other Christian faiths. Everyone is entitled to receive revelation from God, in our belief. In addition, our prophets and apostles receive revelation for governing the church. The general conference talks by apostles are poured over by members to find personal guidance, though they are not formally canonized as scripture they are the next best thing. We also believe the leadership receives revelation about policies for the church, and locations to build new temples and assign missionaries, for instance. I will write about the church’s temples in another post, but this is one of my big hobbies.

You will see more about my religious beliefs in future posts, but I just wanted to give a brief introduction today.