Mormon: Celebration & controversy in LDS 181 years

https://readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2013/03/wpid-0406_Joseph_Smith_in_an_LDS_image.jpgLDS CHURCH FOUNDER JOSEPH SMITHWEDNESDAY, APRIL 6: If you’re not Mormon, then the last headline you read about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints probably was about the Broadway show by the creators of South Park—or about GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. In either case, the news coverage is more about controversy than celebration as Mormon families mark their church’s birthday this week.

Today is the 181st anniversary of the church’s founding by Joseph Smith Jr. in the state of New York. Although that moment was humble and the circle of Smith’s first followers was small, the church now lists 15 million followers worldwide. The church teaches that Smith was a young man seeking guidance when he was startled by a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ—guiding him to establish a new church. (Full details are at the LDS church site.) Four years later, Smith reported another divine visit directing him to gold plates buried in a nearby hill; Smith located the gold plates, translated their contents and penned the Book of Mormon. Shortly following his book’s publication, Smith began the LDS church. (Wikipedia has more.)

Today’s Mormons believe Jesus leads the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by revealing his will through the church’s top leaders, especially the current head of the church: Thomas S. Monson, who speaks to members in a semi-annual general conference. (USA Today reports on this.) Last weekend (April 2-3), thousands gathered in Salt Lake City to receive spiritual guidance from Monson, and those who couldn’t visit Utah watched the conference on television or streamed from the LDS website. (Texts and more from the conference are at the LDS website.)

CONTROVERSIES MORMONS WISH THEY COULD AVOID

This week, Mormons are getting more mainstream coverage for controversy than for their 181st birthday. The Washington Post is one of many news publications reporting on “The Book of Mormon,” which appears to be a hit. It’s a Broadway musical by South Park co-writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker and, while some news coverage of the show claims that it shows affection toward Mormon missionaries—generally Mormon responses to the show have been highly critical. Nevertheless, the official LDS view is: There’s no point in even responding. Church officials call this problem their “Publicity Dilemma.” Officials face the same problem when Mormon politicians get into heated disputes on the campaign trail, which is likely to be the case once again as Romney seeks the White House in 2012.

If you’ve got a Mormon friend, neighbor or co-worker—wish them a happy anniversary this week. They probably will appreciate a kind word from a friend.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)

 

Mormon: Pioneer Day, NAIN and Tabernacle Choir

https://readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2013/03/wpid-SF_0710_Wagon_Spoke_Mormon_Pioneer_Day.jpgSATURDAY, JULY 24: Hitch up that covered wagon and step back in time with Utahns today—as Mormons, the entire State of Utah and nearby regions celebrate Pioneer Day. Officially, today commemorates the regions settled specifically by Mormon Pioneers—especially Salt Lake Valley—after followers of Brigham Young were forced from their homes in Nauvoo, Ill. (Wikipedia has details.)

Some modern-day Mormons walk portions of the trail during the week of Pioneer Day (the trail is open to the public year-round, courtesy of the National Park Service), and numerous pageants take place around Utah that dramatically illustrate the Mormon pioneer journey today, too. (Check out a virtual tour of the Mormon trail at LDS.org.) The Days of ’47 Parade begins at 9 a.m. each Pioneer Day and lasts three hours—a tradition that has been in place since 1849—and in the Spanish Fork of Utah, an area that was settled by Mormons in 1951, an elaborate Fiesta Days celebration leads up to Pioneer Day with baby contests, movie nights, golf tournaments, theatrical performances, music, quilt sales, cemetery rededications and much more, culminating with an extensive rodeo. Giddyup! (Want to get into the pioneer spirit at home? Try some of these tasty, easy recipes, including one for honey candy!)

This date in 1847 marked the moment when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first entered Salt Lake Valley, which would become Salt Lake City. Nearly 70,000 pioneers made the 1,300-mile trip to Salt Lake Valley, and today, Salt Lake City remains the base of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite the strong Mormon association, though, Pioneer Day also has roots in the contributions of other pioneers to the Utah area. Bishop Daniel Tuttle, creator of the area’s first non-Mormon schools and first public hospital, is recognized today, as are the region’s American Indians, who are recognized through an Intertribal Powwow at Liberty Park.

News on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Non-Mormons may best recognize the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the first large musical organization in the country to produce a recording. The enormous Mormon Tabernacle Choir remains notable in the music industry and created its own record label in 2003. (The Deseret News recently featured a full article on the Mormon Choir.) This year, the choir commemorated its own efforts in this effect, and the 2010 Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert—recorded early—was dedicated to the choir’s “pioneering efforts.”

INTERFAITH NEWS on NAIN: Also this weekend, the choir is part of the LDS church’s official welcome to the North American Interfaith Network conference being held in Salt Lake City. Here’s an LDS story on the plans.

Video on Pioneer Days from BYU

Brigham Young University produces videos on important moments in history, including this 4-minute look at the trek west and a monument to the pioneers.

 

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

Mormon: Prophet Smith’s Martyrdom Solemnly Recalled; LDS Legacy Remains Controversial in ‘8’ and ‘Polygamist’

https://readthespirit.com/religious-holidays-festivals/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2013/03/wpid-SF_0610_Mormon_Joseph_Smith_Martyrdom.jpgSUNDAY, JUNE 27: Mormons mark the anniversary of the Martyrdom of Prophet Joseph Smith (and Brother Hyrum). Details of the event are at the LDS Church website.

Today, in 1844, Joseph Smith was attacked at a jail in Carthage, Ill., the same state where he was the mayor of another city. Ironically, Joseph Smith was running for the office of President of the United States when he was charged with treason by the State of Illinois.

In the year preceding his death, Joseph Smith continually came into conflict with enemies of his newfound Church. Knowing his death was imminent, Smith met frequently with his Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to instruct them and give them “keys” to carry out the faith after he was gone. (Wikipedia has more.) Eventually, Smith—the mayor of Nauvoo, Ill., and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—was charged and ordered to stand trial along with his brother, Hyrum, at Carthage, Ill. (The Carthage Jail remains a common destination for visiting Mormons.) Then, on June 27, a group of attackers killed them.

The legacy of the Mormon movement is featured in ReadTheSpirit this week in the form of a new comic novel by Brady Udall, “The Lonely Polygamist.” Of course, polygamy is condemned by the mainline LDS church. But, that hasn’t stopped all Mormon spin off groups from exercising the traditional practice.

This month, Mormons also are at the center of another controversial media launch: the documentary movie “8: The Mormon Proposition.” Controversial to its core, the film examines anti-gay activism in the LDS church. California newspapers that are closest to the 2008 Proposition 8 are mixed in reviewing the film. The LA Times calls it “outstanding and urgent,” but the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the documentary is “marred by loaded language and a propagandistic tone that undercuts rather than promotes its purposes.”

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)