Parshall Proposal: LDS Gospel Topic Essays on Science

Somewhat hidden in the comments on keepapitchinin.org is an important suggestion by Ardis E. Parshall:  that LDS Church leaders provide a set of gospel topic essays on science and Mormonism.  Parshall’s OP was in reaction to some bogus “science” presentations at a recent FIRM Foundation conference at Utah Valley University:

Ardis E. Parshall

The Church generally tries to avoid open controversy in matters (of science and religion), responding to questions with general statements about the realm of the Church and the realm of human endeavor, although occasionally, for whatever reason, the Church does, gently, diplomatically, in sometimes unnoticed ways, nudge us away from fundamentalism: The Sunday School manual’s Creation lesson now openly states that the “days” of Genesis need not be understood as the 24-hour period of our familiarity.  Organic evolution is studied at BYU calmly and rationally, although I hear, anecdotally, that it still provokes cases of the vapors in some students or their parents.

If the Church did feel it was within their province to directly address some of these issues with, say, a set of gospel topics essays on science to complement those on history, it could quash, or provide the authoritative right to quash, some of the false ideas that anti-science Mormons waste so much time and effort and money on studying and promoting.  They wouldn’t need to make any positive statements about things that haven’t been revealed or are beyond the scope of the gospel, but they could point to a few issues — like the use of “day” in the Creation account — and state that the gospel does not require us to believe anything that is not true, or does not require us to believe in a named list of fundamentalist assumptions about science. That they have not, and may never, issue such statements (and I don’t necessarily fault them for that — such essays would be enormously helpful and reassuring, but are not, after all, essential to the mission of the Church) is certainly an identifiable factor in Mormonism that allows superstition and false ideas to be promoted by organizations like Firm Foundation.

Gospel topic essays on science sounds like a great idea.  And I hope at some level, the leadership of the LDS Church considers the suggestion.

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LDS Leadership Issues Statement on Homelessness

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has authorized the release of the following statement:

Homelessness is a tragic condition that afflicts individuals and even families in many places, including Utah. The causes are varied, and solutions are often difficult, but whether homelessness stems from conflict, poverty, mental illness, addiction or other sources, our response to those in need defines us as individuals and communities.

We are grateful for the willingness of government, community and civic leaders to tackle this issue. We applaud their continuing efforts to find solutions that will not only relieve the suffering inherent in homelessness but also implement measures that will help homeless individuals become self-reliant and deal with criminal elements that prey on the homeless.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels keenly a responsibility to help in a Christlike way and has participated in efforts to address homelessness for many years, particularly in the Salt Lake Valley. Our farms and facilities provide food, clothing and resources. We have partnered with government, relief organizations, community groups and other faiths to care for those in need and to help address the underlying causes of homelessness.

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Jennifer McCullough: Autobiography of a Humanitarian

My name is Jennifer McCullough, proud spouse of an Army officer.  I grew up in New Orleans and in 2001 I said “I do” to an Officer in the US Army.  I have made it a habit that I look for a charity project, usually involving children, at each duty location.  Saying this, we are now stationed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We are currently living under a State of Emergency established by the Ethiopian government.  There are pockets of fighting, famine, and unrest throughout the country.  Though everyone living here is impacted by it, it is the innocent children that are effected the most.   Orphanages are opened by people in villages in order to save the lives of the impoverished children.  The kids are being orphaned daily by death of parents due to fighting, starvation or their parents are abandoning them in the markets as they cannot take care of them.   Saying this, there are many orphanages (few are supported by the government) overflowing with children from newborn thru 18 years old.  Since arriving in Addis Ababa in August 2016 and witnessing these challenges, I decided to team up with a US firm named Adoption Avenue who actively works with an orphanage to make a positive impact on children’s lives.

Children at the School/Orphanage near Addis Ababa

During the next two years while my family is assigned to Ethiopia, it is my personal mission to raise awareness about this orphanage and school and to get donations to build them a better future.   My goals are to: 1) Get this school up and running like a Western School and give them the necessary items they need to get the best education they can here 2) Get school supplies, science equipment and outdoor equipment 3)  Build a chicken coop for eggs and meat for themselves and for sale, 4) Create a vegetable garden so they can be self-efficient and 5) Establish seamstress instruction to teach the girls how to sew so that they can have a skill to better themselves.   I know this may seem like a BIG GOAL, but I know I can do it with the help of donations from people like you.  I have started a Facebook page so that friends and family can follow me on my journey and see their donations at work.   You can follow my missions too at:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/891040101019461/

In Germany (2010), I raised $10,000 to build an extension to an orphanage in Hungary.  In 2012, I raised $18,000 to purchase a pump and drill a well for the children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (https://www.facebook.com/groups/189007084568794/).  Also, while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan (2006) and Bosnia (2010), I created  “Operation School Bags” where we had 200+ school bags filled with supplies and delivered them to children in rural areas.

For my Ethiopian project, I have established a page: “YouCaring” at https://www.youcaring.com/orphanage3hoursnorthofaddisababa-687197  to help the orphanage and https://www.youcaring.com/covenantchristianorphanagekindergarten-752631 to help out the school.  I have spammed my friends and family on Facebook and post daily about the children, but the donations are just trickling in.  These children here are literally starving, have very little, and I cannot do this alone. Please consider becoming a part of the “global village” and make a difference in these young peoples’ lives.

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Installing Playground Equipment at an Orphanage near Addis Ababa

A Ugandan colleague, Judy Nalube, recently traveled to Ethiopia to install a swing set and climbing tower at an orphanage/school near Addis Ababa.  She flew from Kampala, Uganda, to Addis and met up with Jennifer McCullough, who while traveling around the world with her Army Officer husband works on humanitarian projects.

Judy in her own words:

    On arrival in Addis Ababa, I was received by Jennifer; she picked me up and took me to the hotel where I had reservations, it was a nice hotel, clean and safe.  She picked me up the following morning and drove me to an orphanage in a place called Holetta where I stayed for several days until the swing was done.
    There was no Internet there but it was a nice place, the people there were nice and welcoming.  That day, we went shopping for the swing parts i.e pipe, chain, nuts and bolts, etc.  It was about one and a half hours drive to that place, the place was really crowded just like the same places we buy stuff like chain from here in Uganda, we managed to get all we needed and also drilled the holes in the pipes before we headed back.
    After all was done, we hired a vehicle to transport the material, to the orphanage where I stayed, we got back late that day but the day was a success.
    The following day, Jen came and we hired a horse (you will see the pics) to carry the materials to the school.  The guy that was assigned to work with me was not yet there so we embarked on assembling the pipe with Jen, we had some issues with the holes in the pipe, they were drilled wrongly, but later on when this guy arrived, we had them re-drilled  and all was good to go though by the time we finished assembling, it was late and we had to leave the school (the school owners said it was not safe to stay till late hours after closure of the school).

Carrying the Swing Set Parts to the Orphanage

    The following morning we hired a guy to dig the holes, while he did that, we went and purchased cement and gravel, then the swing was buried in the ground that day, I could not get the kids to swing because they leave school at 12:30 pm and the guy I worked with, always showed up after they had left and I was not supposed to go into the school premises without him, they said it was for security reasons.  I had bought smaller pipe for making the tower; it was made but due to power shortage (it was on and off) it delayed the work and I left before it was put in the ground but I took some pictures of it though not yet painted.

Working on the Swing Set

    I bought the paint for both the swing and the tower, the painted swing and tower were painted after I left.   I asked Jen to take pictures of the kids using the swing (since I only got a few kids around that day when I took the pictures and since they had just put the concrete, they were not allowed to swing on it) and the tower after it is put at the school.

Children Posing with the Newly Installed Swing Set

    The day before I left Ethiopia, Jen took me around to look at the town and also went to the national museum, it was fun! I also enjoyed my stay at the orphanage, the kids there are so cute and the people are good.  Jen is helping that orphanage, she is a very nice person, she made me feel comfortable and secure while there.  Almost everything there is different esp. the food but I enjoyed my stay!

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LDS Church: Who’s at the Helm of the Ship?

Things continue to be crazy with the LDS Church.  First, there’s LDS Philanthropies who:

. . . published a video featuring a father who said that if his sons continued to follow church teachings, they would keep their inheritance, but otherwise, he would simply donate his money to LDS Philanthropies.  The video was subsequently removed due to backlash.

Second, there is Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy who wrote an article for the April 2017 Ensign:

. . . that talks about the sacred marriages of gays and lesbians as “counterfeit” within the context of a war with Satan and other very problematic imagery and rhetoric.

And third, not to be outdone, at the April 2017 General Conference, Elder Valeri V. Cordon:

. . . gave an eye-opening speech in which he claimed that if you have to choose between feeding your family and giving money to the Church, your family can wait.

Speaking of the 2017 Spring General Conference, only one talk out of twenty-seven in the course of eight hours over was given by a woman.

If you can find a positive message in all this mess, more power to you.

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Nobel Prize Winner Talks Economics to Logan 5th Graders

Since my brother–Lars Peter Hansen–received his Nobel Prize in economics in 2013, he has become an even more popular speaker.  On a recent visit to Utah State University to address students and faculty, he took the opportunity to interact with nearly 80 students at Bridger Elementary School in Logan.  And my grandson and I took the opportunity to see him in action.  It was fun.

Lars Talking to 5th Graders at Bridger Elementary School in Logan, UT

Bridger is a very diverse school and there were students from around the world in attendance.  Lars gave a 30-minute presentation about uncertainty, his favorite topic.  Most of the student seemed engaged.  And enthusiastically answered Lars’s questions.

Lars then opened it up for questions.  That is when the fun really began.

  • Q:  What is your favorite number?  A:  52
  • Q:  What is your favorite animal?  A:  My dog
  • Q:  What is your favorite sport?  A:  Skiing
  • Q:  What is your favorite team?  A:  Chicago Bulls
  • etc.

Discerning minds want to know.

There were also questions that were a little less personal, and perhaps more relevant.  What do economists do?  What did you do to earn your Nobel Prize?

Lars enjoyed the experience, and answered all questions with a smile.  After the presentation and Q and A, all posed for a group photograph.

Lars Posing with Students at Bridger Elementary

Lars and 5th Graders Posing for Photograph

Another interesting experience in the life of a Nobel Prize winner.

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Following Past, Present and Future Prophets of the LDS Church

The following quote was brought to my attention by Daniel C. Peterson at Sic et Non.  He links to J. Max Wilson’s blog:

I’ve noticed a troubling parallel among some progressive members of the church: Rejecting living prophets in favor of what they anticipate future prophets will do.

It works like this: They believe that the living prophets are wrong regarding some policy or doctrine, such as same-sex marriage or women holding priesthood. They are convinced that these teachings are not of God but merely expressions of false cultural traditions. They look at past changes that the church has made, like discontinuing the policy of withholding priesthood from black members, and they extrapolate that the future prophets and apostles will change these other positions as well.

But just like fundamentalists who reject the living prophets by following dead prophets, progressives reject the living prophets by following anticipated future prophets.

In reality the future prophet that they are following is just a projection of their own views in the present.  In other words they are setting themselves up as an alternative authority to the current prophet by attributing their contrary positions to a future prophet who does not yet exist.  Whether by reason or supposed personal revelation, they are claiming to know which direction the church should take better than the current prophets do.

I lived through the LDS Church’s fiasco with the black priesthood ban.  As it turned out, my future projections were correct.  I also lived through the period when LDS Church authorities discouraged family planning and birth control.  I lived through the crazy politics of President Ezra Taft Benson, and the attempted rapprochement with conservative Christianity directed by President Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law Elder Bruce R. McConkie.  I lived through the “baseball baptisms” of President Henry D. Moyle and the testify-at-the-door schemes of Elder Alvin R. Dyer.  According to Dyer:

you can teach . . . everything that a person needs to know to be baptized in this Church in less than 3 minutes.

I served a LDS mission in Europe in the 60s and saw first hand the damage that Moyle and Dyer did.  I hated their cheap promotional activities and easy solutions.  And the Church is still trying to recover from the J.F. Smith and McConkie era.  I understood they were wrong to trash science.  And I could go on.

I’m not a prophet, but I have a brain.  And so far, my gut (call it personal revelation) has been fairly accurate.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to live long enough to see my current discomforts with the Church rectified by future prophets.  But my bet is:  They will be.  So, I’m a strong believer in personal revelation and future prophets.

In all fairness, my religion is my personal business.  I don’t feel the need to blindly obey anyone.  And I don’t feel the need to convert anyone.  It’s just me.

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