Aurora Is Blessed

Steven holding Aurora in the church foyer before the blessing

Steven holding Aurora in the church foyer before the blessing

Today family gathered to the Pleasant Valley 6th Ward for the blessing of Aurora Willoughby. With all the babies being blessed and extended family in attendance it was virtually standing room only in the chapel. For my readers unfamiliar with the naming and blessing of children I will explain. Under the direction of the presiding authority (in our case today it was Bishop Scott Hill), brethren who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may participate in the ordinance of naming and blessing children (see Doctrine & Covenants 20:70). When blessing a baby, brethren gather in a circle and place their hands under the baby. Normally the father follows these steps:

  1. Addresses our Heavenly Father.
  2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  3. Gives the child a name.
  4. Adds words of blessing as the Spirit directs.
  5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Steven, Aurora, and Adelaide

Steven, Aurora, and Adelaide

There were five babies to be blessed. The order was alphabetically by surname so Aurora was last. I stood in the circle along with 10 to 15 brethren from Aurora’s extended family. Aurora’s father, Steven, gave her a name and blessed her that she would feel the love of family and that as she grows the Spirit will be with her. Among other things, Aurora was blessed that she would benefit from going to the temple and that she would be a servant of the Lord.

Aurora was attired in the same dress that Adelaide wore when she was blessed. Aurora was quiet throughout as were all the other babies that were blessed. At the conclusion of the blessings and passing of the sacrament there was twenty minutes left for testimonies.

After the meeting we relocated to Steven and Adelaide’s apartment for some much needed sustenance. It reminds me of the question:

Question: How can you tell it is Fast Sunday?
Answer: The guests eat twice as much food.

Fortunately we had three times the food and everyone was able to get into the apartment, which was quite large. It was a happy day for all.
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What to Expect at a Mormon Church Service

A new website began in January 2009, Mormons Made Simple, has a mission to help set the record straight on what Mormons believe. It is not an official LDS Church website. The creators, Laurel and Doug, explain that with all the misinformation about Mormons on the web, they saw the need for plain and simple truth on the matter — YouTube style.

Laurel and Doug’s first foray into video production came during the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California in 2008. They produced the video Proposition 8 — Made Simple over a weekend using a laptop, a Sharpie marker, and some photo slide-show software. They were pleasantly surprised when the video received over 350K views. That’s when they first began to realize the potential for simple, explanatory videos.

With the website being so new there are only two videos but more are promised. Embedded here is one of them called Attending a Mormon Church Service. It is accurate and helpful. I should point out that sometimes the meetings are in reverse order, in other words, Sacrament Meeting may be held last, as it is in my ward. If you want to see the other video, then go on right on over to Mormons Made Simple.

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Kaysville 14th Ward Christmas Dinner

Jill helps herself to her Christmas dinner.

Jill at the ward Christmas dinner

Jill and I went to the ward Christmas dinner this evening. Jill signed up to cook some turkey breasts. She was given the meat and we took it along with us. We sat with our good friends the Petersons until it was time to eat. We then assembled in two lines that each split into four rows so the members could get their food faster. That way we were all soon served. There was a dessert table where you helped yourself. After we had eaten, a skit was shown on stage. It was about what the high priests dream about when they fall asleep in sacrament meeting. They did some sort of dance routine which everyone but me thought was funny. The dance was very co-ordinated though, considering it was high priests.

Singing a few Christmas songs was sufficient to get Santa to show up. There were a lot of children present — I do believe Santa will be there for a while, Ho Ho Ho!
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Updated LDS Membership Statistics

The complete updated membership statistics are available at World LDS Membership.

Today I finished updating the LDS membership statistics pages to bring them up to date to the end of 2007. My source was a Deseret News 2009 Church Almanac. This year the detailed country pages were absent but the Membership Statistics summary was still included. This does not have the percentage of LDS members like the detailed country pages. So I had to gather those from various websites including the U.S. Census and Wikipedia. The largest table for me to update was of course the World LDS Membership. I already had a spreadsheet that generates the HTML code for me. I added a column to the spreadsheet that had the population of each country. I was fortunate to be able to copy and paste it in with only a few minor deletions of countries where there are no LDS members.

Now all I had to do was to go through and enter the latest membership figures into the spreadsheet. Around 98% of the countries had an increase in membership. The gain was sufficient to also increase the percentage of LDS in each country although only by a fraction of a percent. This means that the increases in membership in most countries is more than the overall population increase, as a percentage. I was surprised to see the Australian membership decrease from 132,638 in 2006 to 119,975 in 2007. A net loss of 12,663 did not seem to be correct. However, the Membership Statistics summary for 2006 listed Australia as having 116,925 which meant that the 132,638 figure was a typo. So there was not a loss but a net increase in 2007 of 3,050 — members, glad to have you back.

Once the spreadsheet was updated I copied the generated HTML column and pasted it into my blog page. I also updated the U.S., U.K., and Canadian pages that break down the membership into state, country, and province, respectively. Of course, the information on these pages can be found at the LDS Newsroom website, which is where you’ve probably been going all along.
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Mormon Time Magazine Covers

Occasionally I enjoy browsing through TIME Magazine’s archive. It contains almost every issue of TIME since it began publication on March 3, 1923 and has available a full-text search through more than a quarter million articles. Recently I became curious to see how often The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the subject of the front cover. I found three such instances.

Heber Jedediah Grant, L.D.S.

Mormon Centenary — April 7, 1930
Heber Jedediah Grant.

Last week the thoughts of all the 700,000 Mormons in the world dwelt in Salt Lake City, capital of Mormondom and of Utah, where the centenary of the founding of the Church was to be celebrated, exactly to the day, on April 6, 1930.

Mormon good fortune since the trek to Utah is due in no small measure to a faith which greatly admires and encourages prosperity. Mormons irrigated, planted and built with as much persistence as they prayed. A striking fact is that the Mormons did not dig in the ground for metallic wealth but concentrated on husbandry. They made a desert bloom.

Mormon wealth, though impossible to calculate, is apparent to anyone who studies Salt Lake City commercially. The Church owns The Deseret News, two hotels, two office buildings, the Beneficial Life Insurance Co., and Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (first U. S. department store, 1868). Through the Utah-Idaho Sugar Co., the Church owns 24,539 acres of farm lands and operates numerous beet sugar factories in Utah, Idaho, Washington, Montana, South Dakota.

Meanwhile, in 1877, [Grant] married Lucy Stringham. Seven years later, on May 26, he espoused Augusta Winters and, on May 27, Emily Wells. The last is the only one of his three wives now alive. In 1882 a startling businessman, aged 25, he was chosen one of the Twelve Apostles. During 1901-03 he lived in Japan as a Mormon missionary, then served two years as head of missionary activity in Europe. Read the full story at TIME archive.

Mormon Leader Smith

A Peculiar People — July 21, 1947
George Albert Smith.

Mormons today do not expect divine intervention in this sinful world before they have exhausted their own final resources. And 100 years after the Mormons’ perilous trek to Utah’s Great Salt Lake, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far from being exhausted. In its self-made oasis on the Western desert, it is flourishing like a green bay tree.

But what will most awe them will be the spectacular manifestations of Mormon diligence and industry. As commander of temporal as well as spiritual affairs, kindly old President George Smith presides over an enormous going concern. The church, as owner of the big and prosperous Z.C.M.I., Salt Lake City’s first department store, deals in everything from plowshares to perfume. It owns Salt Lake City’s top-rung Hotel Utah and its next-best Temple Square Hotel. It owns one of the city’s daily newspapers, the Deseret News, and its biggest transmitter, radio station KSL.

Mormonism is changing with the rest of the world. But few institutions and few peoples have succeeded as well in stamping out their own destiny and in shaping the times in which they lived. After a hundred years there is milk and honey in the land of the honeybee. There are many great monuments: green, irrigated valleys, temples, cities, and that never-to-be-forgotten reminder of Mormon faith and courage, the faint marks of the old Mormon trail. Read the full story at TIME archive.

Mormons, Inc.

Kingdom Come — August 4, 1997
Mormons, Inc.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, on a block known informally as Welfare Square, stands a 15-barreled silo filled with wheat: 19 million lbs., enough to feed a small city for six months. At the foot of the silo stands a man — a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — trying to explain why the wheat must not be moved, sold or given away.

The church’s material triumphs rival even its evangelical advances. With unusual cooperation from the Latter-day Saints hierarchy, TIME has been able to quantify the church’s extraordinary financial vibrancy. Its current assets total a minimum of $30 billion.

The top beef ranch in the world is not the King Ranch in Texas. It is the Deseret Cattle & Citrus Ranch outside Orlando, Fla. It covers 312,000 acres; its value as real estate alone is estimated at $858 million. It is owned entirely by the Mormons. The largest producer of nuts in America, AgReserves, Inc., in Salt Lake City, is Mormon-owned. So are the Bonneville International Corp., the country’s 14th largest radio chain, and the Beneficial Life Insurance Co., with assets of $1.6 billion.

The Mormons are stewards of a different stripe. Their charitable spending and temple building are prodigious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that TIME estimates to be at least $6 billion strong.

“Our whole objective,” says Hinckley, “is to make bad men good and good men better, to improve people, to give them an understanding of their godly inheritance and of what they may become.” And he intends to do it globally. In what will undoubtedly become the hallmark of his presidency, he is in the process of a grand expansion, the organizational follow-up to the massive missionary work the church has long engaged in overseas. Read the full story at TIME archive.

Other Mormon Time Magazine Covers

Senator Reed Smoot 1929

Ezra Taft Benson 1953, 1956

Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson

Senator Arthur Watkins 1954

Senator Arthur Watkins

George Romney 1959, 1962

George Romney
Governor George Romney

Mitt Romney 2007, 2011, 2012

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Glenn Beck 2009

Glenn Beck


Unfortunately, since I wrote this post in 2008, Time has erected a pay wall. To read the entire article, you must be a U.S. TIME subscriber.
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Convert Journeys of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Valerie Fulmer.
My guest writer is Valerie Fulmer who is writing the book “Convert Journeys of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” If you are a convert, eighteen or over, and want to have your story considered for inclusion, contact me using the email in the footer.

Convert Journeys

I am still working on gathering convert stories for my book that will likely be entitled “Convert Journeys of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This book will give you an opportunity to bear your testimony to many, and to help lifelong members of the church better understand what it is like to be a convert.

I am a lifelong member of the Church. In December 2006 I met a family who took the discussions from the missionaries and who were eventually baptized. To see their journey first hand and up close has been a learning experience for me. I was raised in the Church and it was interesting to see what this amazing family learned and the experiences they went through as converts. This experience has inspired me to compile a book of converts’ stories from members of the Church. A few of the goals of this book are to:

  • Share the gospel of Jesus Christ to those non-members who are willing to read the book.
  • Give converts an opportunity to share their story and their testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Help lifelong members of the Church (myself included) better understand what it is like to be a convert.

Elder David J. Barnett has said:

I know that as we do missionary work in whatever capacity we can, we obey the vital commandment to “love one another.” (David J. Barnett, “Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants: A Testimony of Missionary Work,” Ensign, Mar 2005, 22–23)

Understanding Converts

It is my hope that by reading this book, lifelong members can better understand converts, and thereby have more understanding and a better capacity to reach out to those precious souls that have come into the Fold of Christ.

I bear solemn testimony that I believe this is the Lord’s church on earth. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Because of Him, we are all blessed beyond our comprehension. There is nothing I can say or do that will ever show how much gratitude I have for all He has done, does and will do for each and every one of us.

I do believe there are good and sincere people of many different faiths, and even those who do not have a belief in a Higher Power. Each person is a son or daughter of God. We can learn something from everyone we meet. We believe people should be allowed to believe (or not believe) according to the dictates of their own hearts. This book will be about individuals whose minds and hearts led them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Although I do not think anyone would knowingly make up stories or stretch the truth, the validity of this book rests upon complete honesty with the information you do provide. And with the information you choose to disclose, I encourage you to do so with humility and prayer. Thank you for considering sharing YOUR story. It is my hope that your stories will inspire, educate and encourage people from around the world.

Kaysville Utah South Stake Conference

Kaysville Utah South Stake Center.

Saturday Session

My wife and I enjoy the Saturday evening session of stake conference. Last night we attended with our two sons which made it even more special. The truth be told it was one of our sons, Jake, who reminded us of the meeting, which was very timely because with my rickety memory I had forgotten about it. Those 18 and over are invited to attend and the stake president mentioned at the start of his talk that many members tell him it is their favorite meeting of stake conference. He thought that maybe it was because the children are with baby sitters. My favorite part is when President Thredgold fires up his laptop and runs through his State of the Stake presentation. This is where he projects the stake’s statistics onto the chapel wall, using it as a screen. It might be interesting for you to see these numbers and compare them to your own stake. The figures shown here are not unusual for Davis County.

The Numbers

Figures are as of the third quarter of 2008.

Total Members — 3,506. Even though we have a very large Stake Center, Stake Conference on Sunday is divided into two sessions to accommodate the large numbers that want to attend.

Sacrament Meeting Attendance — 70% average.

Ward Size — The average size of the stake’s ten wards are from 285 to 500 members. Note that the Davis Park (YSA) Ward has 175 members. President Thredgold said that the number is dropping, which is good, for it is because of a number of marriages.

Families per Ward — 110.

Youth — 600 which is 17% of the stake (12 years of age to 18).

Children — 695 which is 20% of the stake (0 years of age to 11).

Missionaries — 100. Daniel is one of these.

Seminary Enrollment — 92%.

Institute Enrollment — The largest of any stake in Davis County.

Operating Expenses — A goal for 2009 is to save enough money from operating expenses to send a member from Africa on a mission. We should be able to save enough money from cutting back on our electricity consumption to pay the $400 a month cost of the mission.

Distress, Talks, and Memories

President Thredgold went on to talk about the current distressing situation with demonstrations, retirement money gone, and a change in government. He mentioned President Packer’s talk that was circulated on blogs and that we need not be concerned about it. He finished with his memories of 2008, particularly mentioning the change in the stake relief society presidency now that Sister Staples is a member of the Relief Society General Board.

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General Conference Quiz

Temple Square in Salt Lake City
For those who watched General Conference last week it is time to see how well you were really listening. Allowance can be made for a rickety memory but you might be surprised how much you can recall. There are quotes from conference talks below, sometimes just a few words, for you to see if you can identify the speaker. Give it your best guess and then point your mouse over the word Speaker and see if you got the correct answer. Twenty questions, all from Saturday sessions of conference.

  1. Arms of safety. Speaker Talk
  2. Brethren, may we cease to aspire and cease to retire! Speaker Talk
  3. The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. Speaker Talk
  4. As I prayed, the feeling came: “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” Speaker Talk
  5. There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way is madness. Speaker Talk
  6. They covet a crown or a cave. Speaker Talk
  7. First, learn what we should learn. Second, do what we should do. And third, be what we should be. Speaker Talk
  8. One evening, when my wife and I were away, our children’s babysitter, intrigued by the prayer she heard them saying, asked them this question: “But what is the difference between your religion and mine?” The reply from our eight-year-old daughter was immediate: “It’s almost the same, except that we study a lot more than you do!” Speaker Talk
  9. Missionary work is the lifeblood of the Church. There is no greater work, no more important work. It blesses the lives of all those who participate in it. It will continue blessing future generations. Speaker Talk
  10. Lift Where You Stand. Speaker Talk
  11. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result. Speaker Talk
  12. The answer is simple: it was because my father read the Book of Mormon. Speaker Talk
  13. Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet. Speaker Talk
  14. In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise. Speaker Talk
  15. In our search to obtain relief from the stresses of life, may we earnestly seek ways to simplify our lives. Speaker Talk
  16. The Savior is the perfect example of praying for others with real intent. In His great Intercessory Prayer uttered on the night before His Crucifixion, Jesus prayed for His Apostles and all of the Saints. Speaker Talk
  17. He is pleased with the noble servant, not with the self-serving noble. Speaker Talk
  18. You may have thought then, “Once I finish my mission, being a faithful priesthood holder will get easier.” But in a few years you found yourself getting even less sleep at night, while trying to support a wife and a new baby, being kind and loving, scrambling to get some education, reaching out to the members of your elders quorum, perhaps even helping them to move their furniture, and trying to find time to serve your ancestors in the temple. You may have kept a smile on your face with the thought: “When I get a little older, being a faithful priesthood holder will not require so much. It will get easier.” Speaker Talk
  19. Along the way the train stopped occasionally to get supplies. One night during one of these stops, my mother hurried out of the train to search for some food for her four children. When she returned, to her great horror, the train and her children were gone! Speaker Talk
  20. Therefore, as a husband or son, express gratitude for what your wife and mother do for you. Express your love and gratitude often. That will make life far richer, more pleasant and purposeful for many of the daughters of Father in Heaven who seldom hear a complimentary comment and are not thanked for the multitude of things they do. Speaker Talk

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With My Sons at General Priesthood Meeting

At the stake center immediately after General Priesthood Meeting.
This rickety photograph above (too many dark suits affected the exposure) was taken in the stake center last night immediately after the conclusion of the General Priesthood Meeting broadcast. I am with my sons (left to right) Paul, Daniel, Jake, and Steven. It is customary for us to go after the broadcast to eat. Judging by the long lines at some eating establishments the custom is widespread. In the photograph below we are at Panda Express in Layton. Left to right are Daniel, Paul, Steven, and Jake. Not shown is my friend Paul Stout and his son Tyler who were eating with us.

As usual our large stake center was filled to overflowing. There were several general authorities speaking via broadcast. Daniel, Jake, and I took notes. I find it helps me concentrate on what is being said. Of course it is also useful as a resource in constructing a blog post. I will just mention two talks here. What struck me about these two talks was the effectiveness of using a phrase throughout the addresses. With Elder Jay E. Jensen it was Arms of Safety. He said:

As I have pondered how to effectively teach the atonement to others, the phrase arms of safety has been useful. When we were baptized and received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, we received two ordinances that introduce us to the arms of safety. By coming humbly and fully repentant to sacrament meeting and worthily partaking of the sacrament, we may feel those arms again and again.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf used the phrase Lift Where You Stand. He said:

Individual recognition is rarely an indication of the value of our service. Readers of the Book of Mormon do not know the names, for example, of any of the 2,000 sons of Helaman. As individuals, they are unnamed. As a group, however, they will always be named as a symbol of honesty and courage. They accomplished together what none of them could have accomplished alone.
That is a lesson for us, brethren of the priesthood. When we stand close together and lift where we stand, when we care more for the glory of the kingdom of God than for our own prestige or pleasure, we can accomplish so much more.

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