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you have questions Is this class the answer?
The essays on the Church’s gospel issues deal with some of the more delicate aspects of its history and teachings.
Did Founder Joseph Smith translate the foundational scripture of the faith, the Book of Mormon, by looking at a rock in a hat? Did members abandon polygamy in 1890? Did Brigham Young order the Massacre of Mountain Meadows? Do Latter-day Saints believe in a heavenly mother and that people can become like God?
These provocative plays addressed questions raised by skeptical outsiders and committed critics, among others.
Now a new institute class wants to do the same—for young Latter-day Saints.
The course, titled Answering My Gospel Questions, is designed to help students examine and discuss specific questions they have and learn how to find answers from reliable sources.
“This course is part of a larger effort to meet the needs of young adults in an inviting and relevant manner,” said Chad Webb, Seminars and Institutes Administrator, in a press release. “It allows them to truthfully address current issues and issues.”
The first lesson recognizes that “many” young adults have questions about the doctrine, doctrines, politics, and history of the Church. “This lesson provides students with an opportunity to explore various resources provided by the Church to answer their questions,” states the teacher’s manual. “You will also consider why these sources are trustworthy.”
Sources are crucial. Patrick Mason, director of the Department of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, recently told The Salt Lake Tribune that those researching church history, for example, should stick to primary sources and the work of professional historians.
“Look at the original material and make your own judgement,” he said. “Don’t just rely on what someone happens to say about it on the internet.”
The sixth lesson, on Diversity and Unity in Global Faith, reminds students that they “belong to an international church, embracing a diversity of cultures, races, nationalities, and languages.”
It includes a video by Black Latter-day Saint Darius Gray, co-founder of Genesis Group, explaining the beauty of diversity.
“If you look around, you don’t just see one type of flower with one color. … They have all the variety of the field, every variety of flora and fauna out there, and God is the author, whether it be the fish of the sea or the birds of the air. God loves diversity,” says Gray. “He made me the way I am. You, whoever you are, just as you are. Enjoy it. Be proud of it. … Know that God positioned you for what you were and are so that you could learn and share the positive aspects of that experience with others. Diversity is good.”
The next eight lessons focus on topics chosen by the course participants. You are encouraged to consult resources found on the Church Newsroom, Scripture Guide, General Conference, Self Help, or Topics pages.
These topic pages cover topics ranging from Abortion to Zion, Clothing to Godhead, Polygamy to Priesthood, Word of Wisdom to Women in the Church.
By Common Consent blogger Emily Jensen points to the new class as a possible answer — and help — to waves of young people leaving the faith.
“The church understands the tsunami that is coming,” she writes, “if this new institute class is any indicator.”
She also talks about it on the latest Mormon Land podcast.
World’s Fair mural finds a permanent home
The Church’s Purpose in Life mural is being repurposed.
The well-known work of art that caused a sensation and many hearts at the New York World’s Fair in the mid-1960s is now part of a permanent exhibition at the Brigham Young University-Idaho Center.
Joining them is the Japanese mural Purpose of Life, which wowed and wooed viewers at the 1970 Osaka World Expo.
“The Mormon Pavilion exhibits really had an impact on how people perceived the church, and they led to a lot of growth for the church,” said Kyoung DaBell, curator of the BYU-Idaho Jacob Spori Art Gallery, in a press release from the Rexburg school . “These events forever changed the perception of the Church worldwide.”
Images from the murals—depicting a person’s journey from a premortal realm with God, through pivotal moments of mortality and a final return into the hands of the Almighty—appeared frequently in church handbooks and pamphlets, and in a short film, Man’s Search for Happiness ‘, presented at the New York Fair, became a mainstay of proselytizing in the years to come. The original film is still available online, as is the 1986 remake.
We thank you, O God, for new texts?
When the long-awaited and long-discussed revised Church hymnbook hits the pews, many Latter-day Saints long to see not just fresh hymns but new tones in old tunes.
For example, a blogger would welcome modified verses in one of the Belief Standards.
“I’m really not a fan of the lyrics in We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet, which celebrate how the wicked people will soon have their comeuppance,” argues Ziff, the pseudonym for an author at Zelophhad’s daughters’ website. “I am thinking here of these lines: ‘The wicked that fight against Zion / shall surely be struck last’ [and] ‘While those who reject this glad tiding / will never know such happiness.’”
The author sees these phrases as a holdover from the church’s haunted past, adding “that they feel utterly out of place in the current climate.”
From the stands
• In this week’s “Mormon Land,” Emily Jensen, web editor for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and her 17-year-old daughter Cecily discuss why young Latter-day Saints are abandoning the faith, how parents should respond, and what the church should do does or could do to help.
listen to podcast
• With the release of Joseph Smith and the Mormons this month, readers can explore the life of the Church founder through the eyes—and artwork—of acclaimed graphic novelist Noah Van Sciver, who grew up and admits to being a Latter-day Saint that there are such “awkward” parts of Smith’s story that “I don’t really know how to get comfortable.”
Read the story.
• Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the Church’s ruling First Presidency, warned in Rome Wednesday that “religious rights cannot be absolute,” in a rousing plea for a global push to protect religious freedoms.
Read the story.
• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson addresses a big question: Where do LGBTQ individuals fall into the Mormon eternal plan?
Read his column.
• After BYU’s language program stopped offering gender-affirming voice therapy for transgender clients, its accreditation seemed in doubt. But a national group has decided the school still lives up to its standards.
Read the story.
• Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess sees President Russell M. Nelson’s efforts to eliminate the use of the nickname “Mormon” as another step in integrating the faith into the religious mainstream.
Read her column.
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